Our Top Pick for 2019: Cuisinart CPT-440 Touch to Toast Leverless 4-Slice Toaster
A good toaster is one of the most basic pieces of breakfast-cooking equipment in the whole kitchen, and yet, it is notoriously difficult to find a toaster that does its job well, fast, and lasts for years to come. Low-end toasters are rather simple machines, and high-end models, though they add some additional features, remain, nonetheless, relatively simple. For those of us who insist on eating toast, bagels, English muffins, and toaster pastries on a regular basis, however, the best possible toaster is something we simply must have on our counter top. Below, we review four of the best four-slice toasters on the market today. Each has its own set of strengths, and perhaps, a few weaknesses, but all of them are far and above better the other toasters in their class.
Let’s Have a Quick Look of Our Top 4 Picks:
#1. Cuisinart CPT-440 Touch to Toast Leverless 4-Slice Toaster
The Cuisinart CPT “Touch to Toast” takes a major departure from the traditional toaster by eliminating levers, which often wear out or break with long use, in favor of buttons.
The machine automatically lowers the toast, and then later raises it, at the touch of a button. Your selected toasting option then lights up while the toaster is in use, and an LCD screen shows you a countdown timer until the motorized lift carries your finished toast up into easy reach for removal.
The Cuisinart has seven browning levels, which allows you to get your toast to the precise shade desired. It has extra-wide slots that hold bagels and thick breads with ease, and breads automatically center on the slots for even browning. Some, however, have complained that the lever-less design disallows lifting toast mid-way to check on how brown it is and that there is no means of adding extra toasting time after a cycle has begun.
The Cuisinart has five function buttons: Toast, for ordinary toasting of ordinary bread; Cancel, for ceasing toasting and raising the lift; Defrost, which adds extra time to the cycle in order to properly toast frozen bread; Reheat, for those who wish to reheat cold toast without burning it; and Bagel, which crisps the cut top end of the bagel but leaves the bottom nice and chewy. If you prefer your bagels crispy on both ends, simply use the regular Toast function instead.
The body of the Cuisinart is stainless steel, making it both durable and attractive. The brushed stainless steel looks great in modern kitchens, though it is not much different than other high-end models on this score. The weight is at 5.5 pounds, a little below average for a toaster, and the dimensions are 7.3 x 11 x 10.3 inches, not at all too “hoggish” of counter space for a top-tier device like this. The cord wraps around snugly to save additional space on your counter or stored in a kitchen cabinet, but it is not retractable like some models. The cord is very long at 28 inches, however, so you won’t likely need an extender cord. The controls are very intuitive, and the LCD counter’s blue back-light is very appealing. You can get a two-slice version of the Cuisinart if you desire. Note that this model, like most toasters these days (including the other three reviewed below), is made in China.
There are two controls, one for each side of the toaster, so that you can toast two pairs of toast simultaneously at different settings. Each side also has its own crumb tray, which slides out effortlessly from the back end. The crumb tray actually comes all the way out to make clean up easy, and you should never need to shake the Cuisinart over the trash can to get any crumbs unstuck.
Cuisinart ranks among the most trusted brands on the market for kitchen tools. It has earned a reputation for combining quality, style, and innovation, and this toaster is certainly no exception. Cuisinart is confident enough in its “digital toaster” to give purchasers a three-year warranty, whereas most toasters have only a one-year warranty. The warranty only covers manufacturing defects and performance failures that occur while using the device responsibly. You can contact Cuisinart by phone or email to learn more about the warranty, ask questions about the toaster, or arrange for any product returns.
Some of the best-loved features of the Cuisinart mentioned by reviewers include: the motor is very quiet when raising or lowering the toast, a beep alerts you when the toast is done but is not overly loud, the toast carriage lifts up high for easy grabbing, and the dual controls allow you to use only one side at a time or both sides at once on different browning levels. Also widely praised were the 1.5-inch toast slots that leave plenty of room for bagels, Texas toast, frozen French toast, waffles, or pancakes, and hand-sliced bread.
There were a few complaints about manufacturing defects that caused overheating and uneven browning, but in this case, a replacement was provided. Some do not like the automatic lift but prefer a lever, but this is a key strong point for others. Though the Cuisinart Touch to Toast costs around $90, it is well worth the investment for those who want the most modern, fully functional toaster possible.
#2. KRUPS KH734D Breakfast Set Toaster
The KRUPS Breakfast Set Toaster costs about $80, nearly as much as the Cuisinart Touch to Toast, and is nearly as advanced. The big difference is its use of a lever and a generally more traditional look.
The KRUPS has a combination brushed stainless steel and chrome finish and a sleek, impressive design. More specifically, it front and top are plated with chrome, while stainless steel covers its sides. Its browning controls are knobs instead buttons, and there are six levels to choose among. However, there are also five “half-way” markers between the six levels, in effect rendering 11 options. The KRUPS, like the Cuisinart, has Toasting, Cancel, Defrost, Reheat, and Bagel functions.
The toasting slots are extra-wide (1.5 inches), which is roomy enough even for thick-style bagels. They are also extra-long (5.75 inches), which is wonderful for toasting wide Italian or homemade breads. There are dual heating zones so you can use only half the toaster at a time or use each side at a different setting, and you also get two easily removable crumb trays for easy cleaning. Crumbs do not tend to get stuck inside, so there is no need to shake the toaster upside down to dislodge them. The manual lift moves smoothly up and down, and it raises the toast high enough for easy removal. You should not have to use a utensil to take out the toast or even an English muffin.
The KRUPS KH weighs 5.3 pounds, which is rather on the light side for a toaster. Its dimensions are 8.6 x 13.5 x 13.3 inches, which does mean it takes up a good deal of counter space. The KRUPS is a little slower at toasting than some other models, but on the other hand, it is exceptionally good at toasting evenly. There are “cool blue” LED indicator lights for the function settings but not for the browning levels since that is done by knob. There is no beep to alert you that the toast is done, but instead, you have to either look at the light (where applicable) or just look for the toast to pop up.
The biggest single complaint about the KRUPS is that its top gets a bit hot, especially right around the toast slots. Its sides have somewhat poor heat shielding as well, but these do much better, at least, than the top. Some have also said the factory smell takes a few cycles to wear off, but this is actually rather normal for many toasters, not just for the KRUPS.
On the good side, the KRUPS’ shiny chrome finish makes it look very attractive and fit well into the decor in most kitchens. The high-end toasting options, like “perfect bagel,” Defrost, and Reheat, along with the wide and tall toast slots are all major pluses. Finally, note that KRUPS has extremely good customer care, and you can download digital users’ manuals from their website. Furthermore, the KRUPS comes with a two-year warranty, which is very long for a small appliance like a toaster. If you don’t need the four toast slots, you can also get the KRUPS toaster as a two-slot model.
The KRUPS Breakfast Set Toaster is slightly less high-tech than the Cuisinart Touch to Toast, but it retains knobs and levers, which “toaster traditionalists” will expect. It is still a big investment, as toasters go, but the quality matches the price.
#3. Black & Decker T4030 4-Slice Toaster
For a significantly cheaper toaster that still maintains high quality and even a few of the “luxury” features of more upscale toasters, try the Black & Decker T4030 four-slice toaster, hereafter referred to as simply “the Black & Decker.” It costs around $50, almost half the price of the two other models reviewed so far.
The Black & Decker is, unsurprisingly, only one color (black). However, it also has rich chrome edgings that blend in with black accents, so that it is very stylish for a lower-cost toaster. It is a fairly large device at 9 x 12 x 11 inches, and somewhat heavy, at seven full pounds. It is made of sturdy plastic with a stainless steel wrap, and again, a little chrome for a nice touch.
Black & Decker has given us a toaster with safe, cool-touch sides, a retractable 23-inch cord that wraps nicely around corners with plenty of clearance, easy-to-use knobs and dials, buttons for Frozen, Bagel, and Cancel, and a convenient slide-out crumb tray. The knob gives you a sufficient range of light to dark browning shades. To be precise, you get six browning options, but there is plenty of room between official levels to make if, for all practical purposes, 11 levels.
The toast slots are wide enough to fit bagels, English muffins, and hand-sliced bread, and the slots are self-adjusting to center the bread and yield very even toasting. The Black & Decker has dual controls, so you can do two pieces of toast light, for example, while the other two are made dark. This is a great feature for large families. You also get extra-high lifts that make it easy to grab your toast when it’s done. It doesn’t go up quite as high as some models, however, so you might need tongs for, say, English muffins or “short” pieces of bread.
One drawback to mention is that the Black & Decker is slower than many toasters. It can take three and a half minutes, for example, to get your toast medium brown and four and a half minutes to reach “almost black.” Also, for those who like “very black” toast that is not quite burnt, for some really do prefer this, you will need to use the Frozen setting to get it just right. On the good side, Black & Decker has given us a toaster that has all four slots putting out the exact same heat so that browning is very predictable. Add in the self-centering feature, and you get basically perfect toast, but you simply have to wait a little longer for it.
There is no digital display like the high-end models, but there are function indicator lights. There is no beep to tell you the toast is ready, so you will have to keep an eye out for it to pop up. The Black & Decker is a mid-level toaster that partakes of some of the high-end features of more expensive brands. It is clearly superior to your “basic” toaster, and it is reasonably priced. It comes with a two-year warranty that covers manufacturer’s defects and poor workmanship, provided you have your receipt and the coverage does not exceed the purchase price.
#4. Hamilton Beach 4 Slice Cool Touch Toaster
The Hamilton Beach 4-Slice Cool Touch Toaster is one of the best of the more basic and inexpensive toasters. Its cool-touch exterior adds a measure of safety, while its large, 1.5-inch wide slots fit waffles, homemade bread, and even very thick bagels. It costs only around $30, making it a great buy.
It has multiple toasting functions, including Toast, Frozen, Cancel, Bagel, and Frozen Bagel. The last-mentioned function is rather unique, and it is reason enough in itself for those who love bagels and want to toast them from frozen to buy this model. Frozen Bagel also works well for frozen waffles, French toast, and pancakes.
The Hamilton Beach also gives you an automatic toast booster, an easy to remove crumb tray that slides out in front, and an automatic shut off in case of overheating. Each side has its own heating element, so you can toast each side at a different browning level.
The color is black, and the style is attractive if basic. The weight is average, at 6.1 pounds, and the dimensions are rather large, at 12 x 16 x 12 inches. You will need a lot of counter space to accommodate this toaster. There is no toast alarm, but when you use special functions, indicator lights tell you whether the toast is done. The controls on the Black & Decker are simple and intuitive, and the brownness dial is very precise and reliable.
This toaster does not accommodate longer slices of bread but only the standard sized pieces, meaning you would have to trim some lengthy breads to make them fit. The crumbs can also, though only after extensive usage, build up inside, for all of them do not fall to the crumb tray. This means you will eventually have to shake out the crumbs over a disposal can.
All in all, we can say that the Black & Decker gives you much more than the average basic-level toaster while maintaining a low price tag. Its Frozen Bagel setting is particularly innovative, and toasts very evenly if somewhat slowly.
When shopping for a toaster, whether or not you opt for any of those reviewed just above, there are a number of things to carefully consider before making a purchase. If you want a toaster you will be satisfied with and that will last for years to come, instead of having buyer’s regret, take time to decide which toaster features are most important to you. Six considerations to keep in mind are as follows:
The most advanced toasters have numerous browning levels, and the resultant toast closely corresponds to the “promised” shade. They will also have special functions like Bagel, Frozen, Reheat, and the like, which serve to better adapt the toasting cycle to the exact task at hand. If you insist on precision in these matters, then it may be worth it for you to invest in a very high-end toaster. Some others, however, are satisfied with only a few basic settings and merely want a toaster that gives them solid, reliable performance. They may be better off with a quality but less expensive option.
Toasters that make your life easier are always a plus. Automatically lowering and raising the toast, or if a lever is used, having one that pushes the toast high enough to be easily grabbed make toasting easier. Indicator lights, low but clear beeps that tell you when the toast is done, and intuitive controls all make your toaster simple and easy to use.
If you adhere to a busy schedule, you may not want to sit around at the table every morning waiting an extra minute or two for the toast to finish up. There are slower toasters that do a great job, but it is often worth a little extra money to get one that toasts your bread perfectly without making you wait.
Crunch, chewiness on the bottom of a bagel, and dryness level are all factors in defining the perfect toast. The most consistent complaint, however, from many reviewers is that some toaster do not toast the bread evenly enough. The edges are half cooked while the center is solid and crunchy, or vice versa. There are stripes well toasted areas running through the toast, but there are less done, whiter stripes in between them. Definitely investigate whether or not a toaster cooks evenly before making the purchase.
Shiny chrome plating, the color of brushed stainless steel, or the look of hard, colored plastic all say something about your kitchen’s style and decor. Is the model sleek and modern-looking? Is it more traditional in appearance? Is its size too large for your counter top? Can the cord be largely hidden out of sight? These are some of the questions to ask about the toaster’s ability to fit into your kitchen and function well there.
Nothing is more frustrating than buying a new toaster only to have it quit on you after a few weeks or months. The experience is both common and notorious, but no one enjoys it. Look for solid materials and build. Look for a brand with a reputation for making high-quality kitchen equipment, and see how long of a warranty the toaster comes with, for few companies will give two or three years on a toaster unless they are confident of its durability. Shopping for a toaster can be surprisingly involved these days, for many modern toasters have features that did not exist in days gone by. You will need to decide which factors are most important to you and weigh the benefits against the cost.
Conclusion (Wrapping it up)
A toaster is an important part of your home kitchen’s equipment, and the best toasters can make your breakfasts and “toasting experiences” far more pleasant and trouble-free. We reviewed four of the very best toasters, and concluded the following:
1. The Cuisinart is an advanced toaster with nearly all of the top features and an innovative lever-free (buttons-only) operation.
2. The KRUPS is much like the Cuisinart, except it uses levers and knobs instead of buttons, giving it a more traditional feel and look.
3. The Black & Decker is a mid-range toaster that is a step above basic models but lacks all the “bells and whistles” of the KRUPS or the Cuisinart.
4. The Hamilton Beach toaster we reviewed is one of the best budget picks. It is true quality and has some nice features, but certainly does not offer all that the upper-level models do.
There are, of course, many other good toasters on the market, and using some key shopping criteria, such as durability, price, style, speed, evenness, and precision-browning will help you sift the best out from “the rest.”
The bottom line is to find a toaster that has all of the functions you desire, is manufactured by a reliable company, and fits within your budget. Toast may seem like a small matter, but using the best possible toaster can make merely toasting bread, bagels, and frozen waffles a real pleasure.