With plenty of room for big bagels and oversize artisan breads, long-slot toasters reflect the way Americans eat bread today. But do you have to spend a lot of money to get one that works well?
Last Updated Feb. 23, 2023. Appears in Cook's Country TV Season 12: The Perfect Cake
We are demoting the Dash toaster from its winning spot in our recommendations. Apparent quality-control issues on the part of the manufacturer mean that many readers have had bad experiences with it, and we no longer recommend it. In its place, we are promoting the Russell Hobbs Glass Accent Long Slot 2-Slice Toaster model.
Is your toaster stuck in the 1950s, when all bread was white, skinny, and square? As recently as 2017, sandwich bread made up only 17.8 percent of bread sold in America, according to market research firm Statista. Bigger, heartier loaves made up 68 percent of bread sold: 37.9 percent were “crusty/hot hearth” breads, and 30.2 percent were “artisan.” Home cooks love to bake bread, too. So why can't most toasters handle it?
The last time we tested toasters, our winner, the Magimix Vision Toaster, was unique because it had one extra-long, extra-wide bread slot that fit any kind of bread. It toasted evenly, using responsive quartz heating elements. It also boasted glass walls that let you watch your toast and a “stop” button to halt toasting at your exact browning preference. The downside? At about $250, it's a staggering investment, even for someone who's fussy about perfect toast.
But there's hope: Recently, a handful of “long-slot” toasters have appeared on the market at a range of prices. We bought eight models, including our old winner, priced from about $35 to about $250; all had one or two long, wide slots. We toasted artisan loaves, big bagels, and (of course) white sandwich bread. We tried light, medium, and dark settings and recorded the average speed of the toasting cycles. We filled the toasters to capacity and made full batches of toast in rapid succession. We checked whether the models' exteriors got too hot. Finally, we made 365 consecutive pieces of toast in each of our top three contenders to simulate a year's worth of use. The goal was efficient, consistent, uniform toasting of a variety of breads at the browning level we'd selected, with intuitive controls, easy toast retrieval, simple cleanup, and durability.
When you set your toaster for light, medium, or dark browning, what do you get? Most toasters let us down. We think the lightest setting should brown a little, not just warm the bread; none of our models managed this. On the darkest setting, we want deeply browned toast, not charcoal. A few toasters burned the bread solid black, filling the kitchen with smoke. Aside from these extremes, the problem was that for most toasters, getting medium–golden brown toast was a cumbersome, lengthy process. Only two toasters gave us one-and-done, reliable browning that corresponded to the controls, without endless fiddling and retoasting.
Even if they generally hit the right color, evenness was often a problem. Some toasters gave us very patchy brown-and-white blotches across each side of a slice of bread, while others made toast that looked evenly golden on one side but completely different on t...
The mission of America’s Test Kitchen Reviews is to find the best equipment and ingredients for the home cook through rigorous, hands-on testing. We stand behind our winners so much that we even put our seal of approval on them.
Lisa is an executive editor for ATK Reviews, cohost of Gear Heads on YouTube, and gadget expert on TV's America's Test Kitchen.