Slot toasters (you might call them pop-up toasters) have been a staple on kitchen counters for more than a century, and we’ve tested nine leading models to find the best ones to make perfectly browned toast and bagels with crisp edges — and to make sure you don’t buy one that requires repeated passes just to warm up your bread.
Today, toasters range from sleek chrome statement pieces to squat utilitarian boxes that only leave the cabinet to defrost a waffle fresh out of the freezer. Some handle two slices; others have space for four (and there’s a healthy debate over slot length and width). With plenty of options vying for your breakfast table, we crisped up many loaves of bread (including some gluten-free versions) and dozens of bagels in nine different slot toasters to find the right one for you.
The best toaster overall
The simple, functional Cuisinart 4-Slice Compact Toaster outperformed more expensive models and produced crispy toast with even browning. With two sets of controls to tailor toast for the whole family, it’s a no-brainer for your counter.
The best luxury toaster for enthusiasts
The stunning Dualit NewGen 2-Slice Toaster is a kitchen obsessive’s dream. Assembled by hand (and priced accordingly), its manual controls let you peek at your toast without interrupting the heating cycle.
Among the more affordable models we tested, the Cuisinart 4-Slice Compact Toaster simply outperformed more expensive toasters, is easy to use and is more flexible than many four-slice models, making it a clear choice. This is the rare appliance decision that is straightforward.
The rounded white plastic toaster (it also comes in black) effectively fits four bagel halves yet takes up the least amount of counter space of any four-slice toaster we tested. It is as compact as the name suggests, equivalent in size to the two-slice models from Oster and Dualit.
The Cuisinart has seven different heat settings, three modes (bagel, defrost and reheat) and a cancel button so you can interrupt the process if things are getting overly browned. It also has two separate sets of levers and controls, so it functions as two separate two-slice toasters. You can barely brown waffles for your children while getting a nice even crisp for your toast. The levers stayed in place, and the ability to peek or raise toast while pulling it out was helpful.
This toaster produced evenly browned toast with color to the edges on the medium (above 4) and higher settings. It was able to toast bagels completely through but without desiccating them, leaving the right amount of give, something that was missing in similarly priced toasters.
The Cuisinart 4-Slice Compact is not perfect — modern toasters are as flawed as the humans who use them. We found that gluten-free bread started to turn black on the higher setting and bagels had a bit of char on the bottom. A space under the top lip could snag crumbs easily, and the crumb trays need a solid push to be firmly seated in the base, but it was quick to clean, and the plastic sides didn’t show fingerprints.
Got an even smaller kitchen or family? There’s also a two-slice model. If you aren’t convinced yet, both models come with a three-year limited warranty (two years more than the typical warranty on toasters).
The Dualit made us question exactly how much we love toast because the sharp styling, serious build quality and even heating made it an easy appliance to covet, even given the stratospheric price compared to the competition. The manual lift lever (there’s no automatic pop-up function on the Dualit) had a pleasing heft, and the ability to check in on toast should appeal to anyone’s desire to try to be more present. Using the Dualit is less like using any other toaster than it is like using a high-end espresso machine, and it has the same appeal.
This art-deco-style toaster, hand-assembled in the UK, shone out of the box — really. With polished metal sides like a copper waterfall and dials like a vintage radio, the Dualit is a striking appliance.
Perhaps more importantly, it also delivered once we started fiddling with those dials. The Dualit is simple to operate. The top dial slides between a bagel setting (which warms one side and toasts the other) and settings for one or two slices of bread. The bottom dial sets the timer, letting you manually dial in your desired doneness, and lets you choose the defrost function. If you’ve ever wanted to know more about toasting technique, the manual goes into more detail than you imagined might exist.
The Dualit made proper toast. It browned slices well, both individually and in pairs. The pieces of toast had a great crunch with edges that crackled. With patience, it became easier to achieve browning to the edges without worrying about charring a slice of bread. A small hack that yielded big benefits was using the pop and peek lever to finish the bottom and top of a bagel after the insides were sufficiently toasted.
The crumb tray was deep enough to hold big crumbs, and the toaster has adjustable rear feet to ensure it sits level on your counter. The top and exterior wiped down quickly with a damp dishcloth. One other comfort at this price is a two-year warranty that covers the heating elements.
The Dualit is also fully repairable, which is very rare in modern appliances, and if maintained it should last many years. Toasters use relatively fragile metal heating elements that are stressed regularly to their limits, and even the nicer ones are basically disposable devices, so Dualit’s commitment to the long term is appealing, assuming you are very committed to toast.
You can also get accessories like a warming tray and a sandwich cage insert for making toasted sandwiches, something we didn’t see in the other toasters we tested. You can even make a toasted cheese sandwich, though we’re talking about a single slice, not a piled-high American-style grilled cheese.
The Dualit’s greatest strength is also its key weakness. You are the smart component when it comes to this appliance — while it will give you great results, there’s a learning curve to the mechanical timer and settings, although you have an escape hatch in the pop and peek lever. This toaster requires patience to learn, like any other high-end kitchen appliance, and that means babysitting your toast initially.
The Dualit is also heavier — at over 7 pounds — than the other models we tested, but if you’re buying this it’s probably not leaving your counter. The gleaming surfaces also showed fingerprints after the first use, so keeping it looking its best requires a quick wipe-down after toasting.
It’s also very, very expensive, leaving you to decide if you’d rather have a pop-up toaster or multi-function toaster oven for the same price. While there is a four-slice model, the price is higher and it still only has a single lever and set of controls, making for somewhat more difficult handling.
What are slot toasters, and how do they differ from toaster ovens?
Toasters — and here we’re talking about slot toasters, also sometimes called pop-up toasters — are what you see when you picture a toaster. The bread or frozen waffles descend into the holes on the top and (ideally) are browned evenly before popping up to be buttered or slathered in syrup.
Toaster ovens, as the name suggests, have a door and your bread rests on a rack. From the most basic to feature-packed models like the high-end Balmuda toaster oven, these countertop ovens can do much of the work of the oven in your range and increasingly offer multiple functions like air frying, baking and broiling, along with digital smarts.
Slot toasters are typically available as two- or four-slice models. If your toaster will have a permanent spot on the counter, consider the amount of space it will require as well as the finishes. With four-slice models, look for two sets of controls, which allow you to cook a pair of toast slices at different levels of doneness.
For both sizes, you want slots that are wide enough to accomodate the bulk of a bagel or thick slice of homemade bread but can also easily release a small square of gluten-free bread so your fingers don’t get singed by the heating elements. Pay attention to the crumb tray too, especially to how easy it is to remove and clean (since if you use it often, you’ll be doing it a lot).
Over the course of several weeks, we toasted more bread than a third-wave coffee shop. We took turns browning large slices of grocery store white bread, chunky plain bagels and dense white gluten-free bread to understand the strength of the heating elements.
Once a toaster was on the counter, we considered the design, dimensions and weight. We also tracked whether levers stayed down and if it was easy to take out a hot piece of toast without scorching our fingers.
We picked large sandwich slices of white bread to check the length of the toaster slots. We toasted them at a low setting — typically 3 — to look for even color (or any color) and see if the heat reached the tops of each piece.
We sliced dozens of bagels in half and toasted them on medium (usually at a 4) to check the width of slots as well as whether or not a toaster could crisp up the outside of the bagel and evenly brown the inside. We then toasted gluten-free bread on high (at 6) to see how a toaster handled the denser bread and whether the edges could get crispy without turning to charcoal.
We also determined how easy (or difficult) it was to clean the interior and exterior of each toaster (Did it smudge? Were crumbs caught in grooves?) as well as to remove and empty the crumb tray or trays at the bottom.
After testing, we tallied up the performance of each toaster and weighed those factors along with the price to determine which models we would recommend.
The Breville “A Bit More” (named for the signature function that adds extra toasting time at the end of a cycle) looks like a bread box reborn as a toaster. The brushed stainless toaster has long slots, glowing LED buttons and a slider instead of the traditional dial for settings.
While other models slightly warmed the outside of bagels, this toaster crisped them up, creating a nice contrast with soft butter and cream cheese. The white bread had good crunch at the edges and the tops started to brown, even at lower settings. Unfortunately, gluten-free bread was too crispy, charring on the highest setting.
The Breville’s distinct design — two longer 10-inch slots rather than four slots — means it takes up less room on the countertop than other four-slice toasters, but that comes at a cost.
Each slot could fit two slices of store-bought white bread, but it was a tight squeeze. The toaster also has only one lever and set of controls, which means that all of your slices need to be toasted at the same setting. It’s not as flexible as the more inexpensive Cuisinart 4-Slice Compact Toaster.
At a higher price, the Breville’s imperfections stood out more. It also only has a one-year limited warranty. An extended warranty is available at an additional cost.
Not everybody wants to love their toaster. And you won’t be in danger of developing feelings for this utilitarian Hamilton Beach (also available as a four-slice model). The least expensive toaster we tested is straightforward to use: There’s a lever, a cancel button and seven settings.
It’s compact at less than a foot long, but it gets points for still fitting bagels and the larger slices of white bread. It would nest easily in a drawer, which is good, as the side showed smudges and the thin metal skin makes dents seem inevitable.
The white bread had even color at a lower setting, although the top was still soft and white. The gluten-free bread edges had a good crunch, but the center was more doughy than satisfying. The bagel likewise was too chewy, akin to something that’s been microwaved a bit too long.
The manual controls were simple, but the lever had more give than we would like. While we worried about it staying locked into place, the “high-lift toast boost” made it easy to snag warm slices. The crumb tray was easy to remove, clean and slide back into place.
The Cuisinart Long Slot Toaster is distinctive: a comically long stainless steel beauty. The stretched-out, retro-style toaster can hold four slices — two in each 10-inch slot — or a pair of longer slices from the no-knead bread you made in a Dutch oven.
The toaster comes with reheat, defrost and bagel functions in addition to seven toast levels on a manual dial. The lever felt sturdy — toast popped up easily — and the interior cage did an effective job of holding thin and thick slices of bread. One design feature they might want to rethink: The cord is by the front, a challenge if your outlet isn’t immediately next to your toaster.
Even at different toast settings, the Cuisinart consistently produced toast with pillowy middles. If the soft middle of toast is where you’re happy, this one is worth a serious look. The result was more uneven at the edges. The gluten-free bread had overly crisp edges, and the white gluten-filled toast was limp. Bagels were charry on medium but had a pleasing first bite with a little resistance before a soft, buttery hug.
The rolled edges made it easy to give the cool toaster a quick wipe-down. The crumb tray took a bit of finagling to slide back in after cleaning, but it locked securely in place. The Cuisinart does come with a three-year limited warranty, two years longer than most other models.
With a gleaming silver face (you can opt for red, alternatively), the Oster toaster looks like the helmet of a “Star Wars” villain. And in keeping with its looks, it tends toward the Dark Side.
This toaster wasn’t afraid to char a piece of toast. It was one of the few models that browned the top of bread at lower settings. When we turned the dial up, brown quickly turned to black on the edges of the toast and bagel. You have to watch this toaster carefully unless you prefer your toast on the dark side.
It has bagel and frozen settings, and you can manually pick from one of seven toast levels. We started getting charred bits at level 4 of 7. The lift lever wasn’t as effective as other models we tested, and our knuckles got a little red trying to grab the smaller slices of gluten-free bread.
The crumb tray fit snugly, but the angled metal at the bottom of the toaster trapped a few crumbs. If you’ve got the room, there’s a black four-slice Oster model that’s close in price and only 4 inches wider. It offers two sets of controls (levers, browning and bagel option), which is great if you have a partner or kids who prefer different amounts of browning.
The Krups felt solidly made — it took two hands to lift the boxy toaster on and off the counter — and was a solid performer. But it takes up a fair amount of space, measuring more than 13 inches in width and depth.
This toaster was one of the few that began to crisp the edges of our toast even at lower settings. The gluten-free bread didn’t want to release, even with the pop-up assist, as easily; it had a good crunch and color but a black band of char across the top, where it had overheated slightly. The bagels had a nice, even browning, although they were slightly compressed by the cage inside the toaster.
There’s a lot happening with the design. The top and front are a shiny stainless steel — the kind that smudges if children merely look at it, with a matte back and sides and back. The toaster includes a simple graphic (which reminded us of the arrow pointing to your gas tank in a car) that shows how a bagel should be toasted (cut side facing in).
The defrost, reheat and bagel functions glow with blue LED lights, but the most attractive feature is the two sets of controls governing the four slots, letting you operate the four-slot as two two-slot toasters. The crumb tray slid in and out without difficulty, and the wide opening at the interior meant the insides should stay relatively crumb-free.
Aside from running a bit hotter than we would have liked, the Krups performs adequately, and it does have a two-year limited warranty, but its wasn’t quite equal to the Cuisinart.
A slim toaster, available in white or Smoke (a deep gray), the Cruxgg has some of the cleanest lines of any toaster. The challenge may well lie in keeping it clean.
While the crumb tray performed as intended, a slight groove at the top of the toaster became a magnet for crumbs. It was a non-virtuous cycle, as we often wiped crumbs into the slots and then had to remove the tray to once again wipe it out.
The fluffy white bread stayed fluffy at lower settings and struggled to fit in the slots. At a medium setting, the bagels were under-toasted with some browning but not enough textural difference between the outside and inside. The gluten-free bread toasted unevenly — the edges were black — but with great crunch.
It comes with a bagel function and a gluten-free setting (the only model we tested with that option). If someone in your house regularly eats gluten-free bread and you find this model on sale, it’s worth a look.
The Dash is mesmerizing. The interior glows with a lurid red as you watch pieces of bread begin to brown. It’s like TV breakfast.
The show is captivating; there’s just too much fluff. The white toast browned at a lower setting, but the tops were still white and the side facing the heating element was much darker. The gluten-free slices were browned nicely with white tops, yet the insides were too soft and couldn’t stand up to butter. Even on the bagel setting, the Dash only kissed bagels with heat and they emerged pale in color.
The toaster has reheat and defrost settings, and it’s available in eight colors. One long slot, in lieu of two, means you can fit a piece from the center of a sourdough boule, but you might want to swap it midway through the toast to get it to brown more evenly.
While the toaster doesn’t have an assist button for lifting toast, the bread came free easily, with the smaller gluten-free slices shooting into the air like in a “Tom & Jerry” cartoon. The crumb tray was simple to wipe, and in a good design touch, the glass panel comes free for cleaning.