Toasters from £10 to £250+
No kitchen should be without a toaster, and they are available at a bewildering array of prices, from about a tenner for a Tesco own-brand special to hundreds for multi-slot Dualit and Kitchenaid models. Given the nature of the T3 website, we are going to go ahead and assume you're in the market for something techy and high-end. However there are more affordable - but still stylish and effective - toasters in the list, if you're on a budget, tight, or just not that bothered about toast.
Is it worth paying extra for a toaster? We reckon so, but then we love toast and we love cool-looking kitchen tech. Pay more and you get something that looks nicer, and should consistently make better toast, first time, thanks to greater controllability, It should also last longer, and will often make the toast quicker, although not always. Because toasting is a process of both cooking and drying, sometimes it pays to wait a little longer if you want perfect crispiness.
And if you're really not bothered, you can always head to Tesco with your ten quid.
Anyway, here are our favourites, more or less in order of preference, taking into account cost-to-quality ratios.
Sage by Heston Blumenthal Smart
This is one of your pricier options, especially in its four-slot guise, but it makes superb toast, and quickly at that, and without requiring a hulking, great body like the KitchenAid toasters. The slots are mechanised, the opions plentiful (for a toaster) and the design superb.
Our favourite bit: the buttons, which are totally idiot-proof but in a quirky, fun way rather than a 'patronising you because you're stupid' one. They're clearly marked 'Quick Look' (lets you check up on your toast without cancelling the toasting process), 'A Bit More' (gives the finished toast a minute more, should you feel it's not quite perfect), frozen, crumpet and toast/cancel (all do exactly what you'd expect).
The toasting slots are mechanical, and wide and deep enough for all but the chunkiest doorstops, while a stylishly illuminated countdown timer under the time setting slider lets you know how long till your toast is ready. Worth it, we'd say. We do like Heston's stuff…
2-slice £117, 4-slice £153 | Lakeland
This is up to the usual KitchenAid quality and makes excellent toast for far less than the KitchenAid Artisan. It's also far less interesting to look at and much lighter but for a lot of users, that probably won't be a problem.
Like it's more chic big brother, this has mechanised lowering and lifting, settings for bagels/crumpets and frozen bread, and a keep-warm function for if you get interrupted in between deciding to make toast and deciding to eat toast.
Because of an introductory offer, as of January 27 2016, the 4-slice version is actually cheaper than the 2-slice. Weird, but we're not complaining. Get them while they're hot…
2-slice £75, 4-slice £76-£99 | John Lewis
Graef Long Slot
This oft-overlooked classic of the toaster world looks absolutely fantastic, with a fantastiche, mid-20th century Braun/Dieter Rams modernist look that can only be described as 'very, very German indeed'. It also makes fantastic toast, including from frozen, and isn't wildly pricey, at least compared to some of its rivals here.
So why is it overlooked? Probably because the German modernist look isn't as trendy as it once was, and because the design of this, though very clever, means it's a lot longer than most toasters, and hence harder to fit into kitchens where space is at a premium.
The long, wide single slot (or double on the 4-slice) mean you can put in bread of just about any length and bredth - a godsend with artisan loaves, though admittedly less essential if you favour Warburtons. If you like Warburtons, don't buy this.
A word of warning: the Graef is unusually slow, but then that is probably why it creates such perfect, uniform toast. German meticulousness and attention to detail win out, once more.
The 4-slice version also comes with a rack for toasting 'buns and croissants'. We didn't find that terribly helpful but it does look nice.
2-slice £80, 4-slice £120 | John Lewis
It's pretty obvious what the USP here is, but this is not just a gimmicky, one-trick pony, it's an excellent toaster. As well as showing you exactly how brown your toast is, it also boasts long-life filaments, a high lift mechanism on its wide slots, good browning and an excellent one-sided toasting function.
It's a very well-thought-through, throuroughly effective toaster. In fact, the only drawbacks here are that when it doesn't have toast in, it looks kind of odd, and that the price is clearly on the high side. A premium, innovative delight and a true toast master.
£145 | Amazon
Russell Hobbs Legacy
Cheap, cheerful, makes four slices of perfectly good toast. What more could one ask? This makes toast 'up to 48% faster', whatever that means. It's certainly not slow, and there are buttons for toasting straight from frozen and for keeping toast warm while you do non-toast-related things.
The slots aren't massive and it lacks a certain aesthetic je ne sais quoi, but come on, £9 per slice of toast? That's a bargain.
From £36 | John Lewis
This has a premium look, but at a comparatively low price, with the option to partially pop up your bread during cooking to check browning, and a cook-from-frozen option. The aesthetics are aided by two socking great handles and a toast rack on top, which works well for its intended purpose, and can also be used 'to warm buns and pastries'. Does anyone do that?
Like the Dualit architect, this feels flimsier than it looks, and there are mutterings online about lack of longevity, but for the price, it's hard to knock. Toast is good, if not vintage. Come on, it's toast; how wrong can it go? Jesus.
The kMix comes in three attractive colours plus stainless steel and interestingly, David Cameron has one at 10 Downing Street, which you may or may not consider a plus point.
Dualit Classic Made to Order
A pure, timeless, kitchen tech classic to sit alongside your KitchenAid stand mixer. There are 25 colours to choose from, which will be sprayed on especially for you by the same guy who hand builds the toaster, from start to finish, in the Dualit factory. It'll even have their name on the base plate!
So yeah, we're moving into the realms of pure toaster fetishism and almost excessive customisation, here, but it propels excellent doorstep toast, bagels and toasted sandwiches (using Dualit's sandwich cages (£12 for two), from its gaping maws, should last forever (Dualit can service it if it ever does falter), and looks a million bucks. It also costs it, but there we go: beauty and attention to detail cost.
The Dualit Newgen offers similar quality, without the bespoke elements for the still less-than-giveaway price of from £145 (2-slice) or from £179 (4-slice).
2-slot £200, 4-slot £250 | John Lewis
Morphy Richards Accents
For 33 quid, this is not a bad looking thing, as such. It's got four slots, controlled two at a time, along with usual features like variable browning, a removeable crumb tray and a setting specifically for toasting bread from frozen.
What can we say? It's a cheap toaster. The slots could be a little deeper, the browning more even, and it's a little on the slow side but for the money, it's perfectly capable. If you spend more, you'll get better toast, but if you don't want to spend more… Bosh.
£33 | Amazon
KitchenAid Artisan Toaster
Narrowly winning the battle to be the most insanely expensive toaster you can buy, this Artisan, in a choice of six colours (on the 2-slice; the 4-slice only has a choice of red or grey) is also probably the best toaster we've ever used.
The 2-slice version resembles a London bus. The 4-slice is about the size of one, so make sure you have plenty of worktop space freed up. They are hefty, hefty things, with mechanised toast lowering and raising, the option to add an extra 30-seconds of cooking time if not quite done, the best "keep warm" function we've used, plus the usual bagel and cook-straight-from-the-freezer buttons.
It makes excellent toast. Is it excellent enough to justify the price difference with, for instance the Sage or Graef? No, of course not. But if you've got the money and like the look and heft of this thing, why the hell not?
2-slice from £150, 4-slice £270 | John Lewis
From the cheaper end of the Dualit range, although hardly coming from the bargain bucket, this toaster looks cool, but in a more self-consciously modern way than your classic Dualit.
Again there are two- and four-slot versions, with extra-wide bread cavities for chunky slices of toast. A 'peek-and-pop' function lets you see how your toast is doing without actually ending the cooking cycle. Interchangeable plates let you customise the look to suit your tastes. It feels a little clunky, especially compared to it's more expensive stable mates, but it's a good looker and makes solid toast, though if you're a connoisseur, you'd have to say it's not quite out of the top drawer.
£90 | Amazon
Tesco 2Tw13 Toaster
A budget option for those of you who want to enjoy some hot bread without having to pay a lot of money. Two slots, adjustable browning, adequate defrost and reheating functions, plus a stand for warming things that won't actually fit inside the toaster itself, all for a tenner.
Does it make great toast? No. Will it last forever? Possibly not. Is it attractive? Erm… Nope. It's also not the quickest thing, and it then runs very hot once it is in business, then farts up your toast with a distressing lack of enthusiasm.
However, it's still recognisably from the same class of device as rivals costing up to 25x as much, and you certainly can't accuse it of being over-designed.
£10 | Tesco
Delonghi Distinta Future
Okay, so this is hideous, to our eyes. But you may like it. It's a mid-priced four-slot with all the must-have features of your more expensive variety of toaster: a cook-from-frozen setting, a bagel/crumpet setting and a keep warm/reheat setting. It makes alright toast, though the slots could be bigger.
Seriously, though, if you actively like the look of this thing, and are not some sort of steam punk Italian, you have something wrong with you. Though at least it's less repulsive looking than the same brand's Scultura range. Ay-yi-yi!
£100 | Amazon