“a consumer reports for the cheap” — the new york times

Cheap Toasters Buying Guide

Familiar names in the cheap toaster category include Black & Decker, Toastmaster, Sunbeam, and Cuisinart, while brands such as Breville, DeLonghi, KitchenAid, and T-fal have also made a mark in the next pricing tier. To help you find the best toaster for your frugal budget, we've focused our research on the products in the $8-$30 range, and selected a few whose features and reliability make them good picks for their price.

Toast Slots.

The standard for most cheap toasters is two or four toast slots, with the price varying accordingly.
Keep in mind that the width of the toast slots affects what you can toast. Extra-wide toast slots, like those found on the Oster 6307/6309 2-SliceToaster (starting at $27) let you easily insert larger or wider items, such as bagels, buns, or hand-cut bread. The 1.5-inch slots on the Cuisinart CPT-120 Cool Touch 2-slice Toaster (starting at $26) automatically adjust to suit bagel or bun toasting. But most cheap toasters these days boast slots that are wide enough for most items you'd care to toast.

Toasters Bread Lifter.

This feature, found on most toasters, ensures that smaller items like English-muffins or small buns pop up high enough so you don't have to poke around inside the toaster. Cheap toasters with this feature include the Black & Decker T2560B 2-Slice Toaster (starting at $22), Oster 6307/6309 2-slice Toaster, Cuisinart CPT-120 Cool Touch 2-slice Toaster, and Proctor Silex/Hamilton Beach 22605 (starting at $10). The T-fal Classic Avante 2-Slice (starting at $30) has a slanting front that eliminates the need for a high rack lift. Some cheap toasters, like the Oster 6307/6309, feature an anti-jam mechanism that should keep bread from getting stuck.

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Crumb Tray.

Bread and muffins tend to crumble and tear during toasting and on the way out, which means the crumbs collect at the bottom of the toaster, a situation that invites pests and poses a fire risk. To avoid such problems, choose a toaster with a crumb tray that's easy to pull out and empty. Removable trays are more convenient than the hinged variety, which require a bit more effort and planning. Most higher-end toasters feature a detachable crumb tray, and so do some cheap toasters, including the Cuisinart CPT-120, Oster 6307/6309, Black & Decker T2560B, and T-fal Classic Avante.

Toasters Browning Controls.

People have different preferences about how dark they like their toast, and different types of bread require different amounts of toasting time. Raisin bread, for example, browns rapidly due to its high sugar content, while thick slices of bread or bread with lots of whole seeds and grains take longer to toast. The browning controls let you control the duration of the browning process. Digital browning controls are the most accurate but generally found only on high-end toasters; the Cuisinart CPT 120, with its nine-setting digital browning dial, is one low-cost exception. Inexpensive toasters generally rely on a dial or series of buttons; the Black & Decker T2560B lets you choose along a spectrum from light to dark, the Oster 6307/6309 gives you a choice of seven shade settings, and the Proctor Silex/Hamilton Beach 22605 features five.

Cancel Buttons.

In case the bread (or whatever) is toasting more quickly than expected, a cancel button lets you stop the toasting process. Not all cheap toasters sport a cancel button, so check. The super-cheap Proctor Silex 22605 doesn't have one, but the Black & Decker T2560B, Oster 6307/6309, T-fal Avante Classic, and Rival 2-slice toaster (starting at $11) do; the cancel button on the Cuisinart CPT-120 is electronic.

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Toasters Bagel Settings.

A bagel setting toasts one side of the bagel only, so you can choose which side to crisp. This is a reasonably common feature on cheap toasters, and you'll find it on the Black & Decker T2560B, Oster 6307/6309, and Cuisinart CPT-120. Among the toasters on our list, the Proctor Silex/Hamilton Beach 22605 and the Toastmaster T100 (starting at $8) can accommodate bagel-sized bread but lack a specific setting for toasting bagels.

Toasters Housing.

One downside of budget toasters is that the housing can heat up very quickly because of poor insulation or low-quality components. Fortunately, many low price toasters, such as the Cuisinart CPT-120, Black & Decker T2560B, Proctor Silex/Hamilton Beach 22605, and T-fal Classic Avante, feature stay-cool housing. Although consumers generally appreciate this feature, you have to be careful. Despite the cool-wall sides on the Proctor Silex/Hamilton Beach 22605, for example, one user notes on Epinions that it gets pretty hot. And a consumer post on Amazon says the white plastic housing on the Cuisinart CPT-120 stays cool although the metal atop the slots really heat up.

Toasters Extras.

Some high-end toasters have transparent walls or they can be mounted on your kitchen wall. But several cheaper toasters may catch your fancy due to their unusual features. One example is the hard-to-find Chromo 2-slice Logo Toaster (starting at $12), which toasts a smiling sun on one side. The Back to Basics TEM-500 Egg & Muffin 2-slice Toaster (starting at $29) simultaneously toasts bread and poaches or boils an egg. Although many people store bread in a bread box or in the fridge, freezing bread is a common practice. A defrost function can help prevent the wait that comes with defrosting bread on the counter or in the microwave, both of which take time and leave you with soggy bread. Toasters like the Black & Decker T2560B and Cuisinart CPT-120 have defrost options for frozen bagels and frozen bread, but this is hardly essential. Toast tends to cool quickly, and a reheat function that warms already-toasted bread without further browning or charring is another take-it-or-leave-it feature that's rarely found on cheap toasters; the Cuisinart CPT-120 and T-fal Classic Avante are exceptions.

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