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Apr 2, 2010 10:24 AM

TOASTERS! Do they become obsolete *that* quickly?!

I've recently found myself in the market for a toaster.... my $10 Wal-Mart special which I bought 15 years ago finally broke.

Things have changed since then... I no longer shop at Wal-Mart, for one. And, I'm willing to pay a little more for a toaster that does a good job, with a functionally elegant design.

Cooks Illustrated's top pick of the Michael Graves Hamilton Beach 4-slice (model 24301) sounds amazing, but it's not available anywhere-- nor is the #2 pick, the Kenmore 4-slice (model 81004).

Testing methodology:
The testers made sure that the light/med/dark settings produced significant and accurate results. They did a "rapid-fire" test to test whether repeated use overcooks toast. Also versatility (ability to handle bagels, waffles, etc. equally well) and lastly testers downgraded models with poorly designed crumb trays. They wanted clear and intuitive controls, deep trays, and slots able to accommodate a variety of foods.

With this in mind, here's their rationale for rating the Hamilton Beach toaster tops:

"This toaster simply outperformed the others, producing evenly golden toast in test after test. The toaster’s carriage held all foods securely and prevented any possibility of items falling through or getting caught. Our sole complaint: This bulky toaster took up more counter space than we’d prefer."

Are there any modern (circa 2010) toaster designs that fit these specifications? Please note, I am definitely NOT in the market for a toaster oven.

Thanks 'hounds

Mr Taster

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  1. Try Amazon they have at least 7 new ones for sale there

    1 Reply
    1. re: kayakado

      Can you provide a link? Every time I search, they're out of the top model, and don't have the second model (Kenmore) listed.

      I'm not just looking to make a random purchase of any toaster. I'm looking for a *GOOD* toaster, which meets the criteria that CI uses to evaluate their models, and I'm looking for guidance from people who have experience with some very good models.

      Mr Taster

    2. Mr. T - how about a toaster oven? When my old toaster died, I replaced it with a Hamilton Beach Toastation. It's got slots on top for use as a regular toaster but you can also use the oven part to toast or heat things up very quickly. And it's red. Love it.

      1 Reply
      1. re: southernitalian

        I looked into toaster ovens but I have very limited counter space (my microwave lives on top of my refrigerator). But even if space weren't an issue, at $200 they're too much... I'd rather just have a really good quality toaster and use my oven for bigger applications.

        Mr Taster

      2. I got a Cuisinart toaster a couple of years ago, a two-slice model (they have four-slice ones as well), and I'm very happy with it. Couldn't tell you the model, as I'm at work.

        1 Reply
        1. re: EWSflash

          We have that Cuisinart as well, and have had it for quite a few years. It is still recommended in this month's Consumer Reports Kitchen Appliance edition. Look on the left and click on cooking appliances.

        2. Mr Taster: In answer to the subject line, yes.

          We went through the same exercise you are going through three or four years ago when we inadvertently discovered that our toaster at the time was lacking in The Very Most Important Feature -- and then we discovered (to our dismay) that a very high percentage of the toasters then on the market also lacked The Very Most Important Feature, and we had a devil of a time then finding a replacement that did have The Very Most Important Feature. At the time, I made a very extensive write up of our quest and our findings for a private maillist to which I subscribe, which I would re-post here but for the fact that it would be worthless because not one of the toaster models listed is still on the market today.

          Mr Taster: "Cooks Illustrated's top pick ... The testers made sure that the light/med/dark settings produced significant and accurate results." That is of secondary, not primary, importance.

          Mr Taster: ""This toaster simply outperformed the others, producing evenly golden toast in test after test." That is of secondary, not primary, importance.

          Here is The Very Most Important Feature: is the heating element shut-off mechanism separate and independent of the toaster's pop-up mechanism? Astonishingly, UL certification is possible for toasters lacking that feature, which I find incomprehensible. Sooner or later, some piece of toast or bagel half or whatever you are toasting will lean over to the side and get caught, preventing the toast from popping up. If, when that happens, the heating elements remain in toasting mode, it is only a matter of time before you have a fire.

          Toasters differ in how the element shut-off command is communicated. When we were looking at toasters, we found that some shut off the element with the same electronic command as the electronic command that told the toast holder to pop up; that is superior to toasters that rely on the mechanical action of the toaster carriage popping up itself to trigger the element shut off. But it is inferior to independent commands shutting off the element and popping up the toast, because in some cases, the elements will stay on if what gets blocked is not the toast carriage itself but just the little trigger that releases the spring for pop-up. In testing (we needed to find cooperative shopkeepers -- we could not do it at Target or Wal-Mart, obviously), we found out that if we prevented a test piece of "toast" from popping up at all (by physically holding it down), most toasters -- and 100 percent of Chinese made toasters (at that time) -- would just keep on toasting, heating elements on.

          (FWIW, we purchased a Toastmaster "Global Design" model 1046U, which is simply wonderful -- but you probably would have a hard time getting one today because, of course, the model has been discontinued. The closest current equivalent, a $40 toaster, is the Bosch TAT4620UC: (The Toastmaster 1046U was made in Germany by Siemens, and Bosch and Siemens are joined at the hip.) But if we needed to replace our toaster today, which fortunately we do not, we might even go triple that price for this one: for its all-stainless steel build quality, though I cannot imagine when we might need to toast four slices of toast at once. )

          4 Replies
          1. re: Politeness

            What a great post, Politeness! Would never have thought about the safety feature. (Though DH threw a flaming toaster oven out of our 2 story window to the snow covered ground below one time. That makes for an exciting breakfast!) Can't advise on which toaster, but after my last toaster oven failed, I only buy from stores with an impeccable record for accepting returns. Prices on appliances don't seem to vary much anyway. I go to WS or Sur la Table. Love my high end Delongi toaster oven, because 1. I don't use a microwave, so use it for reheating 2. Fits a lot, without heating up the whole house. 3. gives me a second "half" oven when entertaining. However, the one frustrating thing to cook is toast, the settings either cook it a hair too soft or too hard for my taste. (no adjustable dial, 16 electronic timer settings) Will follow this thread, it will make DH very happy to get a simple, functional (non flaming) toaster oven for Father's day!

            1. re: Politeness

              Yep, my mother once put bread in the toaster and then spaced out and went to take a shower. The bread got stuck, heating element didn't turn off, she wandered on out later and the cabinet above was on fire.

              Even with the safety features of modern toasters in place, I make damn sure that everybody in the house knows to pull the toaster out clear of the cabinet it's under before using it.

              1. re: Politeness

                " for its all-stainless steel build quality, though I cannot imagine when we might need to toast four slices of toast at once. )"

                There are just two of us here and I thought the same thing so bought a two slice Dualit toaster. Every time we have English muffins I'm sorry because I need to toast them in tandem or crank on the oven broiler.

                1. re: Politeness

                  As someone who melted the under cabinet light fixture when our toaster didn't turn off, I can attest that this feature is REALLY important! We no longer have our toaster under anything at all as a precaution, but I could see it easily starting a fire even without overhead cabinetry.

                2. Amazon does have in stock the Cook's Illustrated 3rd and 4th
                  place recommended toasters. The Oster 6330 Inspire 4-Slice Toaster
                  and the Cuisinart CPT-140 Electronic Cool Touch 4-Slice Toaster.

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: Antilope

                    I know, but who wants to settle for 3rd or 4th place? :)

                    Mr Taster

                    1. re: Mr Taster

                      Anyone that would settle for a 3rd or 4th place toaster, would probably make toast from a 79¢ loaf of bargain bread. ;-)

                      1. re: Antilope

                        Recently, I have successfully researched and purchased cars, trucks, tractors, plasma TVs, counter top mixers, garden shears, pool pumps, chainsaws, and outboard motors (just to name a handful). I have NEVER been so frustrated as trying to find a quick, even toasting, reliable toaster (regardless of cost).

                        My conclusion is the manufacturers of such a simple, one task device are complete tools.

                        My purchases today : a Breville Smart Oven BOV800XL and a Krups Toaster TT9340 (with no digital display, no count down timer, no beeper, and no fancy options buttons). My fingers are crossed...

                        1. re: PoppiYYZ

                          2 slice toaster winners from late 2010

                          Kalorik Aqua 2-Slice Toaster - model TO20621 (no complaints, makes toast in 2.5 minutes)

                          Cuisinart Countdown Metal 2-Slice Toaster - TO20621 CPT-170 (toasts fast but outside gets hot, toasted evenly when both slots used, but not when single slice toasted)

                          Black & Decker 2-Slice Toaster - model T2707S (takes longer to toast than others, at maximum darkness setting it only produced golden toast)

                          1. re: Antilope

                            2008 4 slice winners

                            Kenmore 4-Slice toaster - Model# 135401 (slight color difference between sides of toast, but not really an issue)

                            Oster Inspire 4-Slice Brushed Stainless Steel Toaster - model 6330 (2 long slots difficult to fit in 4 slices of bread, which way does bagel face?)

                            Cuisinart Electronic Cool-Touch 4-Slice Toaster - model CPT-140 (slight difference between sides of toast, which way does bagel face?)

                            Black & Decker 4-Slice Toaster- model 4560B (slight difference between sides of toast)

                            1. re: Antilope

                              Just as an example, read the less than "glowing" reviews on amazon for the Aqua. Even some of the five star reviewers seem to be more interested in the look and only mention toast as a passing comment.


                              1. re: PoppiYYZ

                                Maybe a 2 slice toaster needs all the heating elements from a 4 slice toaster wound into the area for the 2 slices. Since a 4 slice toaster at full power (Scotty we need more power!) doesn't overload a 15 amp kitchen circuit, putting all of 4 slicer heating elements in a 2 slicer might do the trick. If you look into the slots of most toasters, they have maybe 3 or 4 passes of the heating wire for each side of the bread. 6 or 8 on each side might do the trick.

                                I wonder if UL would pass it if you re-wound the elements for your own toaster? ;-)