Toaster reviews: FAQs
How does a toaster work?
It’s worth remembering that toasters are fairly simple machines and their basic design hasn't changed much since their invention. So it’s not surprising that it can be difficult to get an evenly-browned slice.
The heating elements are essentially a grid of wires wrapped back and forth along an insulating board. The wires heat up to dry and char the bread – the closer the wires are to the bread, the quicker the bread in that area will toast.
Your bread will be unevenly toasted if you have a toaster where some wires stick out from the board, and other wires don't.
Will I have to wait longer for evenly-browned bread?
In our tests we've found that slower toasters often do a better job of toasting bread evenly. Luckily, many of our Best Buys manage to combine speed and browning pretty effectively.
How do defrost settings work?
This setting aims to take the guesswork out of toasting frozen bread, adding extra time to the toasting cycle to defrost first then brown. Using this feature means you don't have to change the browning setting.
Bear in mind that they may have to be operated differently depending on the model.
With some toasters you have to press the defrost button before you lower the bread; with others you lower the bread first, then activate the button to start the defrosting.
What does a bagel setting do?
The most useful ones turn off one of the toasting elements so that the bagel can be toasted on only the cut side of the bread. Others simply add extra time to the toasting cycle to allow for the extra thickness of the bagel.
How should I clean my toaster?
You should clean out the crumb tray every week to avoid accumulating stale crumbs which can attract vermin and pose a fire risk.
Plastic or coated steel finishes (such as those found on coloured toasters) tend to be easier to keep clean. If a wipe with a damp cloth doesn’t do the trick, mild detergent can be used.
Polished finishes often need rinsing and drying too, to avoid streaks. An environmentally-friendly Ecloth can be a good way to get rid of fingerprints and restore a shiny finish.
Be careful with cream cleaners though, as their abrasive texture can leave scratches.
Why don't toasters last like they used to?
We often hear from Which? members who're disappointed by the longevity of modern toasters and fondly remember their toasters from yesteryear which lasted for decades.
In 1958 when Which? named its first Best Buy, the Morphy Richards Automatic Electric Toaster cost £6 10s 9p (equivalent to about £92 today) and was a substantial investment for a 1950s family.
But today, toasters are commodity items manufactured on a huge scale in far-flung factories, and sold for as little as £4 in supermarkets and chain stores.
The replacement cycle for toasters is reducing every year - on average people replace their toaster every three years.
So manufacturers are now more likely to concentrate on creating stylish toasters with fancy features which appeal to replacement buyers, than on creating a top-quality product which will last forever.