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How to get the most out of your toaster

By Matt Clear

Get the most from your toaster with our handy tips. We explain what the different settings do and how to prolong the life of your toaster.

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How do I get toast that's evenly browned all over?

Toasters are fairly simple machines and their basic design hasn't changed much since their invention. But for a simple gadget, its surprisingly hard to get an evenly-browned slice.

The heating elements in a toaster are essentially a grid of wires wrapped around 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 will toast.

If some wires are unevenly wrapped, or have ends sticking out, you're more likely to end up with a patchy slice.

We've tested hundreds of toasters to uncover the models that do a great job of making evenly browned toast, and those that don't. Head to our toaster reviews to find out which toasters make great toast, time after time.

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. This means you don't have to adjust the browning setting, handy if its set to your ideal level of toast already.

Check the manual first though, as with some toasters you have to press the defrost button before you lower the bread whereas with others it's the other way round.

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.

Toaster maintenance

Ideally, you should clean the crumb tray in your toaster weekly, 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.

Toasters that last

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, too - on average people replace their toaster every three years.

Your best chance of getting a long-lasting toaster is to buy from a brand that's known for its reliability. To complement our testing, we also survey thousands of toaster owners to find the brands whose toasters will stand the test of time. To find out more, visit our guide to the most reliable toaster brands.

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