How we test toasters
By Alice Williams
Which? reviews tell you everything you need to know about a toaster. Find out how our testing separates the best from the rest.
In our independent, scientific toaster tests we've seen all types of toast, from pale and underdone, through patchy and striped, to burnt-to-a-crisp.
Only a small proportion of toasters achieve the 'holy grail' of perfect golden toast (see top right in the picture above) and are good enough to become Which? Best Buy toasters. And money is not a reliable indicator of quality - we've tested some pricey models that can barely warm bread, despite costing hundreds of pounds.
Our reviews answer the most crucial questions about toasters:
- How evenly does it toast bread?
- How quick is the toaster?
- Can you toast different-sized slices of bread in it?
- Is the toaster easy to use?
- Should I buy it?
Discover the toasters that stand out from the crowd by checking out our toaster reviews.
How evenly does it toast bread?
A patchwork slice of toast with raw areas and burnt edges does not make for a happy breakfast. Our toasting tests use two different ratings to assess how evenly browned toast is, so you end up with a lovely golden slice.
We make three rounds of toast with each toaster using fresh bread. We look closely at each slice to check if there are any burnt or unbrowned areas, or if the toast is 'stripy', using the uniformly golden-browned 'holy grail of toast' (illustrated above) as our benchmark for the perfect slice.
We also rate both sides of every piece of toast, looking at what percentage of it is golden brown. The best toasters produce toast that's at least three-quarters brown. For the worst toasters we've tested, more than half of the toast is either too light or too dark.
We use thick white supermarket bread for our toasting tests. It’s a consistent shape and just the right size to fit in the average toaster, as well as being thick enough to stand in the bread chamber without sagging. We store the bread in controlled conditions so that variations in freshness don't affect our test results.
How quick is the toaster?
We time how long each toaster takes to toast either two or four slices of bread, depending on how many it can hold. The quickest can knock out toast in less than two minutes, while some take more than twice as long.
Can you toast different-sized slices of bread in it?
We use cardboard templates that mimic the size, shape and thickness of common bread slices such as normal-sized and tall sliced bread, homemade bread, and crumpets, to find out how versatile each toaster is.
The best toasters will accommodate a variety of bread types, whether they're thick, thin, large, small, or awkwardly shaped.
We test how well a slice fits in the toasting slot, and how easy it is to remove once toasted. Some smaller items, such as hot cross buns, can be tricky to reach, leaving you with burnt fingers or crumbled toast.
Is the toaster easy to use?
Toasters should be simple to use, so your morning breakfast run doesn't involve having your nose in an instruction booklet, or accidentally chargrilled toast.
We check that all buttons and dials are easy to understand and use, and that the instruction manual is clear and helpful, in case you do need to refer to it.
We also check that the crumb tray is easy to open and empty without spilling crumbs everywhere.
If getting a toaster that's easy to use is high on your priority list, particularly if you have reduced dexterity and find awkward dials and controls a bother, look out for a toaster that gets a four-star or five-star rating for ease of use.
Should I buy it?
The tests above determine what the overall score is for each toaster we review. We give more emphasis to the tests which we know are more important to you when working out that overall score:
- 45% evenness of browning
- 20% ease of use
- 15% browning coverage
- 10% fitting different types of bread
- 7% speed of toasting
- 3% toasting problems
Toasters with an overall score of 71% or above are rated as Best Buys, while those scoring 45% or below are Don't Buys.