You would think, given the simple task of making toast, it would be easy to find a "best toaster." But, like vaccuum cleaners, many factors having little to do with actual task performance come into play. And perhaps because they're the first real appliance we were allowed to use as children, our emotional attachment to toaster styles is particularly strong. I've always been a toaster oven guy. I like being able to melt cheese, make cinnamon toast, and bake smaller meals without heating up my big oven. But some people are toaster people. They like the simplicity and smaller counter footprint of a toaster. Whichever type you prefer, here are my recommendations:
The Best Toaster Oven: Breville BOV800XL
This is the big-daddy of toaster ovens. If you have the counter space (18-1/2 by 12-1/2 by 10-3/4) , it offers extraordinary versatility, and an interior big enough to accommodate a 13x9 baking pan or six pieces of toast. $249.99 from Amazon.com. 2nd Choice: Cuisinart TOB-195. About $100 less, and slightly smaller. I've owned an older version (TOB-175) of this toaster oven, which rated tops in Consumer Reports Toaster Oven ratings (they did not test the Breville).
The Best Toaster: KitchenAid KTT340 Toaster
Top-rated by Consumer Reports, I have an older version of this toaster at my beach house (lost the toaster/toaster oven debate to my ex, who's a toaster guy). $49.99 at Amazon.com. Although Consumer Reports didn't rate the Kenmore toasters this go-round, I was extremely pleased with my last Kenmore toaster, which had been top-rated by CR many years ago. I wouldn't hesitate to buy another. If you're looking for the best value on a basic toaster, check out the Proctor Silex . Under $20 at Amazon.com.