A toaster is just about the most basic piece of equipment in a working kitchen. Seems pretty simple, doesn’t it? We expect that the Best Inexpensive Toaster to turn out evenly toasted bread, bagels, English muffins, toaster waffles, and perhaps even an occasional grilled cheese sandwich!
We want this countertop appliance to last a long time without breaking down, one side failing to toast or the thing stubbornly refusing to pop-up! And it needs to be affordable. Is this asking too much?
Thankfully it is not asking too much—we can have all these things in a toaster at a very affordable price provided we understand a few things and let go of unreasonable expectations. Now, before we get to the toaster you’ll love, we need to talk reality.
Your toaster will eventually fail
Do you ever wonder why your grandparent’s refrigerator lasted for 40 years and now it’s still going strong, cooling beer in your garage? Or why you had your first toaster for decades and still have it toasting away were it not for that harvest gold color. The sad truth is that modern appliances are no longer built to last. Get used to it.
The boring truth
The research and technicalities for why toasters are built to fail are long and tedious, but allow me to wrap it up in a few sentences. It’s the heating element. Vintage toasters (those that lasted for decades and now show up in antique stores, still operable) have heating elements made of nichrome (known initially as Chromel— which is 90% nickel, 10% chromium). It’s strong and conducts heat really well because of the nickel.
Nickel has become a costly raw material, so to cut manufacturing costs, companies use aluminum plus a little iron in its place to make the heating element in a toaster. Why? To reduce the cost.
Vintage Chromel is super durable; heating elements using aluminum are more brittle and less ductile. They’re delicate and prone to early failure. It doesn’t matter if it’s a $180 Breville or a $20 Cuisinart toaster. Your toaster is going to fail you. Consider yourself fortunate if you get five years of regular use out of a new toaster.
The good stuff
Now that we have all that negative information out of the way let’s move along to the good stuff. There really is a fabulous, inexpensive toaster out there. If you need a replacement, this is the toaster I highly recommend. By the way, I have an early version of this toaster that we use daily. The only difference is that ours is black and silver, and the shade selection dial is slightly different. We’re into Year 6 without any problems at all, fingers crossed!
Best Inexpensive Toasters
Our pick for Best Inexpensive Toaster is the Cuisanart Toaster. It comes in two options: Two slots and four slots. Other than that, the two models that follow are the same.
This inexpensive, ordinary-looking toaster browns bread, bagels, English muffins, and even frozen waffles better than most other models I’ve tested. It has extra-wide slots that accept a wide variety of things to be toasted. Pushing the lever down clamps the item in place, regardless of its width from thin-slice up to 1.5 inches.
This toaster has a very handy defrost feature, which means you can drop in frozen items, press “defrost,” and they will quickly defrost first, then move right into toasting mode.
Set to bagel mode, this toaster heats the cut sides of the bagel only for a crispy top and a soft, chewy bottom, the way a bagel should be.
The reheat feature warms a piece of toast that may have cooled, without re-toasting it. The cancel feature is handy should you want to interrupt a setting.
The high lift lever allows you to lift the toast clear out of the unit after it has popped up, for easy removal from the toaster without burning your fingers.
This toaster’s setting knob offers various shades of toasted goodness from 1 to 7.
What about cleaning?
Clean-up is easy with the removable crumb tray. It even has a cord wrap underneath the unit to manage unsightly power cords while not in use.
What is EC Best Inexpensive?
The mission in identifying Everyday Cheapskate’s Best Inexpensive option is not to find the absolutely lowest price tag. On the contrary, it is to match quality with need. We want the lowest price for the level of quality we need, with only the features we will use. And we want products that will serve our needs well for as long as the more expensive options. Is that always achievable? No, but the mission here is to come as close to that standard as humanly possible.
EverydayCheapskate is reader-supported. We participate in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for publishers to earn fees by linking to Amazon, Walmart, and other sites. Thanks!