A good toaster need not be hard to find for $30 or less. A lot of the big brands offer affordable little workhorses for people who need something cheap but good. Hamilton Beach, Chefman, and Oster are just a few examples of the manufacturers who offer such wares now.
In fact, they’re the makers of our 3 candidates for the title of best toaster on a budget this year, and below they duke it out to see which best deserves the crown.
Hamilton Beach’s 4-slice offering comes with a special function for toasting frozen pastries like bagels and toast in particular. This model also comes with a browning dial so you can set the time it takes for toasting based on your shade preferences, and a Toast Boost features automatically lifts bread from the slots so that it’s easier to remove.
The slots are extra-thick at 1.5in to accommodate more bread types and a slide-out crumb tray makes maintenance simpler. There are two control dials on the unit, one for each pair of slots: each one controls only two of the slots, letting you use each pair independently.
- Independent controls per pair of bread slots
- Instant-lift of toast after toasting is done
- Really does stay cool to the touch on the outside
- Nice, wide slots
- Crumbs sometimes get stuck before they reach the crumb tray
- Toast Boost could push the toast a little higher still
This is a great toaster for a lot of reasons: it does the main job well, has 2 independently-functioning toasting slot pairs, stays cool on the outside and even has a slide-out crumb tray. It’s almost surprising that it’s only a budget toaster since you get capacity as well as capability in one go with it.
It could still use slightly thicker slots, we feel, but most people will probably be fine with it as it is now.
A bigger complaint for us is probably that not all crumbs actually make it into the crumb tray. Sometimes, they just work their way into some nooks in between, which can make maintenance a little more finicky than it could be.
Chefman’s RJ31-SS is a stainless steel 2-slice toaster. While toasting on it is largely controlled by a shade-metered dial, there are other features on the unit, including bagel toasting, defrost toasting (for frozen foods), reheating and cancelling (aborting) toasting. It has a cool-touch surface, indicator LEDs, a bread-lifting lever and a dishwasher-safe crumb tray.
- Wide slots accept bagels easily
- Sleek if simple design
- Very fast
- Despite cool-touch advertisement, the sides can heat up quite a bit
This 2-slicer from Chefman is actually the cheapest of the trio we’ve rounded up, being cheaper by as much as a third of the prices of the others. That doesn’t mean it’s a lightweight, though, as it still offers features like a special frozen pastry toasting setting in its defrost selection and even accommodates bagel eaters’ needs.
It’s also one of the fastest and most efficient toasters we’ve tried out. However, there is a hitch: the cool-touch design doesn’t seem to pan out too well on this appliance since the sides can burn you a little if you heat up several pieces of toast on it, one after the other.
This Oster toaster is a 2-slice toaster that comes in grey or purple. It comes with seven toast shade settings and extra-wide slots. The slots come with bread guides that adjust automatically to the thickness of the bread you load into the appliance. You can toast normally, do bagel toasting (one-sided), do frozen toasting and warm up already-toasted bread at will. It also has a cancel button for putting a stop to any of the above and an automatic shutoff feature that lifts toast to prevent jammed bread burning. The crumb tray at the base of the unit is removable.
- Attractive color options (especially the purple)
- Small footprint
- Wide slots
- Some units seem to have a faint burning plastic odor at first
- Slots could use more depth
This is one of the prettiest toasters you can get on a budget, and it’s not bad at its main function too. It offers bagel toasting, defrost toasting and pretty much all of the other toasting features the other candidates in this list do. Where it comes out ahead of them is in its looks and the very small footprint. It fits even on cluttered countertops, as a result, and still manages to make a statement in design at the same time. You might have a problem with its slots being a little on the shallow side if you get really large and round loaves, though.
So which of these is the best toaster for you? Any one of them might be a good bet given the similarity of their core features. There are some distinguishing characteristics that might serve as the guides for making your choice, though. For instance, if you want something with more capacity, you should go with the Hamilton Beach model.
If you’d prefer something smaller but still fast and powerful, the Chefman seems a good option. Finally, if you want something eye-catching while also managing to squeeze into cramped spaces, the Oster might be the right choice for you.
If we had to choose, though, we’d likely pick the Hamilton Beach model. For one thing, it’s generally better to have more toast slots than fewer ones, especially in a crunch. The independently controllable slot pairs on this appliance further add to its potential convenience in a household with more than one toast-eating resident.
The only real downside to it is that you would then have to deal with the counter space this high-capacity device demands, but it’s actually not as high as one might imagine, all things considered.