Wide toaster slots
The main benefit to a 4-slice toaster over a 2-slice toaster is that you can make more toast for multiple people. Instead of having to make two separate breakfasts, you can make toast for two people simultaneously. Having wide slots is also important because it allows you to use a variety of bread sizes and cuts. 1.5-inches seems to be the standard “extra-wide” measurement, though these slots are often too short for longer cuts of bread, like Artisan loaves or homemade. Toasters with European-style slots prevents this problem, as instead of four shorter slots, these toasters use two extra-long spaces that can fit one Artisan slice or two bagel halves per slot. If you eat mostly long bread and have had to cut the bread in half with your other toasters, getting a European-style 4-slice toaster would be best for your needs.
Dual custom controls
Nearly all 4-slice toasters have dual custom controls, which means you control each two-slot section independently from the other. You can toast two halves of an English muffin and a bagel at once, on different settings. This saves you a lot of time when you make breakfast and makes life easier, especially if you’re in a hurry and don’t have time to do two separate toasting sessions.
Variety of toast functions
For a versatile toaster, you want some solid toast functions. On most 4-slice toasters, this includes at least a “toast” button, “cancel” button, and a “bagel” button. The “bagel” button tells the toaster to only toast the cut side of the bagel while warming up the other side. If you want your toaster to be able to handle more, look for toasters that have a defrost and reheat function. With the defrost setting, you can toast frozen bagels, waffles, and so on for a longer period of time so the inside is cooked through and the outside is toasty. Reheat is also useful because it only warms up already-toasted bread and doesn’t brown it any further.
Toast shade dial
Just about every 4-slice toaster has a toast shade dial where you can choose your ideal toast shade. They are numbered and usually include between four and seven browning levels, depending on the toast brand and price. Most people will only use the first four settings anyway, unless you like your toast practically burnt. Having control over toast shade is especially important if the toaster doesn’t have any kind of timer; you just go by color instead of keeping track of how long your toast has been cooking.
High lift carriage
With many toasters, smaller bread like English muffins do not pop up high enough from the toaster. You have to reach into the toaster to get it out, and risk burning your fingers on the still-hot heating elements. Features like a toast boost or extra-high lift carriage help raise even small pieces of toast, so you don’t have to try and pry out your toast. This is an important safety feature especially if you have kids who might use a metal utensil to get out the bread, and accidentally electrocute themselves.
Removable crumb tray
Making toast generates a lot of crumbs, and these crumbs stay in your toaster. To make cleanup easier, most 4-slice toasters include a removable crumb tray. This is basically a pull-out “drawer” where the crumbs fall. You slide it out and empty out the crumbs, keeping your toaster clean and safe, since too many crumbs pose a fire hazard. Some crumb trays are even dishwasher-safe, so you can wash off any stuck bits of burnt bread for a complete clean.
Toasters are too often cheaply-made, and burn out after only a few years or even months. Plastic housing is prone to warping and denting, so an all-metal toaster is best if you want something that will last. Stainless steel is a very popular material, though it can scratch up somewhat easily. Die-cast steel and chrome are less scratchable. All-metal toasters – no matter what specific metal they are – are also attractive and add a shiny, modern look to any kitchen.
Size and weight
4-slice toasters are bigger than 2-slice toasters, though some are designed to be as compact as possible. European-style 4-slice toasters are great for smaller kitchens, and are often extremely light, as in 1-2 pounds. Heavier toasters can be as much as 8-9 pounds, and aren’t ideal if you have very limited counter space or need to move the toaster around a lot.
Cuisinart’s first claim to fame was the food processor, which was released in 1972 after the company founder was inspired by a trip to a kitchen-equipment expo in France. The food processor took off and was endorsed by famous chefs like James Beard and Julia Child. Like most of their products, their 4-slice toasters can be pretty expensive. Cuisinart develops compact 4-slice toasters, the European-style 4-slice toaster with 2 long slots, and motorized toasters that don’t have a manual lift.
Hamilton Beach began in 1910 and is named after its founders, L.H. Hamilton. and Chester Beach. Their products were based on the universal, lightweight motor they created while working as engineers. These products included juicers, meat grinders, and food mixers. Now, they sell pretty much any small kitchen appliance, including toasters. Their 4-slice toasters are pretty affordable and come in chrome, stainless steel, and the long 2-slots that can fit long Artisan bread or two bagel halves.
West Bend was originally an engine company and built 2-stroke engines for boats, cookware, and other electrical appliances. In the 1950’s, the company started working in the kitchen appliance sector more seriously, and released an electric slow cooker. In 2001, the kitchen appliance division of the company was sold to Focus Products Group LLC and became West Bend Housewares. Their most notable and unique toaster is the 4-slice Egg and Muffin toaster, which combines an impressive 4-slice toaster with an egg cooker, egg basket, and meat warmer.
Oster started out as a hair clipper company (founded by John Oster) in the 1920’s before it branched out into home and kitchen appliances. Their first notable appliance was the Osterizer Blender, which was followed by electric knives, rice cookers, and toasters. Their 4-slice toasters are pretty affordable compared to the bigger name brands, and include a long-slot toaster that easily fits Artisan bread.
Breville burst on the scene with a sandwich toaster in the 1980’s, and continued its success with a line of juicers, blenders, and yogurt makers. Their 4-slice toasters are also very impressive, and include motorized-lift toasters, toasters made from die-cast steel, and toasters that let you interrupt a motorized toast cycle to check out the toast, and then continue the cycle if you want it darker. Breville 4-slice toasters can be pretty expensive.
KitchenAid is most famous for the Stand Mixer, which they released in 1919. Before WWII, KitchenAid would sell out all its mixers every Christmas, and after taking a break during the war, they moved their factory to Ohio in 1946. There, they began to expand their production into other kitchen appliances. In the 1990’s, KitchenAid got a bump from celebrity chefs like Martha Stewart and Julia Child. They specialize in kitchen products, and are the only appliance brand that exclusively makes kitchen appliances.Their 4-slice toasters are expensive, and include motorized toasters.
Many toasters are fully embracing the digital age and getting rid of a manual lift gate. Everything is motorized and controlled by the touch of the button, so you hit “toast” to toast your bread, and “cancel” if you want to stop the cycle. These motorized toasters might also include a feature where you can pause the cycle to look at the toast, and then continue the cycle without having to push the buttons all over again. On the Breville, this is called “lift and look.”
Some of the more expensive and versatile toasters do much more than just toaster bread. For example, West Bend has a multi-purpose toaster that is also an egg cooker, egg boiler, and meat warmer. Attached to the 4-slice toaster is an egg cooker where you can cook scrambled eggs, an egg basket for boiled eggs, and two meat warming trays. This toaster is all you need to make a breakfast sandwich, and save time and money you would otherwise spend on the drive-thru.
Not all toasters have timers or countdowns where you can exactly how much time is left on the toasting cycle. Having a timer is useful because it allows you to prepare other parts of a meal, like poaching an egg, which you want to do when there’s a certain length of time left for the toast. Many of these countdown toasters also include a beep alert so you know when the toast is ready, even if you’re in another room.
Toasters can get very hot, and in a crowded space, you might brush up against it and burn yourself. You also want to protect your kids, who might touch the toaster. Many toasters are designed with cool-touch sides, so only the top of the toaster is affected by the heating element. The metal sides of the toaster stay cool, so you won’t scald or even singe yourself if you happen to touch it.