Rating toasters and toaster ovens

You’d think that after more than 80 years on the market, toasters would finally serve up perfect toast. While Consumer Reports still hasn’t found one that hits that culinary height, its latest tests yield several that come close for about the price of a good dinner.
Haier’s $30 TST850DS, one of six CR Best Buys in its recent report, turned out the best toast in this test, browning evenly from light to dark with almost every batch. It includes a sleek, stainless-steel housing and a bagel setting, which toasts only one side. Willing to trade stainless and the bagel setting for a lower price? The Proctor Silex Cool-Touch 22203 toasted nearly as well for just $15.
You’ll also find smarter controls and displays, infrared elements and even sandwich grilling as toasters fight for counter space. The Cuisinart CPT-170, $80, has a digital display that counts the seconds until toast is ready. T-Fal’s Digital TT6604002, $40, uses flashing bars and, like many models such as the $40 Hamilton Beach Digital 22502, has a defrost option for frozen bagels and a bread lift that helps keep fingertips cooler.
Some toaster ovens are expanding their menu with touchpad controls, pizza settings and other options. DeLonghi’s RO2050B, $80, is among those with a rotisserie aimed at even roasting. You’ll also find more “pro” and other high-priced models like the $300 Breville Smart Oven BOV800XL, which was tops in CR’s tests. But as with toasters, you’ll get comparable performance for far less. CR’s tests of 60 models also show that you can fork over more than $200 and get less-than-stellar performance. Here are the details:
— Features versus results. Uneven toasting kept the DeLonghi DTT312 toaster, $130, off CR’s list of picks, despite its lift-out grid for paninis and other warm sandwiches. And while you may prefer your toast dispensed horizontally as on the $70 West Bend Quik Serve 78222, other models served up better toast for a lower price.
— Pizzas that didn’t pan out. Black & Decker, Breville and Krups are among the toaster oven brands chasing the multi-billion-dollar frozen-pizza market with specialized pizza programs. While crusts were crisper than you’d get from a typical microwave, none of these ovens browned nearly as well as a conventional oven. Some that CR tested, including the $100 George Foreman GRV660, $120 Black & Decker FC150R and $150 Bella Professional 90000, weren’t roomy enough to swallow a typical 12-inch frozen pie.
— Lightweights at a heavyweight price. The $200 Calphalon XL HE650CO toaster oven promises even heating. But several delivered better baking and broiling for far less. The $220 Dualit Vario 2029 toaster made it hard to get predictably browned toast batch after batch. And while George Foreman was heavyweight champ in the ring, his GRV660 toaster oven was only middling at toasting and baking.
How to choose
— For top toast, buy a toaster. Even the best toaster ovens take roughly twice as long as toasters and leave tiger stripes.
— Be sure there’s enough space. If you plan on baking pizza, be sure the rack is 12 inches deep.
— Look for easy cleaning. Pull-out crumb trays and coated, nonstick interiors make cleanup less onerous.
— Decide on single or dual slots. Most two-slice toasters have a slot for each slice. But models with one long slot could add versatility, say, by making it easier to fit large or oddly shaped slices of bread.
Visit the Consumer Reports Web site at www.consumerreports.org.

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