Spending $100 on a toaster seems hard to justify. That's the price of the Frigidaire Professional 4-Slice Wide Slots Toaster (although you can find it for $60 if you look around online). Functionally, it still just makes toast.
Nevertheless, if you're extra-passionate about toast or bagels or frozen waffles, I can see how you might talk yourself into spending a little more. This model makes some sense in that case. It's solid and hefty. It combines an old-fashioned, squared-off metal exterior with a modern LCD display that shows you your presets, then counts down while toasting. It can handle thicker breads and frozen slices.
Most importantly, it makes consistent, evenly cooked toast every time. The Frigidaire cooks slowly, but proves itself a capable upgrade toaster with enough performance chops to justify the increase in cost over the bargain bin.
Design and features
With a boxy stainless steel exterior accented by big black handles and black buttons forming a squared border around an LCD display, the Frigidaire Professional looks like it wants to get down to business. It lacks the flair of other mid-range models like the KitchenAid KMT422, but the simplicity plays in its favor by letting it fit in with just about any kitchen decor.
The design strikes me as a little old-fashioned, but that works well in concert with its modernized display. It's not ostentatious. It's also not small enough to be discreet, but it looks the part of a toaster that can handle itself. It's mostly utilitarian, and a bit boring, but it's also serious about making toast.
Press any buttons, and a blue light will illuminate the display, showing your current darkness setting. The arrow keys on either side of the LCD can shift that from 1 to 7. Above that, buttons for bagel, defrost and reheat provide options for different modes and light up when pressed to keep you up to date as far as what you have selected. Press the fourth button, cancel, to go back to normal toasting modes.
All of these options come as standard on most toasters. The bagel mode will only heat one side, so the inside gets golden brown while the outside gently warms. Defrost adds time to the cycle to allow your food to thaw. Reheat runs a quick warming cycle if you walked away and came back to cold toast.
Most toasters boast of their "extra-wide" slots as well -- an inch and a half has become standard -- but that's measuring across the top, and not taking into account the grates that squeeze the bread. This Frigidaire model actually leaves plenty of room between those, holding up to the width claims and measuring 1 7/16 inch from grate to grate -- you only lose 1/16 inch of real estate. Others we tested have grates that jut out, pinching the space. Theonly gives 1 1/8 inch of space for your bread -- the grates take up 3/8 or 6/16 inch of the slot.
Press the lever down, and a countdown will start, telling you exactly how long you have to wait. Most lower-end models, like the $30, don't have something similar. The other mid-range toasters we tested did, but they tended to display the countdown with a shortening bar graph, instead of a numerical value. I preferred the exactness of Frigidaire.
You can purchase the Frigidaire Professional 4-Slice Wide Slots Toaster on the company's website as well as Best Buy, Sam's Club, Bed Bath & Beyond, Amazon, Home Depot, and Ace Hardware. Again, it retails for $99, but I've seen it as low as $60. It's only available in the US.
The sturdy, business-like design translates well to usability, though a few quirks did annoy me during testing.
The crumb trays below each compartment pull out for quick maintenance cleaning, but it's hard to grip them and remove them from the toaster with one hand. They stick more than the trays on other mid-range models, meaning you'll want to wait to clean the crumb tray until your toaster is nice and cool so you can get a good grip.
If, like me, you're forgetful about cleanliness, not being able to clean the crumb tray right after you toast might mean longer periods without emptying it. You won't smell burning crumbs unless you drop huge chunks of bread or forget to wipe it through lots of use. That said, it still keeps you from adding crumb-tray cleaning to your immediate post-toasting routine.
The Frigidaire Professional Toaster also won't register any button presses after you push down the lever. I often remember to press the bagel button after I start cooking my favorite breakfast. With this toaster, when I forgot, I had to hit cancel, then bagel, the press the lever back down.
Because of the timer, you also can't check the darkness level once the toaster is running. You'll need to be sure everything is set the way you want it before you start.
None of these quirks amount to much more than an inconvenience. Having to cancel and restart a toasting cycle doesn't quite qualify as a tragedy, and it won't affect the final product if you restart the process early on.
The mid-range price magnifies the inconveniences. $100 for a toaster is a tough sell already, let alone for an experience that's not perfect. Fortunately, it stays cool enough when you use it to offer some redemption.
After a single run, only the top of the toaster heats up enough to burn you. You could still lift the machine safely from any of the sides. After five consecutive runs, the front stayed below the burn point of 140 degrees. The back got slightly hotter, reaching 141 after the fourth cycle.