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.
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. The Cuisinart CPT-440 only 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 Hamilton Beach Classic Chrome 2-Slice Toaster , 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.
This bested the Hamilton Beach Classic Chrome Toaster by far, as its sides reached temperatures as high as 157 degrees after a single run. The Frigidaire even bested its mid-range competition here. The Cuisinart CPT-440 reached 141 after only the second test, and heated up to 160 by the end of five. The KitchenAid KMT422 did almost as well as the Frigidaire, but spiked past the burning point after test 3.
A toaster should be easy to use, an expensive toaster all the more so. The Frigidaire disappointed me here, because of the sticky crumb trays, but since the stainless exterior stays cool, I can forgive its few minor flaws.
The rock-solid performance of the Frigidaire Professional 4-Slice Wide Slots Toaster made me want to forgive its quirks all the more. When testing toasters, we check how dark it makes bread on low, medium and high, gauging how evenly it cooks a slice and how long it takes to finish. We also test how consistently it toasts in bulk by taking it through five cycles consecutively. Finally, we toast bagels, frozen bread and thick bread to see how it handles different tasks.
The Frigidaire Professional 4 Slice Toaster performed well across the board. Most importantly, it provides a wide range of usable darkness and cooks each slice evenly.
The Frigidaire avoids dark stripes. Both sides come out the same shade, and it does a fine job of browning all the way to the edge. In terms of evenness, the Frigidaire outperformed every other model we tested in terms of test-after-test consistency. In the picture above, you can see the Cuisinart comes close, but the Frigidaire gives significantly better-looking toast than some of its competitors.
On the highest setting, it did burn the toast. The toast even started smoking during the last few seconds of the cycle. Fortunately, one level below that gave a nice, well done slice. At a 1, the Frigidaire proved one of the few to darken the toast at all. You can see some slight browned spots on the lightest toast.
At a 1, the rest left the bread disappointingly bready. At a 2, the Frigidaire coated the surface in a great, light brown. The Frigidaire, then, can run the gamut in terms of levels of darkness, and it hits the same level each time. That's really why this toaster makes sense. You can find a setting that will match your preferred level of doneness, then feel confident that each time you cook to that level you'll get your perfect toast.
When we ran it five times in a row, the bread darkened a little from the first test to the second, then evened off for 2 through 5. It shortened the cycle each time to account for the increasingly hot starting temperature. This wasn't a perfect result. Ideally, you hope to get the exact same level of darkness each time, but the Frigidaire was close and maintained an even coating throughout.
I wouldn't even call the burned toast on 7 a big drawback, as you might want that extra power on thicker bread, and some people like their toast extra crispy. The only big downside to the performance of the Frigidaire was the time it took to get the job done.
The Frigidaire draws just under 1,400 watts of power when running, which is significantly less than the most powerful 1,560-watt draw of the Cuisinart CPT-440. Again, with a countdown display, I wasn't too disappointed. I like predictability and the Frigidaire delivers. But if you want speed and design to further justify the price premium, the Cuisinart does it all for the same cost and only a slight dip in evenness.
Rounding out the tests with frozen bread, bagels and thick bread, the Frigidaire regained its place at the top.
Cooking an inch-thick slice of bread on medium, the Frigidaire was the only toaster to reach a satisfactory level of darkness. Every other toaster would have needed another run. The Frigidaire also dealt with the uneven, cratered surface of a bagel with a steadier hand than the rest.
It cooked the bagel to the same level of brown as toast on medium, and did so more evenly than any other toaster. Finally, with frozen bread, it used the defrost button to accommodate for the extra variable, turning out yet another evenly cooked slice to the exact level of doneness it produced from the room temperature loaf.
The Frigidaire gets solidly beaten by the similarly priced Cuisinart on the time it takes to toast, but it holds its ground performance-wise by handling thicker items better and producing slightly more evenly browned bread.
By splurging on a toaster, you can gain predictability, speed and design. For the latter two, the Cuisinart CPT-440 gets the best of the Frigidaire Professional 4-Slice Toaster. The Frigidaire does the best with the first and gets added points by handling thicker breads with ease. The design isn't bad. In fact, it's sturdy, it feels solid, and the old-fashioned boxiness can be quite appealing if you want your toaster to be plain but pleasant.
The $100 Frigidaire Professional 4-Slice Toaster performs the same function as any number of $20-$40 machines. Its cost keeps me from universally recommending it, but if you're a stickler for how you want your toast to turn out, the peace of mind this gives you in that regard makes it worth the extra money. Once you find your sweet spot, you can walk away confidently, knowing exactly how long it needs to make your perfect slice.