For $110 the KitchenAid 4-Slice Manual toasts up bread with classic car styling but is far from a grilling hot rod.
To compete with the rise of affordable and ultra-capable toaster ovens, regular toasters have begun to fight back, boasting extras like snazzy paint jobs, fancy toasting presets, even LED lighting, motorized slots and robot-like intelligence. The $110 KitchenAid 4-Slice Manual though stands somewhere in the middle with extreme complexity on one end and basic, old school mechanical toasters on the other.
It's certainly a looker that tries hard to impress with retro, almost classic car styling and a bright red side panels to match. The trouble is this is far from a toast-making dream machine. It takes a while to toast bread compared to other models, and what it finally serves up is often uneven. If you're in the market for a higher-end toaster, both the Cuisinart Leverless 4-Slice ($100) and Frigidaire Professional 4-Slice ($100) offer greater bang for your buck.
Perhaps inspired by the smooth art deco lines of its 20th century appliance hit, the Stand Mixer, the KitchenAid 4-Slice toaster (model KMT422) looks straight out of a 1950s house-ware catalog. With an all-metal chassis with striking stainless steel and fire engine red highlights, this countertop gadget tips the scales at a hefty 9 pounds.
Spanning 7.5 inches tall, a foot wide, and nearly as deep (11.5 inches), the 4-Slice Manual has all the solidity and charm of a classic Buick Skylark. Completing the toaster's strong automotive motif are a pair of chrome-plated oval vents slapped on either side of the contraption. The only thing missing is a set of white-walled tires and fuzzy dice.
Gracing the front face of the 4-Slice is a rectangular digital readout displaying the degree of toasting power you've selected. You ramp up or down the toasting level (ranging on a scale between 1 and 7) by turning a "shade" dial left or right.
Also shown here is a reverse progress bar ticking down to final toast time plus any preset toasting functions the appliance has engaged such as "Bagel", "Defrost", or "Reheat". To initiate these special toast modes simply press one of their corresponding circular buttons during the toasting process. Keep in mind though you can only engage these modes after toasting has begun, started by pulling down one of the spring-loaded levers which sit underneath the screen.
Unlike other appliances which opt for fancy abilities such as motorized bread trays that raise and lower robotically, pulsing LED lights, or snazzy alarms and bells, this toast maker is mostly manual. As a result, if you've ever owned a toaster built in the past 60 years you'll find that operating the KitchenAid KMT422, and its paddle-ended levers, a familiar affair. The only real clue the machine hails from the 21st century is its aforementioned LCD screen.
Cleaning the KMT422 is a bit of a mixed bag. It has two removable crumb trays, a design which should be familiar to most of you. Pushing the center of each tray (located on the back bottom edge) releases them. You can then slide the flat platforms out of the chassis and toss any bits of charred bread it contains into the trash.
One annoying issue is how crumbs tend to collect just above wide shelves deep inside each of the toaster's slots. Debris often accumulated here and failed to drop into the crumb tray just below. Besides manually picking up the toaster, turning it upside down, and giving it a good shake, I don't see a way to completely clean this machine.
Priced at double the cost of the average toaster, you might think the KitchenAid 4-Slice Manual would offer twice the amount of features with significantly superior performance. Unfortunately the KitchenAid KMT422 takes its sweet time, longer in fact than almost any machine in our recent crop of test toasters. Only the pokey Frigidaire Professional 4-Slice (3 minutes, 40 seconds) was worse.
When set to the medium power level, the KitchenAid 4-Slice completed its task in an average time of 3 minutes, 15 seconds. Speedier gadgets such as the Alessi Electric (2 minutes, 12 seconds), and the KMT422's big brother the KitchenAid Pro Line 4-Slice (2 minutes, 40 seconds) zipped through the same task in much less time. The Cuisinart Leverless 4-Slice out-toasted all comers though, toasting things up in a brief 1 minute, 18 seconds).
When talking toast, cook time isn't everything. Other key factors include browning evenness, as well as how well said toast level matches a machine's actual setting. For example if I set an appliance to toast at medium heat, I expect it to deliver a rich, golden brown slice of crispy toasted bread. In addition, that piece of toast best be uniformly browned (on both sides) or frankly there will be hell to pay.
By these measurements the KitchenAid 4-Slice Manual is an adequate but not exceptionally good toaster. The machine consistently turned in toast that was a touch on the dark side (at medium and high settings) for my tastes.
Another annoyance is that the KitchenAid 4-Slice repeatedly made pairs of toast slices which were evenly browned on one side but unevenly toasted on the other.
Thankfully the appliance didn't display the same inconsistency while grilling bagels using its preset mode. Just like it handled thin, square toast, the KitchenAid KMT422 took a long 3 minutes and 15 seconds with a bagel. Granted the feature is designed to crisp the flat inside (sliced) side of bagels while merely warming their outside.
There's no arguing that the KitchenAid 4-Slice Manual toaster has an attractive retro style that will really make your kitchen counter pop. Aside from its faux-vintage good looks however, as toaster performance goes the KitchenAid 4-Slice Manual is nothing special. For $110 it's not cheap either considering it toasts bread slowly and unevenly. Of course you might find it sold online for as little as $60 but that could take a little digging.
For a faster and better performing machine, I suggest checking out the Cuisinart Leverless 4-Slice ($100). It also has classy looks as well not to mention slick motorized trays. Additionally the similarly-priced Frigidaire Professional 4-Slice toaster ($100) toasts handsome bready snacks in a flash.