12 Common Toaster Mistakes You May Be Making

Updated: Nov. 17, 2023

Your toaster is one of the simpler appliances in the kitchen, but we still find ways to use it incorrectly. Here are some common toaster mistakes to avoid.

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African American girl burning toast in toaster
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Toasting back-to-back without adjusting

You know how you preheat your oven before baking? You can’t do that with a toaster, but that doesn’t mean the toaster doesn’t stay hot once you’ve toasted the first batch of bread. Take that residual heat into account before you start your next batch of toast, or you’ll find that bread gets a whole lot crispier in the same amount of time.

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Close up of the inside of a used toaster with grill and crumbs.
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Never cleaning the crumb tray

Most toasters come with a built-in crumb tray, which is a small, removable tray at the bottom of the toaster that’s made to catch crumbs. It’s great for keeping the toaster clean, but you still have to remember to clean the actual tray itself, or it will get loaded over time and cause crumbs to build up at the bottom of your toaster.

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dirty kitchen toaster covered in dust and bread crumbs
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Never cleaning the toaster… at all

You should be giving your toaster a good deep cleaning every few months or so. The crumb tray won’t be able to catch every fallen piece from your favorite toast recipes, so get in there with cleaning brushes and microfiber cloths (and please, don’t clean it while it’s still plugged in).

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Senior man getting toast out of toaster with knife, close-up
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Sticking silverware in your toaster

Don’t worry, we’ve all been there! Whether you’re nudging your toast out with a knife or digging out that large crumb with a fork, it’s tempting to stick silverware in your toaster. But please—don’t, and especially keep that knife away while the toaster is still warm or plugged in. Sticking silverware in a toaster allows the electricity in the toaster to flow through the knife and then to your hand, which can lead to shock (and disappointment).

Instead, wait for your toaster to cool down completely, then clean it with a brush tool that won’t conduct electricity.

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Best ever grilled cheese
Taste of Home

Making gooey stuff (like grilled cheese)

It doesn’t get better than a fresh grilled cheese, just make sure you’re using the right kitchen tools. Hint: It’s not your toaster. It’s possible to make gooey dishes in your toaster, but that leads to sticky messes and fire hazards, especially once foods start dripping and melting on the toaster’s wires.

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Directly Above Shot Of Toaster On Table
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Using the toaster on its side

Can you turn your toaster on its side and still use it? Yes. Should you? No. Much like how you should leave grilled cheeses out of your toaster, you should avoid making any sandwiches that require turning your toaster. Toasters aren’t meant to be turned, so when you do this, you change how the appliances heats and cooks, leading to unevenly browned sandwiches and heightened fire risks.

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Mixed race woman preparing breakfast in kitchen
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Shoving too much food in

If you’ve got thick bagels or large slices of bread to toast, it’s best to shave them down until they’re slim enough to fit. If you shove them in your toaster, you’ll end up with extra crumbs and poor heating. The toaster’s wires become completely eclipsed when you shove too much food in, which means the side touching the wires will burn, while the rest of your toast stays cool.

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Burnt toast in toaster
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Never adjusting the settings

Some toasters have three settings and others have thirty. Whether you’ve got a simple toaster or a complex one, ignoring these settings altogether is one of the greatest toaster mistakes you can make. Toaster settings are made to help you get the most out of your appliance—you should absolutely play with them to find your perfect bread setting, but be sure to adjust your settings depending on what you’re making.

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Man toasting bread with toaster in the kitchen
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Unplugging your toaster improperly

As with any appliance, you should never grab its cord and yank it from the wall. This could lead to stripped cords and electrical mishaps—and a broken toaster. Play it safe and always grab the cord by its wall base. And always unplug your toaster after using it!

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Woman in kitchen drinking coffee, bagels in toaster (focus on toaster)
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Loading your toaster wrong

There’s nothing better than a toasted bagel. And there’s nothing sadder than a bagel that’s been toasted wrong. Make the most of your toaster’s bagel settings by loading the bagel slices facing inward—the wires get hottest in the middle, so the insides of your bagel will get deliciously browned while the outsides stay chewy.

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close up photo of a sliced bread in a toaster
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Using the wrong toaster for your needs

If you find yourself toasting more than two slices of bread at a time, it may be time to invest in a four-slice toaster that can handle more bread per cycle. Investing in the right toaster can save you time in the long run, especially if you find yourself frequently frustrated with your standard toaster. If you’re a bagel aficionado, check out a toaster with robust bagel settings.

FYI: It’s also possible to make toast without a toaster.

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garlic bread
Taste of Home

Toasting when you should be broiling

At the end of the day, the biggest toaster mistake you could be making is… using a toaster. Some dishes are best made in other appliances with toasting abilities. Garlic bread, for example, should be left to the broiler. Grilled cheese should be made with a skillet, while bagel sandwiches are really better in a toaster oven. Examine what you’re really toasting each day, and pick up the appliance best suited to your tastes.