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Top toasters won't burn hole in your wallet

Price has little to do with toasting prowess, according to Consumer Reports' latest tests of toasters and toaster ovens.

For two-slice toasters, the Cuisinart CPT-170, $70, was only a shade better overall than the Hamilton Beach Digital 22502, $40. Both have bagel settings (which toast just one side of the bread) and shiny metal exteriors that are easy to clean. The Cuisinart has a countdown timer.

The Magimix Vision Toaster (Williams-Sonoma), $200, turns making toast into entertainment: Its thick, clear glass sides let you watch your bread toasting. The Breville BTA820XL, $130; the Krups TT6190, $60; and the Hamilton Beach SmartToast 22408, $30, are all fine whether you want just one slice of toast or multiple batches, but they weren't as great at providing a wide range of toast shades.

The DeLonghi DTT720, $80, and the Cloer 5053519, $40, have warming racks. The Proctor Silex Cool-Touch 22203, $15, a CR Best Buy, doesn't skimp on toasting, though it has few extras and a white plastic exterior. The Hamilton Beach SmartToast 22323, $25, comes with tongs to remove toast and a built-in slot to store them.

Any of CR's four-slice toaster picks would please larger families or toast devotees who don't want to have to wait. They include the Cuisinart CPT-190, $90; the Breville BTA840XL, $180; and the Hamilton Beach Digital 24502, $50, a CR Best Buy.

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Toaster ovens do more

They can bake and broil a wide range of foods, but toaster ovens often leave stripes on one side of the bread. They also take longer to toast, though they often fit more slices.

The Breville Smart Oven BOV800XL, $250, and the Breville BOV650XL, $180, are equally adept at toasting, baking and broiling, but the toast-shade dial on the less-expensive Breville is a bit harder to use. Both fit a 4-pound chicken.

The top-rated Breville also offers convection, but CR's tests have found that convection isn't as important in toaster ovens because improving airflow makes less of a difference than it does in full-sized ovens.

The Hamilton Beach 31230, $120; the Kenmore Elite 126401, $95; and the Cuisinart TOB-195, $180, were fine at toasting and broiling but weren't as good at baking as the other recommended models, and the Kenmore can't hold a 4-pound chicken.

The Oster TSSTTVMNDG, $80, bakes better than toaster ovens that cost more, has a generous capacity and broils very well. But you'll probably want to keep your toaster.

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Pro-style ranges

Beneath the shiny stainless-steel exteriors, powerful burners and beefy grates of pro-style ranges are substantial differences. Many of the 20 CR recently tested simmered superbly and baked evenly. But an unappetizing smorgasbord of pallid burgers, overcooked sauce and burnt chocolate showed that some deliver less than their prices and looks suggest.

Among 36-inch models, the KitchenAid KDRU763V[SS] dual-fuel range, $6,000, offers impressive baking, broiling, simmering and self-cleaning.

The GE Monogram ZDP364NDP[SS], an $8,500 dual-fuel model, was also superb at simmering and turned out evenly baked cakes. But that range wasn't as good at broiling and took longer to boil water than many models costing thousands less.

Most of the 30-inch models were a step down in performance, although a couple came close to making CR's recommended list. The dual-fuel Wolf DF304, $6,400, was fine at baking, broiling and simmering, but a smaller capacity and unimpressive self-cleaning kept it off the recommended list.

The all-gas GE Monogram ZGP304NRSS, $5,500, was better at simmering and has a larger oven, but broiling was only mediocre. At $3,800, the Kenmore Pro 7952[3] dual-fuel was a relative bargain, out-cooking similar style ranges costing thousands more.

By the editors of Consumer Reports at www.consumerreports.org.