KitchenAid Pro Line 4-Slice Toaster review: Don’t get burned by KitchenAid’s $500 toaster

For $ 500, you might believe a toaster can fly. The KitchenAid Pro Line 4-slice toaster is perfect. Metallic sliders accentuate the bulky white exterior. A string of lights that might run down the aisle of an airplane shows you the darkness setting and flashing away as the toaster nears the end of its cycle. Put your bread in and a pleasant sound will ring out when the toaster senses it and gets to work, reminding you, perhaps, to fasten your seat belt for the journey.

Except, with this toaster, a pleasant journey is not waiting for you. For $ 500 MSRP (you can find it for as little as $ 400, but still), it’s really taking you for a spin. It doesn’t do anything special. Makes toast, and not so good. When the cycle ends, you’ll hear another ding, and I’ve always found this undersized and ridiculously expensive machine cooked far less toast than it should. The only flight that’s really going to do, then, will come when you’re sick of paying so much for undercooked toast, and toss this $ 500 machine out the window.

Design and features

When you spend more on a toaster, you should expect three things: great design, fast speed, and quality toast. The KitchenAid Pro line offers excellent results in the first, but fails in the other two.

This toaster looks good. It would be at home in a designer kitchen. It is reminiscent of the old KitchenAid Mixer, but at the same time it uses its lights and dials to whisper skill and technological power. It’s a statement piece.

Trendy roasting.

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Its features, while not going much beyond the functionality of a regular toaster, come with a twist to help you keep showing off beyond the initial visual impact. Put your toast on and it will feel the weight and lower it for you with an audible and pleasant sound. Again, remember the tone you would have heard on a plane.

Set the darkness with a slider that illuminates a small row of LEDs above it. In addition to that, the “Bagel”, “Frozen”, “A Little Longer” and “Toast / Cancel” buttons get a backlight when pressed. They all work as you would expect.

“Bagel” only toasts one side of the crack, so you can crunch the cut side while gently heating the other. “Frozen” adds cycle time for defrosting. “A Little Longer” adds a little extra time while the toasting is in progress. “Toast / Cancel” helps if the toaster starts up before you are ready, or if it doesn’t detect the weight of your food and you have to start it manually.

The row of LEDs indicates darkness and the countdown while the toaster is in operation.

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The only design element that falls short is the width of the slot. From grille to grille, it’s only 1 1/4 inch. It’s smaller than a number of other toasters we’ve tested, including the cheaper $ 110 KitchenAid KMT422 4-slice manual toaster with a 1 3/8 inch slot. An eighth of an inch doesn’t make a drastic difference, but it’s odd that the more expensive model offers less usable space.

The KitchenAid Pro Line 4-slice toaster is available in three different colors. We tested the elegant white model. The images of the red and black versions are also great. All retail for $ 499, and you can buy them on the website of KitchenAid, Amazon, Williams Sonoma, and other appliance retailers.

Usability

Looking at the KitchenAid Pro-Line, I could almost understand the logic behind a $ 500 toaster. Almost. If you want a beautiful appliance to adorn your designer kitchen and let your neighbors talk, mission accomplished. Once you start toasting, the automatic lowering and that always reassuring sound will keep the mystical flow.

Except, while it’s a pretty cool thing to show, the automatic lowering turned out to be much better in theory than in practice. I am particularly picky about my toast and want the cycle to begin when I say the word. The auto-on feature can’t be turned off and it always made me feel rushed to insert both sections, center them, and edit my presets where I wanted them before it all kicked off.

Quickly prepare food or it will start without you.

Tyler Lizenby / CNET

You can adjust the settings for a few seconds after the cycle starts, and you can always press Cancel if you’re not ready, but this all seemed backwards to me. You don’t actually make much money for the hassle of autoloading.

Mechanical lifting also makes dealing with stuck bagels or thick bread rather boring. You can’t just pull the lever down to unlock it. You also can’t use the extra lift offered by most levers to lift a shorter slice and remove it from the toaster without burning your fingers. Mechanical lifting adds freshness to the toaster, but also adds inconvenience to its daily use. Again, the compromise isn’t worth it.

That said, it does allow for a unique feature that I found extraordinarily useful: automatic heating. Most toasters include a “heat” button to give your toast a little extra heat if you forgot about it and it opened before you were ready to feast. Initially, I thought the “A Little Longer” button was KitchenAid Pro’s version of that.

Then, I accidentally left my morning bagel in the toaster and when I returned a minute later, I found that the toaster had taken it down and kept it warm for me. Thanks to the weight sensor, he knew I hadn’t removed the bagel. The KitchenAid Pro will wait 45 seconds after it appears. It will then lower and perform a continuous heating cycle for up to 3 minutes.

When you return to the toaster, you can press cancel at any time to get your snack, still pleasantly warm. If you wait all 3 minutes, the toast will inevitably be a little drier than it would have been if you had received it right away, but I still found this particular feature quite useful. It’s a great, simple touch that I wish more toasters could implement.

Too much more, and that toast will come back on its own.

Tyler Lizenby / CNET

Unfortunately, since the keep warm function is fully automatic, if you go back to the toaster, remove the bagel and then decide you’d like to reheat it a little, there’s no way to do that. You will need to run a short cycle and it may turn out more golden than you wanted.

I expected some features of this ridiculously expensive toaster to be incontrovertibly useful. Unfortunately, for all it adds, an accompanying annoyance follows.