In pop-up or automatic toasters, a single vertical piece of bread is dropped into a slot on the top of the toaster. A lever on the side of the toaster is pressed down, lowering the bread into the toaster and activating the heating elements. The length of the toasting cycle (and therefore the degree of toasting) is adjustable via a lever, knob, or series of pushbuttons, and when an internal device determines that the toasting cycle is complete, the toaster turns off and the toast pops up out of the slots.

The completion of toasting may be determined by a timer or by a thermal sensor, such as a bimetallic strip, located close to the toast.

Toasters may also be used to toast other foods such as teacakes, toaster pastry, potato waffles and crumpets, though the resultant accumulation of fat and sugar inside the toaster can contribute to its eventual failure.

Among pop-up toasters, those toasting two slices of bread are more purchased than those which can toast four.[1] Pop-up toasters can have a range of appearances beyond just a square box and may have an exterior finish of chrome, copper, brushed metal, or any color plastic.[1] The marketing and price of toasters may not be an indication of quality for producing good toast.[1] A typical modern two-slice pop-up toaster can draw from 600 to 1200 watts.

Toaster ovens are small electric ovens that provide toasting capability plus a limited amount of baking and broiling capability. Similarly to a conventional oven, toast or other items are placed on a small wire rack, but toaster ovens can heat foods faster than regular ovens due to their small volume.They are especially useful when the users do not also have a kitchen stove with an integral oven, such as in smaller apartments and in recreational vehicles such as truck campers.