Sometimes, the simplest foods are the best: few things can top the texture, flavor, and contentment that comes from biting into a perfectly brown slice of toast. Finding the best toasters that can consistently produce such crunchy, warm bliss? That can be a less than perfect process.
There are dozens of toasters available on the market today. While many of them pack some pretty desirable bells and whistles, not every brand excels at crisping up bread slices, bagels, and frozen waffles without scorching. You deserve better.
To help you find the best toasters, we tested 18 top-sellers to find you the best oven at the right price. Our favorite is the Breville Die-Cast 2-Slice Smart Toaster(available at Sur La Table). The Breville doesn’t come cheap, but its even toasting and solid build, plus some special features, make it an absolute pleasure to use.
To find you the best toaster, we spent more time than you can imagine deliberating about the color of toasted bread, searching for the perfect setting for bagels, and gauging just how difficult it is to grab the smaller half of an English muffin out from between toaster slots.
These are the best two-slice toasters we tested ranked, in order:
It’s more than top-notch toasting of bread and thick bagels (so long as you slice them, first). The Breville Die-Cast 2-Slice Smart Toaster might actually make you say “I love my toaster” in casual conversation. Taking it out of the box, the first thing you’ll notice is stainless steel toaster's weight. Making a product heavier to connote “quality” is an old trick, but in this case it's accurate.
It’s the little things that make this toaster stand out. You push a start button to start toasting, rather than pushing down on a lever. However, the start button is also a cancel button, allowing you to interrupt the cooking cycle if you feel that your bread or English muffin has been roasting for a little too long. The bread lowers and rises in its extra-wide slots with a theatrically slow speed. You select your setting by sliding a button on an LED-lighted control.
Breville did an outstanding job designing a product that can accommodate itself better to your life in the kitchen. Press “Lift & Lock” button if you want a quick peek. Toast needs a bit more time? Hit the “A Bit More” button. That’s what it actually says. When your toast is done, it beeps. And the beep can be made louder or muted. Like most Breville products, the electrical cord has a circle behind the prongs that makes it easy to remove from a socket. Even the removable crumb tray was considerately designed.
It’s pricey, but we recommend it if you want the best.
Cuisinart toasters can typically be had on the cheap and still be amongst the top toasters. In spite of its rock-bottom price, the Cuisinart 2-Slice Compact is beautifully designed and performs well, making it our best value choice (our original best value, the Black + Decker 2-Slice, was discontinued). We love how the gray lettering on the controls really pops against the light background, making it super easy to choose your setting. It was very fast, serving up dark toast in under 3 minutes. When we toasted five 2-slice batches in a row on medium, we got ten slices of identical toast in about 6 minutes. How great when you’re making BLTs for a bunch of hungry kids! While it did a beautiful job of toasting a bagel on the bagel setting, we found a fat New-York style bagel fit tightly in the slots and neither bagels or English muffins popped up high enough to grab without raising the lever for an extra lift. There's also reheat and defrost features.
Hi, I'm Sharon Franke, and I’ve been reviewing kitchen equipment for the past 30 years. In addition to testing and writing about everything from bagels slicers to bread machines, I’m a passionate home cook. Before I became obsessed with cooking appliances and tools of all kinds, I spent seven years working as a professional chef in New York City restaurants. While I’m always on the lookout for the newest recipes and restaurants to try, when I’m cocooning at home, more often than not, it’s a toasted bagel that’s on my plate.
We tested 2-slice pop-up electric toasters (we haven't tested 4-slice models yet). Each appliance was rated first and foremost on how well it toasts bread. Could it produce a range of shades and toast evenly enough that all 4 sides come out looking the same? When you make batch after batch does each one come out the same or start getting darker? How does it do on the bagel setting?
Of course, we also considered the experience of using the product to find the best toasters, including how easy it was to set the controls and the convenience of the special features. Since all the products got too hot to touch around the slots, whether or not English muffins and bagels popped up high enough to grab without burning your fingers was an important factor. We also evaluated how well each one was constructed, including wide slot and long-slot toasters that can brown different types of bread. And while we didn’t include appearance or size in our ratings, we took them into consideration, as this is one appliance that will almost certainly live on your countertop and take up some counter space.
What you Should Know about Two-Slice Toasters
How to Make Sure a Two-Slice Toaster Toasts Evenly
If you toast isn't browning evenly, you might be using it wrong. Different types of bread require different settings to toast evenly. A slice of white bread might need a lower temperature and less time to toast evenly, but a thick rye bread might need a higher setting to reach just the right amount of crispiness. British manufacturer Dualit USA researched the toasting process and found that sweet-tasting breads, such as cinnamon raisin toast more quickly. Bread may also need different settings throughout the week so that it doesn’t burn as the loaf loses moisture.
When Hamilton Beach conducted consumer research, the numbers, unfortunately, showed that most people clean their toasters by turning them upside down and shaking out the crumbs. Not emptying the bread tray thoroughly can lead to crumbs damaging the heating effectiveness. To keep your bread, bagels, and English muffins toasted evenly, keep your crumb tray clear and clean.
Learning the settings is also important if you don’t want your bread to burn. Hunger can prompt owners to hit the cancel button so that they can check their toast’s progress instead of letting the toaster work properly. It’s easy to forget about your bread after pulling the lever down again and it is likely to be burned once the toasting is complete.
Another common mistake is putting bagels into the toaster the wrong way. If your toaster doesn’t have a bagel settings button, put the bagel soft side facing in to prevent it from toasting unevenly or burning. Bagels can be difficult to gauge because they are dense and require more toasting time than a slice of bread, so learn your settings to avoid burning your breakfast.
How to Clean a Toaster
Toasters are prone to gathering dust, lint, and disgustingly enough, even bugs. Keeping your appliance clean is important and it’s more involved than just giving it a shake over your kitchen sink. First, unplug the toaster so that you won’t electrocute yourself in the process. Then, pull the crumb tray out and gently wash it with warm water and dish soap.
While the crumb tray dries, clean the slots where your bread goes with a damp cloth doused in vinegar. Make sure not to wet the toaster too much because it will take a long time to dry. Wipe the toaster’s insides with a damp cloth to remove any leftover vinegar residue and let it dry upside down, giving it one last shake for good measure. If the idea of dust and bugs in your appliance understandably grosses you out, you can also purchase a cover to protect it from the elements.
Other Two-Slice Toasters We Tested
Oster TSSTTRGM2L 2-Slice Toaster
The latest thing in large kitchen appliances is black stainless steel: a softer, easier-to-clean finish than gleaming stainless steel. If you want to capitalize on the trend without swapping out your fridge, consider the Oster Black Stainless Collection 2-Slice Toaster. Naturally, we wouldn't be writing about it here unless it was also great at toasting bread at all shades. When you’re toasting small items like English muffins, you will have to use the toast lift to grab them without risking burnt fingertips. In addition to bagel and frozen bread settings, it has a "Quick 30 Sec" button if you want your toast just a wee bit more well done.
A newcomer in this world, the Zwilling 2-Slice Toaster is pricey but worth it, if getting evenly sliced bread at every setting is important to you. You can also depend on it to pop up batch after batch of identical toast.
While it is wider and higher than typical models, its slots easily accommodate half of a fat New York bagel or a long slice from a country-style loaf. It has defrost, warm-up, and bagel buttons.
The entire top of the unit is plastic and stays cool although the sides get quite hot to the touch. As the Zwilling is heavy, it’s not the one to choose if you only pull a toaster out on special occasions.
Revolution Cooking 2-Slice High Speed Smart Toaster
The super-expensive Revolution Cooking R180 High-Speed 2-Slice Smart Toaster is state of the art. Not only does it live up to its promise to toast quickly and evenly, but it has touchscreen controls that are fun to use.
It’s a very heavy well-designed model. On one side, there’s a color screen from which you select the type of bread and whether it’s fresh, frozen, or to be reheated. Then you select a number and it shows you what shade your bread will toast to at that setting. Once you press start, the display shows the progress of heating and browning and counts down the last 10 seconds.
A pleasant little tune lets you know when your toast is ready.
And thankfully, all this technology delivers perfectly browned toast! Our only gripe is that while you can press cancel on the screen, there’s no high lift and that’s problematic when you make English muffins as they don’t pop up very high.
The R180 has a settings menu that lets you set a date and time to display on the screen when it’s idle, as well as adjust the brightness of the screen and lower or turn off the volume. Ultimately though it’s up to you whether or not you think a toaster is worth $300 on sale.
Available in glossy red, black, or silver, the KitchenAid 2-Slice Toaster with High Lift Lever is a stunner. It's also sturdy, heavy, and has settings that click into place when you turn the dial. We got perfectly even toasting and, of all the toasters we tested, the KitchenAid was the fastest. However, we didn't see much difference between the medium and dark settings. If you're a dark rye lover you may find yourself giving it an extra cycle. When you're toasting smaller items like English muffins and bagels, you'll have to use the high lift lever to raise them above the slots or risk singeing your fingertips. You’ll find lots of features on this one: Bagel, defrost, reheat, and keep warm.
Talk about no frills! The Hamilton Beach has no settings other than cancel. There isn't a removable crumb tray —you pull it open and give it a shake. However, for less than the price of a movie ticket, you get a darn good toaster.
As you would expect at this price, it’s lightweight so it might be a good choice if you keep your toaster stashed away and pull it out on weekends or when you have company.
For storage, you wrap the cord around the side, which isn’t pretty but is easily accomplished.
If you're looking for a conversation piece, the Smeg 2-Slice Toaster is your pick. It comes from the Italian company's '50s Retro Style line. It sports the glamour of a mid-century Maserati and is just as likely to make heads turn.
The finish (available in in Red, Pink, Pastel green, Black, White, Cream, and Chrome) is as thick and rich as on a sports car. When you shift a gear—excuse me, a setting—it locks into place firmly. As you would expect for the price, you get excellent toasting. Its features reheat, defrost, and bagel settings.
Once a powerhouse in the toaster category, GE has returned with this solid performer. It toasts evenly and produces three distinct shades of doneness. For times when you don't want to serve basic bread, this toaster has a bagel button and a frozen button.
When you’re making English muffins, you need to use the lift lever to raise them high enough above the slots to grab them without burning your fingertips.
The Calphalon IntelliCrisp is a well-built, sturdy toaster with a dark gray finish. As it toasts, LED lights around the number settings show you the progress of your toasting so you can time your eggs to be ready the same time as your bagel.
Yes, there’s a bagel setting, as well as a defrost one. If you enjoy fat New York City-style bagels, you may have to give the halves a push to get them down into the slots.
The GE Café Two-Slice Toaster is a beautiful, solidly built product that comes in three colors: matte white, matte black, and stainless steel, each with copper accents. However, it’s also a pricey toaster compared to others we've tested and requires more countertop space than a typical two-slice model.
On its regular toast settings, it takes a relatively long time to toast. It doesn’t color bread evenly and on the light setting; instead, toast comes out close to a medium doneness. There's also a unique “Express Finish” setting which toasts exceptionally quickly—under a minute at medium—and toasts fairly evenly.
Other settings on the Café include Bagel, Reheat, and Frozen, with lights that illuminate when a setting is selected. However, the lights are so small that we had to squint to see them. English muffins barely pop up above the slots, but the lever raises them high enough to grab safely.
Overall, it’s the design and sturdy construction, rather than the performance, that justify the price tag on this toaster.
Although it’s not a looker, you can’t beat the price on the Hamilton Beach. And you don’t sacrifice at all when it comes to getting a perfectly browned piece of bread or a bagel.
This was one of the few that was able to turn out five matching batches of toast one after the other. When you’re making a small item like an English muffin you’ll have to remember to use the lever to raise it above the hot slots. Its bagel button, defrost setting and keep warm setting are very well marked so they’re easy to select.
If you’re looking for stylish ‘50’s design without breaking the bank, the Haden Dorset 2-Slice Toaster is for you. It hails from a British company and is solidly built.
Right on the front there’s a rotary dial and an analog display for the settings as well as clearly marked bagel, defrost, and cancel buttons. You can choose red or a beige tone called putty.
While the Dorset browns very evenly, bread toasted on medium came out darker than we expected for the setting.
In the Haden, when you toast bagels you insert them into the slots with the cut side facing out rather than in—perhaps it has something to do with the fact that Brits drive on the other side of the road?
Target’s house brand, the Made By Design 2-Slice Extra Wide Slot Stainless Steel Toaster, sells for an unbeatable price but, as you would expect, it’s utilitarian looking and lightweight.
However, it does a reasonably good job of toasting bread. And surprisingly, it’s one of the only toasters we tested that stays cool enough to touch just about everywhere except the stainless steel on the top of the slots.
On the bagel setting, it extends the time but toasts on both sides of the bagel.
If the way your toaster looks is more important to you than the way it works, you might like Breville the Toast Select Luxe. It’s beautifully made and comes in sophisticated glossy shades including black truffle, sea salt, dark brown called smoked hickory, and royal champagne as well as brushed stainless steel.
On the front there’s a dial display styled like a watch face that in addition to number settings, has settings for white, brown, grain, fruit, rye, and crumpet that adjust the time for each type of bread. During toasting, the dial lights up and tracks the progress of your toasting.
This toaster also has lots of extras: Lift and Look for taking a sneak peek during toasting, A Bit More to add just a little time, plus reheat and frozen buttons. On the bottom there are handles that make it easy to lift and move around.
While all these fancy features may seem worth the big bucks, unfortunately when it came to toasting, the Luxe disappointed, browning unevenly. And in spite of the high-lift lever, it was almost impossible to grab half an English muffin out of the slots.
I'll say it right up front: If you're looking for perfect toast or an easy-to-use model, the Dualit NewGen 2-Slice Toaster, is not for you. On the other hand, if you want a solidly built product that doesn't come from China, this pricey, made in the United Kingdom, toaster might be worth a look. Its industrial design has made it the darling of home magazines.
Now on to the bad news. To begin with, it’s considerably higher and wider than your typical two-slice model. There are only two settings on the mechanical timer: “2” and “3.” Setting “3” results in heavy smoking and charred bread, so we suggest you stick with “2.” Once you make one batch of golden brown toast, the toaster gets so hot that the next ones smoke and burn. No pop up here. You lower and raise your bread with a completely unintuitive lever: Lift it up when you want the bread to go down and press it down to bring toast up.
Perhaps bagels are not a thing in the UK. Not only does it toast them unevenly, but it leaves one side cold and the lever has trouble lowering and raising them. There is a defrost option which thaws but doesn’t automatically start toasting as it does on all the other ones we toasted. At least it's colorful. The NewGen is available with side panels in 21 different colors.
We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.