Our best value pick, the Black + Decker 2-Slice Toaster, has been discontinued. We recommend the Cuisinart 2 Slice Compact Plastic Toaster in its place.
Sometimes, the simplest foods are the best: few things can top the texture and flavor over the contentment that comes from biting into a piece of perfectly browned toast. Finding the best toasters that can, consistently produce such crunchy, warm bliss? That can be a less than perfect process. There are dozens, if not hundreds of toasters on the market today. While many of them come packing some pretty desirable bells and whistles, not all of them excel at crisping up bread, bagels or frozen waffles in a way designed to make you happy. All too often, when you hear the 'pop' of a toaster, the freshly-browned baked goods you're presented with will be found to be under-done or cooked to a crisp. You deserve better. To help you find the best toasters, we tested eight top-sellers (one of which, the Black + Decker 2-Slice Toaster, is now discontinued). Our favorite is the Breville Die-Cast 2-Slice Smart Toaster(available at Amazon for $119.95). The Breville doesn’t come cheap but the even toasting and solid build, plus some special features, make it an absolute pleasure to use.
To find the best bang for your buck, we spent more time than you can imagine deliberating about the color of toasted bread, 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 electric two-slice toasters we tested ranked, in order:
Breville Die-Cast 2-Slice Smart Toaster
Cuisinart 2 Slice Compact Plastic Toaster
Hamilton Beach Keep Warm Toaster
KitchenAid 2-Slice Toaster with High Lift Lever
Oster Black Stainless Collection 2-Slice Toaster
SMEG 2 Slice Toaster
Dualit 2 Slot NewGen Toaster
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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 amongst our best toasters. You push a start button to start toasting, rather than pushing down on a lever. The STart button? It's also a cancel button, allowing you to interrupt the toaster's 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 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 toaster 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 its 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 best toasters. In spite of its rock-bottom price, the Cuisinart 2-Slice Compact Plastic Toaster 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 BLT’s 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 defrost and reheat 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 eight two-slice pop-up electric toasters. 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 toasters 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 toaster was constructed. 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.
How to Make Sure a Two-Slice Toaster Toasts Evenly
You might be using your two-slice toaster wrong if it isn’t toasting evenly. To begin with, 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 last year, 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 for your toaster 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 two-slice toaster
Toasters are prone to gathering dust, lint, and disgustingly enough, even bugs. Keeping your two-slice toaster 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 toaster understandably grosses you out, you can also purchase a toaster cover to protect it from the elements.
Other Two-Slice Toasters We Tested
Hamilton Beach Keep Warm 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 5 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, defrost, and keep warm buttons are very well marked so they’re easy to select.
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.
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 settings, it has a "Quick 30 Sec" button if you want your toast just a wee bit more well done.
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.
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 U.K. 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 2-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 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.
Cailey Lindberg is a Staff Writer at Reviewed and full-time Dog Mom to Sandor the Basset Hound. In her spare time, she dives deep into the inner workings of the restaurant industry for On The Line, a new publication for industry professionals launched by Boston-based software company, Toast.
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.