If you're not cooking for a large family, a two-slice toaster should get the job done just fine, and it'll take up less space on your countertop. In addition to toast, the majority of today's two-slice toasters can make everything from bagels to English muffins to frozen waffles. Two-slice toasters can either feature two separate slots or one long slot.
For a solid, durable toaster at a pretty decent price, take a look at the Krups KH732D (Est. $50). Owners say it's attractive, easy to use, and boasts a good number of features for the price, including defrost, reheat and bagel functions, as well as six browning levels. The slots are plenty wide, they also note, for even large bagels. The extra lift lever also gets kudos, it brings your bread above the slot so you don't have to stick your fingers or a utensil in the slot to dig it out. However, the feature that gets the most love is the Krups' speed -- both owner and expert reviewers say it toasts bread remarkably quickly -- about 90 seconds.
The Krups KH732D only comes in one finish -- brushed and chrome stainless steel -- but owners say it's attractive and modern-looking. Those who keep it in a cupboard in between uses like that it has a place to store the cord. The crumb tray is removable for easy cleaning. We did see a few complaints that this Krups toaster is so lightweight that it slides around the counter when you operate it. Others say it toasts unevenly -- that's a complaint we see with all toasters, however, and this one has few enough that it still makes it into our top spot.
Another worthy choice, with a slightly higher price tag but also a few more features, is the Breville The Bit More BTA720XL (Est. $80). This is a handsome stainless steel toaster that delivers top-notch performance. It gets its name from a useful feature that allows you to press a button to easily add a little time to the toasting cycle. It also has a "Lift and Look" lever that allows you to take a peek at your toast without interrupting the cycle. Other features include a bagel and defrost setting, an auto-lowering feature that automatically lowers your bread into the slot, an LED light showing how your toasting is progressing, and five darkness settings.
In testing at TheSweetHome.com, the Breville BTA720XL toasted both bread and bagels uniformly, better, even, than their top pick. They also note how precise this toasters bagel mode is, so if you eat a lot of bagels you may want to keep that in mind.
Owners also heap a good deal of praise on the Breville BTA720XL, in particular calling out its cool, high-tech looking lights and attractive, stainless steel styling. They also like the audible ready alerts, they can be adjusted for volume, or turned off if you don't like your toaster making noise.
If you're looking for just a basic, inexpensive toaster, consider the Hamilton Beach Classic Chrome Toaster (Est. $30). You can't beat the price tag, and its retro chrome look is a nice addition to your countertop, owners say. They also say it's a simple, perfectly functional choice. Good Housekeeping gives the toaster 4 stars out of 5, noting that it browns evenly and has enough toast settings to "produce an excellent range of browning." They list a few cons too, namely that it's slow, gets hot on top and it falls short in accommodating English muffins.
Although it's expensive, the Hamilton Beach Classic Chrome Toaster doesn't lack features. Its toasting settings include bagel, reheat and defrost, as well as nine darkness options. While owners say they get some unevenly browned bread, that's a common complaint with toasters. Most say it works very well and that it is a great value.
If you like something a bit funkier looking, the Oster Jelly Bean 2-Slice Toaster (Est. $30) is a cute little number that also does very well in expert testing. At TheSweetHome.com the Oster Jelly Bean performed almost just as well as high-end models in terms of browning evenness and consistency.
The Oster Jelly Bean has extra wide slots that accommodate even the largest bagels or thickest cuts of bread, and, in addition to the bagel setting, has toast, frozen and warm options. You can select from seven different darkness settings. Unlike some toasters, this one stays cool to the touch even after extended use, testing shows. The Oster Jelly Bean comes in purple and gray, and user reviewers love the striking purple color in particular.
The Magimix by Robot-Coupe Vision Toaster (Est. $250), was the clear favorite in expert reviews, but it's very high price keeps in out of our top slot simply because we can't imagine that a $250 toaster is on a lot of lists. Still, if you can afford it, or love splurging on appliances, the Magimix is a nifty device with viewing windows that allow you to watch your bread turn to toast before your eyes. Its single long slot can fit two pieces of bread side-by-side or one large piece of artisanal bread. Experts say the quartz heating element works reliably and efficiently. Most users praise the toaster's stylish appearance and ease of operation; some say it heats bread unevenly, but, again, we found that criticism for just about every toaster we looked at.
The Magimix does take a little more time to toast bread than other devices do, but this is what makes its toast turn out so exquisite: quick toasting can roast the outsides of bread while leaving it soft in the middle. It has four toast settings, bagel, toast, reheat and defrost, with eight browning levels. While this might not be the most affordable option for most people, there's no doubt that it's the most fun.