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Best Two-Slice Toaster

By: Kelly Burgess on January 15, 2018

Two-slice toasters a good choice for most kitchens and families

Most households just need a basic, reasonably-priced toaster that will perform consistently when needed. If that sounds like you, the Oster Jelly Bean 2-Slice Toaster (Est. $35) is a cute little number that also does very well in expert testing. It's the top pick at Wirecutter, where Brendan Nystedt and

Michael Sullivan found that, "This simple, inexpensive two-slot model toasted bread, bagels, and waffles better than all of the competition in this price range."

TechGearLab makes the Oster Jelly Bean their runner up -- but against a $150 Smeg model (covered below). Impressively, the Jelly Bean dominated the bread toasting test, even beating out that pricey toaster in that regard. Both sites note, however, that bagels, while acceptable, don't come out perfectly. As Bryan Yu at Your Best Digs points out, and testing at Wirecutter seems to confirm, the bagel setting doesn't seem to work any differently than the toast setting, so the outside of the bagel also get toasted.

Still, that's a minor quibble, all three review sites agree, for a toaster that was also one of the fastest in toasting, with excellent consistency even across several batches. It has seven different darkness settings and extra-wide slots to accommodate thicker breads in addition to bagels. And it was a great performer on frozen waffles, so if that's your breakfast (or lunch, or dinner) of choice, this is worth the fairly small cash outlay. The Oster Jelly Bean will more than earn its keep too, reported as sturdy and durable, many users say they have had theirs for several years and it's still going strong.

The Oster Jelly Bean comes in three colors, gray, red and purple, but not all colors are available at all retailers. Its small footprint and light weight -- just 4 pounds, make it a great choice if you don't have a lot of extra space or want to store the toaster between uses.

The Krups KH732D (Est. $50) is another good choice in this price category if the Oster is sold out or if you'd like a more traditional-looking two-slice toaster. Owners say it's attractive, easy to use, and boasts a good number of features. Experts who test it say it performs admirably for the price, getting particular kudos for bagel toasting. It comes in brushed and chrome stainless steel. At Consumer Reports this Krups toaster is the top two-slice pick, earning scores of Excellent for evenness across a full batch and ease of use; Very Good scores for color range, one-slice toasting and ease of cleaning. At TechGearLab it's the number four pick (out of 10 and including four-slice models).

Settings on the Krups include defrost, reheat and bagel functions, as well as six browning levels. The slots are plenty wide, handling even large bagels with ease, reviewers say. The extra lift lever also gets kudos because it lifts bread above the slot – no need to stick your fingers or a utensil in to dig it out -- a feature owners particularly love. And, unlike some inexpensive toasters that are so lightweight that they seem to "lift" along with the toast, the Krups KH732D is reported as sturdy and stable. It has a cord storage feature which is popular with those who like to store their toasters in the cupboard.

We did see some complaints, however. Both at Wirecutter and in user reviews, we saw comments that the Krups KH732D can get hot to the touch, particularly after successive batches. Also, in testing at TechGearLab, there wasn't a lot of consistency when it came to the darkness settings (there are six, total). At the lowest setting the "toast" was basically just still bread, at the highest setting it was very dark, but the middle was still too light for what most people would probably want. Still, it's not hard to find a setting you like and just manually adjust it each time.

For a slight step up in features and price, plenty of owners are pleased with the Cuisinart CPT-420 Touch to Toast (Est. $60). This toaster is lever-free, instead relying on sleek push-button controls. It's available in either brushed stainless steel or chrome, and owners praise its beautiful styling.

The Cuisinart CPT-420 does well in testing, too. It earns Recommended status at Consumer Reports, with Very Good ratings across the board for performance and ease of use. At TechGearLab it lands in the middle of the pack, with only a 5 out of 10 for bread toasting. While testers there praise its leverless technology, they also point out that it's underutilized, and won't allow you to "peek" at your toast mid-cycle -- something other leverless toasters do.

The Cuisinart has bagel, reheat and defrost functions. It also has seven browning levels and a backlit LCD display. The wide, 1.5-inch slots will accommodate most bagels and thick breads. It also features a removable crumb tray for easy cleanup and a cord wrap for neater storage. It's backed by a three-year warranty.

A pricey, but practically perfect, upgrade

New to our report this year, and fairly new to the U.S. market (it's an Italian brand), the Smeg 2-Slice Toaster (Est. $150) is taking the toaster testing world by storm. While it's not tested everywhere -- and Consumer Reports isn't particularly impressed by it, the Smeg is the top pick at TechGearLab, the "best for bagels" at Top Ten Reviews, earns 4 stars out of 5 at Good Housekeeping and 5 stars at UK-based ExpertReviews. Owners like it too, making it one of the highest-rated toasters we spotted.

We'll start with the elephant in the breakfast nook: this is a lot of money for a toaster. Even Breville and Cuisinart toasters, which are considered "expensive" at $60 to $80 or so have nothing on these triple digits. Still, when you look at expert and user rankings for Breville and Cuisinart toasters, they're no better than toasters that cost $20 to $35. And that's okay, there's no reason not to buy a $30 toaster and get on with breakfast. (Full disclosure: we've had a cheap toaster for years and we don't feel anything lacking in our lives).

However, if you have the cash, don't mind spending it, and are a lover of bagels, the Smeg should be on your toaster short-list. It's fast, it browns evenly, it's consistent and it's very, very attractive. Both TechGearLab and Top Ten Reviews found the Smeg to be a particularly exceptional performer when it came to bagels, with Max Mutter and Steven Tata of TechGearLab saying, "The toasted faces were almost perfectly even and the backsides were nice and warm, but remained doughy and chewy."

The experts are (slightly) more mixed when it comes to performance in toasting bread. TechGearLab, Good Housekeeping and ExpertReviews found it to be almost perfectly consistent. It has six browning levels, and TechGearLab says the darkness levels from the lightest to darkest were distinct enough to please anyone. It also was a great performer on toasting frozen waffles.

Top Ten Reviews begs to differ, however, saying the Smeg burns bread even on the medium settings -- and gets even hotter with repeated batches. Consumer Reports includes it in their testing, giving it an Excellent score for ease of use, Very Good for color range and ease of cleaning, and Good for full batch evenness and one slice performance. However, they don't detail their testing methods quite as thoroughly as other sites, so it's not clear why it's not recommended, yet they say they found, "no discernible flaws in its performance."

One thing everyone does agree on is that the Smeg is one of the most attractive toasters around. Its retro-50s styling is a hit, and it comes in eight different colors -- although not all are available at all retailers.

You can get a good toaster at a budget price

Okay, now that we've given you sticker shock, let us introduce you to a toaster that falls into a more realistic budget category for most people -- and will be a perfectly good choice for light use in any kitchen. The Hamilton Beach Cool Wall (Est. $15) is a basic model that users say works as well as more expensive toasters they've owned. Available in either red as the 22623 or black with chrome accents as the Hamilton Beach 22614Z (Est. $15), most owners say it's an attractive and solid performer.

Features are limited on the budget-friendly Hamilton Beach. There are seven brownness settings and simple lever-and-dial controls, but you won't find separate settings for bagels, reheating, defrosting or the like. It does have slots that are wide enough to accommodate wider breads and bagels, however. As its name suggests, the toaster's sides are designed to stay cool during operation, but some reviewers warn that the top still gets hot.

The Hamilton Beach Cool Wall toaster has cord storage and is lightweight enough to stow easily between uses, reviewers say. But some warn that it's so light that it feels flimsy and is too easy to move on the counter. The toaster has a removable crumb tray for easy cleanup. It's backed by a one-year warranty.

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