The best feature of my parents’ kitchen is the toaster. The glossy, aqua Smeg infuses an otherwise muted, minimal space with a sense of vitality. The eye is drawn to it, and I’ve found that my breakfast hankerings are, too. There’s a strange satisfaction to be gained from using a toaster that seems so outwardly novel. But good looks only go so far. The gratification that comes from using the Smeg is due in great part to its above-average performance; it browns rapidly and evenly. It looks great and it works beautifully, as do the best design-conscious toasters.

Smeg Two-Slice Toaster

Smeg infuses high-quality appliances with a retro aesthetic. The toaster is like a time machine that travels to the ’50s, signature rounded edges and bright colors lend it a playful edge, but that doesn’t diminish its efficacy — it toasts evenly and quickly. Design authorities have taken notice, too, awarding Smeg’s toaster a Chicago Athenaeum Good Design Award, 2015 iF Design Award and 2015 Red Dot Design Award.

Materials: powder-coated steel body, polished chrome base, stainless steel knob
Features: self-centering racks, automatic pop-up
Settings: 6 browning levels; reheat, defrost and bagel settings

Dualit Two-Slot NewGen Toaster

Dualit’s award-winning toasters have been constructed by hand in the UK since the 1950s, branded with the individual assembler’s mark. Beyond its iconic design, the toaster’s construction sets it apart with commercial-grade materials and Dualit’s proprietary ProHeat® technology: mica-plated heating filaments for improved durability and added longevity.

Materials: stainless steel body, patented ProHeat plated filament layer for increased durability
Features: manual ejector to check browning progress; capable of heating one or both slots at a time
Settings: progressive browning control, defrost setting

Wolf Gourmet Two-Slice Toaster

Highly specialized, easy-to-use precision appliances are what Wolf is known for. As such, the aesthetic of its toaster skews industrial, but not overwhelmingly so, tempered by Wolf’s signature red knob.

Materials: die-cast stainless steel construction; commercial-grade heating element
Features: self-centering grates
Settings: precision shade selector; warming, bagel and defrost settings

KitchenAid Pro Line® Series Two-Slice Automatic Toaster

The Pro Line® automatic toaster gives a nod to the 1937 redesign of KitchenAid’s iconic stand mixer, the product that put the company on the map. Precision movements, quiet operations and intuitive controls are what set KitchenAid’s toaster apart — most notably its “keep warm” setting, which automatically initiates if toast has not been removed within 45 seconds of the browning cycle’s completion.

Materials: die-cast aluminum body
Features: automatic, self-centering grates lower when bread is sensed and lift when desired shade is reached
Settings: 7 shade options; “a little longer” for further browning; bagel, frozen and keep warm settings

De’Longhi Vintage Icona Two-Slice Toaster

De’Longhi, an Italian coffee and kitchen appliance company, fuses mechanical innovations with classic style. In the case of its Vintage Icona toaster, that means giving a nod to classic car designs with an odometer-style browning dial and curved body.

Materials: stainless steel body; chrome accents
Features: extra lift position for easy extraction of smaller items
Settings: progressive browning control; reheat, defrost, and bagel settings