I've recently found myself in the market for a toaster.... my $10 Wal-Mart special which I bought 15 years ago finally broke.
Things have changed since then... I no longer shop at Wal-Mart, for one. And, I'm willing to pay a little more for a toaster that does a good job, with a functionally elegant design.
Cooks Illustrated's top pick of the Michael Graves Hamilton Beach 4-slice (model 24301) sounds amazing, but it's not available anywhere-- nor is the #2 pick, the Kenmore 4-slice (model 81004).
The testers made sure that the light/med/dark settings produced significant and accurate results. They did a "rapid-fire" test to test whether repeated use overcooks toast. Also versatility (ability to handle bagels, waffles, etc. equally well) and lastly testers downgraded models with poorly designed crumb trays. They wanted clear and intuitive controls, deep trays, and slots able to accommodate a variety of foods.
With this in mind, here's their rationale for rating the Hamilton Beach toaster tops:
"This toaster simply outperformed the others, producing evenly golden toast in test after test. The toaster’s carriage held all foods securely and prevented any possibility of items falling through or getting caught. Our sole complaint: This bulky toaster took up more counter space than we’d prefer."
Are there any modern (circa 2010) toaster designs that fit these specifications? Please note, I am definitely NOT in the market for a toaster oven.