If you have a large family or love to host guests over for dinner parties, you probably already know all about the frustration of not having enough space in your oven to cook everything you’d like when you’d like to.
Well, have you ever considered using a toaster oven? Toaster ovens can cook a huge variety of ingredients, from bagels to bread, muffins, baguettes, or even your favorite slices of sourdough bread, the opportunities are truly endless.
But, what is a toaster oven and how can it be used? Well, in this article we’re going to share everything you need to know about toaster ovens. We’ll start with the basics and tell you what a toaster oven is and what it can be used for.
We’ll then go into some of the pros and cons of using a toaster oven as well as share some information regarding the various types of toaster ovens available to choose from.
We’ll tell you how to use a toaster oven as well as highlight the difference between a toaster oven, a toaster, and a microwave. Lastly, we’ll bring some of the best toaster oven manufacturers to your attention and share the best way to clean and maintain your appliance.
So, without further ado, let’s get started.
What Is A Toaster Oven?
Toaster ovens are small appliances that look like miniature ovens but are powered only by electricity, unlike normal ovens which can be powered by gas. These appliances normally come with a front door which opens to the side or downwards.
Not only this, they typically come with a wire rack, and sometimes, a removable baking tray. Toasters ovens are traditionally placed on a countertop or shelf in a kitchen.
As the name suggests, they’re a cross between a toaster and an oven, meaning that they’re especially useful for cooking pastries, bread, pizzas, and a variety of other bread based products. That said, they can also be used to cook other meals too.
The Advantages And Disadvantages Of Using A Toaster Oven
While toaster ovens are very simple appliances, as with any kitchen product, they have their own set of unique advantages and disadvantages.
Here are some of the most common ones:
Extra Cooking Space
A toaster oven allows you to cook more than one ingredient, or meal, at once without taking up too much extra space in your kitchen. These appliances are perfect if the dish you are cooking has multiple facets that need to be cooked in an oven at different temperatures.
They’re also extremely useful if you have a small kitchen but are cooking for a larger party of people, for example, a dinner party or event.
Easier To Clean
We all know that no one likes to clean their oven. It’s a greasy and uncomfortable job that can take hours depending on how often you do it. Well, with a toaster oven, you don’t have to worry about spending hours cleaning.
These appliances are easier to access and much smaller meaning that you can wipe them down easily after every single use, thus cutting down the amount of time you spend cleaning your kitchen.
Because of their smaller size, toaster ovens are much quicker to preheat. If you don’t want to turn on your oven just to reheat some leftovers or toast some bread, you’ll find that a toaster oven is not only quicker to heat up but much more energy efficient.
This means that you’ll get your dinner ready more quickly while also cutting down your gas or electric bills and lowering your ecological footprint.
Won’t Overheat Your Kitchen
Ovens are notorious for making kitchens extremely hot. If you live in a hot part of the world, you may even dread the time that your oven has to come on to cook meals. Toaster ovens allow you to slash the heat you generate in your home.
Easier To Use
With a toaster oven, you’ll never have to bend over to get your food. Because these appliances can sit on your countertop they’re much easier to access. Not only this, they normally only require you turn a few buttons to get started.
Here are some of the most common ones:
Food Cooks Faster
One of the most common disadvantages of using a toaster oven is that you have to keep an eye on your food. They tend to cook ingredients much faster than traditional ovens. This means that you have to spend more time checking on your food in order to stop it from burning.
Food Cooked Unevenly
Aside from cooking more quickly, ingredients are much more likely to burn. Take toasting some bread, for example, one minute your bread will look like it hasn’t cooked at all and the next you’ll realize one side is charred black.
Traditionally, toaster ovens only have a heating ring at the top. This means that you have to flip your food regularly to make sure it is cooked evenly.
Certain Foods Can’t Be Cooked In A Toaster Oven
While it is possible to cook most meals in a toaster oven, we do not recommend you use it for everything. For example, if you want to slow roast some lamb or pork, a toaster oven will not offer you the same benefits as a regular oven or even a slow cooker.
The Various Types Of Toaster Ovens
Today, toaster ovens have come a long way. So much so that there are various types available for you to choose from that offer a variety of functionalities. Here are the four most common types of toaster ovens:
Standard toaster ovens can typically cook smaller meals such as toast, bagels, and various other breaded goods. They come with a temperature gauge which allows you to choose the temperature at which you’d like your meal cooked.
They also come with automatic shut off features that stop the toaster oven when the timer is up. To maintain a steady temperature, these models work like a traditional oven where the heating coils fluctuate from on to off.
These types of toaster ovens are perfect for warming up leftovers, baking, and toasting. They come in a variety of sizes depending on your individual needs and budget.
Convection toaster ovens are much higher-end than the standard model mentioned above. These types of toaster ovens blow hot air onto food thanks to an internal fan.
This means that the food is cooked more evenly and quickly, thus lowering your energy bills and your impact on the environment.
Typically, you’ll be able to choose between a convection setting and a standard setting. The convection setting will offer you more opportunities when it comes to cooking more varied meals.
Rotisserie toaster ovens come in a variety of shapes and sizes. They’re specifically used for cooking ingredients such as whole chickens and allow you to produce some of the amazing flavors you would achieve when cooking in a normal oven.
This feature is more commonly found in toaster ovens than in regular ovens, but it normally comes as an additional setting to a convection toaster oven.
Infrared toaster ovens are very different to other types available. They use infrared to send heat directly to the food rather than heating the area around it.
These appliances are particularly good because they do not need to be preheated and frozen food can be cooked without being defrosted, thus reducing the amount of heat in your home and cutting down your electricity bills significantly over time.
Combination ovens combine both traditional toaster ovens and toasters. This means that in addition to having an area with a door where food can be cooked, there is a small toaster that pops toast up from the top.
These are great for breakfast because you can toast your bread or bagel, for example, simultaneously to your bacon or sausages. These can come in combination with a steamer on the side, a frying pan on top, or a rotisserie function as well.
How To Use A Toaster Oven
Using a toaster oven is significantly easier than using a regular oven. If you’ve purchased a toaster oven, start by unwrapping it and taking out any plastic or cardboard packaging. Then, read the manufacturer’s instructions to make sure you understand all the various functionalities.
Once it’s ready to use, plug it into an outlet and get it running. Start by choosing what you want to cook in it. Then put your toaster oven on the appropriate settings. For example, if you want to defrost meat, set your toaster oven to defrost.
Once your toaster oven has preheated to the appropriate temperature, place your food on the rack or on an ovenproof dish, and place it in the appliance. Once it is in the oven, set a timer to avoid burning your food.
The majority of toaster ovens today have built-in timers that automatically turn off the oven once the chosen time has passed.
That said, you should always keep an eye on your food when cooking in a toaster oven because they do tend to cook food more quickly than traditional ovens. Once your food looks ready, remove it from the toaster oven using the appropriate protection, for example, oven gloves.
If any food spills over the side of your baking dish make sure to wipe it up straight away as this could stick to the bottom of your toaster oven and start a fire. Even if there are no spillages, you should wipe your toaster oven clean regularly in order to avoid a built up of crumbs or dust.
The Difference Between A Toaster Oven, A Toaster, And A Microwave
Today, many confuse toaster ovens with toasters or even microwaves. All three appliances are very different. As you already know what a toaster oven is, here is an explanation of what toasters and microwaves are as well as how these are different to toaster ovens:
As the name suggests, a toaster is an appliance designed to toast food, specifically the breaded variety, for example, bread, bagels, baguette, and so on.
Toasters and toaster ovens do not look anything alike. While a toaster oven comes in the form of a small electric oven, a toaster is only used to toast bread and pastries.
Also know as a pop-up toaster, these appliances come with two to six individual slots where sliced bread can be placed and then pushed down into the appliance with the help of a lever. By pushing the lever, radiant heat ignites thus toasting the ingredients placed inside it.1
On the other hand, with a toaster oven, you can toast your slices of bread by placing them on a rack and flipping them once one side looks cooked enough.
Aside from toast, however, a toaster oven can undertake a variety of other cooking tasks, for example, roasting, defrosting, and more. Put simply, toaster ovens have many more functionalities than toasters.
Microwaves and toasters are completely different in the sense that, once again, toasters are used to toast bread and other pastries, whereas microwaves can defrost, heat up, and even cook certain meals.
Invented in the 20th century, microwave ovens use microwaves to heat food whereas toaster ovens tend to use heated elements such as coils or infrared to heat ingredients.2
One of the main differences between microwaves and toaster ovens is their functionalities. While microwaves can defrost, reheat, and even cook certain materials, these appliances cannot brown foods.
Also, while you could cook ingredients such as bacon in the microwave, you would not be able to crisp it like you would in a toaster oven.
Simply put, a microwave is best for convenience food and to help prepare basic meals whereas a toaster oven allows you to be more creative with your ingredients while also enabling you to cook meals for events and guests.
Reputable Toaster Oven Manufacturers
Now that you know everything you need to know about toaster ovens and the difference between these, toasters, and microwaves, we’d like to introduce you to some of the most reputable manufacturers in the industry today:
Founded in Melbourne in 1932 by Bill O’Brien and Harry Norville, Breville has been one of the leading toaster oven manufacturers and marketers for over 80 years now.
The company was the first to invent the original sandwich toaster which sold over 400,000 units across the world in its first year. Since then, Breville went on to launch Australia’s first food processor.
Today, the company is renowned for designing and manufacturing a huge variety of home appliances, some of which include coffeemakers, kettles, contact grills, blenders, juicers, and of course, toaster ovens, among many others.
Breville sells its products across 30 countries in the world, some of which include but are not limited to Brazil, Mexico, South Africa, and China. The company now has more than 100 active patents and has received more than 40 international awards.
Founded in 1971 by Carl Sontheimer, Cuisinart is one of the most reputable home appliance manufacturers in the world. Now owned by Conair Corporation, Cuisinart brought the first food processor to the National Housewares Exposition in Chicago all the way back in 1975.
Since then, the company has designed, manufactured, and marketed a huge variety of kitchen and homeware appliance to households across the globe some of which include blenders, can openers, skillets, cookware, bakeware, cutlery, toaster ovens, among others.
Today, Cuisinart prides itself on providing people with culinary education by partnering with famous chefs such as Hubert Keller, sponsoring other famous chefs such as Eric Ripert and Jacques Pepin.
Not only this, the company has launched a variety of mobile applications and created innovative and interactive food-related games on the likes of Facebook in order to provide consumers with informational food-related materials.
Oster remains one of the most reputable toaster oven manufacturers in the world despite having started all the way back in 1924.
Founded by John Oster, the company, which started off as one of the leading manufacturers of razors and hair cutting products has developed into an organization known for also creating small appliances for homes across the world.
Oster was first acquired by Sunbeam Corporation of Chicago in 1960 and later acquired by Jarden Corporation which continued to expand the company’s product line with new and innovative pieces designed to make life at home easier.
Today, Oster is owned by K2, Inc. which has enabled Oster to be part of a larger conglomeration of brands that produce everything from kitchenware to home appliances as well as outdoor living products.
Black And Decker
Black and Decker opened its doors back in 1910 thanks to S. Duncan Black and Alonzo G. Decker. Later in 1943, the company went on to receive the first of four prestigious Army-Navy “E’ awards for excellence in wartime production.
Black and Decker went on to become the first company to introduce the portable drill to consumers. Later, the company continued to expand its lines of products with lawn and garden tools. This type of innovation continued in the early 60’s with the first cordless drill.
As the years have gone by, Black and Decker products have made their way across the world and further afield as they got taken to the moon by NASA in order to remove core samples to bring back to the U.S.
Today, you can choose between a variety of product lines, some of which include power tools, lawn and garden products, home cleaning appliances, small home and kitchen appliances, as well as a range of batteries and other accessories.
Hamilton Beach took its name from two men who worked for the company back in 1910, Louis Hamilton and Chester Beach. The company was in fact founded by Frederick J. Osius who did not like to put his name on his brand.
The company started by producing products that Osius created and patented himself. That said, Chester Beach’s high-speed fractional motor was later used in a large variety of the company’s products.
In 1922, the company was bought by Scovill Manufacturing which went on to produce some of the products we see in store today.
Now, Hamilton Beach designs, manufactures, and markets coffeemakers, toaster ovens, blenders, indoor grills, mixers, slow cookers, and a variety of other home appliances for consumers across the world.
Maintaining And Cleaning Your Toaster Oven
The reason it is so important to clean your toaster oven carefully after every use is because food build up can become a potential fire hazard. While the process is not difficult or time-consuming, it can be easy to forget.
Start by unplugging your appliance. By forgetting you could break your toaster oven, or worse, electrocute yourself.
Once you’ve unplugged your appliance, remove and clean the removable parts. You can use dish soap and water to clean these or disinfect them with a natural mixture made from 4 tablespoons of baking soda and 1 quart of warm water.3
Then start to tackle the grease inside the oven itself. To make the task easier, leave a layer of your cleaning mixture in the oven to soak off any grease. Wipe it off with a damp cloth about 15 to 30 minutes later depending on how dirty your appliance is.
While the inside of your appliance soaks, be sure to wipe down the door and the exterior of your toaster oven. Once you’ve cleaned and wipe off any residue, leave your toaster oven to dry fully. This is crucial as it is an electric appliance and could break or even start a fire.
Last but not least, to make this task easier for yourself in the long run, we recommend you wipe your toaster oven with a damp cloth after every use in order to keep it in good working condition for the foreseeable future.
As you can see, there is more to a toaster oven than meets the eye. These appliances allow you to cook all your favorite meals while also lowering your energy bills, and of course, your carbon footprint.
If you’ve decided that a toaster oven is what you need, we recommend you head over to our buying guide where we’ve highlighted some of the best models on the market today.