How to Use a Toaster Oven: Expert Guide With Safety Tips

You might be wondering how to use a toaster oven, but don’t worry, it’s simpler than you might think. Whether you’re a college student living in a dorm or a busy parent trying to feed your family, a toaster oven is a versatile and convenient appliance that can help you cook quick and delicious meals.

To use a toaster oven, place the food on the cooking rack or tray, select the desired cooking function (bake, broil, toast, etc.), set the temperature and timer, and wait for your food to cook. Always refer to your toaster oven’s user manual for specific instructions.

Read on as we’ll go through how to use a toaster oven, what settings on a toaster oven mean, and what dishes you can or cannot use when cooking in a toaster oven.

Basic Toaster Oven Settings

Like most kitchen appliances, toaster ovens can be extremely confusing for beginners. However, we’re here to make your life a little less complicated and explain the basic settings, their use, and their functionality.

Most toaster ovens have 3 basic settings you can use. They are:

SettingApplicationHow to Use
ToastMainly used toasting bread, though other dishes can be toasted as well.Toasting guide.
BakePerfect for smaller items like cookies, muffins, and personal-sized pizzas.Baking guide.
BroilSimilar to grilling, it heats up the food from one direction. Broiling guide.

How to Use a Toaster Oven

The first thing you’ll need to do when using a toaster oven is to set it up properly. This involves a few simple steps:

  1. If brand new, remove any packaging materials from the toaster oven and clean the interior and exterior with a damp cloth.
  2. Place the toaster oven on a stable, heat-resistant surface, away from any flammable materials.
  3. Plug the toaster oven into an electrical outlet and make sure the power cord is not twisted or kinked.
  4. Familiarize yourself with the controls on the toaster oven, including the temperature dial and cooking timer.

Preheating a Toaster Oven

While preheating a toaster is recommended, it’s not always necessary. Some dishes require a consistent temperature from the get-go, while others might not need preheating at all. Always refer to your recipe for guidance on whether preheating is necessary.

If preheating is needed, here’s how to do it right:

  1. Set the temperature: Turn the temperature dial to the desired setting according to your recipe.
  2. Choose the mode: Select the appropriate function based on your cooking needs.
  3. Let it warm up: Allow your toaster oven to heat up for about 5-10 minutes. Some models may have a preheat indicator light or sound to let you know when they’re ready.

For more detailed instructions read our comprehensive guide to preheating a toaster oven.

Toasting with a Toaster Oven

The toast setting is your go-to for toasting bread, bagels, or English muffins to crispy perfection. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Adjust the temperature: Set your toaster oven to the “toast” setting or 350°F (180°C) if there isn’t a designated toast setting.
  2. Position the rack: Place the oven rack in the middle or lower position, depending on your preference for crispy or soft toast.
  3. Prepare the bread: Arrange your slices of bread on the rack, ensuring they don’t overlap.
  4. Set the timer: Most toaster ovens have a built-in timer for toasting, so just twist the knob to your desired toastiness.
  5. Get ready to enjoy: Once the timer goes off, carefully remove your perfectly toasted bread, and indulge in the crispy goodness!

Baking with a Toaster Oven

The bake setting is perfect for cooking a wide range of dishes, from cookies and brownies to casseroles and small roasts, providing the right amount of heat for a thorough cook.

  1. Preheat: Select the “bake” setting and set your toaster oven to the desired temperature.
  2. Prepare your dish: Make sure to use oven-safe bakeware that fits comfortably inside your toaster oven.
  3. Adjust the rack: Position the rack according to your recipe’s instructions or use the middle position as a default.
  4. Bake away: Place your dish on the rack, set the timer, and let your toaster oven work its magic.
  5. Savor the results: Once the timer goes off, carefully remove your delicious creation and enjoy!

Broiling with a Toaster Oven

The broil setting uses only the top heating element to cook food and shines in quickly cooking thin cuts of meat, melting cheese on top of dishes, or giving a delectable crispy finish to your culinary creations.

  1. Select the “broil” setting: Set your toaster oven to “broil” or the highest temperature setting, and let it warm up for a few minutes.
  2. Prepare the food: Arrange your ingredients on a broiler-safe pan or the toaster oven’s provided broiler pan.
  3. Adjust the rack: Position the rack close to the top heating element for optimal broiling results.
  4. Keep an eye on it: Broiling happens quickly, so stay nearby to prevent burning.
  5. Enjoy the deliciousness: Once your food reaches the desired level of crispiness, carefully remove it from the toaster oven and dig in!

How to Use a Convection Toaster Oven

Woman Using a Convection Toaster Oven

A convection toaster oven offers additional benefits compared to a traditional toaster oven, thanks to its built-in fan that circulates hot air for more even and efficient cooking. The convection setting is a game-changer for faster, more even cooking, reducing cooking time and enhancing the overall flavor and texture of your dishes.

Here’s a guide on how to use a convection toaster oven to get the most out of this versatile kitchen appliance.

  1. Select the convection mode: Most convection toaster ovens have a specific setting or mode for convection cooking. Refer to your user manual for instructions on how to activate this feature.
  2. Preheat the oven: Preheating is important for convection cooking, as it ensures the oven reaches the desired temperature before you begin cooking your food.
  3. Adjust cooking times and temperatures: Convection cooking typically requires a lower temperature and shorter cooking time compared to traditional cooking. As a general rule, reduce the temperature by 25°F (approximately 15°C) and the cooking time by 25% compared to a regular oven. Always keep an eye on your food and adjust accordingly for desired results.

Safe Bakeware for Toaster Ovens

Toaster ovens can accommodate a variety of bakeware, including oven-safe glassware, ceramic bakeware, silicone baking accessories, and small metal pans. Make sure the dishes you use are heat-resistant and fit comfortably inside your toaster oven.

  1. Oven-safe glassware: Glass baking dishes, such as those made from borosilicate glass or tempered glass, are generally safe to use in a toaster oven as long as they are rated for oven use.
  2. Metal bakeware: Small metal baking sheets, cake pans, and muffin tins are suitable for use in a toaster oven. Make sure they fit comfortably inside and don’t touch the heating elements to avoid damage or safety hazards.
  3. Silicone bakeware: Silicone baking mats, molds, and cups are safe to use in a toaster oven as long as they are rated for high temperatures. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for temperature limits.

Unsafe Bakeware for Toaster Ovens

Avoid using plastic containers, paper or cardboard products, wooden utensils, and cold or wet cookware in a toaster oven. These materials can warp, melt, release harmful chemicals, or even catch fire when exposed to high heat. Instead, opt for heat-resistant and oven-safe materials to ensure safety and proper cooking results.

  1. Plastic containers: Never use plastic containers in a toaster oven, as they can melt or release harmful chemicals at high temperatures. This includes plastic wrap and plastic storage containers.
  2. Paper or cardboard: Avoid using paper plates, paper towels, or cardboard in a toaster oven, as they can catch fire or release harmful fumes when exposed to high heat. The only paper you can use in a toaster oven is parchment paper, for temperatures up to 450°F (230°C).
  3. Wooden utensils or cookware: Wooden items can warp, crack, or even catch fire when used in a toaster oven. Stick to heat-resistant materials like metal, glass, ceramic, or silicone.
  4. Cold or wet bakeware: Do not place cold or wet bakeware directly into a hot toaster oven, as this can cause the dish to crack or shatter due to thermal shock. Always let cookware come to room temperature and ensure it’s dry before using it in a toaster oven.

By choosing the right cookware for your toaster oven, you can ensure the best cooking results and protect both your dishes and your appliance from damage or safety hazards.

Safety Tips When Using a Toaster Oven

Woman waiting for a toaster oven to finish.

While toaster ovens are incredibly convenient and versatile, it’s essential to keep safety in mind when using them. Follow these guidelines to ensure a safe and enjoyable cooking experience:

  1. Read the manual: Familiarize yourself with your toaster oven’s instructions and safety guidelines before using it for the first time. Each model may have unique features or precautions.
  2. Placement: Place your toaster oven on a stable, flat surface, and make sure there’s ample space around it for proper ventilation. Keep it away from flammable materials, such as curtains or dish towels, to reduce the risk of fire.
  3. Plug it in safely: Always plug your toaster oven directly into a wall outlet, and avoid using extension cords or power strips, as they can overheat and cause a fire hazard.
  4. Keep it clean: Regularly clean your toaster oven, including the crumb tray, to prevent grease and food particles from accumulating and potentially causing a fire.
  5. Don’t leave it unattended: While it’s tempting to leave the kitchen while your toaster oven works its magic, it’s essential to stay nearby and keep an eye on it, especially when broiling, as food can burn quickly.
  6. Use oven-safe cookware: Only use cookware and utensils that are specifically designed for oven use and can withstand high temperatures. Avoid using plastic, melamine, or other materials that could melt or release harmful fumes.
  7. Be cautious with foil: If you choose to use aluminum foil in your toaster oven, make sure it doesn’t touch the heating elements or cover the oven’s interior, as this can cause a fire or damage the appliance.
  8. Use oven mitts: Always use oven mitts or pot holders when handling hot cookware or dishes to prevent burns.
  9. Unplug after use: Once you’ve finished using your toaster oven, unplug it and let it cool down completely before cleaning or storing it.

By following these safety tips, you can enjoy all the benefits of your toaster oven while minimizing any risks. Happy and safe cooking!

Dealing with Common Issues When Using a Toaster Oven

There are some common issues when using a toaster oven, such as uneven cooking or burnt food. Here’s how to troubleshoot most common issues when cooking with a toaster oven:

Uneven Cooking

If your food isn’t cooking evenly, try these tips:

  • Rotate your food halfway through the cooking time.
  • Adjust the cooking rack’s position to find the optimal distance from the heating elements.
  • Check for uneven heating in your toaster oven by using an oven thermometer.

Burnt Food

To prevent burnt food in your toaster oven, consider these suggestions:

  • Keep a close eye on your food, especially when using a toaster oven for the first time, as cooking times may differ from a traditional oven.
  • Adjust cooking times and temperatures based on your observations.
  • Remember that toaster ovens heat up and cook food faster than traditional ovens.

Excessive Smoke

To reduce smoke when using your toaster oven, follow these steps:

  • Ensure your toaster oven is clean and free of crumbs or grease before each use.
  • Always use a drip tray to catch grease and other food debris.
  • Avoid overfilling your toaster oven, which can cause spills and smoking.

Difficulty Adjusting Temperature or Timer

If you’re having trouble with your toaster oven’s temperature or timer settings, try these solutions:

  • Consult your toaster oven’s user manual for specific instructions and recommendations.
  • If your toaster oven has a digital display, make sure it is functioning correctly and displaying the correct temperature or time.
  • For mechanical dials, check for any signs of damage or wear that could affect their accuracy.

Toaster Oven Not Heating Up

If your toaster oven isn’t heating up, consider these troubleshooting tips:

  • Check that the toaster oven is plugged in securely and the power outlet is functioning.
  • Ensure the toaster oven door is properly closed, as some models have safety features that prevent heating when the door is ajar.
  • Inspect the heating elements for any signs of damage or wear that could affect their performance.

Unpleasant Odors

If you notice unpleasant odors while using your toaster oven, take these steps:

  • Clean your toaster oven thoroughly, paying special attention to the interior and any removable parts like trays or racks.
  • Make sure there is no leftover food debris or grease that could cause unpleasant smells during cooking.
  • Ensure proper ventilation in your kitchen to help dissipate any odors.
  • If the odor persists, check the toaster oven’s electrical components and wiring for any signs of damage or malfunction. Consult your user manual or contact the manufacturer for further assistance.

Door Not Closing Properly

If your toaster oven door isn’t closing properly, try these fixes:

  • Inspect the door hinges for any signs of damage or wear that could affect their function.
  • Check for any debris or buildup that could be preventing the door from closing securely.
  • Make sure the toaster oven is level on your countertop, as an uneven surface could cause the door to sit improperly.

By addressing these common toaster oven mishaps and troubleshooting issues as they arise, you’ll be able to enjoy stress-free cooking and get the most out of your versatile kitchen appliance.

Toaster Oven Accessories We Use (and Recommend)

Breville toaster oven with various accessories.

Equipping yourself with the right toaster oven accessories can make all the difference in your culinary adventures. Here are some of our favorite must-have items that will elevate your toaster oven game:

  1. Oven-Safe Baking Sheet: A small, oven-safe baking sheet is essential for preparing a wide variety of dishes, from cookies to roasted vegetables. Look for one that fits comfortably inside your toaster oven.
  2. Silicone Baking Mat: These reusable, non-stick mats make cleaning up a breeze and ensure that your baked goods come off the tray effortlessly (we use Silpat). Just make sure the mat is suitable for toaster oven use.
  3. Oven Rack and Pan: A replacement oven rack and drip pan can be a lifesaver if your original ones are damaged or misplaced. Keep an extra set handy to avoid any hiccups during your cooking sessions.
  4. Toaster Oven-Sized Casserole Dish: A small, oven-safe casserole dish is perfect for baking individual-sized meals or side dishes. Opt for a dish that’s made from materials like ceramic, glass, or cast iron that can withstand toaster oven temperatures.
  5. Broiler Pan: If your toaster oven didn’t come with a broiler pan, investing in one is a smart move. A broiler pan’s slotted design allows fat to drain away from the food, providing healthier, crisper results when broiling.
  6. Oven Thermometer: An oven thermometer (we use this one) can be a valuable addition to ensure accurate temperature readings, as toaster oven thermostats can sometimes be a little off. Place the thermometer inside your toaster oven and adjust the temperature settings accordingly.
  7. Oven Mitts and Pot Holders: Safety first! A good pair of oven mitts and pot holders will protect your hands when removing hot dishes from your toaster oven. Look for ones that offer heat resistance, grip, and flexibility.

With these accessories at your disposal, you’ll be well-equipped to tackle a wide range of toaster oven recipes and techniques.

FAQs About Using a Toaster Oven

Can You Use a Toaster Oven Like a Regular Oven?

To a certain extent, you can use a toaster oven like a regular oven. Toaster ovens can handle baking, broiling, and toasting tasks, but their compact size and heating capabilities may not be suitable for cooking large roasts, or certain types of baked goods.

Do Things Take Longer to Cook in a Toaster Oven?

Toaster ovens typically cook food faster than traditional ovens due to their compact size and efficient heating elements. However, cooking times can vary depending on the toaster oven model and the type of food being cooked. Adjust cooking times accordingly to achieve desired results.

Final Thoughts on Using a Toaster Oven

Toaster ovens are versatile appliances that can be used for a wide range of cooking tasks, from baking toasting bread to roasting meats and vegetables. They’re ideal for small batches of food, frozen foods, reheating leftovers, and more. Whether you’re cooking for one or feeding a small family, a toaster oven can be a convenient and efficient way to prepare delicious meals and snacks.

Now that you know how to handle the toaster oven and its different settings, it is time to put the theory to use. Try to make your favorite dishes at home and enjoy the comfort your toaster oven will bring to your life. 

Larry Flynn

Hi everyone! My name is Larry Flynn and I've been working in the kitchen appliance industry for decades. From manufacturing to retail and everything in between. My latest hobby is running this website, where I share all the knowledge I gathered throughout the years in the industry. I also run a small toaster repair shop in downtown NY, and collect vintage toasters.

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