What is a Toaster Oven: All You Need to Know


Modern Toaster Oven

What is a toaster oven, and why should you care? If you’re a fan of fast, easy cooking, then this humble kitchen appliance deserves a place in your arsenal. In just a few minutes, a toaster oven can whip up a hot, crispy meal that’s sure to satisfy.

A toaster oven is a versatile kitchen appliance that can handle a wide range of cooking tasks. Essentially, it’s a small oven that’s perfect for baking, roasting, and toasting. Unlike a traditional oven, however, a toaster oven is compact and can fit on your countertop. It’s an ideal choice for preparing small batches of food, frozen meals, or even reheating leftovers.

Whether you’re cooking for yourself or a small family, a toaster oven is a convenient and efficient way to prepare delicious meals and snacks. Read on to find out how the toaster oven works, its uses, cooking tips, and more.

How Does a Toaster Oven Work?

A toaster oven works by using heating elements to cook food. These elements are typically located on the top and bottom of the oven and can be turned on and off independently to achieve the desired cooking temperature. Toaster ovens also have a timer that can be set to turn off the heating elements after a certain amount of time has elapsed.

Heating elements of a toaster oven.
Inside of a toaster oven, showing both top and bottom heating elements.

What Functions Does a Toaster Oven Offer?

Here are some of the most common functions you can find in a toaster oven:

  • Toasting: Toasting is one of the most basic functions of a toaster oven. You can use it to toast bread, bagels, and even English muffins.
  • Baking: A toaster oven can be used for baking a variety of dishes such as cookies, cakes, and small pizzas. It provides a consistent temperature, making it ideal for baking dishes that require even heating.
  • Broiling: Broiling is a high-heat cooking method that uses only the top heating element of the oven. It’s great for melting cheese, browning the tops of dishes, and achieving a crispy crust on foods like fish and steak.
  • Roasting: The roasting function is great for cooking meats, vegetables, and other foods to perfection. It uses dry heat to cook food evenly and create a crispy exterior while retaining moisture and flavor.
  • Reheating: Toaster ovens are also great for reheating leftovers, as they can quickly and evenly heat up food without drying it out. This function is ideal for reheating dishes that you don’t want to use a microwave for.
  • Defrosting: Many toaster ovens come with a defrost function, which allows you to quickly defrost frozen food like bread or meats. This function can help you save time when you need to thaw food quickly.

What is a Convection Toaster Oven?

A convection toaster oven is a type of toaster oven that has a fan inside that circulates hot air around the food. This results in faster, more even cooking, which is especially useful for baking and roasting. With a convection toaster oven, you can achieve crispy, golden-brown crusts on your pizzas, evenly cooked chicken breasts, and perfectly baked cookies.

Additionally, convection toaster ovens often come with all the toaster oven functions we just mentioned, making them a versatile addition to any kitchen.

What Can You Cook in a Toaster Oven?

Toasting bagels in a Breville toaster oven.

Toaster ovens are ideal for cooking small batches of food, such as a few chicken breasts, fish fillets, or vegetables. They’re great for single people or small families who don’t need to cook large quantities of food at once.

Full Meals

Toaster ovens can handle meal preparations like single servings of lasagna, enchiladas, casseroles, roasted chicken or fish, and even small meatloafs. Enjoy the convenience of cooking smaller portions or single servings in your toaster oven.

Side Dishes

Toaster ovens can also help you create scrumptious side dishes with ease. Try roasting a medley of vegetables, cooking up some stuffed mushrooms, or baking a small batch of dinner rolls. Your main course will have the perfect accompaniment, and you’ll save energy by using your toaster oven instead of your full-sized oven.

Baked Goods

Toaster ovens are perfect for whipping up small batches of baked goods. From cookies and brownies to muffins, you can satisfy your sweet tooth without heating up your entire kitchen with a full-sized oven. Plus, toaster ovens are great for experimenting with new recipes without committing to large quantities.

Frozen Foods

Toaster ovens are also great for cooking frozen foods, such as frozen pizzas, chicken nuggets, or fish sticks. They can cook frozen foods much faster than a conventional oven, making them a great option for quick meals or snacks.

What Cannot Be Cooked in a Toaster Oven?

While toaster ovens are incredibly versatile, there are some foods and dishes that aren’t well-suited for cooking in them. Here are a few examples of what not to cook in a toaster oven:

Large Roasts or Whole Birds

Due to their compact size, toaster ovens are not ideal for cooking large roasts, whole turkeys, or whole chickens. The limited space can result in uneven cooking and difficulty achieving the proper internal temperature.

Foods with High Fat Content

Foods with high fat content, such as bacon or certain cuts of meat, can cause excessive smoking and grease splatter inside your toaster oven. This can create a mess and pose a fire risk. Instead, cook these foods on the stovetop or in a larger oven with better ventilation.

Fluffy Breads and Cakes

While toaster ovens can handle some baked goods, they may not provide the ideal conditions for fluffy breads or cakes that require a consistent temperature and even heating. The close proximity to the heating elements in a toaster oven can cause uneven rising or browning.

Foods That Require Steam

Some dishes, like steamed dumplings or certain types of seafood, require steam for proper cooking. Toaster ovens are not designed to create or maintain steam, so it’s best to use a stovetop or a specialized appliance for these types of recipes.

Foods in Oversized or Tall Containers

Toaster ovens have limited interior space, so cooking foods in oversized or tall containers can be challenging. Containers that are too large can block airflow, leading to uneven cooking or even damaging the toaster oven’s heating elements.

Foods with Long Cooking Times

While toaster ovens are great for quick and small-scale cooking, they may not be the best choice for foods that require long cooking times, such as slow-cooked stews or braised dishes. These recipes are better suited for a traditional oven or a slow cooker, which can maintain a consistent temperature for an extended period.

By being mindful of these limitations, you can ensure the best possible cooking results and protect your toaster oven from damage or unnecessary wear.

Advantages of a Toaster Oven

Toaster ovens are versatile appliances that offer a number of advantages over traditional ovens. Here are some of the main advantages of using a toaster oven:

Energy Efficient

Toaster ovens are smaller than traditional ovens, so they use less energy. This means that they are more energy efficient and can help you save money on your energy bills.

Time Efficient

Toaster ovens heat up faster than traditional ovens, so they can help you save time in the kitchen. They are also great for cooking small meals or snacks, which can be done quickly and easily.

Versatile

Toaster ovens can be used for a variety of cooking tasks, including baking, roasting, and toasting. They are also great for reheating leftovers or cooking frozen foods.

Easy to Use

Toaster ovens are generally easy to use and don’t require a lot of technical skill. They often come with simple controls and can be operated with the touch of a button.

Space Saving

Toaster ovens are smaller than traditional ovens, so they take up less space in the kitchen. This is especially useful for those with smaller kitchens or limited counter space.

Disadvantages of a Toaster Oven

While there are many advantages to using a toaster oven, there are also a few disadvantages to consider. Here are some of the main disadvantages of using a toaster oven:

Limited Capacity

Toaster ovens are smaller than traditional ovens, so they have a limited capacity. This means that they are not suitable for cooking larger meals or for cooking for large groups of people.

Limited Features

Toaster ovens often have limited features compared to traditional ovens. For example, they may not have a self-cleaning feature or a convection setting.

Shorter Lifespan

Toaster ovens have a shorter lifespan than traditional ovens, which means that they may need to be replaced more frequently. This can be a disadvantage for those who are looking for a long-term investment.

Should You Buy a Toaster Oven?

A toaster oven may be a good investment if you frequently cook small meals or snacks, have limited counter space, are on a budget, want to save on energy costs, or are looking for a convenient cooking option. However, if you regularly cook large meals or need an appliance that can handle more complex cooking tasks, a traditional oven may be a better option.

Here are key things to consider when buying a toaster oven:

Cooking Needs

If you frequently cook small meals or snacks and have limited counter space, a toaster oven may be a good investment. However, if you regularly cook large meals for a family or entertain guests, a traditional oven may be a better option.

Budget

Toaster ovens are generally more affordable than traditional ovens, so they may be a good option for those on a budget. However, keep in mind that some high-end toaster ovens can be just as expensive as traditional ovens.

Energy Efficiency

Toaster ovens are more energy efficient than traditional ovens, which means that they can help you save money on your energy bills. If you are looking for ways to reduce your energy consumption, a toaster oven may be a good investment.

Convenience

Toaster ovens are generally easier to use than traditional ovens and require less preheating time. They are also easier to clean and maintain. If you are looking for a convenient cooking option, a toaster oven may be a good choice.

If you’re in the market for a toaster oven, we recommend the following appliance as an extremely efficient, easy-to-use, option that suits both beginners and seasoned toasting experts:

Editors Pick
Oster TSSTTVMNDG-SHP-2
$9.99


Pros:
  • Versatile cooking functions available
  • Digital dials ensure a user-friendly experience
  • The enlarged interior accommodates different dishes
Cons:
  • The digital dials don’t light up
I earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
02/17/2024 09:35 pm GMT

Cooking Tips When Using a Toaster Oven

Toaster ovens are great appliances that can be used for a variety of cooking tasks, but there are a few things to keep in mind when using them. Here are some cooking tips to help you get the most out of your toaster oven:

Use the Right Bakeware

Toaster ovens come in different sizes, so it’s important to use bakeware that fits your toaster oven. Using the wrong size bakeware can result in uneven cooking or burnt food. Always check the manufacturer’s recommendations for the correct size bakeware to use.

Preheat the Toaster Oven

Like a regular oven, it’s important to preheat your toaster oven before cooking. This ensures that the oven is at the right temperature for cooking and helps to prevent uneven cooking.

Use the Right Temperature

Toaster ovens are smaller than regular ovens, so they cook food faster. It’s important to use the right temperature when cooking to ensure that the food is cooked properly. Start with the recommended temperature and adjust as needed based on your toaster oven’s performance.

Keep an Eye on the Food

Toaster ovens cook food faster than regular ovens, so it’s important to keep an eye on the food while it’s cooking. This will help prevent burning or overcooking.

Use a Timer

Toaster ovens usually come with a timer, so use it to keep track of cooking times. Set the timer for the recommended cooking time and check the food periodically to ensure that it’s not overcooking.

Clean the Toaster Oven Regularly

Toaster ovens can get dirty quickly, so it’s important to clean them regularly. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning and be sure to clean up any spills or crumbs as soon as possible to prevent them from burning.

FAQs About Toaster Ovens

Why Use a Toaster Oven?

There are several reasons why you might choose to use a toaster oven over a traditional oven. Toaster ovens are generally more energy efficient, require less preheating time, and are easier to clean and maintain. They are also a good option for those who live in small apartments or have limited counter space.

Are Toaster Ovens Healthy?

Toaster ovens themselves are not inherently healthy or unhealthy. However, they can be used to cook a variety of healthy meals and snacks, such as roasted vegetables, baked chicken, and whole-grain toast. It is important to choose healthy ingredients and cooking methods when using a toaster oven.

Is a Toaster Oven the Same as an Oven?

Toaster ovens are similar to traditional ovens, but there are some key differences. Toaster ovens are much smaller and more compact, making them a good option for those with limited counter space. They also generally require less preheating time and are more energy efficient than traditional ovens.

Can a Toaster Oven Replace a Toaster?

Yes, many toaster ovens come with a toasting function that allows you to toast bread and bagels. In fact, some people choose to use a toaster oven instead of a traditional toaster, as it can also be used for other cooking tasks. However, if you primarily use your toaster for toasting bread, a traditional toaster may be a more convenient option.

Final Thoughts About Toaster Ovens

Overall, a toaster oven is an excellent addition to anyone’s kitchen. Whether you live in a small apartment, have limited counter space, or simply want a more convenient way to prepare meals and snacks, a toaster oven is a great investment.

Excited to start experimenting with a toaster oven in your own kitchen? If you’re ready to elevate your cooking game don’t miss our article on using a toaster oven. You’ll discover even more helpful advice on how to cook, bake, and roast like a pro.

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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