You may remember them fondly from your student days, but toaster ovens are a popular addition to even the most well-equipped of modern kitchens.
Far from providing a quick way to heat up ready meals and toast bread, today’s toaster ovens are versatile, stylish and can give even a proper oven a run for its money. Convection, rotisserie and even infra-red toaster ovens are here to complement your kitchen.
Whatever your reason is for being in the market for a toaster oven, you may be overwhelmed by the abundance of choices available on the market. From cheap and cheerful to space age contraptions, there’s definitely a toaster oven to fit your kitchen and lifestyle. This guide aims to help you find a good fit by introducing you to toaster ovens, their various features and factors that may influence your decision making process.
The benefits of toaster ovens
- Perfect for dorms, small spaces and holiday flats, toaster ovens have long had a reputation for being the poor man’s oven, but once you take a look at their true potential, you’ll realise they can make a pretty good alternative or addition to a regular oven.
- Toaster ovens are eco-friendly. They use less electricity than conventional ovens and, as they are often smaller, take less time to heat up and so reduce cooking time.
- Toaster ovens are easier to clean than conventional ovens. They are designed for ease of use and convenience and are therefore simpler, with less awkward corners for crumbs to hide in. Many also come with built-in crumb trays to collect stuff that falls to the bottom of the oven.
- Toaster ovens come in many different sizes to fit any space. Some are easily as big as a conventional oven, but can be put on a kitchen worktop, giving you the best of both worlds in terms of space vs size.
- Toaster ovens are handy for having alongside a conventional oven if you tend to cook large or complicated meals regularly. They offer versatile cooking options and you can even use one alongside a microwave if you want to heat and then crisp something.
- Of course, toaster ovens are often a lot cheaper than a proper oven, so you can afford to bake and roast even on a small budget.
Types of toaster ovens
There are several types of toaster ovens you can find on the market. Here are the main categories.
Basic toaster ovens
These are the simplest ones, without any complicated features. They are often on the smaller size and offer temperature control and a simple timer, sometimes with a fairly short time limit. They are designed for toasting bread and sometimes broiling. With practice, you can use these for baking and roasting too.
Convection toaster ovens
Equipped with a fan to allow for more even heat distribution inside, these ovens let you choose between standard and convection settings. The fan-assisted setting cuts down on heating and cooking time, so is great for saving energy. These toaster ovens are more similar to conventional ovens and many are available in larger sizes, including those comparable to a standard oven.
Rotisserie toaster ovens
This is a common option for high-end toaster ovens, often in conjunction with convection and standard features. They are usually available in larger sizes and some can even fit a whole turkey in them, similarly to a standard oven.
Infra-red toaster oven
These use infra-red technology that does not require any pre-heating time and transfers the heat directly to the food. They are often high-end toaster ovens.
Things to look for in a toaster oven
Look for simple, intuitive controls that will make it easy for you to understand and use your toaster oven without struggling with a manual every time you want to cook something. It may seem silly, but if the controls are unclear, you may never use your oven for more than toasting bread.
Depending on what you plan on using your toaster oven for, it may be wise to invest in one that has cooking presets for common items such as chicken, potatoes, vegetables, etc. This can make the cooking experience simpler and save you time.
You might not care about which brand of oven you buy, but purchasing from a reputable manufacturer can make a difference. If you want a long-lasting, reliable machine it’s worth investing a little bit more and opting for a brand that has a reputation to protect.
Obviously, you want a toaster oven that fits the space you have in your kitchen. There are some very small toaster ovens that would fit even the tiniest of spaces. On the other hand, if your main priority is cooking large meals or baking full-sized cakes, you’ll want to go for a larger oven.
You can buy small baking tins and trays to fit all sizes of toaster ovens, but to be sure of a good match, you might want to look at an oven that comes with its own set of trays. This way you can be sure of a good fit without having to hunt around.
Auto shut off
To avoid burnt food, accidents and fire, all good toaster ovens are equipped with a timer that will switch them off after a set time. Make sure your toaster oven has one if you want to be able to be able to turn your back on it without worrying about burning down the house.
Most toaster ovens will ping you when cooking time is over. You want an alert you can easily hear, but you don’t want it so loud it will startle you. Of course, some smart home ready toaster ovens can send you a message when done.
If you want a uniform appearance to your kitchen, you may well take the time to pick a toaster oven based on its look and feel. They come in a variety of colours, materials and shapes, so why not? There is probably one that would go perfectly with the rest of your appliances.
There are many extra features that can be added to a toaster oven to make it fancier. From ejection trays to the aforementioned smart home compatibility. Read the manufacturer’s blurb and see if any of these sound like something you would actually use. If they are, then it’s worth spending the extra money.
Like everything else, the quality and amount of features in any toaster oven is going to be dependent on price. If your cooking needs are simple, you can do perfectly fine with a standard toaster oven. If, however, you intend on using the oven instead of a conventional oven and are planning to do a lot of cooking, it might be worth spending more to get the best possible appliance.
Toaster ovens are a brilliant appliance to have in your kitchen and whatever it is you want out of one, you’re sure to find it if you do some market research and shop around. Regardless of whether you’re looking for something to heat up food in your dorm room or a space-saving oven for baking, roasting and broiling, we hope we’ve provided you with enough knowledge to buy the best toaster oven for your needs.