Toaster ovens and microwaves tend to occupy the same mental space of “equipment to heat stuff up in the kitchen”. Most people are familiar with the operation of both. But do you really know the ins and outs of picking the correct heating device? I’ll clue you in, having lost many good pieces of food to the incorrect apparatus.
What Microwaves are Good For
Microwaves are the more versatile heating choice, and there’s a reason for that. Microwaves can heat liquids, and operate via excitation of water molecules within foods. Microwaves are going to do a good job on your soup, your coffee, and maybe even your slice of pizza. Some people even cook their bacon in a microwave. But a microwave isn’t going to be able to bake cookies, nor is it going to be able to roast vegetables.
What Microwaves are Bad For
Microwaves will generally explode vegetables rather than “cook” them. Most everyone knows to not even try to cook things in the microwave—it’s a tool for reheating stuff that has already been cooked, for the most part. Anything that has oils or pockets of liquid trapped within solids is going to have a bad time in the microwave. You’ll be cleaning the exploded bits off of the walls and plate. Also, lots of items aren’t microwave safe, despite seeming hardy otherwise.
When To Not Use Toaster Ovens
Toaster ovens can’t accommodate things that aren’t microwave safe, either. Toaster ovens also can’t heat up liquids effectively—or rather, they can’t heat up liquids without burning the top layer and leaving the bottom cold, another problem that they share with microwaves. Toaster ovens are also typically a bit of a longer affair than microwaving… meaning that you’ll need a whopping five minutes instead of a mere one or two. Don’t be in a hurry when you’re using your toaster oven. Not a big hurry, at least.
When To Use Toaster Ovens
Ah, onto the good part. Use your toaster oven to make toast; use your toaster oven to roast vegetables. You can throw in some cookie batter, and make a small batch of cookies, or any of those Pillsbury bakeables. Heck, you could even throw a slice of pizza in there. Toaster ovens can handle liquid-rich foods without making them explode, and can also head food extremely evenly by virtue of having two heating elements. It’s not nearly as likely to have something that is warm on the top but cold on the bottom if you play your toaster oven cards right.
Sometimes, you can Use Both!
A good kitchen will have both a toaster oven and a microwave. Make the perfect sandwich by toasting your bread slices in the toaster oven while you use the microwave to heat up your leftover chicken or turkey. Combine the two, and you’ve got a deliciously hot toasty and meaty poultry sandwich that couldn’t have been done without both appliances together. Sure, there’ll be more crumbs to clean up from the toaster oven, but hey, nobody said toasting would be easy.