Toaster Oven Buying Guide
Just about every kitchen has a toaster in it these days, and many have toaster ovens in place of or in addition to the regular toaster. Having a toaster oven definitely has some advantages. With a regular toaster, you are pretty much limited to toasting bread, and perhaps Pop Tarts, but with a toaster oven, your options are unlimited. A toaster oven is much more convenient than regular oven if you simply want to melt some cheese, or toast food quickly, but toaster ovens are also very small, so unless you are just cooking for yourself, you are probably going to want to use a regular oven for any sort of toasting that you need to do.
What is a Toaster Oven?
A toaster oven is a simple device for the most part, and they have been around for quite a while, but like with other appliances and electronics today, they are becoming more complex and are outfitted with smart technology. A toaster oven can be small enough to hold a single piece of bread and not much else on the rack or they can be large enough to accommodate a dozen slices of bread or more.
Basically, a toaster oven is a small oven that works with convection technology or with elements on the top and the bottom, and a rack in the middle that allows you to place items onto it and then toast them as you see fit. You can usually choose whether to turn on the top heating element, the bottom element or both, depending upon what kind of toasting you want to do.
Types of Toaster Ovens on the Market
There are two types of toaster ovens on the market right now. There is the regular toaster oven, which uses elements to heat up something or toast something on the top and the bottom and the convection type. Today’s toaster ovens can be used in a huge variety of ways, even to bake small amounts of something that usually requires a regular oven.
Convection ovens work by heating the air and then moving it around the oven through the use of a fan. Convection ovens are good for people who plan to use their toaster oven quite a lot. Convection ovens were the original bread toaster, but now they are used for all kinds of cooking for small items including broiling, roasting, and baking. The benefits of convection ovens are that they cook faster, and they bake more evenly because the air is being distributed around the oven with the fan.
Things to Consider Before Buying a Toaster Oven
There are a number of factors that you should look at if you are buying a toaster oven. You already know that there are two different types of toaster oven, but there are also other features that will affect the cost and where you get your toaster oven.
The first thing that you want to consider is the size of the toaster oven. Depending upon what you plan to cook in it, you can go with an average sized oven or you can look for a much larger one. If you plan to get a lot of use out of it (such as a single person expecting to do a lot of baking in their toaster oven) then going bigger is definitely better because if you get one too small you won’t be able to make everyone that you want to.
Toaster ovens can do quite a few different things if you buy an oven that has the functionality. If you want to reheat, bake, roast or broil, make sure you get an oven that can do it. Also, if you need one that defrosts make sure you check the specifications first.
Make sure your unit has a timer that lets you know when the toaster is done heating. That way, you can check on your food item and adjust the cooking time as needed. When the unit has reached the end of the timer setting, it should turn itself off, which prevents burnt food and fire hazards. Also, there are some units that have a warming function so that you can keep the food warm when it is done cooking.
Some of the models that are out there can be preprogrammed to turn on automatically or change temperatures at a certain time, which gives you a great deal more versatility when it comes to what you can cook.
Racks & Trays
You also want to make sure that you get all of the racks and trays that you need. Generally, toaster ovens have a couple of slots of racks, and most come with the racks themselves, but they might be intended for a specific function. Also, toaster ovens come with a crumb tray that must be emptied regularly. Make sure that you get a crumb tray that comes out easily, does not get stuck and does not spread crumbs all over the countertop. Finally, some toaster ovens also come with baking trays in place of the baking racks, which are a nice addition to your toaster functionality.
Best Brands of Toaster Ovens to Buy
There are quite a few brands of toaster ovens out there. On most lists of the top brands, Breville leads. They come in first when it comes to overall ratings, safety features, style and design and performance. While you can find many toaster ovens that are priced less than most Breville models, you won’t find any that work better. Breville has also embraced the inevitable Smart Technology that manufacturers are going to be expected to install in their devices so that the entire kitchen can be controlled from a mobile device or media center.
Cuisinart is another toaster oven brand that makes very good products. They have the advantage of costing much less than most of the Breville models, but they don’t as many features. However, if you are looking for a simple toaster oven that is below $100 and has all of the features that you need to make toast and other simple foods, then a Cuisinart model might be what you are looking for.
Black & Decker is a great choice if you only have a very small budget for a toaster oven. You can get a Black & Decker toaster for around $25 and they have some great features and well as being quite roomy. One of the some of the Black & Decker models, you can fit an entire small pizza inside as well as a variety of other foods. So, unless you absolutely need the Smart Technology that comes with more expensive brands, then you might want to stick with a budget brand that has the features that you need.
If you want a good middle brand that has more features than the budget brands (and probably a little better quality) than you might want to look at some of the models that Panasonic has available. This brand has models priced between $75 and $150 with about $100 as the average price, and they have quite a bit of room, plus some pretty good features. In the end, it all comes down to what you plan to use the toaster oven for and how what kind of features you want.