When it comes to kitchen appliances, toaster ovens get used a lot and are considered a standard in many households. It can cook faster than a full-sized regular oven and give you energy savings benefits while only needing a limited amount of counter space. Aside from these face value features, what is a toaster oven? Toaster oven, conventional oven, pop-up toaster, what’s their difference? What are their uses? This article explores what a toaster oven is to give you a comprehensive understanding of this common household countertop appliance.
Toaster Oven Characteristics Explained
What are the essential traits associated with a toaster oven? How do they compare to a pop-up toaster and a conventional oven? Lastly, how does it work? Let’s find out!
Are Toaster Ovens Smaller Conventional Ovens?
A toaster oven is a miniature version of a conventional oven range. It can cook like an oven but in a shorter amount of time. On the other hand, toaster ovens do not have a quick cooking time as a microwave. However, it can accomplish a wide range of cooking modes for various foods.
Since it is a countertop oven, they use significantly less energy than a full-sized regular oven. A toaster oven’s energy-efficient design will also save you money over time. Plus, its speed helps cook meals faster, which is ideal if you have gatherings at home.
Toaster Ovens: The Basic Traits
For the most part, toaster oven dimensions range between 35 and 55cm wide and 20 to 30cm tall. It makes an excellent option for someone with a small cooking space in their kitchen. It also makes a great alternative to a full-sized oven if yours needs repair or your kitchen is under renovation.
Some toaster ovens can be mounted inside a kitchen cabinet or to your kitchen wall, similar to a mounted microwave. But, the most common type is a countertop model. They are typically lightweight and can easily fit inside a larger cabinet after cooling and when not in use. However, most people find they use them frequently enough to warrant permanent space on their kitchen counter.
Heating Element and Power
It also features two electric heating elements, one on the top and one on the bottom. It allows them to heat up quickly and cook food at rapid speeds.
Toaster ovens are known for being easy to use and can be rather powerful, depending on the specific device’s wattage. Commonly, it uses somewhere between 800 and 1500 watts, with 1200 watts being the most popular amount.
How Are Toaster Ovens Different From Toasters?
Both toasters and toaster ovens make slices of toast, but how are they different in terms of features, settings and cooking capabilities?
Right, because actual toasters are gradated/sensitive enough for a 2 vs a 4 to make a difference. Start on a 2 and see what happens, then adjust & you're good. Whereas I have never ever set a toaster oven TO THE TOAST SETTING and gotten anything other than a burnt piece of bread
— panic but more like a slow burn (@brewsif) August 18, 2019
One of the main differences surrounds the available cooking space. A bread toaster usually has 2 or 4 slots for holding and toasting bread and waffles. On the other hand, a toaster oven has a fold-down door that allows you to put any food which can fit inside its larger rectangular internal dimensions. That means it can accomplish a wide variety of cooking tasks and can hold larger meals quantities. It can even fit a 12-inch pizza.
A toaster oven will also have more advanced control settings compared to a pop-up toaster. A traditional toaster relies on a number dial that correlates with the browning level achieved on your slices of bread and a start/stop lever. A toaster oven will typically feature a timer, a temperature control, and several cooking modes.
Size and Speed
The least favourable feature of a toaster oven is that it doesn’t surpass a toaster’s speed and size. A toaster is better suited to smaller spaces. While the cooking area dimensions may be more in a toaster oven, it also takes up more counter space than a toaster.
Lastly, a toaster oven will take slightly longer to toast a slice of bread than a pop-up toaster, but typically only by a minute or two at most.
True friends get into heated debates over the merits of a toaster oven vs a toaster. #friendship (Toaster ovens are better. Hands down.)
— Lauren Winchester (@8lauren_p8) December 24, 2016
How Do Toaster Ovens Work?
Toaster ovens can have either digital or mechanical settings. Both settings will feature quick response heating elements, which can cook food using radiant heat transfer, convection, and conduction concurrently.
Some toaster ovens feature a standard coil, such as those found in a full-sized oven range, while others feature convection coils. Convection cooking involves the circulation of hot air or radiant heat within the toaster oven itself. Convection speeds up the toasting process by warming all parts of your food simultaneously and creating a more even radiant heat temperature within the appliance.
Many toaster ovens also feature a baking tray inside, which enables conduction heating. Conduction heating occurs thanks to the direct contact of your food with the metal tray. The tray absorbs heat and directly transfers it to the food on the surface, speeding up the cooking process.
Additional Toaster Oven Features
Now that we have covered the basics, let’s explore some more specific toaster oven attributes. These will vary somewhat depending on the particular toaster oven you are using at home.
What Cooking Options Do Toasters Have?
By now, it should be pretty evident that it can do more than make toast. Different toaster ovens perform various functions. Every toaster can toast, but some countertop ovens also perform other cooking functions, making the appliance more versatile overall. The different functions allow you to cook a wider variety of food in many ways.
Can you bake in a toaster oven? Is it similar to a countertop oven? Absolutely! One of the most apparent additional functions of a toaster oven is baking. After all, as you’ll remember, these are essentially smaller conventional ovens. It means most toaster ovens are also capable of broiling foods.
As discussed above, convection cooking is another standard cooking method that can be achieved by a toaster oven, depending on the heating elements inside.
Roasting, grilling, and defrosting are also standard cooking methods found in countertop ovens, expanding the range of recipes you can produce. As you are probably starting to see, countertop ovens are easy to use and can make cooking in a small space in your kitchen possible.
A more advanced toaster oven model may even include an air fryer option, which allows you to fry foods without oil. Air frying is seen as a healthy alternative to deep-frying foods since they retain the crispy texture everyone loves. For most people, this is a welcome additional function of the appliance.
Standard Countertop Oven Cooking Functions
- Convection Cooking
- Air frying
View this post on Instagram
Standard Toaster Oven Control Settings
As briefly mentioned above, a toaster oven comes with more advanced control settings. It will complement the different cooking functions, especially when compared to a regular toaster.
Toaster ovens generally feature a control panel. It includes a precise temperature control dial, specific timer lengths, different cooking modes, an on/off button, and speed control. These controls allow you to customize the cooking procedure to match the specific meal you are cooking, from cookies to simple meals.
Things To Consider When Comparing Toaster Oven Models
Aside from the cooking modes and control settings, there a few traits we recommend keeping in mind when looking for a new toaster oven. Here are some pointers to consider.
First, we recommend considering the overall dimensions of the toaster oven. Do you live in a flat? Will it fit in your kitchen? Do you have enough space for it on your counter?
Second, we recommend considering wattage. A more powerful toaster oven may cost a bit more, but it will be able to cook your meal faster. Paired with the proper energy-efficient rating, like A+ or higher, a more powerful toaster oven should remain cost-efficient as well.
Lastly, we recommend examining what type of accessories come included with your purchase. Most toaster ovens come with a small baking pan, enabling the conduction heating element we described above. However, you may want to keep your eye out for several other accessories, including more baking pans, multiple oven racks, and a rotisserie fork. Some toaster ovens also enable you to change rack positions, allowing you to move your food closer or further away from the appliance’s heating elements.
View this post on Instagram
An Upgrade From Your Regular Toaster
What is a toaster oven? To summarise, a toaster oven is essentially a hybrid of a traditional toaster and a full-sized conventional oven. A toaster oven has a larger capacity than a toaster. It can cook a much wider variety of foods than the slice or slices of toast produced by the traditional toasting appliance. A toaster oven works for cooking food much faster than a conventional oven range and saves energy and space comparatively.
With all of this in mind, do you think a toaster oven would make an excellent addition to your kitchen? Will it benefit you in the long run? Let us know what you think in the comments below.