Toasters have evolved over the years from simple devices that only toast bread to highly sophisticated, multipurpose devices. These toasters are referred to as Toaster Ovens and can perform a wide range of functions, such as toasting bread, cooking pizza, baking cookies, roasting chicken and broiling meat.
They can practically perform all the functions of a traditional oven. These type of toasters are therefore the perfect alternative to traditional ovens.
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Benefits of a Toaster Oven
The first benefit of a toaster oven is that it can be used in place of or in conjunction with a traditional oven. Dealing with a single oven can be challenging and time-consuming, especially during those special occasions where a lot of food is prepared.
It is frustrating to wait for one type of food to cook in the oven, before moving to the next one. Therefore, including a toaster oven in the kitchen will save you a lot of time and inconveniences. You can also use it in place of a traditional oven, especially if you live by yourself. Preparing small batches of food is uneconomical and looks absurd in a large oven.
Secondly, a toaster oven has less footprint and consumes less space. Imagine the amount of space you will save in the kitchen, if you purchase a countertop oven, instead of installing a massive traditional oven. This extra space can be used for something else.
A toaster oven is especially convenient in a residential house with no preinstalled oven, and where you are not allowed to make any structural adjustments to the building.
Thirdly, a toaster oven preheats faster than a normal oven, which saves time and energy costs. It uses less energy and prepares food at a much faster rate than conventional ovens.
Moreover, they are easier to clean due to their small sizes. While the self-cleaning feature is very convenient in traditional ovens, it has been linked to various health hazards, such as the production of carbon monoxide and PTFE fumes that are harmful to humans and animals.
When it comes to manual cleaning, toaster ovens are far much easier to clean than traditional ovens. They are also eco-friendly since they lack the self-cleaning feature.
With a toaster oven, you will not be bending down to load and offload it, which is quite relieving if you have back problems.
Lastly, a toaster oven will not make your kitchen hot. If you live in a warm climate area or in a house with no air conditioning, then you probably understand how uncomfortably hot a kitchen can be when you use an oven.
Types of Toaster Ovens
Toaster ovens are grouped into four categories: Regular/Standard toaster ovens, Convection toaster ovens, Rotisserie toaster ovens, and Infrared toaster ovens. This classification is based on how they heat food, other than that, all toaster ovens have similar features and functionalities with the exception of the Rotisserie ovens.
Regular/Standard Toaster Ovens
These toasters work similarly as traditional ovens, although at a smaller scale. They are the smallest of all toaster types and are therefore used to prepare small batches of food. Regular toaster ovens have heating elements located either on top or below (or both). They heat food quite fast, but they are slower in comparison to convection ovens.
Due to the unique placement of heating elements, heat distribution is not even across the oven. Therefore, regular toaster ovens do not cook evenly, and the food may have burnt spots. Rotation of pans/racks is required for these toasters to cook the food well. Some of the basic cooking features of regular toaster ovens include broiling, warming, baking, defrosting, toasting and reheating.
Since convection ovens are the most popular type of toaster ovens currently, most high-end regular toaster ovens are now including a convection feature that allows them to operate at a convection level.
In most models, the convection mode is activated by a button with the labels “Convection” or “Conv” or with a fan symbol. For models that feature a dial/knob, their convection setting is either renamed as “Turbo” or has a fan symbol.
It should be noted however that the convection mode is very fast. For you to prepare food under the turbo setting, you will have to make necessary adjustments on the temperature and cooking time of your recipe. For instance, you will need to reduce the temperature by 25 degrees and cook time by 25%.
These toaster ovens utilize both heat and hot air to heat up food. While they have heating elements similar to regular toaster ovens, convection ovens also include a fan that helps circulate the heat in the oven. These appliances experience uniform distribution of heat throughout the oven.
As a result, they prepare food far much quicker than all the other toaster ovens with the exception of infrared ovens. Since heat is distributed uniformly everywhere, there are no cold spots in the oven. The food is therefore cooked evenly, and there is no need for rotating racks to prevent food from burning or overcooking.
Due to consistent temperatures, convection ovens do not require food to be cooked at high temperatures like in regular toaster ovens, which saves energy costs. Another great feature of these ovens is that you can cook two types of food concurrently, which is very convenient when preparing baked goods.
If you prefer using aluminum foil or lining paper to avoid cleaning the oven after cooking, then this may be the right type of oven for you. They support aluminum foil and lining paper, and their usage does not affect the quality and consistency of food or cooking time.
As mentioned earlier, the cooking procedure of convection toaster ovens is slightly different from regular toaster ovens. You will be required therefore to switch your cooking style and make various adjustments when dealing with convection ovens. They are however very simple devices to use, and you will easily get the hang of things once you get one.
Rotisserie Toaster Ovens
Rotisserie ovens are a special kind of toaster ovens. Unlike other ovens with multiple functionalities, Rotisserie ovens are only used to prepare various kinds of meat. They have a rotating spit where meat is attached to while cooking. The rotating spit ensures that the meat is evenly cooked to tender.
The problem with these toaster ovens is that they are so one dimensional and the idea of owning one may not be very appealing. The good thing is that many toaster ovens are now including a rotisserie feature or an area that supports a rotating spit, where it can be manually installed.
Infrared Toaster Ovens
Infrared ovens are the new entrants in the market, and although they are currently not widely recognized, they are actually among the best ovens. They utilize infrared light energy to heat up food, which is both fast and cost-efficient.
These ovens heat up rapidly and therefore, prior heating is not required on these appliances. Furthermore, they can cook frozen food without the need to defrost it first.
Some high-end convection models are also including an infrared feature that allows them to cook food using light energy. Therefore, if you are a bit skeptical about the new infrared toasters, then you can go for the convection model with the infrared feature. One in a while when you feel like experimenting something you can always use the infrared feature.
Best Toaster Oven for Pizza
While regular mini toaster ovens have the mechanism to prepare pizzas, they lack the capacity to hold a full sized pizza. They are therefore not well suited for making pizza. They can be used however to reheat a slice of leftover pizza. Convection ovens are large enough to accommodate a full 13-inch pizza and are therefore the go-to appliances when it comes to homemade pizza.
They also cook the pizza more evenly and faster than regular toaster ovens. The procedure is quite simple: preheat the oven to about 450?F. Place the pizza dough with all your favorite toppings on to a pan or on a pizza stone and insert it into the oven. Press the cook pizza feature and wait for it to cook. Once the pizza is cooked, remove it from the oven and let it rest, before serving.
It is worth noting however that this procedure is for the thin crust pizza. For the thick crust, you will have to bake the dough by itself first until it is almost cooked, before adding the toppings. This is to ensure that the toppings do not burn since the thick dough takes a bit longer to cook. However, you will have to consult the recipe book that comes with the device for you to know all the requirements needed to prepare the perfect toaster oven pizza.
Best Toaster Oven for Toast Bread
Toasting bread using a toaster oven is very simple. For toaster ovens with a toaster on top, the procedure is the same as using a conventional toaster. Just place slide the slices into the toaster slots and let them pop out once they are toasted. For all the other models with a wire rack, the procedure is slightly different.
The first thing you have to note is that preheating the oven is not required when toasting bread. After loading the slices of bread on to the oven rack, you will be required to activate the toasting feature plus your shade preference. The shade setting may be in the form of numbers with 1 being the lightest and 7 being the darkest; or in the form of colors, light, medium, and dark. If however, your unit lacks either of the shade settings, then you will have to adjust both the temperature and timer to achieve your desired shade.
Buying Guide for the Best Toaster Ovens
Most toaster ovens pretty much function the same way. Therefore, the choice you make will depend on your lifestyle and personal preferences. The model you choose should have all the bells and whistles to function both as a toaster and an oven. Here are the factors to consider when you are shopping for the right toaster oven.
When we talk about size, we mean the amount of kitchen space you have reserved for the oven and the total number of people in your family. An oven is obviously among the few kitchen appliances that you will be using several times a day. It needs to be easily accessible, right there at the countertop.
If you have enough counter space, we would recommend you go for a medium sized toaster oven, anything larger than that is for commercial use. Medium sized ovens are actually large enough to prepare food for various members of the family. If you live by yourself, then a small size oven is not a bad choice. However, you will be forced to abandon it in the future, once you set up a family.
There are limitless possibilities when it comes to cooking with a toaster oven. Think about your cooking habits. If you are a person that rarely steps into the kitchen, then there is a high chance that the oven will be idle for the better part of the year.
We would recommend that you keep things simple by just purchasing a regular toaster oven. If however the kitchen is your haven and you love learning new things, then go for the high-end toaster ovens. They have many great features and functions, which will allow you to experiment with so many recipes. You should look out for the following standard settings: toast, broil, brown, bake, pizza, cookies, bagel, warm and reheat.
While it is easier to get carried away by the external dimensions of the oven, the real deal is actually in the oven capacity. It is conceivable that a physically large toaster oven may have less capacity.
In the same vein, an oven may be physically small, but with considerable internal space. A unit that can accommodate a full chicken is just the right size for you and your family. Most ovens have their capacities listed on their walls and are usually in liters. You should ensure therefore that the oven capacity is able to comfortably prepare the right food quota for your family in one instance.
In most electronic appliances, wattage is an indicator of performance power. Therefore, the higher the wattage, the more powerful the device. For the toaster ovens, wattage is a measure of energy efficiency, but not the actual heating power.
Therefore, the less the wattage, the more energy efficient the device is. It should be noted however that basic models tend to be more energy efficient, due to fewer features and functions, while high-end models with a lot of digital controls and features tend to consume more power.
Choosing a low-end oven would save you energy costs, but you will be compromising on a lot of great features and functions. The wattage does not affect cooking time or heating power of the oven. You may get an energy efficient model that cooks at the same rate, as a high energy consuming unit.
Different foods require varying temperature settings. With the right temperature range, you will be able to prepare all the foods your mind can think of. Many conventional ovens have a maximum temperature range between 200 F and 250 F, which is not adequate to broil a chicken at 500?F.
The temperature range should be low enough to gently toast bread and high enough to cook all types of meat. You will want to consider the types of food you will be cooking regularly to know the right temperature range that the oven should fall within.
Easy to Use Digital Control System
One feature that you are bound to meet in all toaster ovens when you go shopping is a digital control system. Some will have digital control buttons with LED displays, while others will have dials/knobs.
It does not matter which control system appeals to you. The most important thing is that it should be easy to understand by just looking at it. Going for one that is easy to decipher will save you the inconvenience of having to go back to the manual.
A digital LED display is another feature that you should definitely consider, as it will give you visual feedback of all the cooking settings. Some displays change color on various modes, which allows you to know what is going on without being in close proximity to the oven.
Toaster ovens get very hot after a cooking session, which can lead to serious burns and injury when handled carelessly. Many ovens include safety features as part of their design to prevent damage and injury.
Some come with a pop-out rack that comes out when the oven door is opened. Others include an automatic shut-off feature that comes in handy when you forget to turn it off.
Some also feature a built-in timer with an alarm system that goes off when the food is ready. This feature takes away the need to monitor the oven while allowing you to concentrate on other activities.
Ease of Cleaning
Ovens can be quite messy after a cooking session with crumbs, grease run-offs and cheese drips all over. Cleaning can be tricky if the oven has hard to reach areas.
One accessory you should definitely consider is a drip tray that will collect all the mess at the bottom of the oven. It should be able to come out easily, as this will make it easier for you to clean it.
If the oven comes with various bakeware, ensure that they are dishwasher safe to avoid dealing with all the greasy messes of the oven. Also, go for nonstick interior ovens, as they are very simple to clean.
You have to keep in mind that most of your kitchenware will not fit into the oven and therefore, you will not be able to use them in the oven. You should consider a unit that comes with extra cooking accessories, such as broiler trays, baking pans, baking racks, crumb pan, and pizza stones.
Toaster ovens have revolutionized how we prepare food in the kitchen. Although most people still prefer conventional ovens, toaster ovens are steadily growing in popularity.
They are faster, energy efficient and also cost a fraction of a conventional oven. If you are having doubts about owning one, then take it from us: Toaster Ovens are worth every penny.
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