I love to bake, but as much as I love to bake, I share an equal aversion to preparing my kitchen to bake. It gets pretty bad. So bad, in fact, that I once neglected to realize that I didn’t have an oven.
Want the best? I like the Breville Smart Oven with Convection.
I had all of the ingredients laid out—I even had proper teaspoon and tablespoon measuring devices. Sure, there was no mixer, but any baker worth his salt knows that you don’t really need a mixer. But I didn’t have an oven.
The counter-sized reality was that I did, in fact, have an oven, just not a standard-issue, range-on-top gas/electric one. No, I had the humble toaster oven.
Rather than throw in the kitchen towel and get some store-bought, bush-league cookies, I opted to use that toaster oven to bake my cookies. Granted, I was only able to bake four cookies at a time, but bake cookies I did!
They don’t call it a toaster oven for nothing.
As it turns out, these little powerhouses are able to heat up just as hot as any full-fledged oven. They’re just smaller. Toaster ovens actually have more in common with ovens than they do with toasters. Good luck making a batch of cookies in a toaster.
Because the heating surfaces of toaster ovens are farther away from the food surfaces, sliced bread takes longer to toast than it does in a toaster. However, this distinction is what allows toaster ovens to take on most of the usual responsibilities of an oven, albeit at a much smaller scale.
Oven or Toaster Oven?
Although the classic gas or electric oven is the conventional favorite for baking, there are good reasons to opt for the toaster oven. Although a conventional oven is going to be larger, and therefore accommodate more cookies or a bigger cake, your toaster oven will heat and bake a batch of cookies before your conventional oven even gets hot enough.
Additionally, many toaster ovens are convection ovens, meaning they utilize some sort of fan to move around hot air. While some conventional ovens require extra vigilance on the bottom rack, or at least an occasional moving of the baking item, the convection toaster oven guarantees an even bake every time.
Many modern toaster ovens have different heat settings for baking, toasting, warming, and broiling, allowing you to fine-tune temperatures in ways the simple thermostat on a large oven may not facilitate.
The Best Toaster Ovens for Baking
Unless you are baking a large cake or loaf of bread or a big batch of cookies or cupcakes, there really is no reason not to save time and money on your electric/gas bill by baking in a toaster oven. Let’s take a look at a few of the best toaster ovens for baking.
Breville’s Smart Oven Pro Convection Toaster Oven
For the utmost excellence in toaster oven baking, Breville’s Smart Oven Pro Convection Toaster Oven is likely the industry standard. Featuring a powerful 1800-watt power supply, this oven will have you baking on the kitchen counter in no time. With an interior capacity enough for 6 full-size slices of bread or a 13-inch pizza, this toaster oven will crank out a batch of cookies as quickly as a conventional oven, once the pre-heat time is factored in.
Non-stick coated interior walls make for easy cleaning. The LCD screen provides an easily read system setup, with various presets for baking, broiling, toasting and more. This convection-style oven moves hot air around, reducing bake times by nearly 30% while simultaneously providing an economical heating solution.
With a limited 1-year warranty, you are protected from manufacturing defects and malfunctions.
KitchenAid’s KCO275SS 12-Inch Compact Convection Countertop Oven
KitchenAid’s KCO253BM 12-Inch Compact Convection Countertop Oven offers a simple, middle-of-the-road model for the countertop baking minimalist. See at Amazon. This model features a sleek, screen-free display for the bakers who are sick of everything digital. The four knobs and a heat-tempered glass door are all that grace the façade of this oven.
However, don’t be misled by its simplicity—this oven still utilizes state-of-the-art technology, making it a perfect choice for the countertop baker. Its 2-rack system allows you to bake 2 sheets of brownies at once, or the second rack may be removed, providing room enough for an entire chicken.
Its stay-on technology will keep heating for up to 4 hours, when it will automatically shut off, which is an important safety feature. It also has a non-stick coating to help with cleanup. The hassle-free warranty is included for 1 year.
hOmeLabs 6 Slice Convection Toaster Oven
The hOmeLabs 6 Slice Convection Toaster Oven offers an affordable alternative to the top-of-the-line Breville model.
At a lower cost, this machine does not compromise on toaster oven baking quality. With a comparable 6-slice capacity, this toaster oven can accommodate surprisingly large batches of cookies or a 12-inch pizza.
With 10 different heat settings, you get fully customizable heating options, so you may accurately set the temperature. Convection fans move heat around in the oven, reducing baking times and electric costs.
Additionally, 3 different rack positions allow the user to further customize their heating options, for full control of the oven. Unfortunately, the inside does not have the non-stick coating, making it a bit more difficult to clean.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does the outside get hot?
Each toaster oven is different, so it will depend on the one you get. If this is something you are worried about look at reviews before purchasing.
According to Amazon reviews on these 3 toasters, the Breville does get extremely hot on the outside when in use. To help with this safety issue some people put a wooden cutting board atop the unit to prevent accidentally touching to melting something to it. The hOmelabs and the KitchenAid toaster ovens get warm but not too hot. Some users have done the same thing with the cutting board (make sure it is wooden as plastic may melt and glass will get hot).
How difficult is cleanup?
Some toaster ovens feature a non-stick coating on the inside, while others do not. This largely factors into how easy cleanup is.
The hOmelabs toaster oven is the only one listed here without the non-stick coating. This means if you get anything on the inside you may have scrub a little to get it clean. Or simply use oven cleaner and clean it like you would a traditional oven.
If your toaster oven has a non-stick coating it is easy to simply wipe it out after each use to keep it nice and clean.
What safety features does the toaster oven have?
The outside of the ovens do get warm so if they were to stay on for extended periods of time, things could get ugly. Luckily, all of these toaster ovens feature an automatic shut off for safety purposes.
The KitchenAid turns off after four hours. The other two are even safer as they turn off as soon as the time stops. This will prevent anything inside from burning (as long as you set the time right) and help prevent accidental fires that could start if you left it on all day.
How hot does it get inside?
Some toaster ovens can get as hot as a regular oven, but most max out around 450-500 degrees. This is pretty close to the temperature of a normal oven and should meet most, if not all, of your baking needs.
The toaster ovens listed here do max out at 450 degrees.
Is there an inside light?
An inside light is a feature may find convenient in a full-size oven. It helps when checking the color of baked goods if there’s a light you don’t have to open the oven to see.
Unfortunately, these ovens do not come with an interior light, but since they sit on the counter, there’s a good chance you won’t need it. Just turn on your kitchen light and look through the glass to watch the progress of your baked goods.
Small batch baking
With the right convection style toaster oven, you can enjoy all the pleasures of baking without lamenting high electric or gas bills. Additionally, the convection technology of these toaster ovens speeds up the heating process, meaning that not only will you save money baking—you will bake faster!
Image credit via Flickr Creative Commons: John