How To Love Your Toaster Oven

How To Love Your Toaster Oven

Among the most reliable, but often overlooked, small kitchen appliances is the toaster oven.  These compact kitchen aids are convenient, inexpensive to buy and are wonderfully versatile.  Sadly, too many people don’t know anything about toaster ovens or how to use them.

What Exactly Is A Toaster Oven?

A toaster oven works like a full sized oven.  An electric heating element, at the bottom of the oven, heats the chamber to a specified temperature.   A rack is held in place above the element and can be used by itself to hold the food being cooked or by supporting a cooking sheet.  This is all done on a much smaller scale than a traditional oven and instead of  being a large, permanent fixture, a toaster oven is small enough to be placed on a counter top.  Because it has a smaller footprint and weights only a few pounds, it can be moved to different places to be use.

Toaster ovens often get confused with convection ovens.  They are not the same and while they both have similar functions, they are different appliances.  A convection oven is often larger in size, more expensive and can handle more true baking demands, like an oven can do.  A toaster oven is smaller, less expensive and can easily handle simple cooking tasks such as small frozen pizzas, reheating leftovers, fixing a bagel or heating some appetizers.  Oddly enough, one thing a toaster oven doesn’t do very well is make toast.

Because a toaster oven is so versatile, many people find it to be the perfect appliance when you need to make a meal for only one person.  You can bake a small pizza, make a serving of frozen mac and cheese, or prepare a melted sandwich.  Toaster ovens are great for almost any food that doesn’t require long cooking times.  Yes, you can bake a cake in a toaster oven, but you would probably need to turn it over once during baking to make sure that the cake was done all the way through.  That’s not the ideal way to bake a cake. However, you can bake cookies, they only need 10-12 minutes to bake.

Convenience And Energy Savings

Convenience is the number one selling feature of a toaster oven.  They don’t take up much space on a countertop, they cook food thoroughly and quickly, and they don’t use a lot of energy to do these things.  Every time you turn on your traditional oven you are using a lot of energy to heat up a very large baking chamber.  Whether you have a gas oven or an electric oven, heating the chamber takes time and energy.  Even though the baking chamber is large enough to hold many dishes on many oven racks, most people have only one dish to heat up.  The same amount of energy is used to bake one dish as it takes to bake three dishes.

Black And Decker 4 Slice Toaster Oven
#1 Selling Toaster Oven On Amazon

One other factor that comes into play with a toaster oven is the lack of heat put into the kitchen.  Your oven takes about 10 minutes to heat up and another 30 minutes or so to cool down.  Some of that heat is vented out but a lot of it stays in your kitchen.  If it is 100 degrees and humid outdoors you don’t want to be adding 350 degree heat from your oven to the mix.

Many people get their first toaster oven when they move out of their parent’s homes.  Whether you are moving into a college dorm or into your first apartment, the convenience of a toaster oven can’t be topped.  Ask any college student living in a dorm about cooking and they mention two things-a microwave and a toaster oven.  95% of their food is created using these two appliances.

Toaster Oven Basics

A basic toaster oven will have a glass front door, a lower heating element and assorted temperature setting button.  They will include a wire rack that can be adjusted to three different height settings and an aluminum tray that is used like a baking sheet in a traditional oven.  Some newer models have a broiler element on the top inside of the chamber.  It’s a nice feature to have, you can make some excellent open faced sandwiches using it.  More ovens are now using LED display readouts and offering a timer function.  Even with all of the new options, toaster ovens can be found at most major retailers for under $40.

Food That You Can Prepare In A Toaster Oven
Some of the foods that you can prepare in a toaster oven.

As you become more comfortable with your toaster oven you will find other uses for it.  If you reheat pizza in a microwave, the crust will become tough and chewy.  Reheating that same pizza in your toaster oven will take a few minutes more but you will have a pizza that is as good as it was when it came out of the oven.  The crust is crisp and the cheese has melted perfectly.  You can use your toaster oven to brown foods, like an open faced sandwich or any dish topped with cheese.  They are truly versatile appliances.

As you look around your kitchen you can see the basic appliances that you use.  You have a refrigerator, you probably have a dishwasher that saves you a lot of time, and you have your stove.  All of these are basics in most kitchens but you can add a lot of convenience to your cooking routine by investing in a good toaster oven.