When it comes to toaster ovens, not everyone wants a miniature oven. Some people just want a convenient way to reheat, cook small portions, and make toast. Hamilton Beach had this in mind when they created the 31511 toaster oven.
This particular toaster oven is ideal for people who don’t need to cook large meals, for those who do not have a lot of kitchen space, or those who want a quick way to reheat foods without firing up their large conventional ovens. It is simple and intuitive to use.
Although this model will not completely replace cooking in a traditional oven, it is not meant to, Rather, it complements your oven by doing a very nice job of cooking popular foods such as toast and bagels, frozen pizza, and even whole chickens.
During my research on this model I realized that it has a major flaw with the TIMER dial, which I discuss in detail in this review, as well as provide a workaround for the flaw. The flaw is not going to prevent most people from buying and enjoying this model, but it is important for me to let you know that people who have painful arthritis or weakness in their hands should not buy this toaster oven.
|Table of Contents|
|1. Dimensions and Appearance||2. Cooking Features||3. Controls and Settings|
|4. Additional Features||5. Accessories||6. Cleaning and Care|
|7. Video Demonstration||8. Warranty||9. Pros|
|10. Cons||11. Price||12. Reviews|
|13. Helpful Resources||14. Final Thoughts|
Length = 16.75”
Width = 13”
Height = 9”
This is a smaller toaster oven, and it won’t take up much room on your counter top compared to many other models.
Length = 11″
Height = 7″
Width = 10″
Toast Quantity = 6 small slices or 4 large slices
Bagel Quantity = 2 large bagel halves or 4 small bagel halves
Baking Dish Size = 11” x 9” (no handles)
Pizza Size = 9” pizza
Roast = 7 pounds
Chicken Size = Small chicken
The official description of this toaster oven from Hamilton Beach states that it will fit a 9” pizza. Several owners say that you can actually fit a 10” pizza inside.
It also says that this will cook a 6 lb. chicken, but owners disagree. They do agree that this will cook an entire chicken, but only if it is small. Or, you may be able to cook a 6 lb. chicken if you cut it in half and cook it that way.
This is advertised as being able to make 6 slice toast at once, but many people said that it really only fits 4 slices. The image with six slices inside has six fairly small pieces of toast. If your bread is larger then be aware that you will probably only be able to fit four.
The weight of this toaster oven is on the light side of the weight spectrum. Moving model 31511 is much easier than others because of this.
Exterior Housing Material
The exterior of the Hamilton Beach 31511 toaster oven is made of stainless steel.
The color is stainless steel with a brushed look to it. This model has a sleek, modern look to it. There are very few, if any, other toaster ovens in the same price range that are all stainless steel on the exterior.
Length is 24″
The cord on the Hamilton Beach 31511 is comparable to other toaster ovens. Older kitchens or kitchens with very few outlets may need to use a short extension cord.
The plug has two prongs, not three. The plug is polarized, meaning that one prong is wider than the other. A polarized plug helps protect against shock.
This is not a convection oven.
There are two heating elements inside this machine: two on the top and two on the bottom. The elements are located about 2” in from the long-wise edges. If you like toast, it toasts best when you place the wire rack on the upper position, so that the bread is in the middle of the four elements.
The elements are metal rod elements, not quartz elements. Adding quartz elements would, I’m sure, have increased the price. Metal rods don’t heat up as quickly as quartz, but most owners are very happy with their heating speed and ability.
According to Hamilton Beach, this toaster oven reheats foods up to 27% faster than convention ovens, and uses 74% less energy than conventional ovens. In other words, using this toaster oven for reheating and cooking instead of your large wall oven will save you money.
There are three position options for the included stainless steel wire rack. The rack position depends on what you are cooking, as well as the quantity of what you are cooking.
For example, when one or two slices of bread, use the middle rack. But if you are toasting three or more slices of bread, use the upper rack. Of course, you can play around with rack position to see if you prefer a different height, but be aware that doing so may result in burnt toast.
Here are the recommendations for each rack position:
- Bottom Rack Position – Chickens, roasts, and other foods that are tall
- Middle Rack Position – 1 or 2 pieces of toast, frozen or toaster pastries, baking (depending on height of food being cooked), pizza, broiling foods that need longer broiling times such as chicken breasts
- Top Rack Position – 3 to 6 pieces of toast, English muffins, bagels, and waffles, broiling foods that need less time to broil such as hot dogs
Take care when pulling out the rack. There is no stopping device, so the rack can slide out completely if you pull it out too far, potentially spilling hot food.
There is no rotisserie option.
200° F to 450° F for TOAST and BAKE
450° F for BROIL
Some people like to cover their food with foil while cooking it. It is okay to cover food with foil as long as it doesn’t touch the elements. However, Hamilton Beach states in their manual that you should not completely enclose food with foil. Believe it or not, total enclosure in foil insulates food and can slow down the cooking process.
The TEMP dial moves freely, allowing you to set it to any temperature between 200° F to 450° F. This is a huge benefit over other models that increase or decrease in increments of either 25° or 50° because you have total control over the temperature.
Most people state that this model heats up quickly and is fairly accurate, while a few reviews say the opposite, that it is slow to heat up and never reaches the set temperatures. This makes me suspect that there may be quality control issues at the manufacturing plant.
One review that I read said that the temperature is not always accurate, and that she increases the temperature a bit to compensate for that. She said that doing that has improved the cooking experience with this oven. Hamilton Beach confirmed that the temperatures can be off by as much as 25° F to 50° F.
You should not use the top as a warming tray. There is a venting area above the controls that needs to stay uncovered. Covering this area can cause the machine to overheat and damage it.
To be honest, I was surprised to learn that the 31511 toaster oven has 1300 watts. I expected it to be closer to 1000 watts. This is a lot of watts for a low end model.
There is no LCD display on this model.
Type of Controls
The Hamilton Beach 31511 toaster oven has three control dials:
- TEMP – The temperature dial has markings from 200° F to 450° F, TOAST, and BROIL
- FUNCTION – The function dial can be turned to BAKE, BROIL, and TOAST
- TIMER – The timer dial has STAY ON, OFF, Toast settings, and time markings that are in five minute increments, up to 30 minutes
The silver dials are all fairly large, but many owners complained that they are difficult to turn because the sides are slick, not grooved. Which brings me to the major flaw that I mentioned above in the introduction. The TIMER dial is very hard to turn, both because the spring is extremely tight, and because of the lack of grooves on the sides of the dial.
During my research I came across two possible fixes for this flaw from owners who discovered how to make the TIMER dial easier to turn.
- Buy a stalk of broccoli that has a thick rubber band holding the stalks together. Remove the rubber band without breaking it and place it around the TIMER dial. The best part about this is that you can buy the broccoli for the rubber band, and then cook it in the toaster oven!
- Buy velcro tape, available at your local home improvement store, and place the velcro around the dial. I am not sure if you should use the soft half of the velcro tape or the scratchy half, so play around with both until you figure out which half gives you a better grip on the dial.
There are markings for each dial to help you turn them to the proper settings, but the markings are difficult for some people to read, especially the range between light and dark toast settings. However, most people agree that the dials are intuitive and simple to use.
Temperature Control Options
There is a single temperature dial that is used for all three cooking functions. The TEMP dial is used in conjunction with the other two dials, as follows:
- Choose the temperature by turning the TEMP dial to either TOAST, BROIL, or a to your desired temperature
- Set the FUNCTION dial to BAKE, BROIL, or TOAST
- Turn the TIMER dial to the appropriate setting for the food being cooked (i.e. toast or chicken)
It is important that you choose the proper cooking function or the temperature won’t work properly and your food will take much too long to completely cook. This is true for any toaster oven that has multiple cooking and temperature options. It is best to read the included manual to understand how to properly cook with the 31511 toaster oven.
The TEMP dial is free turning, so you have the ability to choose any temperature you want. The benefit to this is that you have 100% total control over the temperature, unlike most other toaster ovens that increase or decrease the temperature in 25° or 50° increments.
Toast Darkness Adjustment
There is a dial that you set to determine the toast darkness. Many reviews for the 31511 toaster oven complained that this dial was very difficult to turn. As I mentioned above, someone figured out how to make it easier to turn the dial by placing a thick rubber band around it, like the kind that is used to hold a bunch of broccoli together, while another person used sticky back velcro on the dial. These are both good fixes, but the reality is that the dial shouldn’t be need to be fixed in the first place.
If you overturn the TIMER dial, cannot turn it back to your desired length of time. In other words, if you set it to 25 minutes but meant to turn it to 10 minutes, you cannot reverse the dial back to 10 minutes, which means you may overcook food by 15 minutes. There are a few ways to get around this problem:
- You can bypass the timer completely by using turning the dial to the STAY ON setting, which is something some owners do. However, you run the risk of burning food if you do not watch it closely, don’t use your own timer, or forgetting to turn off the toaster oven when cooking is complete.
- If you overturn the TIMER dial you can turn the temperature all the way down when the correct cooking time is done. This will essentially ends the cooking process by lowering the heating elements to the point where they are no longer heating the food.
- Lastly, you can unplug the toaster oven after the necessary amount of cooking time has been met. Unplugging the toaster oven will turn off the heating elements while the timer continues to countdown to zero.
Several users agree that it takes trial and error to figure out the best settings for your preferred level of toasting because the light and dark toast settings are so close together. Reading the manual is important to getting the best quality toast so that you know where to properly place the rack for the TOAST setting for the number of slices that you are cooking.
Preset Cooking Functions
There are three preset cooking functions:
I recommend that you read the instruction manual to understand when you should use each of the cooking functions. The right function will make all the difference when it comes to cooking in the Hamilton Beach 31511 toaster oven. For example, trying to bake a cake using BROIL will result in a poorly baked cake that would probably be burnt on top.
There is a 30 minute timer. This may frustrate some people who want to cook items that take longer than 30 minutes, and the good news is that you can do this. There is also a STAY ON option that you can use for items that need more than 30 minutes for cooking. Just be sure to turn off the machine when done because the STAY ON option does not turn off automatically.
The timer ticks when in use. When the timer reaches zero there is an audible bell that dings, indicating that food is ready.
Many reviews mentioned their dislike of the ticking sound, that it is loud. For some, the ticking sound was the only downside to owning this toaster oven.
There is a bell that chimes when your meal is done cooking. The alarm only goes off when cooking is finished.
There is no alert to let you know when preheating is done and cooking has begun. This was a nuisance to some people, but there is a solution. You can get a small oven thermometer and place it inside. Then, all you need to do is look at the thermometer to know when the inside reaches the desired temperature.
There is an “Always On” option, called STAY ON, located on the Timer knob. The STAY ON setting is to the left of OFF, which means you need to be careful when turning off this machine. If you turn the knob too far to the left, instead of turning it off you will turn it to STAY ON.
Personally I do not like this feature. One of my previous toaster ovens had an “Always On” option and more than once either my husband or I thought we turned off the toaster oven but, instead, turned it too far to “Always On”. It was frightening to realize that the toaster had been left on for who knows how long.
That being said, I understand why Hamilton Beach included it on this model. The timer is only for 30 minutes. If you want to cook something that requires more than 30 minutes you can use the STAY ON option. If you do, please take care to make sure this toaster oven is truly turned off.
The 31511 toaster oven will shutoff automatically when you use the timer for any of the cooking functions. If, however, you cook using STAY ON the machine will until you manually turn it off. When the Hamilton Beach 31511 toaster oven is on the STAY ON mode, it will do exactly that and stay on until you turn it off.
The wire rack does not auto-eject when the door is opened. This is not surprising given that this is a no-frills machine.
All parts of the Hamilton Beach 31511 toaster oven that come in contact with food are BPA free.
There are no prongs on the back for wrapping the cord on the Hamilton Beach 31511 toaster oven.
There is a removable crumb tray that sits under the bottom heating elements. You can access the crumb tray from the front, but getting to it is a bit different than other toaster ovens.
Other front loading crumb trays can be pulled out from under the door, visible from the front of the machine. When you want to remove the crumb tray from this model for cleaning you will need to open the door, then reach inside and pull out the tray.
You can clean the tray with soap and water, then replace it. The tray sits below the lower heating elements, so you will need to make sure you put it back in under the elements, not on them.
Some people said they place foil on their crumb trays to make cleaning easier. The instruction manual says that you should never cover the crumb tray with foil, or any other part of the 31511. There are two reasons for this.
First, the foil will heat up due to the close proximity to the elements. The heat from the foil can cause the internal temperature to rise to unsafe levels that will cause the machine to overheat.
Second, because the tray is so close to the elements there is the risk that the foil may accidentally touch the elements. If the foil touches the elements it will spark and can cause a fire.
The glass door of the Hamilton Beach 31511 toaster oven gets very hot during cooking, as do all toaster oven doors. The door has a handle that stays cool so you can safely open the door without burning yourself.
There is a message imprinted on the glass door that I find very curious. It reads, “IF CONTENTS IGNITE, KEEP DOOR CLOSED AND UNPLUG OVEN.” This is the first time I have seen this message on a toaster oven and I have to be honest that it makes me wonder how often there have been fires inside this model toaster oven.
My research on model 31511 revealed only two comments, out of 136, that mentioned interior fires. One fire was caused by the timer getting stuck on STAY ON (I do not know if it was actually stuck or the person thought he turned it off but instead turned it a bit further to STAY ON).
The other fire was caused by food dripping onto the bottom heating elements. That person complained that the elements were not protected from drips by some type of cover, but I have yet to come across a toaster oven that does. I have the high end Breville BOV800XL, and the bottom heating elements on mine are not covered, nor are they covered in conventional ovens.
This person did not say what she cooked that dripped onto the heating elements, but this is why you should place food that might drip on a baking tray or broiling pan. Fires do happen when food drips onto heating elements, so always make sure that there is something under the food to keep grease, cheese, etc. from dripping.
Exterior Temperature During Cooking
As with pretty much every other toaster oven, the exterior of the 31511 toaster oven gets hot. You should always take care not to touch the outside of a toaster oven while it is on to prevent getting burned.
There are no handles. However, Hamilton Beach sat this unit on rubber feet that raise the bottom of the oven up off the counter. You can place your hands under the machine to pick it up. It weighs about the same as your average cat, so it is not heavy to pick up.
In Use Light
Under the three control dials is an in use light. It glows red when the oven is on, and turns off when cooking is done.
This model comes equipped with a STAY ON feature which you can access by turning the dial past OFF. This light can be an important part of making sure your oven is not accidentally left on. I recommend that you get into the habit of looking at this light when you are done cooking, just to make sure the oven is truly off.
There is no interior light in this model.
The interior for the Hamilton Beach 31511 toaster oven is made of galvanized steel and is not nonstick.
Under Counter Mount
This model cannot be mounted under a counter.
- 9.5” x 11.5” baking tray
The baking tray is nice and sturdy. It works as it should, but it some reviews state that it became discolored with use.
Hamilton Beach put some thought into the tray they included. It nestles inside the wire rack, and the corners of the rack keep the tray from sliding out.
There are no additional accessories offered by Hamilton Beach for this model, but you can use your own bake ware, as long as it will fit inside.
Cleaning and Care
It is important to regularly clean the Hamilton Beach 31511 toaster oven so that it continues to perform as it should, and to extend the life of the machine. Keeping it clean will also minimize the risk of fire caused by the buildup of foods and grease.
You can clean the interior and exterior this machine with a damp cloth. You can use mild soap as needed, but never use abrasive cleaners or metal scouring pads.
The wire rack and baking tray can be washed by hand with soap and water. As with the body of the toaster oven, do not use abrasive cleaners.
I regret that I was unable to find any videos for the Hamilton Beach 31511 toaster oven.
Weight: 12.3 pounds
There is a one year limited warranty included with this toaster oven.
Customer Support Experience
My research for this model found only one review that dealt with contacting Hamilton Beach regarding any type of problem. That is both good and frustrating. It is good because I take it that this means owners did not find it necessary to contact the manufacturer for warranty issues. It is frustrating because the lack of information makes it hard to know how well Hamilton Beach handles warranty claims and problems.
The one review that I found was from someone who complained to the manufacturer about the difficulty in turning the TIMER dial. According to this person, Hamilton Beach acknowledged this design flaw, and offered to replace it with a different model of equal value.
The one part about this that the customer did not like was the fact that Hamilton Beach would not pay for shipping, either for returning the defective unit or shipping the replacement unit. However, Hamilton Beach states in the instruction manual that customers are responsible for all costs of shipping for any repairs or replacements made during the warranty period.
- Size – Since this is a smaller toaster oven it fits well in kitchens with limited space
- Free Turning TEMP Dial – You have total control over the desired temperature instead of being forced into incremental changes
- Heats Up Quickly
- Easy and Intuitive To Use
- Size – This is a smaller toaster oven that will cook many foods, but not larger ones. People wanting to cook larger foods may want to look at the Oster TSSTTVMNDG or Cuisinart TOB-40.
- Temperature Issues – Most people are very happy with how this model cooks, but some people said that theirs had problems heating up and getting hotter than 375° F, despite the fact that it is meant to get up to 450° F.
- No Rack Stopper – It is possible to pull the rack out completely, which can lead to food falling out.
50° F Temperature Increments – You can increase or decrease the cooking temperature by only 50°, instead of the typical 25°.
- TIMER Dial Difficult To Turn – This is the biggest complaint for this toaster oven, but there are two fixes: Use a thick rubber band or velcro tape on the dial.
- No Preheat Done Alert – This machine does not give any type of alert to signal that preheating is done and food can be put inside for cooking. You can get around this by placing an oven thermometer inside and looking to see when the right temperature has been achieved.
The overwhelming majority of owners agree that the price is very fair. This was true even of the negative reviews.
This is one of the best selling toaster ovens on Amazon, so it is clearly popular with people who want a basic model. The majority of reviews are positive and rate it between 4 and 5 stars.
I did find that number of 1, 2, and 3 star ratings for this toaster oven is a bit higher than for others, which makes sense because the overall average rating is in the high 3’s.
Here are the most helpful online sources I used to research the Hamilton Beach 31511 toaster oven. You may find additional helpful information by visiting any or all of these sources:
- Product information on Amazon
- Product Information on Walmart
- Customer questions about this toaster oven on Walmart
- Hamilton Beach Website
- Hamilton Beach 31511 Instruction Manual
As I researched material for this review I initially thought that people would be turned off by the TIMER dial being difficult to turn. Although some people are and returned the 31511 because of this, most people did not let the dial prevent them from using and loving this toaster oven.
I stated in my introduction that this would not be a good toaster oven for people who have painful arthritis, inflammation, or weakness in their fingers because of the TIMER dial. A better choice in this price range for people with painful or weak hands would be the Black & Decker TO1332SBD because the controls on this model are much easier to turn.
Aside from the TIMER dial issue, this is a basic toaster that is loved by the majority of owners. It isn’t fancy, nor does it pretend to be. If you are looking for a low priced toaster oven without many features that does a good job of reheating, toasting, and cooking, then you will need to decide for yourself if you are willing to modify the TIMER dial to overcome its flaw.