A toaster oven is a toaster oven is a toaster oven, right? Well, not exactly.
While it is true that all toaster ovens make toast, some do quite a bit more. The purpose of this buyer’s guide is to help answer any questions you may have regarding what you want from a toaster oven. By reading this buying guide you will be aware of the most important factors to consider before you start to think about specific toaster ovens.
You will find a link to the comparison chart at the end of this toaster oven buying guide. I’ve done this so you can easily sort and narrow down the toaster ovens that you are most interested in, and then you can read the reviews for the ones you like the most.
|Brand||Brand may or may not be a part of your decision making process, but it is something to consider. A brand's reputation can go a long way in persuading you to buy a particular model. Or, if you are torn between two models that are made by different manufacturers, the reputation for each brand could be what gives one model an edge over the other.|
|Cooking Functions||What do you want your toaster oven to do? Make toast? Roast meats and vegetables? Reheat foods? Bake pizzas? Cook an entire chicken? Keep food warm? Something else?|
These are all things to think about before deciding on a model. If you are going to give up counter space for a toaster oven, make sure it does all that you want it to do.
The easiest way to see what a toaster oven is capable of is to look at the preset cooking functions. Basic models usually offer up to three functions (toast, bake, and broil), while more advanced models can offer up to nine preset functions, possibly more.
|Size||Size and cooking functions go hand-in-hand. In almost all cases, the more you want your toaster oven to do, the larger it will need to be.|
When you think about size, consider both the external and internal dimensions. Most people only think about the overall, external size of a toaster oven, which is important because you need to know if you have enough room in your kitchen for any given model.
Internal size, on the other hand, is often overlooked, but shouldn't be. If you know what you want to cook inside a toaster oven then you need to make sure the machine you choose be big enough for your cooking wants and needs.
For example, let's say that you love chicken and plan on frequently cooking whole chickens in your toaster oven. You will need to get an oven that is roomy enough on the inside to hold an entire chicken.
Here is another example. Let's say you love casseroles and want to bake casseroles in your toaster oven. The internal size will need to be large enough for your current casserole dish or for a dish you plan on buying. Keep in mind that the measurements for casserole dishes often do not include handles, so you need to take handles into consideration when looking at internal dimensions.
Each of my reviews includes a section titled Internal Dimensions. This is where you can see what the internal capacity is of each model so you quickly see if any given toaster oven will work for you.
|Types of Toaster Ovens||In addition to size, you will want to think about additional cooking options that you might want. Here are the most common types of toaster ovens available:|
Basic Cooking - The basic toaster oven toasts, bakes, roasts, and may even include a few additional cooking functions. What it cannot do is convection or rotisserie cooking.
Convection Cooking - Toaster ovens with the convection cooking function have fans inside that blow the hot air around food as it cooks. The benefit of convection cooking is that cooks foods faster and at lower temperatures than non-convection cooking. The main drawback to toaster ovens with convection cooking is that they cost more than comparable models without convection cooking, but they may also end up saving you money in the long run because convection cooking uses less electricity.
Rotisserie Cooking - Toaster ovens with the rotisserie cooking function can cook meats on a rotating spit. The benefit of rotisserie cooking is that you end up with wonderfully juicy meats. Drawbacks to toaster ovens with rotisserie cooking tend to be larger, since they can cook entire chickens in them, and they may be a bit more difficult to clean since juices from the rotating meats can splash onto the ceiling and walls of the machines.
|Controls||Controls may seem like an odd thing to consider before buying a toaster oven, but there are times when the controls can make or break a model. When the designs for controls are well thought out, they make using a machine easy and intuitive. When they are poorly designed they can cause you to hate your toaster oven.|
All of my reviews have detailed descriptions of the controls, and pictures whenever possible. While reading any of my reviews be sure to take a good look at the controls. Do they look like something you could easily use and read? Are the knobs easy to turn or difficult? Do you have any physical limitations that might make the controls of one model more appealing than another, such as poor vision or painful, arthritic hands? Be sure to take the time to consider these questions.
|Optional Features||Many toaster ovens come equipped with additional features that are meant to make using a toaster oven easier and more enjoyable. Examples of such features include auto-eject racks, digital displays, always on, and easily accessible crumb trays.|
These may be features that you care a great deal about, or maybe you don't care at all. If you do care, look for models that have the optional features that you desire.
|Included Accessories||You win in several ways when an accessory is included with a toaster oven. First, you save money because you don't have to buy that accessory separately. Second, you are guaranteed that the accessory will fit inside your toaster oven. There are plenty of third-party accessories available for toaster ovens, but they may or may not fit into your specific model, so included accessories are always a welcome treat.|
Here are examples of often included accessories:
Roasting inserts or racks
|Appearance||At the risk of sounding superficial I am going to admit that looks count. At least, they count with your kitchen appliances. If a cohesive looking kitchen is important to you then you take the time to find the toaster oven that will fit in visually with the overall look of your kitchen. The good news here is that most toaster ovens are neutral in their appearances and will fit nicely into most kitchens.|
|Price||Okay, price. Every toaster oven costs money, some more and some less than others. After you have thought about all of the above factors, it is time to think about how much you have to spend on a new toaster oven.|
When you know the maximum amount you can spend, you can sort the comparison chart by price to show you exactly which models you should look at.
Now that you have read through the toaster oven buying guide it is time to look at the comparison chart. You may find it helpful to print this page and to take notes on it as you browse through the comparison chart. This will help you keep track of what features you do or do not want, and eventually narrow down and eliminate models until you find the one that is right for you.