Toaster Oven Features – Find Out Before You Buy

Below is a list of common features that you will come across when buying a toaster oven. But what do all these features mean to you? Is it worth it to pay extra for a model with more or seemingly better features? Let’s take a look:

Wattage

The cheap toaster ovens will normally have a lower wattage than the more expensive ones. The upper end models can have as high as 1800 watts of power, even for a compact unit. The Breville BOV650XL is a case in point. But the cheap ones like the Proctor Silex runs on only 1050 watts and it is also a compact 4-slice unit like the Breville. The common range is 1200 to 1600 watts for an average model.

Generally, the higher the wattage, the faster the toaster oven will heat up and cook your food. However, higher is not necessarily better. It has to have a good design too in terms of heat sensing and distribution to make sure that your food is evenly cooked while retaining the moisture for the different types of food. Furthermore, some people do not like a high wattage model because they may not be able to use any other electrical appliance when it is in operation due to the high energy consumption.

Size

The really small ones will only fit 2 slices of bread i

nside. An example is the Hamilton Beach Toastation. At the other extreme is the really large units that can accommodate as many as 14 slices of bread. The Oster TSSTTVDGXL-SHP is an extra large digital toaster oven that will also fit a 16″ pizza.

The 2 most common sizes that people buy are the 4-slice and 6-slice units. This is because anything larger will have a big footprint and it will take up much of your countertop space. In addition, the reason for getting a toaster oven is to reduce the need to fire up the big oven and cut down on the heat in the kitchen. So, if you already have a regular oven, there is little need to get another large oven for the kitchen.

When evaluating the size, you should always look out for the interior dimensions too. Can it fit the food that you would normally cook? For instance, some models can only fit a rectangular pizza. Others like the Black & Decker TO1332SBD can take in round pizzas because they have a rounded back wall.

Cooking Functions

pizza

How many cooking functions do you need for your toaster oven? The 4 most common modes are bake, broil, toast and keep warm. The more expensive digital models will usually have more functions like bagel, pizza, cookies, reheat and convection bake. The top end Cuisinart TOB-260 has 15 cooking functions in total.

Not having these additional functions does not mean you can’t do the most of the things that the more expensive models can. You can still bake a pizza in a cheaper toaster oven although the pizza function is missing from the list. But it is just that with the longer list of functions for the digital models, you will get the convenience of one-touch cooking with pre-programmed settings built in. And if it is a smart oven, the heat emission and distribution could also be more suited for that particular function chosen for optimum cooking results.

Rack Heights

It would be best to get a unit with at least 2 rack slots. The Cuisinart TOB-100 is one. This gives you more flexibility when it comes to the type of food that you can cook and to give you better cooking results. If you are broiling, you would use the upper slot because you would need to sear or brown the outer layer. If you are toasting, it should be right in the middle to give an even shade on both sides. Some toaster ovens like the Black & Decker TO3250XSB even has 3 rack positions to fit food of any size.

The other important consideration is the interior height measurement. The taller the oven is, the more head room on the inside to accommodate taller food. For instance, if you like to bake muffins, you would want to make sure that there is enough room from the rack to the top of the heating element to fit them in. Thus, if it is a compact toaster oven with a single rack slot, you may not have enough space for those muffins.

Auto-Eject Rack

For some models, when the door is opened, the rack slides out. This makes it easy to manipulate your food when you need to turn it over during cooking or when removing it once cooking is done. The Breville BOV800XL has this practical feature. However, for this feature to work flawlessly, the toaster oven needs to be well-made. Otherwise, you may have problems opening and closing the door smoothly due to the hinge not working perfectly.

Interior Light

Toaster ovens with an interior light is few and far in between. The Oster TSSTTVMNDG has one and most users like it. It is nice to have, especially when it is dark and you want to check on the progress of your food. But it is not a necessity and some heating elements will also illuminate when the oven is running. Having a separate light just makes the interior brighter and clearer to view.

Convection Bake

Convection bake uses a fan to distribute the heat and hastens the baking process. For some models, convection heat can reduce cooking time of up to 20%. It adds to the overall costs of the toaster oven, so if you don’t bake often, it is really not a must-have feature. You can also bake using the normal bake function.

You can get a convection toaster oven for around $60 at the lower end. The Black & Decker TO3210SSD is in this price range. The thing to be aware of is the noise level of the fan operation. Check the reviews if you are buying a convection oven because some are pretty noisy when the fan is turned on.

Controls Design

Dials or keypads? Digital display or knobs? This is a matter of individual preference. Going digital means more accurate settings. For instance, the timer setting could go up in 1-minute increments which means your setting could be highly precise. But you won’t be able to get the same precision with knobs. Knobs may also be hard to rotate.

But the problem with digital display is that it could fade over time making reading difficult. Digital toaster ovens may also be more complicated to use. Toaster ovens with knob controls are usually pretty straight-forward with one knob for cooking function, one for temperature and another for the timer. The Cuisinart TOB-80 is a toaster oven with 3-knob controls.

Going digital also means you may be stuck with using a keypad to change the cooking settings. And the problem with keypad is that the buttons could be hard to press and they could lose their sensitivity over time. The Black & Decker CTO6335S is an example of a digital toaster oven with keypads.

Removable Crumb Tray

The crumb tray should be accessible from the front without having to open the door for utmost convenience. Some models have the crumb tray accessible from the inside which is a hassle because you will need to be extra careful when taking it out. Otherwise, the crumbs will drop back onto the oven floor or door.

Many models now have the crumb tray removable from underneath the oven door such as the Cuisinart TOB-40.

Nonstick Interior

This is also a feature that works well for some but not others. A nonstick coated interior means easy cleaning. You will get a nonstick interior with the Breville BOV450XL. A wipe with a damp cloth is all it takes to remove stains after cooking.

But for those who don’t fancy nonstick Teflon-like coatings in their kitchen due to the potential health hazards, they would definitely prefer a toaster oven without this coating. The Waring Pro TCO650 would be one of those.

Timer

While a timer is a must, you must also take note of the maximum time that you can set. The more expensive ones will usually allow up to 2 hours while the cheap ones will stop at 30 minutes or less. A 30-minute may be insufficient for a lot of recipes. This would be a pain if you need to re-start the toaster oven once the 30 minutes is up.

Hence, if the unit has a short timer, then look for the stay on function as a mitigating feature. Some models like the Black & Decker TO1303SB has this practical feature for food with a long cooking time.

Conclusion

There are other unique features in a toaster oven that some buyers may find ideal. These include a built-in toaster which would increase the number of slices that you can toast at the same time. Some people also still prefer a traditional pop-up toaster which is faster and more convenient to use. With a 2-in-1 unit like the Waring WTO150, it also saves space in your kitchen.

Another is a toaster oven with rotisserie. You can roast an entire chicken or other meats with this function which you can find in the Hamilton Beach 31103 countertop oven with convection and rotisserie.

Basically, there are many features now in a toaster oven. Not all would be useful to you, so think carefully before you buy. After all, there is no point in paying for what you wouldn’t use in the long run.

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