Toaster ovens: what are they and how do they work?
The dizzying array of gadgets available for our kitchens is glorious to those who spend more time here than their living rooms; but, to most of us, we’ve got no idea what these contraptions do, let alone know how they work. One such device that causes a fair bit of confusion is a toaster oven.
No, not that thing you sleepily stick bread into in the mornings, but a special type of toaster that also acts as an oven. If that’s sounding suspiciously like a grill, then Repair Aid is here to educate you on what a toaster oven is, how it works and what benefits owning one can bring to your household.
What is a toaster oven?
It’s a mix between a toaster and a miniature electric oven. Creative name, right? It can be placed on the kitchen counter and can handle everything from toast, bagels, toasties, pastry dishes to even pizzas. It’s really helpful and can not only replace your toaster, but gives you extra flexibility to use as a makeshift oven with certain dishes or sides.
What makes it different from other appliances?
A toaster oven is like a mini-convection oven and can be used not just for toasting, but for baking and broiling foods. A big advantage over microwaves is the way it heats. Microwaves cooks via irradiation and this actually causes foods to get a bit, well, soggy when cooked. Perhaps you’ve noticed? Most toaster ovens can do what microwaves do with the added benefit of giving the food a crispier texture – but without the energy usage or space required of an oven.
Most new models of toaster oven come with their own fans to help cook foods even better. It’s definitely worth considering owning one if you have a conventional oven as this will allow you to have both a conventional and convection oven. The difference is that conventional uses heating elements to direct heat to the food, whereas convection heating creates an even temperature throughout the oven. This can lead to more evenly cooked dishes.
The pros and the cons
While we’ve covered some of the benefits of owning a toaster oven above, let’s cover a few more – and also talk about some of the downsides.
As well as that extra cooking space, toaster ovens are far easier to clean than regular ovens thanks to them being at standing height on top of counter tops. They also don’t collect the same levels of grease as standard ovens do and, thanks to the smaller space, there’s less to clean.
Their placement on a counter top also makes them very easy to use and, as such, very accessible for people who may find regular ovens difficult to navigate or operate. They also pre-heat way faster than regular ovens and this, of course, makes them far more energy-efficient. Just need to quickly brown something? Well, now you can quickly use the smaller toaster oven instead of waiting for your bigger oven to heat up. This will save money on your energy bill and it’s also more environmentally-friendly too!
Lastly, thanks to that smaller size, they won’t heat up your kitchen anywhere near as much as your regular oven. If this is often a problem you encounter, make use of the toaster ovens more moderate temperatures without compromising on the quality o your food’s taste.
Of course, there are limitations. You can’t cook big meals in there as, well, they can’t fit. So don’t expect to be sticking your Sunday roast in there (although there are specific toaster ovens that can help with that). Also, toaster ovens require you to have a bit of foodie knowledge. This is because they may not necessarily be equivalent to the oven instructions on food packets so you’ll need to keep an eye on foods if you’re cooking them for the first time to see if the recommended time is suitable. If not, then your food could end up burnt or not cooked enough! But, with toaster ovens, they generally cook faster. It’s a blessing and a curse.
Lastly, you may not get even toasting if you like your toast done very lightly. Slices generally require a few minutes of toasting to get slices even due to convection heating – otherwise one slice will end up more done than the other.
Types of toaster ovens
Finally, it’s important to note that there are different types of toaster ovens.
We’ve already covered convection toaster ovens and their benefits, but you can also get rotisserie-style ovens that allow you to actually cook whole turkeys or chickens and get some great flavours; infrared toaster ovens that require barely any pre-heating; and a toaster oven with exterior toaster slots (known as combination models). That means you can still pop in slices like a regular toaster while retaining that oven space for other things. Or more toast! Great for people with big families. Or if you’d like to easily cook some sausages and prepare your toast at the same time in the mornings!