Toaster ovens can be used in addition to a conventional oven, or for some people they can completely replace a conventional oven. They can be used for cooking a wide range of food, and offer benefits such as saving space and cutting energy costs.
However, there are a number of different types of toaster ovens available, and the type which will be best suited to you and your family will depend on what you intend to use it for, and your personal situation and preferences. Extra features that some toaster ovens offer include a convection setting, a digital control pad, and a cool-touch exterior.
Here we investigate the different types of toaster ovens and explain how they each differ from one another, to help you gain an understanding of which toaster oven is going to work best for you.
What is a Toaster Oven?
A toaster oven is a small kitchen appliance which is similar in size to a microwave, but it has more in common with a conventional oven in terms of performance. It features heating elements which can bake, roast, and toast food in much the same way as a regular oven. Some people use a toaster oven instead of a main oven because it is more cost effective to run, especially if you only make small amounts of food at a time, because toaster ovens have a significantly smaller capacity than regular ovens.
Other people like to use toaster ovens as an add-on to their main oven, particularly for cooking food for large family gatherings where all of the food isn’t going to fit into one oven. A toaster oven will usually be positioned on a countertop, but they are light and compact enough to be stored away inside a kitchen cabinet when they’re not in use.
What Can a Toaster Oven Do?
A toaster oven can cook anything that a conventional oven can cook, but in a smaller volume. These appliances are great for cooking pizzas, toasting sandwiches, baking cakes, and roasting meats and vegetables, but their one limiting feature is their size. Depending on the size of the toaster oven you have, you may not be able to cook large pizzas because they won’t fit on the shelf.
Toaster ovens are ideal for cooking meals for one or two people at a time, and since they are more energy efficient than conventional ovens they can save you quite a bit of money on your power costs. Some people expect that toaster ovens will cook food more quickly, but this isn’t the case with all toaster ovens. Most don’t need to be preheated like an oven, but their cooking times will typically be very similar to conventional ovens.
Different Types of Toaster Ovens
Toaster ovens are essentially compact, countertop ovens, though not all toaster ovens will have the same features. Here we look at the different types of toaster ovens available on the market today which offer various extras and additional design features.
Air Fryer Toaster Oven
Air fryers are all the rage right now, but one area where they fall down is their ability to only cook things inside a basket. With an air fryer toaster oven, you get the best of both worlds; speedy cooking, crisp results, and multiple racks to put baking trays on just like a regular oven but on a small scale. Air fryers can be quite cumbersome, but air fryer toaster ovens are more compact, so they’re a great choice if you don’t have a lot of countertop space or you’d just prefer a smaller appliance.
The way that these toaster ovens work is much the same as a regular toaster oven, but with the addition of a fan. The fan blows the hot air created by the heating elements all around the inside of the oven, which ensures food is cooked more quickly and more evenly. The circulating hot air gives the food an air fryer-style finish, with a crisp texture which is ideal for french fries, chicken nuggets, and even pizzas. Air fryer toaster ovens can also be sold under the name ‘convection toaster oven’ or ‘fan toaster oven’.
Convection Toaster Oven
A convection toaster oven is exactly the same as an air fryer toaster oven, but it is sold under a less trendy name. The convection fan in this appliance is what elevates it from being a standard toaster oven and transforms it into a compact convection oven. This is the same element that air fryer toaster ovens have, but many manufacturers prefer to use the term ‘air fryer’ in their sales pitch to jump onto the back of the popularity of the air fryer.
If you are used to using a regular oven with a fan, then you’ll want to be sure to get a toaster oven with a fan, because the cooking results are much more even. When a toaster oven doesn’t have a fan you’re likely to experience hot spots in the oven where certain areas of the food will look more browned or overcooked compared to other areas of the food.
The fan circulates the hot air evenly so that this doesn’t happen. If you like to bake cakes in your toaster oven then a fan will be particularly beneficial so that cakes rise evenly.
Smart Toaster Oven
Smart technology is taking over many areas of our lives, and the kitchen is no exception. You can now buy ovens and microwaves for your home which can be remotely operated from your cell phone, and the smart toaster oven is following suit with a camera which will automatically detect the type of food you have put inside it and cook it for the correct length of time at the correct temperature, all without any input from the user.
This is a fun feature that is likely to appeal to those who enjoy trying out the latest technology, and it can also be seen as a time-saving feature because you won’t need to alter the toaster oven settings each time you cook a meal.
Cool Touch Toaster Oven
Toaster ovens have thin walls without insulation, which means they can get very hot on the outside when they are being used. For many toaster ovens, the only part of the appliance which is safe to touch during use is the handle. You’ll have to be careful to avoid touching the front door, side walls, and the top of the toaster oven, because this can result in burns to the skin.
The cool touch toaster oven has been designed to overcome this issue, with walls which remain cool to the touch even when the toaster is set to its highest temperature. Cool touch toasters are brilliant for those among us who are clumsy or forgetful and have a habit of putting our hands on the appliance when it’s hot.
They are also great for anyone with children who may explore the kitchen and inadvertently burn themselves, or for anyone with pets, such as cats who might like to hang out on the kitchen countertop. Elderly people who forget that the toaster oven should not be touched during use could also benefit from a cool touch toaster oven.
Digital Toaster Oven
Digital toaster ovens work in the same way as standard toaster ovens, and they will usually have the same capabilities and features. The only difference here is the control panel on the toaster, which is operated via a digital touchpad rather than knobs and buttons. Digital toaster ovens may be easier for some people to use, though others may find them too confusing.
It will largely be dependent on what type of control panel you are used to operating on your other appliances but generally speaking, the digital control panels are very intuitive and can be figured out quite quickly. Digital toaster ovens tend to look more modern, so if you want an appliance that is going to look stylish and contemporary in your kitchen, then this type of toaster oven could be preferential compared to those with knobs.
Compact Toaster Oven
One of the main advantages of toaster ovens is that they are so compact, which means they don’t take up much space on the countertop. They are also small and lightweight enough to be easily put in a cabinet for storage between each use so that you don’t always have an appliance permanently positioned on your counter. However, despite toaster ovens having the prerequisite of being small, there are some manufacturers out there making compact toaster ovens, which are even smaller in size than usual.
These compact toaster ovens work in exactly the same way as regular toaster ovens, with the only difference being that they have smaller dimensions. This could be useful if you have a very small kitchen space to work with, or if you live alone and therefore don’t need a standard-size toaster oven to cook your meals in. Be sure to check before ordering a compact toaster oven that your baking trays are going to fit inside it.