Toaster ovens are a useful appliance to have in the kitchen because they take up limited space on the countertop and can perform a variety of cooking tasks that save you from having to put the big main oven on. Toaster ovens are compact, which means they heat up quickly and can use less electricity to save you money compared with larger appliances.
But if you’re new to toaster ovens then you may be wondering which of your existing bakeware items can be used in the toaster oven. Here we investigate the dos and don’ts of which materials are compatible with toaster ovens.
What Can Go in a Toaster Oven?
There are plenty of materials that are safe to use in a toaster oven, and being aware of these can help you to make your toaster oven more versatile and encourage you to explore new dishes you can make.
Many types of oven-safe trays and dishes are made from metal, and these will all be compatible with your toaster oven. Cookie trays, cake molds, and baking trays made from metal are all suitable for use in a toaster oven, though many people find their large metal oven trays cannot be used in their new toaster oven purely because they are too big to fit in.
Types of metal that are oven safe include stainless steel, cast iron, and aluminum. You can put metal pans inside your toaster oven, as long as the handles are also made from metal. Wooden or plastic-handled pans should not be used inside a toaster oven.
Ceramic bakeware, such as ramekins and casserole dishes, can be used in a toaster oven. If you have any type of ceramic which has been used in your oven, then you can be certain it is also safe to use in a toaster oven.
Glass which has been toughened to withstand high temperatures is safe to use in a toaster oven. Typically this includes Pyrex-type dishes in which you can cook a variety of foods. Always check that your glassware is oven-safe before using it in the toaster oven, otherwise, it is likely to crack under high temperatures.
Be especially careful with glass ramekins, as some will have been designed for use in the oven, for example, to make souffle, while others may be produced to use as dip dishes. The best way to know whether a glass item is safe to use in the toaster oven is to check the manufacturer’s details to see if they have labeled the item as ‘oven-safe’.
Silicone molds are widely used in baking, to make muffins or fairy cakes, and since these are able to withstand high temperatures you can also use them in a toaster oven.
Silicone molds can be useful not just for baking, but also for making a number of savory dishes. Whip up some eggs and pour these into silicone molds before putting them in the toaster oven, and you will have a selection of individual omelet servings which are great for breakfast or snacks.
What Cannot Go in a Toaster Oven?
Having a good understanding of what materials are not suitable for use in a toaster oven will help you to gain confidence when using your new appliance.
As you might expect, plastic is a big no-no when it comes to materials you can use in the toaster oven. Plastic is not going to be suitable for use in any appliance which uses heating elements, because the heat coming from these will melt the plastic. Since a toaster oven basically operates in a similar way to a small oven, any plastic you put inside the toaster oven is likely to melt and cause a huge mess, along with spoiling whatever food you were trying to cook.
Some people may get confused about whether or not you can use plastic in a toaster oven, because toaster ovens are small appliances that are kept on the kitchen counter, just like microwaves. As plastic dishes can be put in the microwave, you might wonder if you can use those same plastic dishes in a toaster oven, but unfortunately, you cannot.
Microwaves use radiation to heat food, so the inside of these appliances doesn’t actually get hot enough to melt the plastic. However, toaster ovens use heating elements to heat food, which will get hot enough to melt the plastic. There is one exception to this rule, and that is in regard to plastic containers in which oven-ready meals come in.
You may have bought ready meals or frozen meals from the grocery store before, which can be cooked or heated in the oven. Typically these types of meals consist of lasagnas, pasta bakes, or potato pies. They are sold in plastic containers which can be put in the oven to cook the meal, and these will not melt. They are specially designed out of a heat-resistant type of plastic, which gets hot but will not melt.
Paper is flammable so it is best avoided as a material for putting inside the toaster oven. As toaster ovens are quite small, any materials you put on the shelf inside this appliance are going to be much closer to the heating element, compared to when you put materials on the shelf in an oven.
The proximity of the shelves in the toaster oven to the heating elements in the toaster oven is the reason why it is not advisable to use paper in a toaster oven. If it catches on the heating element then it will set alight.
Cardboard should not be used in a toaster oven for the same reason that paper should not be used in a toaster oven. It is a flammable material and could catch fire quite easily inside the confines of a hot toaster oven.
Avoid trying to reheat pizzas in a toaster oven when they are still inside their cardboard box, and instead, put the cold slices on a baking tray and reheat them on that instead.
The only type of glass which can be used in a toaster oven is bakeware glass or oven-safe glass. These types of glass can withstand high levels of heat, while regular glass cannot.
If you’ve ever poured boiling water from a kettle into a regular drinking glass, then you’ll know the glass is likely to crack. This is the same thing that would happen if you put a regular glass inside a toaster oven. The high temperatures cause the glass to crack, creating a potentially dangerous mess, and ruining your food.
Safest Way to Use Toaster Oven
Ensuring that your bakeware is oven-safe is going to prevent a lot of potentially dangerous situations from happening with your toaster oven. Common materials suitable for use in the toaster oven include metal, ceramics, and oven-safe glass. Avoid regular glass because this will crack under high levels of heat, and plastic should also be kept away from a hot toaster oven.
Appropriate ventilation around the outside of your toaster oven can help to maintain a safe cooking area. A minimum of 4 inches of space around each side of the toaster oven is recommended. This means it should be at least 4 inches away from the back wall and side walls, and it also means you shouldn’t set anything directly on top of the appliance. This small space allows good air flow around the toaster oven to stop it from overheating.
The toaster oven should be positioned on a flat and stable surface that is not flammable. Ideally, this would be a kitchen countertop but some people may also situate their toaster oven on a dining table or sideboard. If this is the case, be sure to remove any fabric items such as tablecloths, which could catch fire when the toaster oven gets very hot.
If you have a wooden countertop, then placing a glass cutting board beneath the toaster oven can help to protect it from scorch marks. Don’t use a plastic cutting board under the toaster oven because this might melt.
Keep water away
A toaster oven is an electric appliance, so it goes without saying that this should be kept away from water to avoid electric shocks or damage to the oven. Do not position your toaster oven right next to your kitchen sink, and when washing the toaster oven make every effort not to get the plug wet.
Keep curtains away
If you have curtains or drapes on your kitchen windows, take care to ensure these are moved away from the toaster oven when it is switched on.
Alternatively, move the toaster oven to a different part of the room where there are no flammable materials nearby. Fabric materials such as curtains or tablecloths can ignite when close to hot surfaces, so exercise caution when using the toaster oven near to these kinds of soft furnishings.