Toaster ovens are excellent appliances for people who want to save on energy and space. When you learn to use a toaster oven properly, you can cook a variety of dishes without spending as much time worrying about how much you are spending or cluttering your kitchen.
But learning to use one can actually be quite difficult. You need to learn a new set of skills before you can say that you really get the best out of your toaster oven. Because of this, I decided to put a guide together on how to do just that
Learning how to effectively use toaster oven settings and understand the different toaster oven functions. When you can do this, you will know how to use a toaster oven for practically anything (as long as it fits into the cooking cavity!) and enjoy all the benefits your toaster oven can bring you.
Table of contents
- Why Use A Toaster Oven?
- Different Toaster Oven Settings
- Different Toaster Oven Functions
- Different Toaster Oven Uses
Why Use A Toaster Oven?
Toaster ovens offer a lot to kitchens that other appliances can’t. For example, the versatility of a toaster oven makes it as useful as three appliances for some people. Instead of having to fire up a toaster, a microwave oven, and a regular oven, you can just use your toaster oven.
This versatility means you can perform a range of functions. This includes baking, roasting, and grilling for general cooking practices as well as using the toaster oven to reheat or defrost dishes too. This range of functions means that you can take any dish and get the best quality cooking in your kitchen without spending too much on energy.
On the note of energy, it’s important to compare toaster ovens to regular ovens. Whereas toaster ovens only need around 1700W per hour of cooking to function properly, you will need (generally) 2200W per hour for a regular oven.
This means that, on average, you are spending an extra 5 cents per cooking session. That doesn’t sound like a lot, right? Well, over the course of a year, it all adds up. Choosing to use a toaster oven instead can mean you have an extra couple of hundred dollars at the end of the year to spend on whatever you want.
The biggest boon for some readers may be that toaster ovens are space efficient. Not everyone is lucky enough to have large kitchens (like me – space is a real premium in my kitchen!), so saving space wherever possible is key.
Toaster ovens can be less than half the size of a regular oven, which means you can put it onto your kitchen top worktop and cook easily without bending whenever you need it. Because of that, toaster ovens may also be an excellent option for people with mobility issues. Bad back? Maybe a toaster oven will save you from lifting large dishes down into a regular oven’s cooking cavity.
Now you have some reasons to actually use a toaster oven, we need to understand how to use one! Toaster ovens can be extremely helpful pieces of equipment, especially when you have a full idea of the different settings and functions that are available to you.
Different Toaster Oven Settings
Toaster oven settings can really be rather complex, especially if you don’t have much experience using them. This is because they are designed to easily perform the functions without having to swap between appliances. Of course, this is only easy if you know-how.
In order to get the most out of your toaster oven, here is an explanation of what each setting does. I’ve also included some sample dishes so you know what you can cook without experimenting too much.
The Different Settings
You will notice that toaster ovens come in a range of sizes and shapes. Because of this, it can be difficult to give specific advice about how to cook with your toaster oven.
Something that all toaster ovens should have is three settings that control the different ways to ignite the elements. When you turn on (or leave off) the elements, you can cook a variety of dishes easily. Understanding them turns your toaster oven into not just a large toaster, but a fantastic piece of kitchenware.
The Baking Setting
If you like making cookies and cakes, you can use the baking setting. This was a real culture shock for me – having a toaster (only by name, it should be noted) that can bake cakes. Hopefully, by now, you will have realized that toaster ovens have very little in common with toasters.
By using the baking setting, you will only use the bottom set of elements in your toaster oven. This will be useful as you don’t want your baked goods to come out with an overly crisp top compared to the bottom.
With the baking setting, you can also cook anything else that you would only want to cook from the bottom. This is especially helpful for stews or similar dishes.
The Broiling Setting
Broiling, if you are not familiar, is blasting food with heat from above. This is something called grilling in the UK, not to be confused with using a grill.
When you want to make sure that the top of a dish is cooked without overcooking the bottom, you should use the broiling setting. This is especially useful for dishes like pizza and grilled cheese. You will get a hotter temperature on the top of your pizza as well as a nice finish on the bread.
This setting can also be used for grilling chicken, but remember that you will need to flip over the meat halfway through.
The Toasting Setting
Here’s something we should all be familiar with. Toasting can be used for toast (duh), bagels, and reheating dishes. By using both sets of elements, you are giving the dish and equal heat from both sides.
As both elements are working, you will get an equal distribution of heat. This makes it perfect for roasting as well – I like to roast a chicken in my toaster oven. By taking the time to learn how to cook a chicken in your toaster oven, you can easily make an entire roast chicken dinner from your kitchen worktop.
Different Toaster Oven Functions
Toaster ovens have a range of functions. Because we know how to use the different settings on our toaster oven, we can begin to look at the different types of cooking we can do with the appliance.
Roasting With A Toaster Oven
When you use a toaster oven to roast, you can get an excellent finish for your cooking without too much effort. By simply popping in a chicken, you can start to roast by using the toasting setting.
Why Not Use The Broiling Setting?
Great question! I’ve found that, because all the heat is focused onto the top of the bird, you get an uneven cook. This is obviously a problem – undercooked chicken can lead to a range of issues, including salmonella.
By using the toasting setting, the bird is fully cooked. I like to use the broiling setting for the last 10 minutes of the cook to crisp up the skin, however. This gives a nice crispy finish to your roast chicken!
Toasting With A Toaster Oven
As you imagine, the toasting setting is the best for toasting bread. By using the toasting setting, you can cook your toast evenly and get a crunchy finish on the bread. This is exactly what you want because chewy toast is really not something anyone sets out to make.
By using the broiling setting, we can also add cheese or butter to the top of the toast. This way, you can make grilled cheese or buttered toast without having to worry too much. A little bit of experimentation also makes this technique particularly useful for cooking pizzas or quesadillas.
Reheating With A Toaster Oven
Now for another function your regular toaster cannot perform. When we want to reheat food, we can put it into the toaster oven and even cook – this makes it better than using a microwave oven (if you have time to spare).
Reheating your food in a toaster oven is done best when using the toasting set. This will give the food enough heat from all directions to evenly cook it out.
If you have a piece of food that would benefit from only cooking from one direction, you can use the broiling or baking settings instead. This is helpful when heating up pizza but not wanting to burn the bottom of the bread.
Different Toaster Oven Uses
There are many different ways in which you can use your toaster oven, but learning how to use them all is really up to you. You need to understand the functions and settings well before you can really make the most of all the settings.
If you have a particular need that you need from your toaster oven, you can even get toaster ovens that are designed to do one thing in particular. The most common specialized toaster oven is the toaster pizza oven.
With toaster pizza ovens, you have a specialist slot or extremely large cooking cavity that can fit a pizza oven. For example, one appliance might have an additional slot underneath the main cavity that can fit a whole 12” pizza. This makes cooking a pizza from scratch, frozen, or from leftovers as easy as turning on your toaster oven.
Cooking with a toaster oven is really easy, especially due to the number of ways in which you can use these appliances. When you need to make a variety of dishes, think about the way in which you could benefit from having a toaster oven.
For example, I’ve found a lot of success in roasting a chicken in my toaster oven while I oven roast vegetables and fries in my main oven. This cuts down on cooking times for your roasted goods by allowing them to bask in more heat.
You can also use a toaster oven for a variety of functions I haven’t listed. Scrambled eggs, vegan foods, stews, and grilling. The possibilities are endless.