Cooking with a toaster oven is a whole new world of culinary delights. You get an appliance that cooks like a regular oven but doesn’t use as much energy or need as much space. That sounds perfect, right? Well, it’s very good, but not entirely perfect.
When you are thinking about getting a new toaster oven (either as your first ever toaster oven or simply because you are upgrading), you need to think about what kind of dishes you want to cook in it. Making it a part of your kitchenware furniture means that you won’t buy a device that simply sits on the worktop and never gets used (I’m looking at you, juicer – I’m sure I will eventually start to use it properly).
Here are my top tips for getting the very best out of your toaster oven. Think about the dishes you like to cook or would like to start cooking and see if the toaster oven is the right device for you. If it is, finding one which is perfect for your needs can completely change the way you cook.
Table of contents
- What can you cook in a toaster oven?
- Can you cook meat in a toaster oven?
- What can you bake in a toaster oven?
- What can I broil in a toaster oven?
- What can I toast in a toaster oven?
What can you cook in a toaster oven?
This is where I use a really bad cliche. What can’t you cook in a toaster oven? Right?
Bad cliches aside, toaster ovens are incredibly versatile appliances. My wife wasn’t sure about buying one before I took the plunge and bought our first one. “Why do we need a more expensive and bigger toaster?” she asked. A fair question considering we didn’t really use the toaster that often anyway.
But the toaster oven is a different kind of device. You’re not just making toast (or other toaster-friendly snacks). A toaster oven is more like an oven than a toaster – it has an oven/grill style cooking cavity which means you can cook anything that fits into the hole.
As I’ve become more and more comfortable with my toaster oven, the range of dishes that I am happy to cook in my toaster oven has grown larger and larger. Whereas I was basically using it as a more expensive and bigger toaster when I first bought it, I quickly expanded to baking cookies, cooking pizzas, and even grilling chickens
The versatility of a toaster oven is nothing to be sniffed at. If you are planning to frequently use it for one particular type of dish (for example, pizzas), then you can even look into buying a particular kind of toaster oven that is specialized for that job. There are options on the market, you just need to find them.
Can you cook meat in a toaster oven?
If you have been reading carefully so far, you will have noticed that I wrote that I roast and grill chicken in my toaster oven. I can say with absolute certainty that you can cook meat in a toaster oven.
Thanks to some standard features that you find on a toaster oven, you will be able to cook meats easily. I like to set my toaster oven to either the toast or broil configurations (depending on the dish).
The toast setting on a toaster oven will use both sets of heating elements to cook the food. This is a lot like a weaker version of a traditional toaster – as the elements heat up, they heat the inside of the cooking cavity and that cooks the food. Much like the name suggests, this technique mixed with the oven style appearance is very much key to all conventional toaster ovens.
If you are using the broil setting, only the top elements will heat up. Now you can use the grill to broil some excellent tasting meat easily. Because you are heating the food from the top down, this is more like a grill than a traditional oven. This makes it perfect for cooking bacon or steaks.
I’ve just given you three examples of dishes that I often cook with my toaster oven. Chicken, bacon, and steak. If you want to try something else, you can rely on a toaster oven to cook it (as long as it fits into the cooking cavity!)
What can you bake in a toaster oven?
Baking with a toaster oven is easy because it almost always comes with a baking setting. Much like the broil and toast settings that I briefly explained above, the baking setting only activates certain elements in order to get the best quality of cooking. In this case, it is the bottom set, so your dish can cook from the bottom up.
This is perfect for baking because you want the dish to cook from the bottom and not become tough on the outside. I’ve had particular success with cookies, brownies, and small sponge cakes.
While I am not a particularly adventurous baker, I know that with a few toaster oven baking recipes that I would be able to make a great range of dishes and expand my repertoire. If you are already a baker who is used to a traditional oven, be aware that you will need to make some changes.
I find that many oven-friendly baking recipes quickly become unfriendly with a toaster oven if you don’t account for cooking speed. Remember, toaster ovens are smaller. They aren’t as powerful as a regular oven. You will need to add time to your cook in order to get the most the best tasting baked goods.
What can I broil in a toaster oven?
Along with chicken and bacon, broiling settings on a toaster oven can be used to cook anything that you want to have a particular crunch.
I’m mainly thinking of pizzas and quesadillas. Getting a crunchy finish on your pizzas is easy with a toaster oven because the top element will heat up and cook the dish below while the cooking cavity will bring the bread up to temperature.
If you really want to get a toaster oven simply to cook pizzas on your kitchen worktop, you should look into buying a toaster pizza oven. They are devices that are designed to be big enough to fit 12” and bigger pizzas into their cooking cavity thanks to a pizza slot. This will mean that you can reliably be able to cook pizzas because you just slide it in and let the dish cook. Easy.
What can I toast in a toaster oven?
Ah, the humble slice of toasted bread. I know that I still use my toaster oven to make toast, even if it is a little slower. That is because the toaster oven allows for a greater range of toasted bread dishes and means that you can even apply toppings to cook along with your dish.
One example of this is cooking a bagel or bread with cheese on top. Simply slicing some cheese to stick on top of your bready treat makes making a grilled cheese sandwich as easy as making it in the oven (without spending so much on powering the appliance!)
Bagels, grilled sandwiches, and toast all seem like obvious picks for popular dishes, but you can also use the toast setting to reheat food.
I like to make lasagna once a week and I always make too much. Thanks to my toaster oven, I can put the leftovers on a plate and warm them up whenever I want. I know microwaves can already do that for you, but now you can get reheated lasagna without cold points or particularly dry cheese crusts. For me, that’s a massive bonus.
If you ever find yourself wondering what to cook in a toaster oven, the answer is simple. Anything that you can fit into the cooking cavity. It is a versatile and powerful piece of equipment that will deliver excellent results for a range of dishes.
If you need something that needs to be seared and grilled, you can use the broil setting. You don’t have to worry about cooking meat in a toaster oven because that setting can easily handle dishes of a small to medium size.
If you want to make baked goods, you can use the baking setting. Now cakes and cookies are super easy to make and you can do it without heating up an entire oven.
If you just want to make toast or heat up last night’s dinner, there’s the toast setting for that. You don’t miss out on the toast making abilities of a toaster, the reheating abilities of a microwave, or the general versatility of an oven. A toaster oven can deliver a range of dishes as soon as you have a bit of an understanding of what you are doing.
And don’t let me tell you that these devices can only perform these functions. There is a range of specialized and sometimes unusual toaster ovens which can perform certain processes even better. Just for one example, I listed the toaster pizza oven above. Think about what you want to cook and see if there’s a toaster oven which is perfect for your needs.