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How to Use a Toaster Oven – Tips for Every Home Cook

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Some toaster ovens may be ready to use out of the box. Others might need some slight adjustments before you can start cooking a fantastic dinner for the family.

The features that are at your disposal depend on the brand and model of your toaster oven. However, there are some guidelines that will apply no matter which toaster oven you purchase.

Steps to Take Before Using Your Toaster Oven

The most important thing to do before using your brand-new toaster oven is to understand how the settings work. The heating elements work differently depending on the program you select.

For example, when using the baking function, the bottom heating element will be responsible for most of the heat output. In contrast, when using the broiling mode, the top heating element will put up more heat.

Once you’re confident that you understand what each feature does, it’s time to get cooking. Before its first use, clean out your toaster oven and allow it to air dry with the door open.

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The Basics of Using a Toaster Oven

Toaster ovens warm up a lot faster than conventional ovens, so make sure you’re about done with the preparations and you’ve arranged the food in the tray or pan before you start the oven.

Always wear oven mitts, even if you’re just about to put the food in for the first time. Toaster ovens can get very hot on the outside too. It’s easy to get burned, especially if your oven has a small door.

Select the right program and make any necessary adjustments to it if possible (like temperature and fan speed). Turn on the oven light, if it has one that requires manual activation. You should also set a timer if the cooking preset doesn’t do so automatically.

Next, put the tray, rack, pan, or sheet in the appropriate slot depending on the cooking mode. Close the door and wait for the magic to happen.

Breville BOV845BSS Smart Oven Pro 1800 W Convection Toaster Oven with Element IQ, Brushed Stainless Steel

Settings

Most ovens will have basic baking, reheating, toast, broiling, and other preset functions. However, you can alter the temperature settings and the timer according to your preferences.

It may take a while to get accustomed to your new toaster oven, and it’s important to realize that new models come with many innovations. Understanding the settings on older generation toaster ovens may not give you the best results with your new appliance.

To figure out what type of food you can cook in your toaster oven, you can simply look at the preprogrammed cooking modes. Then, you should check the temperature range. Even if your toaster oven can bake and has a cooking setting, you will have to avoid certain recipes if the temperature tops out at 300°F.

Because they heat meals so evenly, toaster ovens can be used to bake anything from cookies to whole turkeys. Size is obviously also important, as is the type of trays or pans you use.

If your oven has an air frying function, you can also make crispy chicken strips, wings, and French fries. Just make sure to use a special air frying rack and avoid using full-bottom trays or pans because they’re not as efficient.

Helpful Tips Chalk Illustration

General Tips for Using Your Toaster Oven

These are tips that should apply to all toaster ovens, whether they use conventional heating, convection heating, or infrared heating.

  • Toast your bread in the middle of the oven to get even toasting
  • Make full use of the window to check on your food as often as you can, until you’re familiar with how the oven cooks
  • Clean the toaster oven regularly, as grease deposits can be a pain to clean and could alter the taste of your food
  • Reynolds Kitchens states in the product FAQs for Parchment Paper - Cookie Baking Sheets NOT to use parchment paper in a broiler unit OR toaster oven.
  •  Before you use aluminum foil in a toaster oven check the user manual of your toaster oven.
Breville BOV900BSS Convection and Air Fry Smart Oven Air, Brushed Stainless Steel

Cooking with Convection Ovens

Convection cooking requires you to stray a bit from most recipe instructions. Because it cooks faster and the hot circulating air dries your food, you need to use various techniques to ensure that your food will turn out the way you want it to.

Check and recheck your food

It’s important to use more than the timer to determine when the food is ready. Monitor the cooking process by checking the smell and texture of the food. Do this once at the halfway point of the recommended cooking time, and then do it more often as the timer is reaching the end.

Lower the temperature

If you’re not cooking a convection-oven specific recipe, consider lowering the temperature by up to 25 degrees, just to be on the safe side.

Low-sided pans are your friends

Low-sided pans or trays are ideal for convection ovens. They allow better air circulation, letting you roast veggies more effectively. This will also help ensure that your crispy chicken ends up crispy on all sides, even if you don’t have an air frying function on your convection oven.

Convection heating is not always ideal

Although vastly superior in most cases, convection heating is not a function you want working at all times. Check to see if your toaster oven has a separate button that activates or deactivates the convection fan.

Avoid certain dishes

Convection cooking is not ideal for baking cakes, soufflés, or custards. These are dishes that don’t benefit from the even heating provided by heated air circulation. Instead, it’s better to apply steady heat coming from a single direction.

In a convection oven, it’s common to see uneven cake layers and hard crusts forming on custards. 

Ways to Use a Toaster Oven

I’ve been using my Breville BOV845 Smart Oven Pro for several months and have almost stopped using my electric stove. I didn’t realize how many foods could be prepared in a toaster oven, especially one with the capabilities the Smart Oven Pro offers.

You will find that most people are using large conventional ovens for cooking, but these are not always necessary and practical. Ever wondered if you can just use a toaster oven just like a regular oven? You certainly can! A toaster oven can work well in many different ways to replace your regular oven.

Whether it’s bacon, heating up garlic bread or cooking a pizza or a baked potato, a toaster oven is a really great option for dwellings that don’t have a conventional stove.

In fact, when it comes down to weighing the differences between a toaster oven and a conventional oven, it mostly comes down to price and the fan. A toaster oven has a fan that will circulate the heat evenly, so the temperature stays at a constant level.

The fan creates air currents that will disturb the layer of cooler air that often surrounds the food. This means your food will be exposed to hotter air so that it will cook quicker.

Frittata in ceramic dish with ingredients

Can I Cook a Casserole in a Toaster Oven?

Yes, in fact, you can. A lot of the recipes that have been created for use in a regular oven can be converted into a recipe for a toaster oven. Most toaster ovens will need to have the fan switched off, so the meal will cook more like it does in a regular oven. The main restriction when cooking with a toaster oven is the size. A smaller toaster oven is better for some folks, while others opt to purchase a larger unit.

fruit pizza with berries kiwi and pineapple cream cheese on crust

Can You Bake Things in a Toaster Oven?

Of course! Toaster ovens are great for baking. They come in handy when you want to whip something up for the unexpected guests. Due to the fact they heat up quickly and cook faster than a standard oven, whipping up a batch of cookies to serve your guests is a breeze.

Toaster ovens can accommodate cookie sheets that work well with the slice and bake cookie dough, which will save you even more time.

You can bake cookies in the same amount of time it would take for you just to heat up the regular oven alone. Baking time in a toaster oven can be up to five minutes shorter. 

Regular ovens have heating elements at the bottom, so the heat rises from the bottom, which proves that the air is not evenly circulated.

To get your baking cooked evenly, you need to rotate the pan, often leaving you with undercooked tops and burnt bottoms when using a regular oven. With a toaster oven, no more uneven cooking. The fan will distribute the heat evenly so you can have golden cookies each and every time.

Muffins can be baked along with individual cakes of your choosing. Free up space and use a toaster oven, which is also easier to clean than the large and heavy scrubbing conventional ovens require.

Homemade zucchini chips with breadcrumbs and parmesan

Quick and Tasty Snacks

You can use a toaster oven for baking things like fish sticks, potato skins, mozzarella sticks, nachos, and French fries. Microwaves can overcook frozen foods, and then they end up soggy with hard edges.

When using the toaster oven, you will experience a nice flavor throughout and perfectly cooked appetizers and snacks for the whole family. How about making mini pizzas and the kids can put their own toppings on using English muffins and all their favorite extras?

Toast That is Better Than Before

The toaster oven lets you make toast, which is basic and quick. An ordinary toaster will only cook the bread, and then you need to butter it quickly and season it. With a toaster oven, you can add your favorite toppings to the bread while it is cooking.

Cheese toasties work well or even ham and tomato with some seasoned salt to taste. You can work with the flavors and toppings that you like.

Baked salmon steak with tomato, onion, mix of green leaves salad on a plate.

Whip Up a Main Meal

If you have the larger type toaster ovens, then you can easily cook your main meals, especially in summer, where regular ovens tend to overheat the house. You can roast chicken breasts and even some potatoes and pumpkin in a baking pan with some salt and pepper or other preferred seasonings.

If you want a side dish, lightly toast some dinner rolls and have some butter on the side. Toaster ovens can even cook meals like spaghetti Bolognese and other pasta dishes.

Melt Foods

Instead of using a microwave, you can use your toaster oven to melt cheese perfectly on top of burritos.

Something for the kids—did you know your toaster oven can even toast marshmallows? Haven't got an open fire? Not to worry, the kids and even adults can still enjoy a sweet toasted marshmallow using the toaster oven.

Looking for a quick snack, heat up a burrito and add some chopped up tomatoes and some ham, then sprinkle cheese on top and let your toaster oven melt the cheese over the other ingredients to create a quick and easy, not to mention healthy on-the-go snack.

Woman cleaning toaster oven with sponge in kitchen

Cleaning Your Toaster Oven

It’s best to never put a toaster oven in the sink. Instead, wipe down the toaster oven after each use, after it cools down. Unplug the unit before you begin cleaning. Avoid using harsh chemicals. If you clean your toaster oven regularly, all you’ll need to use is a damp cloth or soft sponge.

Scrub the top of the oven more thoroughly than the other sides, as that’s where most of the grease ends up. Remove the racks or trays and clean them separately. Put them back in the oven after they’re dry.

energy efficiency

Can I Save Energy Using A Toaster Oven?

While your toaster oven can cook, did you know it saves on energy too? It uses less than half the amount of energy that a conventional oven uses, so it makes it a greener option. Toaster ovens consume around $0.03 an hour, and the conventional oven used $0.07, which is a huge difference.

When it comes to choosing between a toaster oven and a conventional oven, think about the features, your budget, and which one would better suit your needs. You can view ratings and the feedback reviews before buying, which can give you an idea of how well the toaster oven has worked for others and which they prefer to use.

Final Thoughts

Like anything new in your kitchen, toaster ovens need some time and patience to master. That being said, it’s far easier to get used to them than you may realize.

Above everything else, make sure to use them safely and follow the recommended manufacturer instructions.

Toaster ovens are not just suited for small places like a cabin or an RV where space saving is important, but also in your own kitchen. Why clutter your kitchen with a big oven and waste unnecessary energy when you can cook just about everything in a large toaster oven, better than you have ever cooked before?

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