So, you’re searching for the best toaster ovens on the market? You’ve come to the right place!
We love toaster ovens!
You can buy one for next to nothing (the cheapest in our tests was $20!) and yet, they add a huge amount of flexibility to the way you can cook.
No kitchen is complete without one.
Our complete guide to toaster ovens is designed to give you all the information that you need to buy the best toaster oven for you and your family. We begin with a quick look at the history of toast and the toaster oven.
Then we see which celebrity chefs are making use of a toaster oven and what they’re creating with theirs.
Then we offer up some recipe ideas including those that you may not be familiar with already.
We also look at how to pick the right bread for toast and how to create the perfect slice of toast.
Then it’s time to talk about how you would pick the right toaster oven for you.
We also offer up our recommendations for the 5 best toaster ovens show you some other options if those aren’t for you.
Our final part of the guide is all about how to care for your new toaster oven so that you can keep it clean and safe and ensure it lasts for a long time.
The best cooks demand the best value for their money.
If you’re looking at this article and thinking I can’t read all that! That’s OK.
Here’s Our Top 2 Picks
Overall Best Toaster Oven
The best toaster oven of them all in 2020 is the Kenmore 4606 6-Slice Convection Toaster Oven and it really is something special. So many features and functions and at such a sensible price.
Best Budget Toaster Oven
If you’re on a very, very tight budget then the best toaster oven for you is the Mainstays 4-Slice Toaster Oven. It does a superb job and doesn’t cost a bundle.
Top 5 Toaster Ovens
- Kenmore 4606 6-Slice Convection Toaster Oven
- Hamilton Beach 4-Slice Toaster Oven
- The Dash Compact Toaster Oven
- Mainstays 4-Slice Toaster Oven
- Proctor Silex Modern Toaster Oven
We do, however, still encourage you to read our whole Best Toaster Ovens guide as it will make choosing the right product for you and your family much easier.
A Brief History of Toast
It is 100% accurate to note that toaster ovens are far more flexible than just being a “plain old toaster” but that’s not to say that toast is not important.
In fact, it’s a great way to add a new dimension to bread with both a distinct change in flavor and texture when it’s toasted.
However, toasting didn’t begin as a culinary art form but rather as a necessity.
Back in approximately 3,000 B.C. The Egyptians were master bread makers. Bread certainly hadn’t been unknown at the time – human beings have been making bread for 30,000 years or so – but all the bread available was flat unleavened bread.
Then the Egyptians invented leavened bread. Its light fluffy texture was universally adored, and people clamored for the taste. But there was a problem.
Ancient Egypt had no plastic boxes or bags to keep these loaves fresh in; so, they went stale and they went stale fast.
Some bright spark noticed that if you burned the outside of bread – it stopped going stale so fast and toast was born. The name “toast” comes from the Latin term “tostum” which meant “burned or scorched”.
Your Egyptians didn’t have any toaster ovens though and they’d have had to make do with burning their bread on stones in front of the fire. Much later in human development, people would have made toast with a metal grille over an open fire.
Then in 1839, over in Scotland, things changed a little and toast would soon be very easy to make.
- Humans have been making bread for 30,000 years
- The Egyptians invented leavened bread 3,000 years ago and then they invented toast to preserve it
The Origins Of The Toaster Oven
Electricity was the missing ingredient and Alan MacMasters, a Scotsman, put together the first electric toaster in 1893. It wasn’t very good. One of the biggest problems with it was that the metal would melt and set fire to the cook’s home.
You can see why people didn’t rush to buy it. That and the fact they didn’t have any electricity at home anyway.
A decade later in 1905, two clever American chaps, invented a new alloy of metal that wouldn’t melt or catch fire. It wasn’t long before new, better, toasters appeared on the market.
However, it would be another 8 years, until 1913, before somebody invented a way to toast both sides of the bread without turning it over manually.
What most of us think of as a standard toaster the “manual pop toaster” was invented in 1919. It came complete with timer to ensure your bread never burned as long as you set the timer correctly.
The toaster oven arrived soon after the pop up toaster, but nobody knows quite when exactly.
It was, as the name suggests, for making toast in but over the last 2 or 3 decades the “toaster oven” has become an infinitely more complex beast and now it’s often capable of baking, broiling, roasting and more.
People love toaster ovens because of their compact size and incredible utility. Some homes use the toaster oven as their primary cooking apparatus; they’re perfect for tiny homes, for example.
- The electric toaster was invented in 1893 it was dangerous
- The pop up toaster arrived on the market in 1919
- The toaster oven followed swiftly but nobody has an exact date for this
Celebrity Chefs That Have Awesome Toaster Oven Recipes
We’re not sure that toaster ovens have ever been “fashionable” or “unfashionable”. They simply offer too much utility to the cook for them to fall in and out of favor. They’re the perfect complement to bigger stoves and ovens and in tiny kitchens: they’re essential.
That means there’s no shortage of celebrity chefs who turn to their toaster ovens to create awesome dishes. We don’t see this changing in the future, either. When you own a toaster oven – you’re guaranteed to be in good company.
Rachael Ray | Chocolate Chunk Oatmeal Cookies
We love Rachael Ray.
We think she’s the quintessential American celebrity chef. That’s because she’s got no formal training as a chef but rather works in the kitchen as a labor of love.
That’s the way cooking should be; creativity and passion unleashed.
She brings both to bear on creating thigs for the toaster oven. She has a huge number of recipes for the nifty devices, but this is our favorite. A chocolate chunk oatmeal cookie recipe – which as you might expect, isn’t necessarily going to be great for your waistline.
Eric Ripert | Baked Shrimp With Garlic Butter
Eric is the star of the TV show “Avec Eric” and the owner and chef of Le Bernardin in New York. His restaurant ranks in the top 21 restaurants in the world and Zagat’s 2015 guide placed it as the finest restaurant in the Big Apple.
It’s fair to say that Eric knows his food.
He’s also a fan of the humble toaster oven. He recently shared, with Martha Stewart no less, an awesomely tasty recipe for baked shrimp with garlic butter and it’s become a firm favorite in our family already.
Ainsley Harriot | Roasted Lemon And Bay Leaf White Fish
Ainsley Harriot is a British celebrity chef with Jamaican roots, and he’s made a big name for himself over the Atlantic on his own TV show and other cooking related programs. He offers a unique take on traditional dishes and this is no exception.
Rhonda, from Arizona, put his roasted lemon and bay leaf white fish to the test and she was blown away. We think you will be too.
Choosing The Best Bread For Toast And How To Make A Perfect Slice Of Toast
Choosing bread for taste is easy. All you need to do is experiment. After all, only you can know what you like.
But… this is 2020 and taste is not the only consideration you should be making when it comes to food.
The flipside is what’s the healthiest bread to use for my toast?
What you really want to aim for is something that tastes good to you and is good for you.
Your choices are:
- White bread. White bread tastes great, but it is more processed and that means fewer nutrients and more carbs. You really should avoid white bread except for special treats.
- Wheat bread. This is white bread pretending to be healthy. Wheat bread is any bread made with wheat flour (which is what white flour is).
- Whole wheat bread. Whole wheat bread is healthier than wheat bread. The word “whole” refers to the wheat kernel being left intact during processing. This means more fiber and nutrients.
- White whole wheat bread. Is the same nutritionally speaking as whole wheat bread.
- Whole grain bread. This is going to contain other grains in addition to wheat – such as oats, barley, rice, etc. this is a healthy option.
- Multigrain bread. Sounds healthy but is often a cover for poor quality or over processed ingredients. Watch out for terms like “enriched” or “bleached” which are big clues that they’re not going to be good for you.
- Sprouted grain bread. This is a relative newcomer to the market and is bread made when the grains have been kept moist and allowed to sprout. This, supposedly, makes it easier to absorb the carbs and the minerals and vitamins in the bread. The jury is out on the health benefits of this at the moment.
So, basically, look for whole wheat or whole grain and you’ll be fine. For additional information about bread choices read our Top 10 Best Sandwich Breads for the Best Sandwiches article.
How To Make The Perfect Slice of Toast
Once you have the perfect bread, you want the perfect slice of toast, right?
Here’s how to tackle perfect toast:
- Slice depth should be approximately 14 mm. That’s not too thick and not too thin. It will crisp on the outside and retain a touch of inner softness without becoming damp.
- Room temperature bread. If you refrigerate your bread (and we don’t) then you want to bring it to room temperature before toasting.
- Use a toaster oven. The “pop up” toaster often can’t toast the whole of the bread without leaving some bits uncooked. Perfect toast requires all the bread to be toasted.
- Cook to your preferred level of brown. Technically, burnt toast contains acrylamide which may cause cancer, but we don’t think it contains enough to be a big deal. Choose your toast your way.
- Use butter. Sorry vegans but if you want your toast to taste perfect – you need salted fresh butter. End of story. However, if you really must… olive oil is a decent substitute though we prefer to use olive oil with cold toast.
- Wait 17 seconds to apply the butter. This allows the bread to cool enough so that the butter doesn’t turn the bread soggy but doesn’t go so cool that the butter doesn’t melt.
- Don’t be afraid to add toppings. I love Marmite (and English yeast spread) or Cream Cheese on my toast. Add whatever you want – jellies and jams are awesome!
- Cut for style. The cut of your toast matters. Go diagonal for a little extra raffishness. Or go square for ease of handling. It’s your toast and your call.
- Choosing bread is easy – the healthiest choice is always whole grain or whole wheat
- Perfect toast should be – 14 mm thick, using room temp bread in a toaster oven, use butter after 17 seconds, add toppings, cut and serve. Yum.
Classic Toaster Oven Recipes
For us the classic toaster oven uses, not including toast of course, are all about cooking great food quickly.
So, we offer up 3 classics here with this in mind. You can make all of these as soon as you get home from work and almost as fast as you can have the kettle boiling.
Grab a tortilla. Spread marinara sauce all over it. Cover it in cheese. Add more cheese because it’s awesome. Throw on some toppings. Toast in your toaster oven. Sure, it’s a lazy man’s pizza but if you don’t have time to make a pizza base – this is a super way to do things fast.
Bring On The Bacon
Everyone loves bacon. The good news is that you can turn your toaster oven to making bacon without any real effort. It’s also easier to clean up after than when you fry them. Lay the bacon on the pan and bake for 12-15 minutes. Then put it in a sandwich. Yum.
Heat your oven to 450 degrees. Put olive oil on the toaster tray. Season some chicken with salt, pepper and some herbs (ideally herbs de Provence). Put the chicken on the tray. Drizzle olive oil over the top. Bake for 8-10 minutes. Mix Dijon mustard and honey to make the perfect mustard dip for your tenders. Job done.
Walk On The Wild Side: Not So Classic Toaster Oven Recipes
The classics are essential but what about when you want to live a little?
Well, your toaster oven has you covered there as well. Here we share 3 recipes that are also easy to make but which step outside of the traditional and unleash new taste sensations for you. They’re all big hits in our family’s homes.
It doesn’t have to be boring if it’s healthy. The Greek Frittata brings you a mighty punch of protein combined with an exciting taste sensation. For ours we like to mix spinach, tomatoes, scallions and feta cheese. You throw them in a casserole dish (a small one – it has to fit in the toaster oven) and then bake until crisp. Top them with some olives if you want to add more excitement.
The Chinese love their baked tofu and that’s because it tastes terrific. The way to tackle it in the toaster oven is to marinate it first. Then press out a little of the liquid (to give it a firmer texture) and finally cube it and cook it for a little while longer than ordinary toast. We like to add ours to a green salad as a healthier form of crouton.
Moroccan Pork Kebabs
Make a sauce from orange juice, tomato paste, garlic, cumin and cinnamon. You want it thick and sticky. Then put pork, eggplant and onion on skewers (alternate the ingredients) and smear in sauce. Then cook them in your toaster oven on the roast setting. They’re pretty healthy for meat dishes and we’ve never met an omnivore who didn’t like them.
How To Choose The Right Toaster Oven
With so many options in the toaster oven market at the moment; it’s fair to say that choosing a toaster oven can be a confusing business.
However, we’ve got a simple guide for you that ought to help make choosing the right toaster oven for your family much easier.
There’s never a “best toaster oven” that suits everyone just the “best toaster oven for you”. Keep that in mind when you shop.
Criteria For Awesome Toaster Ovens
- The size of your toaster oven. Work out where you’re going to put the toaster oven and measure the space available. You can’t buy a toaster oven any bigger than that without causing yourself some problems. Importantly, check the clearance height required by the manufacturer (that is the space between the top of the oven and the bottom of any overhanging cabinets) – you must ensure this is adhered to or you may set fire to your kitchen.
- Cord to socket length. Sure, you can always use an extension cord but it’s not neat and it’s not as safe. If your plug socket is next to the oven, awesome! But if it’s not, work out how much cord you need and buy a toaster oven with that much cord included.
- The power of your oven. The power of a toaster oven is measured in watts. This relates not so much to whether a toaster oven can cook something but how fast it will cook it. The higher the wattage, the shorter the waiting time.
- What are you going to cook inside your toaster oven? If you’re hoping to cook your Thanksgiving Turkey in your toaster oven – you need to make sure it will fit. If all you ever intend to do is make personal pizzas, however, you can get away with a much smaller oven. Check the interior dimensions of the oven you want to buy against the pans and tins you will use in it.
- Cost. Cost matters. Most of us don’t mind spending a little extra money to get value from a toaster oven but nobody wants to be ripped off either. You don’t need to spend a fortune to get a great toaster oven.
- Functionality. All toaster ovens can handle toast. Most can handle baking and broiling. But others have a huge number of extra functions: pizza oven, cookie factory, bagel warmer, slow cooking, etc. the more you want to do with your toaster oven – the more functions you will need.
- Features. Separate from functionality features add additional “quality of life” to toaster ovens. So, for example, a convection fan will make cooking faster and more even. There are plenty of cool features to choose from. Makes sure that the ones you go for will really benefit your family.
- Accessories. Racks, trays, etc. can often be recycled from the ones you already use at home, but many manufacturers are happy to throw in, at a price, such items that are specifically designed to work with their toaster oven. These can be a good way to give your kitchen a fresh look too.
It can be really helpful to put together a list of exactly what you want from your toaster oven before you even look at a single model of toaster oven.
This means you’re going to shop for your needs and not waste money on features, functions, etc. that you don’t need.
- There are lots of toaster ovens on the market in 2020
- Choose yours by narrowing down: size and cord length requirements, the power you want, what you’re going to cook, your budget, the functions, features and accessories that you feel will benefit you and your family
Our Five Favorite Toaster Ovens In 2020
We stuck to budget toaster ovens for our reviews because a.) there’s so much choice and b.) this is the perfect way to get started with toaster ovens, buy something cheap – see if you like it and upgrade once you’ve mastered it.
Kenmore 4606 6-Slice Convection Toaster Oven | The Best Buy Budget Toaster Oven
This is one of our favorite toaster ovens of all time. It does so much, and it does it at such a respectably low price point that we can’t imagine somebody being disappointed with it.
This is a decent sized oven which can handle 6 slices of toast at a time. It’s not going to take a turkey, but you can roast a chicken in it, no problem.
We really liked the digital controls which make baking, broiling and toasting really easy. Also, it’s got the Kenmore brand and as we’re sure you already know – they don’t make bad products.
Hamilton Beach 4-Slice Toaster Oven – Great Features Make For One Of Our Best Ovens
We also really liked this model from Hamilton Beach.
What held it back from the top slot was the size of the thing. We’d use this in a tiny home or in a recreational vehicle, but we feel it’s a touch small for the family kitchen and you’d struggle to cater for a large family without multiple cooking runs and we want to avoid that.
It is, however, really attractive and stylish. It comes with plenty of features and functionality to get the most out of a toaster oven.
It’s not the lowest priced model in our Top 5 but it is reasonably priced for what you get. The build quality is also excellent.
Dash Compact Toaster Oven | Marks Deducted For Looks But Otherwise Excellent
This small toaster oven won our hearts with its incredible functionality. For a budget oven not only can you bake, broil, etc. but you can do bagel warming, pizzas, paninis, cookies and much, much more.
If you want to add a significant amount of utility to your kitchen – the Dash Compact Toaster Oven is for you.
What didn’t we like? This is going to sound mean, but we weren’t impressed with the Dash model’s looks. It’s just not the product that you’re going to want to show off to other people.
That’s not a deal breaker but we wouldn’t have it on display, either.
Mainstays 4-Slice Toaster Oven | An Ultra Basic Model Which Comes At An Insanely Low Price
If you’ve got no money to spend – then the Mainstays 4-slice toaster oven is going to prove to be the best choice for you.
You’re not getting a massive amount of cooking space and while you can bake and broil and do pizza – it’s not packed with features either.
However, the Mainstays 4-slice toaster oven offers one advantaged that’s unbeatable and that’s the price. It retails for approximately $20!
We can’t believe it’s possible to make a toaster oven and then make a profit at that price. This is our best low budget model, hands down.
Proctor Silex Modern Toaster Oven | Another Big Value Toaster Oven For Your Family
If you have just a little bit more to spend then the Proctor Silex offers a bit more than the Mainstays oven and it’s a quality product too.
We liked the build quality for a low budget model, and we found no signs of heat warping when the product was tested.
It offers a decent number of features for its ridiculously low price tag and while it’s not huge, there’s a little more space inside than there is in the Mainstays toaster oven too.
For the price, you cannot go wrong. It’s great.
Honorable Mentions: Other Great Toaster Ovens
If those toaster ovens don’t cut the mustard for you; we’ve got some other great recommendations that might better suit your needs. These may not have made our Top 5 but they’re all solid and useful toaster ovens.
Calphalon Quartz Heat Countertop Toaster Oven | A Budget Buster But Brilliant
This is way more expensive than any other toaster oven that we’ve recommended but it does come with a lot more space than any other toaster oven in our tests.
It can handle a full 12” pizza and you’re not going to have a problem roasting a small-medium sized turkey in it either.
It’s also faster to cook thanks to some clever quartz technology that we don’t quite understand but do appreciate when we’re cooking for our family.
It does everything you could ask for, has great digital controls and comes with all the accessories you could need. It’s brilliant and might even be worth breaking the budget for.
Emerson Toaster Oven Microwave Combo | Features Galore
This is our favorite novelty slant on the toaster oven. Emerson has combined the toaster oven with a microwave.
The downside? It’s not the greatest toaster oven on the face of the planet but it will toast, roast, broil, etc.
The upside? It has a microwave too. It’s incredibly well-priced and if you only have limited space available to you – this may be a complete no-brainer. It’s also surprisingly roomy inside (if you buy the big version).
We strongly recommend this product.
The Aicook 6 Slice Toaster Oven | A Really Solid New Release Toaster Oven
This is a surprising new release and it might even have broken our Top 5 if we hadn’t already agreed this year’s Top 5 before we tested it.
It’s a beast of a machine with plenty of room to cook inside.
It’s really solidly built too, and we don’t mind the good quality analog controls at all.
The biggest surprise is the high-value pricing. This is a great price for such a big toaster oven and we can’t see any reason that you wouldn’t consider the Aicook Toaster Oven if you’re looking for a machine to cater to your whole family. It rocks.
Elite Cuisine Toaster Oven and Rotisserie | A Really Cool Additional Feature
This is a neat little novelty corner of the toaster oven world; a toaster oven with a built in grill and rotisserie.
It’s also quite often on sale at Amazon (for roughly half-price) and that means it can be an incredible bargain product when compared to other toaster ovens.
You’ll also find that the Elite Cuisine Toaster Oven has a serious amount of space inside; you can cook whatever you want because they had to make room for a rotating chicken.
It has a ton of functionality over and above standard AND it comes with an awesome range of accessories. At normal price it’s good, on sale it’s a steal.
The Black and Decker Toaster Oven | A Solid Name and A Solid Product
We’re big fans of the Black and Decker brand on Kitchen Authority. They make really robust products at fair prices. They rarely enter a Top 5 list because they can be a little expensive compared to the best in breed but there’s no doubt that they represent value for money and will last a long time.
This little toaster oven is no exception. It’s handles 4 pieces of toast and baking, broiling too. It will make an excellent addition to student accommodation or a tiny home. We liked it a lot.
How To Care For Your Toaster Oven
We think it’s really important that when you buy a new product that you take care of it. Cleaning your toaster oven has three benefits to you:
- It’s hygienic – while the inside of your toaster oven will, probably, get hot enough to kill of waiting bacteria – the nooks and crannies of the exterior definitely won’t. You don’t want food poisoning or to give your family food poisoning, do you?
- It ensures your food tastes right – bits of burned on food are going to catch fire and add “special flavors” (yuck) to whatever you’re cooking. Nobody needs that. Nobody.
- It’s good for the longevity of your toaster oven – when you care for your kitchen equipment that equipment lasts longer. It saves you from having to spend money on kit and frees up money to spend on better food. That’s a win.
The good news is that cleaning a toaster oven is easy. It doesn’t require any special tools, nor does it require any Herculean efforts on your part. There are no Aegean Stables hiding in your toaster oven.
Better still – our method doesn’t use any harsh chemicals which is good for the health of you and your family.
In fact, you can make your own cleaning solution – as you’ll see, so you know exactly what’s in it.
First Things First: Unplug It
The safest way to ensure that your cleaning goes without incident is to make certain that you’ve unplugged your toaster oven before you begin.
Don’t shortcut this step – it only takes a minute and means that you won’t get electrocuted or burned or worse. Unplug the toaster oven.
Next Step: Take All The Bits Out And Wash Them
I like to lay down some newspaper under my toaster oven so that when you open it up – the crumbs catch on the paper. Then I remove all the easy to remove stuff and put them in the sink (metal trays, racks, etc.). You only need soap and water to clean these things.
If you find something’s baked on and won’t come off easily – soak in soap and water overnight. Don’t reach for abrasives – they might damage the toaster oven.
Final Step: Clean The Oven
You can use soap and water for this, but I like to use vinegar, warm water and soap as it leaves the inside smelling cleaner. Only use a soft cloth and don’t scratch the insides. If you find that food is stuck to the surface, you can plug the toaster oven in, warm it up a little (don’t get burned) and then clean the oven while it’s warm; that should help you get off those stubborn food particles.
Easy, right? So, there are no good excuses for not cleaning your toaster oven.
- You clean your toaster oven to ensure food safety, keep food tasting right and to ensure that your toaster oven lasts
- You clean a toaster oven by unplugging it and then using soap and water and a soft cloth to wipe things down – never submerge a toaster oven in water.
Final Thoughts on the Best Toaster Ovens
We said, when we began, that you’d learn everything that you need to know about toaster ovens in this article and we believe that we’ve delivered on that. You saw:
- The history of toast
- The history of the toaster oven
- Celebrity chefs who know how to make the most out of a toaster oven
- Classic toaster oven recipes that can be made in a few minutes
- New and exciting toaster oven recipes that can still be made in a few minutes
- How to choose the right bread for toast
- How to make the perfect toast with a toaster oven
- A guide to choose the right toaster oven for your family
- Our recommendations for the 5 best budget toaster ovens in
- Our recommendations for even more toaster ovens if you didn’t like our initial selection
- Full care instructions for your toaster oven
That’s a pretty good go at covering every base, don’t you think? Well, we’d love to know if you think that there’s something else that we could have included and if we agree it might make it into next year’s guide.
Let us know in the comments or send us a note on Facebook if you have something to say.
Then, all that remains is to wish you and we hope, your new toaster oven, a bunch of really awesome family meals.
The toaster oven is the perfect tool in every kitchen no matter how big or small.
It adds a ton of flexibility to your cooking and who doesn’t like toast?
For additional information on the perfect bread to use when toasting check out our guide to the Top 10 Best Sandwich Breads for the Best Sandwiches.
And if you’re thinking of baking your own bread then check out our guide to the Top 5 Best Bread Makers for 2020.