Which small toaster oven is best?
Full-size ovens are highly versatile but take a while to preheat and aren’t always efficient. Traditional toasters are pretty much limited to browning bread and bagels.
At the crossroads of these common appliances is the toaster oven, one of the most useful appliances in any home kitchen. While some people have room for a toaster oven big enough to fit a large pizza, not everybody does, and smaller ones are usually a little more efficient and consistent anyway.
The best small toaster oven is the Panasonic FlashXpress. It heats quickly and consistently, is easy to use and should last for years.
What to know before you buy a small toaster oven
How small is a small toaster oven?
The best small toaster ovens are engineered with an eye on minimizing their footprint and maximizing the space inside. Small toaster ovens measure 15 inches wide or less on the outside. The best ones measure just an inch or so smaller inside than out and some can accommodate personal pizzas as large as 10 inches.
Toaster oven thermostats can be inconsistent
This isn’t unique to small toaster ovens and is even a problem in many full-size ovens. In fact, many commercial kitchens keep thermometers in their ovens to make sure to always get accurate readings. Also, because toaster ovens have less mass to heat up and maintain consistent temperatures, there tend to be more hot spots in them.
Always exercise care around cooking appliances
They may not be very big, but don’t let their size fool you — a toaster oven deserves the same respect and care as any other cooking appliance. Exercise caution when the unit is cooking or cooling down and avoid overloading any single outlet. Keep in mind that some toaster ovens have sharp edges inside or on the provided crumb tray or baking sheet. And be careful when cleaning your toaster oven so you don’t damage it with stray water or cleaning solutions.
What to look for in a quality small toaster oven
Digital vs. analog controls
The simplest toaster ovens have two or three dials that control which elements are active, how hot they get, and how long it takes the timer to go off. They’re highly intuitive and don’t require much, if any, reading of the manual to get started.
A good set of digital controls should be similar, with buttons, dials and touch controls clearly labeled so you shouldn’t have to refer to reference books to figure out what each one does. But not all digital toaster ovens have controls like that. If the one you’re considering looks confusing or particularly unconventional, choose one that’s more straightforward.
Your basic toaster oven has two settings — on and off — and a thermostat to control how hot it gets. That’s fine for making toast out of sliced bread, but when it comes time to bake a small pizza or put a crispy brown finish on some broccoli, you’ll want to be able to choose just the lower or upper element to do the work. Being able to choose between one or both elements is key to increasing your kitchen’s versatility.
A reliable, high-flow convection fan is what makes toaster ovens great for so much more than just toast. To be sure, there are dependable small toaster ovens that don’t offer convection cooking. For a modest increase in price, though, you can find a great convection toaster oven that will lead to the crispiest fries, pizza rolls and fish sticks you’ve ever had that didn’t come out of a deep fryer.
How much you can expect to spend on a quality small toaster oven
The most affordable toaster ovens worth buying cost around $40, with the most effective premium models topping out in the $300 range. The best models in terms of price-to-performance ratio are usually just under or just over $100.
Small toaster oven FAQ
What can you cook in a toaster oven?
A. An almost endless range of foods are perfect for toaster ovens. Par-fried foods like French fries, chicken nuggets and croquettes not only heat up perfectly in a toaster oven, they’ll also end up a lot more healthful than if you’d deep fried them. A toaster oven with a powerful upper broiler is ideal for browning vegetables like broccoli and Brussels sprouts. Even small toaster ovens can fit personal-size pizzas. Finally, toaster ovens are also great at making toast.
Are toaster ovens better than air fryers?
A. Most air fryers are a gimmick. A good toaster oven with a convection fan will outperform an air fryer almost every time. Of course, you can find some extremely cheap air fryers, but you can expect them to be made largely with plastic and they will probably be inconsistent and not last very long. You’re significantly more likely to be satisfied with your investment if you opt for a toaster oven over an air fryer.
What’s the best small toaster oven to buy?
Top small toaster oven
What you need to know: In addition to taking up minimal counter space, this vintage-looking option is about as advanced as they come.
What you’ll love: Dual infrared elements allow for high heat with no warmup time. In real-world testing, it toasts bread as evenly as any other toaster oven and beats pretty much every similarly sized air fryer in both speed and consistency. Its controls are especially straightforward and the entire package looks like a premium piece of 1980s home electronics equipment.
What you should consider: While it’s worth the investment, it’s not exactly cheap.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Top small toaster oven for the money
What you need to know: This no-frills toaster oven offers consistent performance and comes from a dependable manufacturer.
What you’ll love: Its analog controls ensure easy operation without any complex electronics that might malfunction. The elements heat up quickly and can be used one at a time or simultaneously. The stainless-steel exterior resists scratches and fingerprints and is relatively easy to keep clean.
What you should consider: It lacks a convection fan or any really advanced features.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Worth checking out
What you need to know: This one is engineered to take up even less counter space than most other compact toaster ovens.
What you’ll love: The circuitry and controls of the Comfee Retro are located on top rather than on the side, which significantly reduces its footprint to a roughly 13-inch square. That’s about as little countertop space as any of these will take up. Not only is it space-efficient, its reliable convection fan makes it quick and easy to whip up crispy, tasty snacks.
What you should consider: It’s not quite as spacious as most of its competition and the thermostat only goes down to 200 degrees, so it’s not great at keeping food warm without continuing to cook it.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
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Chris Thomas writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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