Do you make toast at 350 degrees? Are your kitchen appliances dated?
Banish the thought!
The days of the pop-up toaster have long since passed. Toaster ovens have grown up since their humble beginnings. Choosing the right toaster oven will bring great versatility and convenience to your kitchen. The cooking power, footprint, and clever design of the newest toaster ovens is ingenious. You’ll be surprised at how much you can get done with this counter top device.
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Appliances, Appliances Everywhere
The search for a toaster oven is on. You’re googling. You’re checking vendors, you’re price-comparing. Bravo! But there is so much information, there are so many toasters out there. It’s shocking! At this point, you just want to buy the next toaster you see.
You’re right. There are too many to choose from.
How to make the best choice for your needs in the face of a market so packed with options?
Are all these toasters and toaster ovens really that different? What brand can you trust?
The quick answer is that yes -- they are different. There are poorly built toaster ovens out there. The overwhelming number of options alone suggests that there are bad options out there. But there are also good options and great options. Researching a well-known and trusted brands is a great way to start.
You want to choose something reliable, something that will meet your needs, and something that will last. You’re not about to buy a junky toaster that falls apart or stops working. You’re not about to shop for a toaster again in less than a year.
Read on to find the best options to the classic GE toaster oven.
8 Great Options
Most major makers of small kitchen appliances make a toaster oven. A brief list of reliable manufacturers that make good options would have to include Hamilton Beach, Oster, KitchenAid, Farberware, Cuisinart, Breville, Panasonic and Black & Decker.
Some of these brands make more than one, so it is helpful to think a bit about what you need your toaster oven to be able to do as you compare models.
If all you’re looking to do is toast bread, an old-school pop-up toaster will to the trick. But most toaster ovens have the same small footprint as a pop-up toaster, and they not only toast bread, the can be used to literally make meals! Why not level up and get an appliance that will meet more than just one need? Especially when it costs the about the same and takes up the same amount of space in your kitchen...
Versatility - A Necessary Quality in a Toaster Oven
Toaster ovens are better named “countertop ovens” since really, they are just smaller ovens that run on less power and take up less space. It’s worth mentioning that they are more efficient than large wall ovens as well. If the dish you want to cook fits into the toaster oven, chances are it will cook better in there as well.
You want a toaster oven that’s more than just a cheap tin hot box. You want to look for multiple functions, multiple interior racks, a good temperature range and accessories.
Diving into the history of small appliance manufacturers is fascinating and can lead you down many wild rabbit holes of information and the life cycle of corporations.
A number of the companies listed above have long manufacturing pedigrees. Hamilton Beach, Black & Decker, Farberware, Oster, KitchenAid and West Bend are all examples of companies that were started in the Northeast or upper MidWest between 1895 and 1920. These companies started variously as manufacturers of drink or baking mixers, power tools and animal shearing tools. Quite a variety!
By some accounts, the Australian company Breville started off making radios and mine detectors for the war.
Many of these companies have been in existence, innovating and developing products, for well over 100 years. They have stood the test of time, markets, and radical change. All are reliable makers and offer great alternatives to the GE toaster oven you set out to find.
When Did Toasters Get So Complicated?
Here again, we face a potential deep dive into obscure history that will connect our search for a GE toaster oven to the (very excellent and universally loved) invention of sliced bread, and we’ll be getting way off topic if we go there. Suffice it to say, a Scotsman is credited with the invention in 1893. Thank Alan McMasters tomorrow morning at breakfast.
Toasters were modified and improved upon through the 20th century in a wide variety of ways, bringing us the pop-up feature, the conveyor toaster, and eventually the toaster oven.
Toaster ovens have carried on this evolution to give us the countertop convection ovens that we love and rely on today.
Companies like Farberware, one of those 100+ year strong American entities mentioned above, now make toaster oven that can bake cakes, pizzas, and even roast a five-pound chicken. If only Alan McMasters had known where his original idea would go!
A Cake in a Toaster?
I know, that sounds both weird and messy, not to mention improbable, but it is where the technology has taken us. It works. In very nearly the same footprint as a classic GE toaster oven, you can have an appliance on your countertop that will do most anything your wall oven can do.
In truth, the toaster oven has become a small full-fledged oven that many households use more than their conventional oven. Buy the right one, and you’ll find that you put it to good use right away.
Keep this scope of possibilities in mind as you hunt for your toaster oven.
The Need for Speed
One of the best developments in the technology of toaster ovens is how quickly they heat up. Compared to the huge volume of a wall oven, they’re small. They need to heat up less than 1 cubic foot of air and steel. Think about what you cook on a daily basis. We’re not making Thanksgiving turkeys every day -- we’re heating up leftovers, melting nachos, defrosting pot pies or baking pizzas.
Toaster ovens are ideal for these types of uses. Most of the cooking we do is mid-to-small volume. And who doesn’t want to save some time and energy (and money for that matter) by using a more efficient device to cook?
Toaster ovens are very efficient, especially for the normal day-in and day-out needs of most families. Beyond heating up quickly, toaster ovens cook quickly, especially models that use convection technology to move the heat.
3 Things to Look for in Your Ideal Toaster Oven
How Much is .75 Cubic Feet?
I know, math! Sorry to have to drop technical specs on you, but that’s how these units are rated. Those numbers are best envisioned in terms of options.
In a toaster oven of that size, you can roast 5-7 pounds of chicken (5 on a spit, 7 on a pan), you can bake (2) 12” pizzas at once -- provided you have multiple racks. You can also toast 6 slices of bread at once. You can bake a pie or several potatoes, you can broil fish fillets or steak. Most meals will fit.
Never again will you turn the oven on just to make toast, or worse, to reheat something that the microwave heat and ruin.
When a Toaster Isn’t a Toaster Anymore
By now, you might be better served if you stop thinking about the toaster as just a toaster and start thinking about it as an oven.
In that light, you might be surprised at how many different cooking processes you actually use. A multi-function toaster oven can meet many of those needs. A well-rounded toaster oven should be able to bake, broil, toast and roast. Higher end models will also have convection and rotisserie options.
These different functions will not only encourage you try new cooking methods, they will make the process easier. Since the toaster oven is on your countertop, it is closer, easier to manage and easier to monitor.
Whether you’re cooking for six or just for two, reheating casserole, or broiling salmon, a toaster oven will meet your needs and make the task easy.
A Warranty Worthy of Respect
Warranties are good signals from a company that you are buying a product you can trust. Companies that offer 1-2 year warranties and limited warranties are telling you that even after using the unit more than 1000 times, they’ll stand by its craftsmanship.
A lot can happen in a year or two. Knowing that the manufacturer stands by their product indicates you’ve found something far more likely to be worth the money. A warranty can help bring peace of mind to the purchase process. You can plan on continuing to use oven for years to come.
What are the drawbacks here? The drawbacks are relative. It really depends on what kind of cook you are and how you use your kitchen.
If you use the oven most nights, you’ll find that many (if not all) of those dishes can be made in the countertop toaster oven. It is generally just a question of scale. If you are more of a stove top chef, you might get less use out of the toaster oven than others.
The main drawback for most people is the size. The size of the footprint of your basic toaster oven is usually around 16” wide x 13” deep and 9” high. Higher end models are bigger and can measure up to at 20” wide x 17” deep x 14” high. For some households, that is more appliance than they want on the countertop.
Ideal Specs in Your Toaster Oven
As we mention above, look for a toaster oven with a full range of functions -- broil, toast and bake. The best bake function temperature range will span from 150 to 450 degrees F. A timer that will run at least one hour is also essential.
Some ovens will include useful hardware. Ideally, you’ll find one with multiple (at least 2) baking racks at adjustable heights, a crumb tray, and in deluxe models, a rotisserie set and drip pan.
An interior with 3 sets of rails to adjust the rack height is preferable. When baking, you use the middle and bottom rails, when broiling the middle and top rails will provide the best results. Rotisserie accessories will fit into holders in the middle rack.
When you’re done cooking, cleaning up should be easy. The crumb tray will help keep foods from burning on the inside of the oven and can be removed (once cool). Most units will have accessories that are dishwasher safe, including the baking racks and spit set.
More Oven Than Toaster
The last aspect to bear in mind is ease of use. Most toaster ovens use dials to control temperature, function and time. You don’t need a digital readout, or the ability to program the oven. Twisting knobs is easy and more than adequate. There is hardly room for a sophisticated control panel anyway. Beyond, dials are intuitive.
The simple interface is a certain benefit if you plan to teach the kids use it.
Move Over, Pop-Up! Toaster Ovens Are Here to Stay
You set out looking for a GE toaster oven, and instead found details on a second oven for your countertop. (And a quick trip through the history of sliced bread!)
That oven is out there. It will toast bread perfectly, and it will perform a half dozen other cooking functions that are way more useful and even more common than toasting bread! Bear in mind the specs and features we discussed above as you consider your options. Make your toaster oven work for your household!