Toaster ovens can be used to cook a lot of different foods. In some cases, they can even replace the need to have a full-size convection oven. Before you decide to purchase one, you should consider the advantages/disadvantages of it compared to a microwave or conventional oven.
Don’t let the name fool you. Toaster ovens can do a lot more than merely toasting food. They can reheat leftovers, bake some delicious cookies, and some can even dehydrate fruits, veggies, and jerky (I’m looking at you, Ninja Foodi AF101).
Advantages Compared to a Microwave
Toaster ovens cook food more evenly compared to microwaves. Microwaves heat by using electromagnetic waves to heat the water inside of food. This leads to inconsistent cooking–ever notice how the food comes out soggy? In contrast, toaster ovens use heated air for cooking. This leads to more crispy cooked food.
Toaster ovens have more flexible cooking options as well. For example, you can roast food with a toaster oven. Try doing that with a microwave… Actually, don’t do that unless you happen to really enjoy wasting food.
Disadvantages Compared to a Microwave
Microwaves can cook food faster than toaster ovens. If you’re in a constant rush, a toaster oven might not be the best choice for you. However, if you can wait a little bit, you’ll appreciate the “better” cooked food that a toaster oven provides.
The outside of a toaster oven can get much hotter compared to a microwave. This varies between models, but generally, a microwave will have a cooler outside body. You should consider this if you have little ones who like to reach up on your kitchen counters.
Advantages Compared to a Conventional Oven
In comparison with conventional ovens, toaster ovens are more energy efficient. This is especially true if you cook only small portions. Conventional ovens are larger and have more space to heat. Toaster ovens preheat much faster as well. This saves you time and money (in energy costs). Their compactness also allows them to fit in smaller kitchens where you may not be able to fit a full-size oven. It makes a fantastic cooking appliance for college dorm rooms.
If you do a ton of cooking in the summer, you’ll appreciate that toaster ovens don’t heat your house as much as their larger counterpart. They are also relatively easy to clean. You don’t have to bend/sit down to clean out a toaster oven as it sits on your counter instead of your floor.
Disadvantages Compared to a Conventional Oven
The fact that toaster ovens are much smaller can also be a disadvantage if you cook a lot of food in your oven. A toaster oven has a smaller cooking capacity, so using it for cooking large meals will take much longer compared to a conventional oven since you can’t cook as much simultaneously.
Conventional ovens typically have a stovetop that allows you to cook food in pots and pans above the oven. If you cook multiple side dishes when you prepare meals, you’ll really miss this aspect if you switch to a toaster oven alone.
A toaster oven can make a great addition or replacement for your other cooking appliances. Ultimately, it’s going to come down to what you and your family’s meal needs are. If you’re a busy soccer mom with a schedule as tight as a bow-string, you’re probably better off with a microwave. But if you prefer to put a more delicate touch on food, you should really consider a toaster oven.
Now, replacing the bigger oven is a much harder decision to make. If you already have a full-size conventional oven, I personally recommend keeping it. If you like the idea of a toaster oven, buy one and add it to your kitchen cooking collection.
Looking for a good toaster oven model? Check out our recommendations here.