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Don't buy a toaster oven if you just want good toast

Multitasking toaster ovens are not the best at browning bread

Published: February 21, 2014 04:30 PM

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Today’s toaster ovens promise everything from perfect pizzas to fresh-baked cookies. Our latest tests of dozens of models found a few able multitaskers. But other ovens botched basic jobs. And if all you want is great toast, buy a toaster; it can pop out evenly browned slices for $35 or less. Here’s what Consumer Reports found out in its tests of toasters and toaster ovens.

Toasters top our toast tests. Though we’re still waiting for a model that does the job perfectly every time, toasters continue to brown more evenly and consistently than toaster ovens.

Toasting times depend on volume. Even the fastest toaster oven take twice as long as a toaster—4 to 6 minutes, versus 2 to 3 minutes on a medium setting. But if you’re toasting for a crowd, a toaster oven with a six-slice capacity can quickly make up for lost time. Four-slice toasters combine the best of both worlds

Convection doesn’t pay. There’s little evidence from our toaster oven tests that this fan-driven technology enhances baking performance, probably because air circulation is less of a factor in a small oven.

Size can be deceiving. Some of the toaster ovens with the biggest exterior dimensions couldn’t fit six slices of toast. If you plan to cook frozen pizza, make sure the rack is at least 12 inches deep. If you toast rolls or bagels, look for variable or extra-wide slots in toasters.

Toaster tests
If all you want is toast, go with a basic toaster. Calphalon topped our toaster Ratings with its two-slot Calphalon Stainless Steel HE200ST, $60, and the four-slot Calphalon Stainless Steel HE400ST, $80. They made toast in any color range desired and also popped out even batches one after the other. The controls were a cinch to use and the toasters have bagel settings. A pair of toasters from Cuisinart was next on the list including the two-slot Cuisinart CPT-420 , $80 and the four-slot Cuisinart CPT-440, $100. Both were feature-filled and very good overall. For $35, you can buy the two-slot Hamilton Beach Digital 22502, which we named a CR best Buy. Its performance was very good overall and toast popped up evenly brown with nearly every batch.

Toaster ovens
Most toaster ovens can melt a cheese sandwich, broil a hamburger, or roast a 4-pound chicken. But they take up more counter space and cost more. Two of four of the toaster ovens on our recommended list are from Breville, the Breville Smart Oven BOV800XL, $250, which took the top spot and the Breville BOV650XL, $180.  Both were very good at baking and broiling but the Smart Oven edged out its brandmate on making a full batch of evenly-toasted bread. Our CR Best Buy is the Oster TSSTTVMNDG, $80, which got good marks on all cooking tasks but lacks a few convenience features.

Adapted from Consumer Reports' Kitchen Planning Guide

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