How to Get the Most Out of Your Toaster Oven

These multitasking mini appliances earn their spot on the kitchen counter

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View from toaster oven with 2 slices of bread of women looking in holding cup of coffee Photo: Getty Images

A toaster oven, as its name implies, does a lot more than simply make toast. It can roast a chicken, cook garlic shrimp in under 5 minutes, reheat last night’s dinner, bake a sheet of cookies or a tray of muffins, turn out asparagus that’s nicely blistered—and a whole lot more.

The best toaster ovens excel at making large batches of toast at once, for when you’re cooking breakfast for the whole family, as well as warming up leftovers and making baked goods—plus they should be easy to use and easy to clean. Use this countertop mainstay to cook side dishes when your regular oven is maxed out, like when you’re preparing a meal for a crowd or cooking a holiday feast. Come summer, put your toaster oven to work so that you’re not roasting away in your kitchen.

what it can do:
Reheat / Bake / Broil / Toast / Air-Fry
What to cook:
Pizza / Bacon / Burgers / Fish / Grilled Cheese / Veggies / Cookies

“And keep in mind that this small oven heats up faster than a regular oven,” says Cindy Fisher, who oversees CR’s tests of toaster ovens. “That makes it ideal when you’re cooking small portions, toasting nuts for a recipe, or hungry for just a few chocolate chip cookies hot out of the oven.”

MORE ON COUNTERTOP APPLIANCES

Other reasons to consider adding one to your kitchen? A toaster oven browns food nicely and gives pizza a crispy crust, something you can’t expect a microwave to do. Some newer toaster ovens are true multitaskers, with convection, air-frying, dehydrating, and even slow-cooking features.

For all a toaster oven has to offer, very few we’ve tested brown bread as evenly on both sides as a toaster. (But a toaster does one thing and one thing only.)

Tips for Getting the Best Results

1. Allow sufficient space between racks. That enables the heat to circulate evenly, turning out more evenly cooked food.

2. Use a light-colored pan. It helps prevent the bottom of cookies and bread from overbrowning and the natural sugars in roasted vegetables from burning. (A dark pan accelerates the transfer of heat and can brown food too fast.)

3. Pick a pan with low sides. Do this when using the convection feature to give the hot air ample room to circulate.

4. Move pans to a different rack. When using multiple racks, swap the position of pans, and rotate each pan halfway through cooking so that everything cooks uniformly.

5. Aim for the middle. Place pans near the center of a rack, when possible, to produce the best results.

6. Keep it clean. Crumbs and grease can build up inside and cause smoke—or even a fire. It’s best to wipe down the exterior and interior after every use.

Toaster Ovens That Impress

There are more than 60 models in our toaster oven ratings, including those from Breville, Cuisinart, Hamilton Beach, KitchenAid, and 21 other brands. Here’s a look at four high-scoring models. They appear in alphabetical order, not rank order.

Cooking With Countertop Appliances

Countertop appliances have come a long way over the years. On the "Consumer 101" TV show, Consumer Reports expert Sara Morrow shows host Jack Rico how it’s possible to cook an entire meal without using your oven or range.