Toaster ovens do far more than make toast. Most models on the market today can cook smaller amounts of almost anything you'd make in a regular oven—pizza, chicken, cookies. And just like cleaning your oven regularly, you should clean your toaster oven routinely to avoid any food buildup.

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“People use their toaster ovens for everything from roasting meats to baking casseroles and other items,” says Laurie M. Klein, a home economist for Hamilton Beach, which makes toaster ovens and other small appliances. “So the inside of a toaster oven could have a buildup of grease and various food splatters, which could ignite with high temperatures.”

Here’s how to get the job done in five simple steps and without using harsh chemicals.

Step 1: Unplug It

First things first, advises Cindy Fisher, Consumer Reports' lead test engineer for countertop appliances: “Always unplug your toaster oven.” Disconnect the appliance from the power source before you begin cleaning. And, of course, never immerse a toaster oven in water.

Step 2: Remove and Clean Elements

Put the toaster oven on a piece of newspaper to catch the crumbs, then take out the metal tray, rack, and lower crumb tray and place them in the sink. Use dish soap and water to wash these parts. To combat any stubborn stains on these removable pieces, Fisher recommends leaving them in the sink to soak overnight. Let them dry completely while you clean the rest of the appliance.

Step 3: Use a Homemade Cleaner

Create your own cleaning solution for the interior of the toaster oven by combining vinegar, warm water, and a little dish soap. “Apply that to the interior with a damp sponge,” Fisher says, “but try not to get any of the liquid on the heating elements.”  

Step 4: Apply Elbow Grease

Some toaster ovens have a porcelain enamel or a nonstick interior that makes them slightly easier to clean. But it can be damaged by metal scouring pads and abrasive cleaners. Instead, use a sponge, cloth, or old rag when wiping down your toaster oven. “For stubborn stains, use a plastic scouring pad,” Klein suggests.

Step 5: Repeat If Necessary

For food debris that's hard to remove, our engineer recommends tackling the chore after using your toaster oven. “Try cleaning the oven while it’s still a little warm,” Fisher says. “But again—be sure to unplug it first.”

She advises wiping down the exterior of your toaster oven and cleaning the interior after every use.

If you've neglected yours for too long and find that the coating is damaged or the oven isn't performing as well as it used to, it may be time to consider a newer model.

Shopping for a Toaster Oven?

In Consumer Reports' toaster oven tests, we rate models on ease of cleaning in addition to how they bake, broil, and make toast. Many of the toaster ovens earned a rating of Excellent or Very Good on our cleaning test. That means the crumb tray slid out easily and there were few nooks and crannies to trap crumbs and food splatters. Many toaster ovens have a nonstick finish, which you'll appreciate when you're wiping one down after a messy meal.

Of our recommended toaster ovens, three Brevilles, ranging from $180 to $270, rated Excellent for ease of cleaning, as did two models from other brands that aren't recommended. But many of the toaster ovens we've tested rated Very Good on our ease of cleaning test and are worth a look. Here are the toaster ovens that are the easiest to clean:

Breville BOV650XL, $180
CR’s take: The Breville BOV650XL is the least expensive of the three Brevilles on our top-picks list. In addition to being a breeze to clean, rating Excellent in that test, it performed well on our cooking tests, which is what you want in a countertop oven. While also Excellent at ease of cleaning, the other two Brevilles, the Breville Smart Oven Pro BOV845BSS, $270, and the Breville Smart Oven BOV800XL, $250, weren't quite as good at reheating and may not be worth the extra money.

Black+Decker 8-Slice Digital Extra Wide TO3290XSD, $100
CR’s take: This large toaster oven also aced our cleaning test and earned an Excellent rating on the test in which we toast a full batch of bread, in this case eight slices, although it was slower than many of the other toaster ovens in our tests. As its name implies, the Black+Decker was one of the widest toaster ovens in our tests, so you’ll need to reserve more counter space.

Oster TSSTTVMNDG, $80
CR’s take: The relatively inexpensive Oster TSSTTVMNDG also rated Excellent at ease of cleaning, but its cooking prowess was only so-so. It earned a Very Good rating in our test of toasting just one slice of bread to a nice medium brown. But if you want a toaster oven that can cook a big batch of toast and a variety of other foods, this one may not be for you.

For more choices, see our full toaster oven ratings and recommendations.