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Toasters & Toaster Ovens: Countertop Cooking Convenience

When it comes to picking the hardest working small appliances in any kitchen, toasters and toaster ovens are right up there with coffee makers and microwaves. Whether you need one or the other (or both), here’s the skinny on how to find the perfect toaster or toaster oven for your breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

What’s the Difference Between Toasters and Toaster Ovens?

Toasters are great for warming, browning, or toasting bread and (in some cases) bagels. Toaster ovens, by contrast, can do all that plus warm, defrost, and cook a variety of other foods, such as delicious, mouth-watering pizza. In the end, it all comes down to what your needs are.

If all you’re after is the most efficient way to quickly get your hands on a few slices of toast or a perfectly toasted bagel, then a popup toaster is the way to go. If you want to bake, broil, or cook other foods without firing up your oven, then a toaster oven is the best way to go.

Things to Consider When Choosing a Toaster or Toaster Oven

Toasters are simple enough devices, to be sure, but there’s no shortage of variety to choose from. The most important thing to look for in a toaster is how many slices it can toast at once. A 2-slice toaster is the traditional option, but if toaster traffic jams are common in your house each morning, you might want to double your toasting power with a 4-slice toaster instead.

As for toaster ovens, be aware of how much space they take up on the counter. If you’re pressed for space, you may want to opt for a smaller toaster oven, or one that can fit in cabinet when not in use. If you plan on using the toaster oven to cook frozen pizza, you’ll need one with an interior space at least 12” deep.

Features to Look for in a Toaster

If you’re super picky about the way your bread is toasted you’ll want a toaster with a precise and easy to use shade adjuster. This allows you to fine-tune how much your bread is toasted, and is also a handy feature if you have several family members who each like their toast done a slightly different way.

Not all pop-up toasters can accommodate extra-thick bread slices and bagels, so if you’re bananas about either look for a model with extra-wide slots. Some toasters also offer bagel-specific settings, including the option to only toast the cut side of the bagel.

For everyday convenience, a bread lifter makes it easy to get your freshly toasted bread out of the red-hot toaster without burning your fingertips, while a removable crumb tray makes cleaning out the inside of the toaster a cinch.

Features to Look for in a Toaster Oven

Cooking with a toaster oven is all about convenience and efficiency, but that doesn’t mean you should sacrifice on cooking quality. Basic toaster ovens will include only toast and bake options, but more fully featured units include a broil option so you can cook things like burgers and pork chops.

For precise control over cooking temperature, look for a toaster oven with numbered dials or a touch pad, as opposed to a slider. For precise control over cooking time, snag a toaster oven with a built-in countdown timer – when the timer runs down, the oven will automatically turn off so you don’t burn your food.

Other handy features include an interior light, so you can monitor cooking progress without opening the door and letting all the heat out, and a porcelain or non-stick interior, which makes the toaster oven easier to clean.