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How to Use a Toaster Oven – Important Tips for Every Home Cook

Toaster oven with croissants.

Some toaster ovens may be ready to use out of the box. Others might need some slight adjustments before you can start cooking a fantastic dinner for the family.

The features that are at your disposal depend on the brand and model of your toaster oven. However, there are some guidelines that will apply no matter what you do.

Steps to Take Before Using Your Toaster Oven

The most important thing to do before using your brand-new toaster oven is to understand how the settings work. The heating elements work differently depending on the program you select.

For example, when using the baking function, the bottom heating element will be responsible for most of the heat output. In contrast, when using the broiling mode, the top heating element will put up more heat.

Once you’re confident that you understand what each feature does, it’s time to get cooking. Before its first use, clean out your toaster oven and allow it to air dry with the door open.

The Basics of Using a Toaster Oven

Toaster ovens warm up a lot faster than conventional ovens, so make sure you’re about done with the preparations and you’ve arranged the food in the tray or pan before you start the oven.

Always wear oven mitts, even if you’re just about to put the food in for the first time. Toaster ovens can get very hot on the outside too. It’s easy to get burned, especially if your oven has a small door.

Select the right program and make any necessary adjustments to it if possible (like temperature and fan speed). Turn on the oven light, if it has one that requires manual activation. You should also set a timer if the cooking preset doesn’t do so automatically.

Next, put the tray, rack, pan, or sheet in the appropriate slot depending on the cooking mode. Close the door and wait for the magic to happen.

Settings

Most ovens will have basic baking, reheating, toast, broiling, and other preset functions. However, you can alter the temperature settings and the timer according to your preferences.

It may take a while to get accustomed to your new toaster oven, and it’s important to realize that new models come with many innovations. Understanding the settings on older generation toaster ovens may not give you the best results with your new appliance.

General Tips for Using Your Toaster Oven

These are tips that should apply to all toaster ovens, whether they use conventional heating, convection heating, or infrared heating.

  • Toast your bread in the middle of the oven to get even toasting
  • Make full use of the window to check on your food as often as you can, until you’re familiar with how the oven cooks
  • Clean the toaster oven regularly, as grease deposits can be a pain to clean and could alter the taste of your food
  • Don’t be afraid to use parchment paper on trays, just as you would in a conventional oven
Mini quiche with chicken and bell pepper

Cooking with Convection Ovens

Convection cooking requires you to stray a bit from most recipe instructions. Because it cooks faster and the hot circulating air dries your food, you need to use various techniques to ensure that your food will turn out the way you want it to.

Check and recheck your food

It’s important to use more than the timer to determine when the food is ready. Monitor the cooking process by checking the smell and texture of the food. Do this once at the halfway point of the recommended cooking time, and then do it more often as the timer is reaching the end.

Lower the temperature

If you’re not cooking a convection-oven specific recipe, consider lowering the temperature by up to 25 degrees, just to be on the safe side.

Low-sided pans are your friends

Low-sided pans or trays are ideal for convection ovens. They allow better air circulation, letting you roast veggies more effectively. This will also help ensure that your crispy chicken ends up crispy on all sides, even if you don’t have an air frying function on your convection oven.

Convection heating is not always ideal

Although vastly superior in most cases, convection heating is not a function you want working at all times. Check to see if your toaster oven has a separate button that activates or deactivates the convection fan.

Avoid certain dishes

Convection cooking is not ideal for baking cakes, soufflés, or custards. These are dishes that don’t benefit from the even heating provided by heated air circulation. Instead, it’s better to apply steady heat coming from a single direction.

In a convection oven, it’s common to see uneven cake layers and hard crusts forming on custards. You can still use a convection toaster oven to cook these types of dishes if it has a button which turns off the fan.

Margherita pizza with basil, mozzarella cheese and tomato

Foods to Cook in a Toaster Oven

To figure out what type of food you can cook in your toaster oven, you can simply look at the preprogrammed cooking modes. Then, you should check the temperature range. Even if your toaster oven can bake and has a cooking setting, you will have to avoid certain recipes if the temperature tops out at 300°F.

Because they heat meals so evenly, toaster ovens can be used to bake anything from cookies to whole turkeys. Size is obviously also important, as is the type of trays or pans you use.

If your oven has an air frying function, you can also make crispy chicken strips, wings, and French fries. Just make sure to use a special air frying rack and avoid using full-bottom trays or pans because they’re not as efficient.

Woman cleaning toaster oven with sponge in kitchen

Cleaning Your Toaster Oven

It’s best to never put a toaster oven in the dishwasher or even in the sink. Instead, wipe down the toaster oven after each use, after it cools down. Unplug the unit before you begin cleaning. Avoid using harsh chemicals. If you clean your toaster oven regularly, all you’ll need to use is a damp cloth or soft sponge.

Scrub the top of the oven more thoroughly than the other sides, as that’s where most of the grease ends up. Remove the racks or trays and clean them separately. Put them back in the oven after they’re dry.

Toaster Ovens Are a Lot Easier to Use Than You Think

Like anything new in your kitchen, toaster ovens need some time and patience to master. That being said, it’s far easier to get used to them than you may realize.

Above everything else, make sure to use them safely and follow the recommended manufacturer instructions.

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