To toaster or to toaster oven, that is the question. While the names of these two small appliances sound similar, they are actually very different. They accomplish some of the same tasks but look much different from one another, are very different sizes, and will suit differing needs and families. So, which one should you get?
What is a toaster and a toaster oven?
Before delving into that, let’s look at what differentiates these two.
A toaster is a small appliance that plugs into the wall via a power cord. It uses radiant heat to toast bread, bagels, English muffins, and other bread products. They typically have slots, anywhere from one up to six (usually two or four), where you can insert the slices. Some are wide to fit thicker pieces, like Texas toast or bagels. Others are a standard width for your typical slice of white bread.
Place the bread slices inside, push down the lever or press a button (some even have touchscreens!) and the heating elements will activate to begin heating. Toasters have a dial, switch, knob, or button for controlling, or even adjusting the doneness, from lightly toasted to almost burnt. In all cases, it usually takes under two minutes for your hot, toasted bread to pop out. Then, you’re ready to devouring the bread, slathered with butter or jam, or to use for a delicious sandwich.
By contrast, a toaster oven is effectively a miniature oven. You can use it to toast bread and bread products, as well as other items. Because they are generally larger with a door and deep and wide interior, you can fit not only more, but also larger items.
You can lay slices of bread flat for toasting, but also fit items like frozen pizza, chicken wings, sandwiches, and more. Most toaster ovens can toast as well as reheat and even bake. Some have additional functionality, like convection cooking and air frying. They aren’t as powerful as a conventional oven, or even a countertop oven. Nor can they bake or reheat as quickly as a microwave. But some people and families love having one for the convenience and quality of the cook, toast, and heat.
Which is right for you?
Deciding between a toaster or a toaster oven means thinking about your family’s needs. What do you most commonly use a toaster for? You should also think about what you currently use an oven or even a microwave for to decide if investing in the latter would be worthwhile.
What to consider with toasters
It’s rare that you’ll find a household that doesn’t have a toaster. It might be a ratty old model a family has been holding onto for generations. Or maybe it’s the one cooking appliance a teenager has in their first apartment. But a toaster is one of those simple yet under-rated small appliances.
But it’s also limited in what it can do. A toaster should only be used for plain bread products, like sliced bread, bagels, crumpets, and English muffins. But some of the newest, more premium models have neat features like smart operation with touchscreens. You can customize the toast and even use special settings for bagels versus English muffins versus bread. You might also find neat buttons like Breville’s “a bit more” which lets you pop toast back in for a bit of extra browning without going through another full cycle.
Toasters can be used to creatively reheat certain items as well, like pancakes and French toast. (My son will often heat leftover French toast in the toaster the next morning). There are also other pastry items designed specifically for toasters, like filled breakfast pastries.
Toasters are lightweight, can easily pack away in a cupboard if needed, and are simple to clean. Some have built-in crumb trays and for most, you can simply turn it upside down and shake out all the crumbs.
What to consider with toaster ovens
A toaster oven is a very different appliance. But it’s worth getting for someone who will likely use it more than the conventional oven. This might be a student or single individual living in a small apartment who only cooks for one and needs quick meals. Why heat up the entire oven when you can use a toaster oven?
For those who want to replace a microwave, a toaster oven is a viable option. My elderly, retired parents recently replaced their microwave with a toaster oven and haven’t looked back. While it takes longer to reheat items, the result is better, in their opinion. And as retirees, they have the time to relax and wait for a meal instead of having to cook it in a rush in the microwave. This also helps my mother, who has mobility issues and can’t as easily bend down and up over and over to place items in the oven.
What’s more, as noted, some toaster ovens have dual functions, like built-in air fryers. This makes them even more versatile. These can effectively replace two or three small appliances, like a toaster, microwave, and air fryer, saving you counter space as well.
While a toaster oven does take up more space in a kitchen than a toaster, if you have a larger family, it might be worth investing in They can fit more food than a typical toaster: six slice toasters are available but not as common as two- or four-slice ones. And it’s a less intimidating for a teenager to make themselves a toasted sandwich or reheat frozen leftovers than using the oven.
Consider expense as well. Toaster ovens are more expensive than toasters since they can do so much more. Toasters, by contrast, start at a very affordable price and move up to more elaborate models with features like smart connectivity, touchscreens, and even numbered toast settings so you get the perfect crisp every time.
A toaster is, for some, a must-have small appliance. If you simply want something small that you can tuck in the corner of a kitchen counter to toast bread, a toaster will suffice. If you think you have room for toaster oven, it might be worth considering instead, or even in addition to, a toaster. With one, you can also do things like reheat frozen pizza, toast full sandwiches, and even bake a small batch of cookies.
If you find you’re heating up the oven to do things like reheat a small personal pizza, toast garlic bread with cheese, or bake a mini cake, a toaster oven will use less electricity and generate less heat while accomplishing the same thing.
It’s not uncommon, it should be noted, for households to have both a small toaster and a larger toaster oven. You can find toasters and toaster ovens for every type of meal. Because toasters are typically small and lightweight, you can easily pack them away in a cupboard and pull them out only when you need it rather than find a permanent home on the counter. A toaster oven, meanwhile, can stay on the counter and be used for a variety of tasks.
With that said, after owning and using a toaster oven for a month or two, chances are you’ll find that you’re using your toaster less and less.
Check out a wide selection of toasters and toaster ovens at Best Buy Online.