Small, portable countertop ovens have a place in many kitchens. Suitable for one or two people, the ovens can cook a meal without heating the house as a full-sized oven will. They will bake, and sometimes broil, many items like a larger oven. Chicken pieces, pizzas, rolls, hot sandwiches, and even cakes all fit into countertop ovens. Many models are advertised as toaster ovens, with the ability to toast six to eight slices of bread, bagels and other odd shaped items. Convection countertop ovens have extended the versatility of the small appliance and work differently from a standard toaster oven.
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The standard model toaster oven works very much the same as its large relative, the electric oven. The food is placed in an enclosed box, and electricity heats metal coils that in turn heat the air. The heat is transferred to the food, which cooks. By using a combination of lower and upper heat coils, the small oven can reach high temperatures, or it may broil the food from the top. A sensor controls the toaster function, allowing the cook to determine how dark the toast gets.
Convection countertop ovens are similar in size to toaster overs, but convection ovens work by having a fan inside the box blowing the heat around and over the food. This allows the food to cook faster and more evenly because there are no "hot spots" that a regular oven often has. Different techniques for cooking are needed in a convection oven, including using pans with short sides and not using lids or covers on the food.
There are many optional features shared by both toaster and convection ovens that are important to note before buying one. Higher quality models come with auto-ejecting racks when the door is opened, easy-to-clean crumb trays, a comprehensive timer, good insulation, simple controls and quick cool-downs. Inexpensive models also may work well, but may not be as versatile.
Making the Choice
Many brand manufacturers offer both a toaster oven and convection oven as part of their line of small appliances. Waring, cuisinart, GE, Black & Decker, Sunbeam, Oster, Hamilton Beach, Proctor Silex, Rivel and West Bend are just some of the companies that feature both economy and higher end models. If a quick meal is important, a convection oven may be your best choice. If you simply want to heat or reheat an occasional meal, a toaster oven might be more suitable.
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