The more time I’ve spent researching countertop cooking solutions, the more I’m convinced every house should have a toaster oven – convection, of course – not that little thing you hid in your college dorm room for a late-night pizza reheat.
I mean those new-fangled ones that broil, toast, rotisserie, and cook whole meals and slabs of meat. In fact, I’m rather surprised they haven’t completely taken over and eliminated the traditional oven more than they have.
They may look small, they may remind you of microwaves but they’re nothing alike and – when you think about it – how much space are you REALLY using when you put your 9 x 13 casserole in that giant, black appliance that is easily four times larger? You’re only using a fraction but paying to heat the whole thing.
Cooking appliances have made huge advancements in technology but perhaps we’ve been a little too slow to adapt. It’s time to rethink how we prepare food at home.
A toaster oven resembles a microwave in size but it uses heating elements like your regular oven to heat food. Most are designed to sit right on your countertop. The door pulls down like a regular oven, too, but the interior is, of course, significantly smaller.
Today’s models often include convection cooking. Convection cooking uses a fan at the back of the interior that blows during operation to circulate the heat inside so that no part of the interior is a different temperature than the other. This means that even if your food is placed close to the top heating element, the bottom of your food will get the same level of applied heat as the top of the food.
This isn’t overly sneaky technology. There are no lasers or lights or little men in green suits nuking your food. It’s just smart engineering.
Convection cooking is faster which means you use less electricity, spend less time in the kitchen, and can use it to do all the kinds of cooking you do with your regular range.
WHY YOU NEED ONE
There are a number of reasons you should have one. First, let’s say that both your conventional oven and the toaster oven use the same amount of electricity during operation (they don’t but let’s pretend for the sake of this argument). If you’re using convection cooking, studies show you’ll finish cooking foods 25% faster than regular heating. Right away, you’re going to be using less electricity because your food will be done more quickly.
However, let’s throw in the fact that these two appliances use very different amounts of electricity. In fact, your oven probably uses three or more times the amount of energy to cook for the same amount of time as its smaller counterpart. You can see we’re talking about a significant reduction in the cost to operate a countertop convection oven than your regular one.
Now, let’s look at what a toaster oven can do that your regular oven can’t. Rotisserie a whole chicken is one such example. I pay about $12 for a wonderfully prepared, rotisserie chicken from my grocery store. I like to use meat either for the main meal or inside something like my favorite chicken and dumplings. With the right toaster oven, I can prepare the same quality, rotisserie chicken for half the price at home and is not very much time at all.
The savings of using the smaller oven starts to really add up when you look at the prepared foods you buy at the store but could now do at home for less money.
Finally, the overall cost of a toaster oven is far less than a full-size range. You’re likely to spend $500 or more for a new range. For under $100, though, you could get one of the largest interior-sized convection toaster ovens. That’s a huge price difference. In fact, if my range stopped working, I’d replace it with just a stovetop, a toaster oven, and use that extra space for more storage.
It’s also the ideal option for a small apartment, the entertainment room in your home where you wish you could heat up a late-night snack, or for your mother-in-law who has moved into your basement and wants to prepare her own meals.
The migration to countertop cooking appliances has been a bit slow. It reminds me of how reluctant we’ve been to get rid of our home phone although we’re all armed with cell phones and no one is calling the home number except salesmen and politicians. How long might it be before the conventional oven becomes completely extinct?
If you want to cook more quickly, save money, pay less for electricity, and think the idea of evenly cooked meals prepared on your countertop with the latest technology sounds great, it’s not a pipe dream. What home wouldn’t benefit? The toaster oven is the perfect solution.
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