Tool Test: Four Toaster Ovens
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Toaster ovens are capable of much more than making toast these days, but that doesn't mean they can handle anything. When I tested four models recently, two of them had such hot spots, for instance, that they would not make the best choice for a cook who wants to use the oven for, say, mini batches of cookies or other sensitive baked goods.
The ovens range in price from $80 to $200. I monitored how quickly they preheated to 350 degrees, how accurately they held that and other temperatures, and how quickly and well they broiled an open-faced quesadilla, roasted a chicken breast and a sweet potato, toasted bread, and heated a frozen shrimp cake. I also looked at the user-friendliness of their controls and at ease of cleaning.
Cleanup was relatively painless in all of them, actually, but in one it was a breeze. That model, by Krups, was the most expensive of the bunch and ended up being my favorite for its ease of use, speed and smart collection of accessories. I also liked a T-Fal model at less than half the price.
Note: Although all the models except the Cuisinart purportedly can handle six slices of bread (and two manufacturers include that claim in the product's name), I could fit no more than four standard-size slices in each oven.
My findings, in descending order of preference:
1. Krups 6-Slice Digital Convection Toaster Oven (Model FBC4)
20.5 by 14.8 by 10.4 inches; four-inch clearance between lowest rack and top broiler; one-year warranty.
Upside: Preheats quickly, holds an accurate temperature, has intuitive controls, has a convection feature that speeds cooking considerably, has two racks for cooking multiple items at once, is the easiest to clean.
Downside: Is relatively expensive, has the smallest clearance between the lowest rack and top broiler elements.
2. T-Fal Avante Elite Toaster Oven (Model 0T8065002)
20 by 15 by 13 inches; 4 7/8 -inch clearance inside; one-year warranty.