By Joe Yonan
Washington Post Staff Writer
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.
Upside: Preheats quickly and holds an accurate temperature, toasts bread evenly, has a stay-cool exterior that would be good for families with children, has a warming section and an easy-to-slide-out crumb tray.
Downside: Controls are somewhat awkward, took longer than others to roast the chicken breast and the sweet potato.
3. Cuisinart Toaster Oven Broiler With Convection (Model TOB-60)
20 by 18.3 by 12 inches; 5-inch clearance inside; three-year warranty.
Upside: Has the longest warranty of the group, preheats quickly, does a decent job with toast, has a handsome commercial look.
Downside: Oven temperature varies widely (running hot on bake setting and low on convection setting), dials are confusing, doesn't come with broiler tray, is difficult to see inside.
4. Oster 6-Slice Countertop Oven (Model 6075)
20.8 by 15 by 12.6 inches; 6.5-inch clearance inside; one-year warranty.
Upside: Glass-view top makes it easy to check the progress of food without opening the door, has roomiest interior.
Downside: Takes longer than others to preheat, runs very hot, makes unevenly browned toast, racks are difficult to maneuver.