We're all for supporting kids' cooking and baking interests as much as possible, but after playing with the idea of developing DIY mixes and recipes specifically for the iconic Easy-Bake Oven, our staffer had a revelation... The humble toaster oven is a far more efficient and versatile tool to introduce kids to the kitchen with. (Given, most toaster ovens aren't pink, but hopefully your family can get past that detail.)
It was the dream of every 90’s kid. An Easy-Bake Oven of their own to help them on their journey to mix, bake, and enjoy their very own treats. Alas, despite all the hubbub, my childhood baking projects with the Easy-Bake Oven didn’t always work out as smoothly as they appeared to in the glossy advertisements. Burns, blown light bulbs, chalky cakes, and broken dreams were all I ever really received from mine.
Now there’s a new generation of children gearing up to explore their culinary interests with this hotter-than-the-sun plastic box and its accompanying overpriced mixes. While I’m all behind fostering a child’s cooking and/or baking interests as much as possible, might I suggest you save yourself (and your kid) some frustration by choosing a simpler route to easy kid-friendly cooking: your toaster oven. Here's why.
Ease of Use
Hands down, a toaster oven is a better choice all-around for beginner forays into the kitchen. True, it does get hot, and needs to be used by older children with adult supervision, but toaster ovens are significantly easier to use than an Easy-Bake. Opening the door to a toaster oven is a much simpler process than trying to shove the food in and out of a tiny gap with the plastic equivalent of an EZ Grabber. Plus, children learn about preheating, setting the correct baking temperature, and safely (with oven mitts firmly in place) creating meals.
According to Amazon, the average Easy-Bake Oven costs a whopping $50. Not to mention the refill packs which ring in at nearly $7 a piece for just a few servings. A decent toaster oven, from name brands, will run you about $35. Toaster ovens are guaranteed to get more use from the whole family and you won’t have to worry about changing pesky light bulbs every other baking session.
With adjustable heat settings, and usually built-in timers, a toaster oven can cook a much wider range of foods (both sweet and savory) than any Easy-Bake Oven, which runs at the same heat at all times. Also Easy-Bake’s tiny entrance for baked goods and snacks limits what you can place inside. A toaster oven is large enough to bake several items at a time, perfect for kids cooking together or those interested in sharing.
We wouldn’t suggest using a toaster oven for kid-friendly cooking without giving you delicious examples. Below are a few easy ideas that even the most novice cook can throw together. If you’re looking to create more traditional baked goods, baking up one or two pieces of your favorite cookie dough in the toaster oven will create made-to-order desserts. Here are a few other fun options to start with:
English Muffin Pizza
- 1/2 English muffin
- 2 tablespoons marinara
- 2 tablespoons mozzarella cheese
1. Spread the English muffin half with marinara. Sprinkle cheese on top and bake for 5 minutes at 350°F.
- 1 6-inch corn tortilla
- 2 tablespoons shredded cheddar
- 1 tablespoon salsa
1. Evenly spread cheddar across the entire corn tortilla. Spread on the salsa and fold in half. Bake for 5 minutes, turning halfway through, at 350°F.
- 1 graham cracker
- 3 small squares of chocolate
- 1 marshmallow
1. Break the graham cracker into two even parts. Set one piece aside. Top the other with the chocolate and marshmallow. Bake for 2 minutes 350°F, or until the marshmallow reaches desired doneness. Top with the remaining graham cracker piece.