Which is the right appliance for your kitchen?
Though they share a name and a function, toasters and toaster ovens are in many ways unique contraptions with their own sets of pros and cons to be considered when deciding between the two countertop appliances. And from home to home, cook to cook, allegiances to either a standard toaster or toaster oven can run deep.
I grew up in a toaster household, and still to this day prefer the small, springed contraption to its larger and more complex cousin. However, those who were raised around or have relied on a toaster oven as a heat source for years often swear by the multi-function appliance.
With different price points, functions, and speeds, there’s a lot to consider when deciding once and for all between the two toasters, especially when working with limited space or a set budget. Read on for some pros and cons of each appliance, and how to make the ultimate toaster decision for your kitchen needs.
The Toaster Oven
The toaster oven, a reliable countertop heating and toasting machine, gets major bonus points for its versatility and adaptability. While your slice of bread or bagel will toast just fine—though typically not as well as with a toaster—this device can also sub in for and perform many tasks of a standard oven, acting as a heat source for any number of dishes.
Indeed, the toaster oven has the ability to bake, broil, and cook, on top of its namesake duty. These countertop ovens can be particularly effective for reheating leftovers sans-microwave and for cooking frozen meals quickly when you’re in a time pinch.
While toaster ovens get a gold star for functionality, they do have their obvious setbacks—particularly when it comes to space and cost. Most toaster ovens will take up at minimum a square foot of counter space, if not more, so for those working with a limited cooking surface, this can be a significant inconvenience. In terms of cost, in addition to having a heftier price tag, toaster ovens will also make a larger dent in your utilities bill than the standard toaster, thanks to the amount of energy it takes to heat the oven.
Heavy-Duty Appliance: A heavy-duty toaster oven like the Breville Smart Oven will set you back a pretty penny—in this case nearly $250—but can perform nearly all of the essential tasks of a standard oven in a more compact space. This is a particularly useful tool for those who are working with an ovenless kitchen.
A Smaller Pick: Those who want the function of a toaster oven with less of a space obligation can opt for a smaller machine, like the Panasonic Flash Xpress Toaster Oven, which in addition to having a more compact design, also cooks up to 40 percent faster than others of its kind. However, opting for a smaller model will put a limitation on the size of what can be cooked in the toaster.
A More Affordable Option: While most toaster ovens—particularly the heavier duty models—can be costly, there are some affordable options on the market, like this Black + Decker 4-Slice Toaster Oven, which costs just under $30.
Small and mighty, the toaster gets its one primary task done in a short amount of time, requiring limited effort and no preheating. Just plug, press down, and wait. In my tiny kitchen, the toaster remains nestled in the cupboard until needed—a luxury that couldn’t be afforded to the more space-consuming toaster oven.
Toasters are generally superior at their primary task—toasting—and will result in a more even and consistent brown on your bread or bagel than its counterpart, as the toaster oven relies on a rack, which can block the heat source from portions of the surface area.
The obvious major limitation of the standard toaster is its shape and functionality. Given its slotted design, toasters can only fit objects an inch thick or less, and can’t perform any additional kitchen tasks. However, with less strain on your energy bill and certainly a smaller price tag at the store, a toaster is likely the best choice for those looking to toast on a tight budget.
The Bargain Buy: For under $15, the Hamilton Beach Cool Wall 2-Slice Toaster is a great starter appliance for any kitchen or dorm room. And with a heat-proof exterior, it won’t cause any unanticipated burns.
The Four-Slicer: For a slightly larger investment, you can get a more premium, four-slice model like the Cuisinart Classic 4-Slice Toaster. While a larger-capacity toaster will be helpful if you’re preparing toast for multiple people at once, it will take up slightly more space on your countertop or in your cupboard.
A Pinterest-Worthy Appliance: For those seeking a slick, stylish toaster to be proudly displayed on your counter, it doesn’t get more Pinterest-worthy than the SMEG 2-Slice Toaster. However, be prepared to spend, as this model will set you back a cool $150.
BONUS: Double Duty
For those who just can’t decide between the speed and convenience of a toaster and the multifaceted functions of a toaster oven, a combination option like the Hamilton Beach Toastation 2-Slice Toaster and Countertop Oven allows you to have the convenience of a toaster with the flexibility of a toaster oven.