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by Christina Wright
If you love toast, you need to learn more about toaster ovens. These handy small appliances are a huge improvement over traditional two-slice toasters; not only do they perfectly brown your morning toast, but electric toaster ovens also toast large bread products like bagels, cook and brown foods like pizza and garlic bread, and warm or reheat leftovers without making them soggy like microwaves sometimes do. With so many options and features available in toaster ovens now, finding the perfect one for your kitchen can be a bit intimidating. Never fear -- this toaster oven buying guide will help you learn more about these popular appliances.
Capacity and size: The capacity and size of your convection toaster ovens will affect how much counter space you have to work with as well as determine what bread products and other foods you can toast. There are three possible ways to calculate the capacity and size of a toaster oven, but not all of them are equally useful. The first is the actual dimensions of the appliance. Use these measurements to decide if the size of the toaster oven will fit in your available counter space. The second method is the slice capacity. Most toaster ovens are four to six-slice capacity, but this can be misleading; one 6-slice toaster oven may be able to bake a whole chicken for family dinner, while another 6-slice toaster oven can't handle foods larger than a 12-inch pizza. The final and best way to determine a toaster oven's capacity is to look at its cubic foot measurement. A toaster oven with a 0.6-cubic foot capacity is usually big enough to cook a whole chicken.
Racks, pans and extras: Like a traditional oven, toaster ovens have special racks, pans and trays, depending on what you want to cook, toast or bake. All toaster ovens come with at least one wire rack, and many of the larger toaster ovens will have two. The best toaster ovens will allow you to move these racks to cook more than one item or to brown an item perfectly. Most toaster ovens also include at least one baking pan you can use to cook most things that you don't want to place directly on the wire rack of your toaster oven. Extra baking, broiling and roasting pans are also available for these small appliances both individually and with the actual oven. In addition to pans and racks, the best toaster oven will also have a removable crumb tray to make cleanup a snap. Specialty toaster ovens may have specialty baking options, such as pizza stones.
Multiple heating functions: The most common heating functions of a toaster oven are bake, broil and toast. With these three options, you can use your toaster oven to make your breakfast toast, bake dinners and snacks without heating up the whole kitchen and broil chicken or fish for family dinner. These aren't the only options available in these appliances, however. More advanced electric toaster ovens include such heating functions as reheat, defrost, roast, pizza and cookies options. Some toaster ovens even have brick inserts to replicate the authenticity and flavor of brick-oven cooking.