Chapter 1: Basics Be a Toaster Oven Pro—Let’s Get Cooking
Place the toaster oven securely on the counter or a table and allow space for air flow all around the appliance. It is awkward to move, so you won’t want to move it daily, which is how often you will use the oven. The oven will be hot, so do not touch it while operating.
Many countertop manufacturers recommend to avoid operating hot appliances on granite, quartz, or other countertops. Place the toaster oven on a heatproof board large enough to hold it securely and protect the counter.
Read the use and care booklet that came with your toaster oven. You will uncover a lot of tips and suggestions. Be sure to follow all of the recommendations for safe operation.
Breaking It Down
These are the various elements and functions usually included with your toaster oven.
Many toaster ovens offer different heights for the cooking rack. Often you place the rack in the middle position for toasting bread, and the lowest position when baking, but check what the manufacturer of your oven recommends.
Toaster ovens are equipped with a crumb tray. Wash it frequently and always position it correctly before cooking. No matter how tempting it might be, do not ever line the crumb tray, unless the manufacturer of your particular toaster oven recommends it.
Electronic settings typically include one for each function—such as toasting, baking, or broiling—a temperature setting, a timer, and an on/off switch.
Today’s toaster ovens may have five, ten, or even more different functions. Here are the most common ones.
Toast: Often the toast setting allows you to choose the number of bread slices and if you prefer lighter or darker browning.
Bake: This popular setting is one you will use when baking a casserole, a cake, a batch of cookies, or many other foods. Once you select the bake function, set the temperature, just like you would for a big oven. Usually you place the rack in the lowest position when baking and allow the toaster oven to preheat to the desired temperature.
Broil: Use the broil setting for broiled meats. It is also the ideal function to use when browning a crisp topping on a casserole or browning and crisping wings or ribs. Place the food on a broiler pan and adjust the rack height as needed for the food. While the top rack position may work well for some thinner foods, the center or a lower position may be best when broiling meat or the top of a casserole.
Bagel: This is a variation of the toast setting and is designed to brown and crisp the top of a bagel while warming the bottom of the bagel, which makes it ideal for bagels, of course, but also for English muffins or any thicker pastry. Be sure to place the bagel with the cut side facing up.
Roast: Yes, you can roast a chicken or a wide array of vegetables in your toaster oven. It is very similar to using the baking function, but may offer a longer timer setting. When roasting, the food is not covered and develops a beautiful brown crust.
Pizza: This preset function is an ideal way to bake a pizza.
Convection: A fan circulates the hot air when you set the toaster oven on convection. Many restaurants and commercial bakeries have used convection heat for many years to ensure even browning with crisp crusts. Because it is more efficient, the baking time is often a little less than regular baking. See tips on page 9
Warm: Does your oven have a Keep Warm setting? It is great to use after cooking, when you need to keep the dish warm for a little while. Do not use this setting for actual cooking or reheating. Just let the hot food stay in the oven, then set the toaster oven to the warm setting. Do not try to keep food warm too long, for it will dry out or begin to overcook. For optimum food safety, the USDA recommends to keep hot foods above 140°F or cold foods below 40°F. Any food that is kept at room temperature for more than two hours should be discarded.
Many toaster ovens now come with several other settings, such as air frying, dehydrating, heating frozen foods, slow cooking, and many more. Read the use and care manual that came with your oven, or visit the manufacturer’s website to get accurate, detailed information for the various settings on your toaster oven.
Toaster Oven Pro Tips
Use hot pads and be careful. The toaster oven, racks, pans, and food itself will be hot.
Preheat the oven on the desired setting and temperature. You may not need to preheat when toasting, but preheating will be common for most other uses.
Which Pans Are Safe to Use?
A number of pans will fit in your toaster oven and many stores sell an ever-increasing array. Common pans that typically fit include pie pans, round or square 8- or 9-inch cake pans, 1- or 2-quart casserole dishes, loaf pans, 6-cup muffin pans, and many more.
It is wise to check the fit before you prepare the dish. If purchasing new pans, double-check the dimensions of the pans and the interior of your oven.
Handles on the pans may limit the fit. Baking pans are listed by the interior dimension, so a 9-inch pie pan measures 9 inches across the inside center. If it has decorative handles, the exterior dimension may measure 10 inches or more.
Large pans—especially 9 x 13-inch baking pans, 12-inch pizza pans, or baking sheets, including one commonly called a “quarter sheet pan”—increase the variety of foods you can prepare, but watch their fit. Some toaster ovens will accommodate larger pans and others will not.
Your toaster oven may have come with a two-piece broiler pan. The broiler pan will have two pieces—the rack, or perforated top, and a solid baking pan on the bottom. When broiling, use both pans so the food rests on the perforated top and any grease or drippings collect in the bottom pan. The bottom baking pan fits perfectly in your toaster oven. We often list a 12 x 12-inch baking pan in our recipes, as it fit in the ovens we used for testing these recipes. Yours may measure slightly differently, but the bottom baking pan of that broiler pan set will work beautifully in your oven, and if it is similar in size to the one listed in the recipe, you will find it convenient to use. If it is substantially smaller in size, you may need to cook the food in batches.
For casseroles and one-dish meals, we often turn to deep 11 x 7 x 2 ½-inch casserole dishes. These baking dishes are deeper than many 11 x 7-inch metal pans and are ideal for casseroles.
If you have a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan, now is the perfect time to get it out and use it. Many foods are ideal for the loaf pan, which typically fits in the toaster oven. A 9 x 5-inch loaf pan holds about 8 cups, so it is easy to substitute this loaf pan for a 2-quart casserole dish.
Never force a pan to fit or wedge it inside the oven. Be sure the pan allows air flow around the edges and allows the door to close correctly. Check that the top of the pan does not rest too closely to the top heating element; if it does, the oven may not heat evenly and the top of the food may overbrown.
What Is That Baking Pan Made Of?
Metal, oven-safe baking pans are a natural choices. If they fit, they are a win!
Ceramic, stoneware, or glass? Even those labeled oven-safe pose a risk. Always doublecheck the label or information that came with the baking dish. If information on the baking pan is not available, check for guidelines on that company’s website or call and ask for directions. Many manufacturers of oven-safe, tempered glass, such as Pyrex and Anchor Hocking, do not recommend using their glass baking dishes in a toaster oven. They explain that even though the oven-safe glass is designed for a regular oven, the glass dish may heat unevenly or rest too closely to the heating element in a toaster oven, and this will cause the dish to break or the oven to malfunction.
Ceramic or stoneware dishes that are oven safe can generally be used in a toaster oven on the baking or roasting cycles. Check their labels carefully if you plan to set the toaster oven on broil.
One more tip. A dark-colored pan absorbs heat, so it will increase the browning on the food and create a darker crust. A shiny, light-colored pan will bake foods with a lighter crust.