The toaster oven is undeniably one of the most versatile kitchen appliances one can have in their household. From roasting vegetables and broiling fish to baking cookies in a timely manner, you can accomplish so much using this affordable and practical appliance.
That said, most cooking aficionados I have come across do not realize how many distinct ways they can utilize their toaster ovens in their kitchen, or that the appliances can do more than just toast a piece of bread.
With that in mind, before getting to the main section of the post and looking at how you can bake in a toaster oven, let us look at the advantages these masterpieces offer.
Advantages of Toaster Ovens
- They will allow you to cook only small portions: Sometimes, igniting your regular oven to whip up a quick meal for one or two individuals can be too much of a hassle – and that’s where a toaster oven comes into play. If you do not want to bake a whole batch of cookies that could satisfy a party or roast an entire chicken, you can easily fit in a chicken thigh into your toaster oven. I personally love taking two spoons of cookie dough from my freezer and making a small amount of freshly baked treats.
- They will keep your kitchen space cool (literally): If you’ve ever operated a traditional oven on a steamy summer day, then you know that it’s no fun. Lucky for you, toaster ovens with cool to the touch exteriors won’t heat up a room when they are turned on but will thoroughly and efficiently cook your meals in the same way as a regular oven would. So, if you’re looking for an oven that would be perfect for hot days, feel free to try out a toaster oven.
- They’re energy-efficient: Toaster ovens are smaller in size and require less usage time compared to traditional full-sized ovens, which means they’ll use less energy compared to their large counterparts. So, if your goal is to cut back on energy bills, a toaster oven is a better bet.
- Better than microwaves: Microwaves heat up the water molecules in food using radiation. And even though this is a quick process, it tends to result in uneven cooking and foods that are either too soggy or too dry. If you’ve ever used a microwave to fry mozzarella sticks or chicken, then you know the results lack the crisp that makes the meals tasty.
The best toaster ovens, however, retail with convection baking functions that slowly heat meals using gas or electric powered heating elements placed at the top and bottom of the appliances. While this procedure is slower than a microwave’s, it cooks meals more evenly and doesn’t get rid of the crunch and crispiness.
For detailed guides on the differences between toaster ovens, microwaves, and traditional ovens, check out the posts below:
Baking in a toaster oven
With those advantages in mind, let us skip to the main section of the post and look at how to bake in a toaster oven.
Confirm the size of your toaster oven’s interior space
If you’re still getting used to your toaster oven, the first thing you’ll need to confirm before preparing the cooking ingredients is the capacity of your toaster oven. Toaster ovens range in size, and while estimating your oven’s, the key is to ensure that you have sufficient room for what you’re baking to rise without coming into contact with the heating elements on the top side.
Preheat the toaster oven
Whether you’re baking, roasting, or toasting, always remember that preheating your oven is critical. But thanks to a toaster oven’s small size compared to full-sized ovens, it’ll heat up pretty fast.
The only downside is that due to its small size, it is more likely to lose the heat faster when you open its door. The easiest way to get around this is preheating the toaster oven a little more than you would have your regular oven. Based on my experience, I would suggest preheating up your toaster oven about 50 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees Celsius) hotter than you would have preheated a full-sized oven.
That initial hot air is extremely crucial while baking because it helps your meal rise as required. If your toaster oven loses too much heat when you’re loading your meal, then the result can end up being a small, dense meal.
Do not forget to preheat all baking surfaces as well. For instance, if you’ll wrap your meal using a baking sheet, then ensure that you preheat that one as well. The goal is to preheat everything that will be involved in the cooking process.
Set the time and adjust the temperature
Because a toaster oven is more energy efficient compared to a regular oven, I recommend that you make small twists to the recipes you work with, particularly when it comes to temperature and time.
For both, give the dough a little less power. Toasters with cool to the touch exterior will retain heat inside particularly when if they’re closed.
What’s more? Closely inspect your toaster oven to check if there is a seal between the oven and its door. If you’re using the best modern toaster oven, then you probably won’t find any space. But if you’re using an old-fashioned toaster oven without the seals on the door, then it means it will lose heat (even though slowly) throughout baking. So, ensure you set the temperature slightly higher than you would have if there were no space.
You won’t need to make any adjustments as long as you can maintain a steady temperature level (which should be easy if your toaster oven is retaining heat as I just mentioned.) One extremely essential tip I can give you is that try your best not to open the door too many times during cooking. This will deliver healthier results and quicken the baking process.
If your meals don’t come out with a golden shade, then leave it inside the toaster oven a little longer. I, for one, love a darker crust. To ensure my food is ready, I usually tap on it.
If it sounds like its hollow, then I know it’s ready.
NB: this is an extra baking tip for you if you’re using a small toaster oven. Due to the closeness of the toaster oven’s heating elements and dough, you might, at times, find that your meals crust has been burned even before the loaf is ready. To ensure this doesn’t happen, cover the top side of your dough using a piece of aluminum foil. That should be sufficient to protect the crust while sufficiently baking the meal.
How to trap heat around your dough
Here is a cool trick I love, and it yields great results as well in the early stages of baking if you’re trying to save on energy. When your toaster oven has been sufficiently preheated, take a stainless-steel dish and put it upside down over your dough immediately after putting it into the oven. Let it sit in there for 15 to 30 minutes, then remove it.
After taking it out, slightly lower the oven’s heating temperature and turn on the convection setting (assuming you’re using a convection toaster oven.) This will allow your toaster to create the golden shade on your meal, while at the same time ensuring the crust dries properly.
When the meal is ready, turn off the toaster oven right away and unplug it. Make sure the food does not overheat. Also, do not forget to clean the inside of your toaster oven from time to time.
Foods you can prepare using your toaster oven
Other foods you can bake using your toaster oven include:
- Vegan banana nut scones
You won’t need dairy or eggs to prepare these tasty glazed scones.
- Pull apart cinnamon roll brioche
It’s time to skip the store-sold instant cinnamon buns and start thinking outside the box with a cinnamon roll brioche recipe.
- Baked savory cream cheese & herb doughnuts
You do not have to stick to sweets. These cheesy doughnuts can be a perfect snack at any time of the day.
- Chocolate cupcakes with avocado icing
This chocolate cupcakes recipe sneaks avocados into the icing to create the optimal creaminess.
- Baked fruit
Are you craving something slightly sweet? Learn how to bake grapefruits, peaches, and apples.
- Izy’s Swedish Chocolate Cake
A dense Swedish chocolate cake sounds simple but is extremely enjoyable.
- Chocolate chip cookies
- Favorite baked spaghetti
- Teriyaki Pork and Veggies
- Chicken Chimichangas
- Pizza noodle
- Cornbread taco
- Roasted chicken with brown gravy
- Chicken breast tortillas
- Salmon en Papillote
Even though baking repeatedly to perfection in a toaster oven needs some experience and experimenting, it’s still possible to attain great results as a beginner. Employ the guidelines and tricks I’ve mentioned above (the guide is actually based on my experiences), and I’m confident it will set you on the right path to baking perfection.
That said, if you plan on scouring the internet for the best toaster oven after this, feel free to check out this review I created recently on the best spacious toaster ovens for families.