Do you know what I love most about using a toaster oven? Unlike conventional ovens, when you acquire a toaster oven, it arrives already assembled. All you ought to do when it reaches your doorstep is take it out of its box, plug it into the extension or wall socket, and start using your new appliance.
That said, just like every other appliance, there are other things that come into play when maintaining a toaster oven, and that is what we will discuss here today.
Before getting to the main section of the post and looking at how to use a toaster oven, let us take a look at some of the preparatory steps you have to take before using the appliance for the first time.
As a general rule of thumb, always ensure you start using the appliance by thoroughly washing all the removable pieces and wiping inside the surfaces of the toaster oven. Once you have done that, it is time to keenly read through the instruction manual and become familiar with all the features offered by your toaster oven.
Ensure you clearly understand what each button does. If the gadget retails with removable parts such as racks, make sure that you understand how to remove and place them back in perfectly as well.
This is also the time for you to understand which pans, you already have, can fit inside the appliance. If you previously acquired small bread pans, cookie sheets, and cake pans that fit in perfectly, then you are in luck because you won’t have to spend any more of your hard-earned cash to acquire smaller pans.
Do a test run on the toaster oven
Even if you are not contemplating on using the appliance right away, you will at the very least want to do a test run and ensure that every setting is working as advertised. This is your chance because, if you realize something is wrong, then you can immediately start planning on either getting a replacement or a refund.
With that in mind, the first step is deciding on what you will be using the appliance to do primarily. Will you use it to warm leftovers? Are you a person who bakes a lot? Or do you intend to use your appliance to prepare entire meals?
That is the best way to make sure you know what you are testing for.
With that out of the way, let us skip to the main section of the post and look at how to use a toaster oven.
How to use a toaster oven
All toaster ovens retail with a wire rack that you can use to place your meals on (unless you are using a toaster oven retailing with a regular toaster on the top side.) So, to use the toaster oven, place the rack in the center slot. Usually, you won’t have to preheat it if all you want to do is toast bread slices.
Subsequently, select the shade preference and toasting function you would like to avail. Some of the models out there will need you to set the timer instead of choosing a shade preference. As a general rule of thumb, understand that the longer you leave your slices in the toaster oven the darker they will be toasted.
If the toaster oven model you have acquired is a more state of the art product, then the shade selector might be labeled by numbers i.e. from number one to seven. The first numbers usually deliver lightly toasted bread slices whereas the highest ones deliver darkly toasted slices.
As a person who is new to these appliances, I recommend that you choose a lower setting for the first couple of times. This way, in case the slices don’t come out toasted to your liking, you can simply put them back in and toast them again or just a little bit longer.
If you choose a higher number and the slices get toasted more than you’d like, then you won’t be able to do anything about it. In addition to that, do not throw in your slices and forget about them. As the toaster oven does what it is expected to do, stay on the lookout.
How to use a toaster oven instead of other cooking applications
Besides simply toasting, toaster ovens will also come in handy when you need other cooking settings such as broiling or baking. How to use your masterpiece for these functions is quite similar to how you are using it for toasting normal slices.
Baking with a Toaster Oven
Before baking with your toaster oven, check the dials on the front side of your toaster oven. The setting you are looking for should be labeled “bake” and besides it, you should find dials that allow you to adjust the temperature of the appliance.
The only way to master which temperature levels you should use is through lot of practice. But as a general rule of thumb, always allow the toaster oven several minutes to heat up. Consequently, place the meal you would like to bake inside the appliance and make sure none of it is touching the top side of the oven. I will explain why this is important under the title: “Mistakes people make while using a toaster oven.”
After placing your meal inside and closing the door, set the timer and let the toaster oven do the rest. When the meal is readily cooked, the appliance will let out a beep sound to notify you.
Below is a list of some foods you can prepare using the Bake Setting:
- Cowboy cookies
- Chicken tenders
- Chicken thighs
- Roasted pumpkin seeds
- Coconut shrimp with curried chutney
- Brie and cranberry bites
- Wonton cups
- Spicy pimento cheese dip
- Asparagus fries
- Cajun roasted okra
- Chocolate and peanut butter cookies
Also note: When you are using your toaster oven for baking, both top and bottom heating elements will be turned on.
Broiling using the Toaster Oven
The steps that have to be followed to broil in the toaster oven are quite similar to the steps we followed under the baking section. The main difference is that the broiling setting will only use the heating elements placed on the top side of your appliance.
The broil setting will come in handy when you want to caramelize, crisp, brown, or melt the tops of specific meals. Just imagine browning a cheese topping on a casserole or melting cheese on top of a small plate of nachos.
Another factor you should note is that broiling doesn’t take a lot of time. So even though setting the timer would be a great idea, you’re not supposed to go too far away. This way, you can keep an eye on whatever you are preparing.
Here are some of my favorite foods to prepare using the broil setting:
- Broiled Maryland crap cakes with creamy herb sauce
- Chipotle Tilapia with Avocado Sauce
- Grapefruit with Cinnamon Brown Sugar
To conclude this section, if you decide to spend a significant portion of your hard-earned cash on a toaster oven, then you may also get one of those with three or even four rack positions. In such situations, when you choose where to place your meal will entirely depend on how you intend to prepare it.
Once again, extensively read the user manual that comes with the package to understand how each rack position affects your meals.
Having said that, as a general rule of thumb, broiling should always be done near the top of the toaster oven surface. Baking should be done in the lower or middle slot, whereas toasting is usually done in the middle.
Other factors you should consider
As with every other kitchen appliance, there are several factors you should bear in mind if you want your experience with your toaster oven to be a great one. For example, when you are baking a cake, always make sure that there is sufficient room on the top side for it to rise. This is particularly essential if you have a small toaster oven with a limited height on the inside.
Failure to obey this factor may result in your meal touching the heating element and causing a fire.
Secondly, in case you are using a toaster oven with the convection feature, adjust your cooking time and temperature settings as required to match the setting.
Some mistakes people make while using a toaster oven
When you acquire a toaster oven, you give up lots of kitchen countertop space and cash. So, it is only fair that you make it worth the lost resources by avoiding mistakes that may ruin your toasting experience or spoil your toaster oven altogether.
Here are some of the mistakes I have realized most people make.
1. Putting in too many slices in the appliance
If you have been advised to put in four slices into your toaster oven at a time, please abide by it. Even though trying to fit in up to six slices succeed, you can rest assured they won’t be evenly browned.
2. Leaving the power cord plugged in the socket
Please get into the habit of always unplugging when you are not using your toaster oven. Even though it doesn’t happen often, there is a risk of causing a fire or circuit if you leave it plugged in.
3. Not understanding the requirements of convection baking
If you are using a toaster oven with a convection setting, always ensure you reduce the toasting temperature by approximately 25 degrees if your appliance does not do it automatically. Also, ensure that you check on your food earlier than you would have if you were not using the convection setting.
4. Not using the toaster oven for baking
Acquire some mini bakeware. This will allow you to use your appliance to make meatloaves, muffins, and much more.
I hope you are now more confident about investing in a toaster oven than you were at the beginning of the post. If you still want to understand the appliances more, feel free to check out this detailed comparison of Toaster Ovens vs Conventional Ovens.