If you’re here in pursuit of a perfect toaster oven, one that you really must buy right this instant, well… I’m sorry to say I’ve got some discouraging news for you. Toaster ovens are, in my humble opinion, largely overrated.
Maybe it’s a hard truth to hear. For generations, the toaster oven has been a trusty, crusty countertop companion for toasting and baking — an appliance that doesn’t just toast bread, but also doubles as a second, small oven — and with faster heat (and reheat) times to boot!
The problem? Most food you’d want to toast, like bagels or bread, would be better off in a standard toaster, and most food you’d want to bake would be better off sitting on an oven rack in your traditional oven, beneath a stronger set of heating elements. Either way, you’re compromising from the get-go. And good luck cooking a roast or other time-intensive and complicated foods in a countertop toaster oven, even if they do have the right temperature range.
Most toaster ovens are bulky as hell, too — and thanks to the rise of kitchen-friendly smart displays, food processors, Instant Pots, sous vide cookers, and the like, the chances are good that you’ve got a better way to put that precious counter space to use.
Read more: Top bread machines for home bakers
Still, maybe you don’t have a conventional oven and need a countertop toaster oven — or maybe you just want one, dammit. I get it! Despite my misgivings, there’s still a lot to like about the things. This is a much-beloved kitchen appliance we’re talking about, and my toasty hot take is probably a minority report.
But splurging doesn’t always make sense. Do you really need to add in modern luxuries like bar code scanners, built-in food cameras and smart cooking assistance? Techie toaster ovens from names such as Tovala, June and Brava can cost anywhere from $300 to $995, but most of the extras found in a mini smart oven are above and beyond what an average kitchen needs.
More reasonable are “upgrade pick” toaster ovens such as the fun, well-calibrated Panasonic FlashXpress, or a sturdy stalwart such as the Breville Smart Oven, both of which we reviewed — and loved — a few years ago. But at $127 and $299 respectively, those models, too, are outside the mainstream in a world where a regular toaster can be had for less than $20.
Read more: 4 signs it’s time to replace your toaster oven
That’s why I decided to take a look at some of your less expensive options to see if I could find a good value. I honed in on popular, well-reviewed models that cost between $50 and $100, and I used convection heating — a trick that uses a fan to circulate the hot air and cook more evenly — as a baseline, must-have feature.
Then, with six toaster ovens ready to go in our test kitchen, I set out to put them to the test to try to find the best toaster oven. Of these six, there were two we liked. But we’re including the aforementioned Panasonic and Breville toaster oven in our buyer’s guide here because they remain well worth the splurge.
We’ve tested all of those aforementioned upgrade picks here at CNET Appliances, but the only one any of us has ever bought for ourselves is the FlashXpress. It’s a fun, quirky countertop cooker that uses an infrared heating element for tasks like toasting bread and baking frozen pizza with speedy precision, and it has an easily removable crumb tray. It might not be big enough for everybody (or for baking for everybody), but that also means that it won’t take up any more counter space than it needs on your countertop. Even now, six years after we first reviewed it, it’s still easy to recommend it as the best toaster oven for toasting or baking food, or even a countertop toaster oven upgrade.
Read our full Panasonic FlashXpress review.
The Breville BOV800XL definitely isn’t cheap at around $270, and there’s nothing “smart” about the smart oven in a cloud-connected sense. But the Breville Smart Oven Pro cooks just about everything about as well as you could possibly expect from a countertop convection oven. On top of that, the mini smart oven is sturdy, attractive, and has an easily removable crumb tray, and it’s packed with extra cooking setting modes that you might actually find useful, including convection cooking. This Breville Smart Oven is a great compact toaster oven pick if you don’t have a smart oven or if you plan on using your oven toaster for cooking food just about every day.
Read our full Breville Smart Oven review.
I hate that the door on this convection toaster oven opens down more than 90 degrees. The glass can crash directly against the corner of your counterotp if it isn’t pushed all the way back against your backsplash.
Still, if you can forgive that design flaw, then you’ll love the way this convection toaster oven cooks, whether you’re toasting, baking or broiling. Available for about $60 at Costco, it was a top finisher in each one of our cooking tests. That sort of reliable, predictable cooking and baking is exactly what you want from your toaster oven.
Other toaster ovens we tested
- Bialetti 35047: This model was one of our top value picks of 2019 for its strong features and classy design. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to be available any longer in 2020, at least not at any of the online retailers we track. It isn’t even listed on the Bialetti website anymore.
- Black & Decker TO3265XSSD: One of the newest models from the top name in toaster ovens replaces the convection setting with a gimmicky, one-temperature-fits-all “Air Fry” mode. It’s fine for the price if you need a wide-bodied design with extra room for toast.
- Hamilton Beach 31123D: One of Hamilton Beach’s “Easy Reach” models, the slightly under-powered 31123D makes it a little easier to see inside as you’re cooking or broiling, thanks to a sloping “Easy Reach” door that lifts up to open. Too bad Hamilton Beach stamped a large logo on the glass to obstruct your view.
- Nostalgia Retro RTOV220RETRORED: The cheesy, retro-red design makes it look more like a toolbox than a toaster oven, and it felt a bit cheaply made. Still, this eye-catching model performed passably well in our tests.
- Toshiba AC25CEW-BS: The digital controls are nice to have in this fancy-looking, black stainless steel option, but it comes with a learning curve thanks to underpowered toasting and overpowered baking and broiling.
More from Chowhound: 10 toaster oven hacks you need to try right now
|Settings||9 (Toast, Bake, Broil, Warm, Bagel, Pizza, Cookies, Defrost, Reheat)||4 (Toast, Bake, Broil, Air Fry)||4 (Bake, Toast, Broil, Convection)||4 (Bake, Pizza/Toast, Broil, Convection)||5 (Bake, Toast, Broil, Warm, Turbo)||10 (Bake, Toast, Broil, Convection, Pizza, Cookies, Rotisserie, Defrost, Reheat, Keep Warm)|
|Toast time, 2 slices, medium setting||5:00||4:00||3:30||5:30||4:30||3:20|
|Toast time, 2 slices, dark setting||8:00||8:00||6:30||9:00||7:30||4:30|
|Exterior Dimensions||19.7 x 15.8 x 14.2 in.||21.5 x 23.0 x 11.2 in.||9.4 x 18.7 x 15.2 in.||19.2 x 15.4 x 10.8 in.||18.5 x 15.7 x 10.4 in.||19.0 x 10.8 x 15.6 in.|
|Interior Width||12 in.||16 in.||12 in.||12.5 in.||12 in.||12.5 in.|
|Interior Depth||12 in.||12 in.||12 in.||12 in.||12 in.||12 in.|
|Interior Height (from bottom rack position)||7.5 in.||7.5 in.||5 in.||7 in.||6 in.||7 in.|
|Broil Height (from top rack position)||2.5 in.||2 in.||3.5 in.||4 in.||4 in.||2 in.|
|Weight||18.0 lbs.||19.0 lbs.||14.0 lbs.||15.6 lbs.||14.9 lbs.||16.2 lbs.|
|Color||Black Stainless Steel||Stainless Steel||Stainless Steel||Red||Stainless Steel||Black Stainless Steel|
|Key Features||“A Little Extra” button||Mesh air-frying rack||“Easy Reach” door||Retro design||None||Built-in rotisserie cooker|
What are my options?
You’ve got absolutely no shortage of toaster ovens to choose from. Names like Black & Decker, Hamilton Beach, Oster and countless others have been cranking the things out for generations now.
The true bargain-bin picks cost less than $50. If you’re willing to spend a little more, you should expect to get some form of convection heat and cooking, as well as perhaps a wider oven cavity, a few additional cooking preset options, digital controls, a non-stick coating on the bake pan or a nicer-looking design. The Bialetti and Toshiba models I tested come in black stainless steel, matching a modern large appliance trend, and the Toshiba model features a built-in rotisserie rack, too. The Nostalgia model offers a unique, red-bodied build, while lower-cost options from Hamilton Beach and Oster serve as simpler budget picks.
How we tested toaster ovens
Testing toaster ovens requires an awful lot of cooking, so I donned my trusty tan apron and got to work.
Specifically, I set out to cook a wide variety of common toaster oven fodder. With the exception of the toasting tests, where I looked at each toaster oven’s individual settings for light, medium and dark toast, I used standardized temperature and cook times, and followed the recommendations on the box for whatever I was cooking wherever possible.
More from Chowhound: How to Clean Your Toaster Oven
Toast tests galore
Bread made up the bulk of my test fodder — after all, of all the foods most of us probably make most often with these things it’s toast.
Most low-end toaster ovens use a built-in kitchen timer to set the broiling, toasting and cooking time. Typically, those timers include a couple of preset options for toasting — medium toast, dark toast and in some cases, a setting for light, barely toasted bread, too.
Fancier models with an LCD display will usually let you dial into a specific doneness level when you’re toasting. You’ll typically get about six or seven settings to choose from with those, each with preprogrammed toasting times. That’s more precise than turning a timer knob, and worth it if you’re a stickler for the perfect shade of golden brown.
For my purposes, I toasted two slices of thin, white sandwich bread in each toaster oven at its version of each of the three common settings: light, medium and dark. After each test, I photographed the results and made sure to let the toaster oven cool back down to room temperature before testing again.
The main thing I was looking for was a nice, even color at medium settings, as well as the ability to easily adjust up or down from there.
The models with digital displays — Bialetti and Toshiba — were the easiest to use, since you dial into your preferred level of doneness on a six- or seven-point scale rather than guesstimating with a timer knob. Four out of 7 was a touch too dark for my tastes with Bialetti, but it’d be easy enough to leave it set at 3 (it was also the only toaster oven that visibly toasted the bread at the lightest toast setting). I also appreciated that it was the only toaster oven of the bunch to feature an “A Little Extra” button for those times when your toast needs another minute.
Meanwhile, the Toshiba’s toast was a little too light at 4 out of 6, and too light at the darkest setting, too.
The other four toaster ovens I tested all use timer knobs with little markers for different settings. I’m not a fan of the approach, especially with a model like the Hamilton Beach 31123D, which puts tiny markers for medium and dark toast directly adjacent to one another on the dial. Though a full 3 minutes of toasting time separates them, you’ll have to stoop down, squint and turn the knob very carefully if you want to hit anything in between the two with any sort of consistency.
The best of the manual control bunch? That’d be the Oster TSSTTVCG05, which consistently delivered satisfying golden brown toast at medium settings in less time than Bialetti, and which also features the best setting for folks who like toast dark, but not charcoal black.
Speaking of the darkest setting, I didn’t begrudge the toaster ovens that burnt the hell out of my bread, because that darkest setting is often needed to toast from frozen. To put that to the test, I toasted several batches of frozen Eggo waffles in each toaster at the darkest setting. Predictably, the ones that had produced black toast at the same setting did the best job, though the Black & Decker toaster oven’s Eggos were a little too well done at the darkest setting, too. That’ll force you to search for a sweet spot between medium and dark on the dedicated doneness dial when you’re toasting frozen food.
Meanwhile, the weakest toasters of the bunch — Hamilton Beach and Toshiba — weren’t able to get the Eggos quite crisp enough. They might have benefited from Bialetti’s “A Little Extra” button.
Pizza and other frozen snacks and foods
I also baked a bunch of frozen pizzas — personal-sized pepperoni pies from DiGiorno, to be specific. The box recommends baking a frozen pizza at 425 F for 17 minutes, so that’s what I did with each toaster oven.
The results were all over place, but not terribly surprising. The Hamilton Beach toaster oven was a little wimpy in the toast tests, and it followed suit here, too, with an underbaked pizza that needed another couple of minutes in the oven. Meanwhile, the toaster oven with the most power — the Bialetti — gave us burnt pizza that cooked a lot faster than you’d expect.
Toshiba burnt the pizza, too. That was more surprising since it had the opposite problem during my toast tests. Like Bialetti, it offers a dedicated pizza setting. With both models, the result was basically identical — burnt pizza when following the box instructions.
The best-cooked pizzas of the bunch came from Oster and Black & Decker, while the bright red, retro-designed Nostalgia toaster oven baked a passable pie, too.
In addition to DiGiorno’s, I made sure to test a number of other frozen snacks and foods, including mozzarella sticks (short bake time), Pizza Bagels (medium baking time) and waffle fries (long baking time). Again, for the most part, I was less concerned with how things tasted than I was with how much each toaster oven matched the recommended temperature and cook times compared with the user’s manual. The results largely lined up with what we saw from the pizzas, but if you want to read more details, you can check out my full testing notes here.
My last tests were an office favorite: Nestle Tollhouse chocolate chip cookies. I baked five cookies at a time in each toaster oven at its convection setting and according to the recommended time and temperature settings.
The Toshiba toaster oven again produced an overcooked result, which fit the pattern — it undercooked during toast tests and overcooked during baking and broiling tests. Bialetti and Black & Decker’s cookies were slightly well done, too. Meanwhile, Nostalgia, Oster and Hamilton Beach produced our taste testers’ top cookies (they passed the eye test with my Twitter followers, too).
Nostalgia’s convection setting gave us the most even bake on cookies — a notable difference from the standard baking tests, where Nostalgia tended to cook faster in the back.
In honesty, though, all of the toaster ovens did pretty well at the convection setting — it’s a feature that really makes a difference with baked goods like cookies. In fact, all of them can bake cookies or anything else just the way you like. The ones that overcook or undercook will just require more of a learning curve.
To that end, the Oster toaster oven emerged as my top pick from a performance standpoint — it aced my toast tests and proved predictable throughout all of my baking and broiling tests, too. That said…
Don’t get burned by bad design
I’ve yet to test a toaster oven that makes foods taste any better than a full-size oven would. They’re simply not designed to perform to that standard — especially not for less than $100.
That’s why I think you should take most toaster oven performance claims with a grain or two of salt. As long as your toaster oven doesn’t overcook or undercook foods too much, and if it has enough power (1,500 watts is a good benchmark for average-sized convection toaster ovens), then you won’t notice much of a difference in the way it cooks foods as compared with other models like it.
You will notice design flaws and clunky user interfaces, though, so if you can, head to the store and get your hands on the models you’re zeroing in on before you buy. Open and close the doors, adjust the racks — look for the little things. For instance, the glass door on the top-performing Oster model opens down more than 90 degrees, which means that the glass can clank directly against the corner of your countertop if you don’t have it pushed up against your backsplash.
As for me, I hated the imprecise doneness dials on the Hamilton Beach and Nostalgia toaster ovens, and I was also bugged by the temperature dial on the Toshiba model, which starts at 350 degrees Fahrenheit and moves in 20-degree increments — that means you can’t hit a precise 400.
None of these countertop toaster ovens is perfect, but some in this price range look better than others, and feel much easier to use. Those are differences worth shopping around for.
You’ll also want to think about what you’ll be using your toaster oven for most often. If you like toast with your coffee each morning, prioritize a toaster oven with a precise preset. If you like to broil things like hamburgers, make sure you get a toaster oven with a high top rack position 2 or 3 inches underneath the heating elements. Many don’t let you set the racks any higher than halfway up, which is too low from the heating elements for a good char.
What about my energy bill?
One argument in favor of countertop toaster ovens is that they use less energy than a full-size traditional oven. That’s true — most full-size electric ovens will draw about 2,400 watts at medium to high heat, while the average toaster oven will draw around 1,500 watts. That means that every time you’re using your toaster oven instead of your full-size oven, you’re cutting your energy consumption by a little over a third.
What does that mean in dollars and cents? Let’s walk through the math. Assuming an energy rate of $0.12 per kilowatt hour and an average use of 1 hour per day, the full-size oven will add about $105 to your energy bill each year. Unplug the oven and use a toaster oven instead, and that yearly energy cost drops to $65.
Your actual savings will vary based on use, and will likely be a lot less than $40. After all, most people who own toaster ovens will continue to use their full-size oven sometimes, if not most of the time, and hardly any of us will stop using our ovens altogether. So let’s split the difference and say that using a toaster oven instead of a full-size oven at least some of the time can knock as much as $20 off of your yearly energy bill, provided you’re baking something just about every day.
That’s still pretty good, but it’s also less than you might expect. Think about it — the average 1,500-watt toaster oven offers about 0.6 cubic feet on the inside, while the average 2,400-watt electric oven offers about 5 cubic feet. The toaster oven is 85 percent smaller, but it’s only using 35 percent less energy. If you’ve got a family to feed, or if you like to make multiple batches of cookies at a time, then you’ll actually get more value from the full-size oven.
Are there smart toaster ovens?
There sure are — well, smart countertop ovens, anyway — but it’s very early, and they’re very expensive. Unless you’re an enthusiastic early adopter of smart kitchen tech with lots of cash to burn, they’re tough to recommend, and I’d stick with a regular oven.
The first to arrive was the June Intelligent Oven, which now sells in a second-gen model for $599. It’s a capable cooking machine that uses built-in cameras to identify what you’re trying to make, and it offers cooking guidance and an abundance of settings to tweak in its companion app. It also isn’t good at making toast.
The Tovala Smart Oven is another second-gen smart oven, and at $299, it’s less expensive than June. It doesn’t feature built-in cameras — instead, this smart oven uses a built-in QR code scanner to identify specific Tovala meal kits, as well as up to 750 frozen foods from retailers like Trader Joe’s. From there, the smart oven automates the entire cooking process. You just put the food in and press start.
The third smart oven worth mentioning comes from Brava, and it’s the most expensive of the three at $995. Among toaster oven upgrades, it’s a bit like Frankenstein’s monster — you get the same infrared heating elements as the Panasonic FlashXpress, the same built-in cameras as June, and the same meals kit approach as Tovala. Like the smart oven itself, those meal kits are awfully expensive, with dinner for two ranging from $28 to $45.
I don’t think any of these smart options are worth buying yet, but connected cooking gadgets are continuing to mature — and with products like the Instant Pot proving that there’s still a healthy appetite for well-featured kitchen tech and kitchen appliances, manufacturers are motivated to innovate.
That includes the market-movers. Whirlpool has a smart countertop oven of its own now, and more big brands are likely to follow suit. Just recently, LG announced that its smart ovens will support Tovala’s meals kits — though you’ll need to scan their QR codes with the Tovala app on your phone. And if you’re in the market for a microwave, you might consider the $250 Amazon Smart Oven, which basically combines a microwave with an air fryer and adds in built-in Alexa voice controls.
Heck, even plain old toasters are looking to grab attention. The latest is the Revolution R180, a $300 toaster with a touchscreen on the front. Interestingly, that one uses diamond-shaped heating coils that are faster and more efficient than traditional toaster coils, and it worked as advertised when we tested it out. I wonder if we’ll see similar designs start to pop up in the toaster oven category.
Fresh competition like that might lead to something truly compelling — and, at the very least, it should eventually help to bring prices down to more reasonable levels. When we get to that point, I’ll update this section to include our top pick with its pros and cons.