Toasters and toaster ovens. They both do the same thing, right?
Well, not exactly.
There are some key differences between the two. And we set out to tell you exactly what these differences are. We want our readers to be informed buyers, so we'll be covering the important stuff like:
- How both toasters and toaster ovens work
- The pros and cons of toasters and toaster ovens
- The foods toasters and toaster ovens excel at cooking
- Which one best fits your needs
So if you are looking for a one-stop-shop for all your toaster/toaster oven comparison questions, we got you covered.
Let's jump right in!
Brief Overview of Toasters
Okay, let's talk a bit about toasters.
Toasters use infrared radiation to heat a piece of bread.
If you've ever glanced into the interior of a toaster, you might see a wall of wires glowing bright red. That's the infrared heat coming off the wire. The heat slowly chars and burns the bread for a period of time.
Most toasters use a timer to determine how long the bread should be cooked for. This usually represented as a knob that turns somewhere from 1-9 or 10. The higher the number, the longer it cooks.
Some toasters use a bimetal-strip thermostat to determine when the bread is done.
As the bread cooks and the interior heats up, other metals will bend at a certain rate depending on the temperature. When the right temperature is reached, a wire will bend enough to snag the toaster's heating element and shut it off.
Other toasters use a photoelectric cell.
This cell beams light off the bread as it cooks; the browner it gets, the dimmer the reflected light gets. After reaching a certain dimness, the toaster knows that the bread is brown enough and turns off.
And when the bread is finished toasting, a spring mechanism is triggered and pops out the toast. This is to prevent residual cooking from the wire and makes it easy to grab the bread without touching anything that will burn you.
It's important to note that the temperature is a constant, something that isn't changed through settings. Toasters achieve darker toast by extending the time, as they are not usually designed to change the temperature.
Toasters have their unique pros and cons, which we'll talk about next.
Pros of Toasters
There are a few reasons why the pop-up toaster, made in 1919, is still being manufactured and used in 2020.
First of all, toasters are good at what they do. Since the bread is closely exposed to the infrared heat, the entirety of the bread is toasted. Toast made by a toaster doesn't have dead spots (uncooked spots) or spots that are more toasted than others.
Toasters are very good at ensuring that your bread is toasted evenly. And from start to finish, the process is very fast; you can expect your bread to finish toasting in just 1-2 minutes. This is appealing for people who are constantly busy and just want a quick breakfast or snack.
Another pro is that toasters are remarkably simple to use. All you have to do is select the shade/set the timer, put the bread in the slots, and push down the slider to push the bread into the heating chamber.
All you have to do then is wait for your delicious toast to come out. Easy!
Toasters also have the advantage of being compact appliances. The smaller stature means that it takes up less space on the countertop and is easy to store, making it a solid choice for people living in spaces with smaller kitchens like apartments or college dorm rooms.
Finally, toasters are pretty cheap. A basic, good-quality toaster will run you about $50 new, but you can get them even cheaper used. Compared to other expensive appliances, toasters offer a ton of value at a reasonable price.
Looking for the best toasters on the market?
Click the button below to check out our comprehensive list of the top 7 toaster ovens of 2020.
The list is built with your budget, taste, and needs in mind.
As well as a lot of love from us.
Cons of Toasters
Toasters do have their fair share of issues, however.
For starters, they can only be used to toast. Usually, this means that toasters work well with slices of bread, bagels, frozen waffles/pancakes, and English muffins. Barring any unique uses, that's all that toasters are really good for. They are limited in that regard.
Most models are also quite difficult to clean. Unless you opt for a more premium toaster that comes with a crumb tray, you are going to have to figure out how to get those crumbs out yourself.
Sometimes that means turning the toaster over and shaking the contents over a sink/trashcan, potentially damaging the mechanisms built into the appliance. As for cleaning the wires, it's usually not worth the attempt. Cleaning out the entire toaster can be a struggle since the parts are not built to be removable.
Finally, toasters tend to be one of the simpler kitchen appliances. As such, they lack special features or settings that can improve the quality-of-life for the person using the toaster.
Brief Overview of Toaster Ovens
Toaster ovens can be more accurately described as a miniature version of your standard oven. They use the same heating system and are functionally identical in a lot of ways; for any recipe that can be cooked in an oven, it can likely be cooked in a toaster oven as well.
Like standard ovens, toaster ovens use heating elements located on the top and bottom of the heating chamber. These two elements, typically combined with a fan, generate heat and circulate that hot air within every part of the chamber.
This is called convection heating, which is responsible for quickly cooking food as evenly as possible. Since the air is always circulating, hot air is continuously exposed to every part of the food being cooked.
Most toaster ovens come with the same features that you can find on traditional ovens. You can bake and broil meats, veggies, and even pastries.
They also have a dedicated "toast" setting designed to specifically for toasting bread.
With toaster ovens, you choose the shade of toast that you want from three options: light, medium, and dark.
Each toaster oven has different criteria of what each shade is, so experimentation is required to choose the perfect setting.
Pros of Toaster Ovens
Toaster ovens offer advantages that are unique when compared to toasters.
One of the biggest pros of toaster ovens is that they are incredibly versatile. They can make a large variety of food from a big catalog of recipes, such as:
- Tortilla pizza
- Glazed salmon
- Sandwiches and paninis
- Baked eggs
- Roasted asparagus
And of course, toast!
Which leads us to our next point. Toaster ovens just have a lot of space.
The smallest toaster ovens can fit up to 4 slices of bread on their racks. The larger ones can fit up to 18 slices of bread. That's a massive amount of space that you can use to cook up tons of food at once. Think roasting whole chickens or cooking several pans of lasagna, veggies, and soups.
If you don't want to waste time cleaning your appliance, then you'll love toaster ovens. Most of them come with crumb trays that can be easily removed and emptied. The racks can be removed and are typically dishwasher-safe.
And since the heating elements aren't closely exposed to the food, they won't get dirty in most situations. Even if they do, all it takes to clean them is a quick wide-down with a damp cloth.
Finally, toaster ovens come with a variety of features that make them useful for a wide range of situations.
For example, one model that we reviewed had the ability dehydrate your food. By doing so, you can take food to go and not worry about expiring. It also allows you to make things like jerky, which is normally done with a dehydrator (can cost upwards of $200+).
Looking for the best toaster ovens on the market?
Click the button below to check out our comprehensive list of the top 10 toaster ovens of 2020.
The list is built with your budget, taste, and needs in mind.
As well as a lot of love from us.
Cons of Toaster Ovens
But before you run out to get a toaster oven, there are some things that you need to know.
First, toaster ovens tend to be more expensive than toasters. While toasters can hover around $15-$30, toaster ovens generally start at around $55+. For people who are on a super tight budget, this can be a potential issue.
Second, toaster ovens are bulkier than toasters. All of that extra cooking capacity means that you'll have to manage an overall larger appliance, which can make storage a challenge if you are low on space.
Finally, toast made from toaster ovens has the potential to be not as good as toast made from toasters. This is due to the differences in heating. Toasters apply infrared heat almost directly to the entirety of the bread, but toaster ovens use convection heating to swirl hot air around the toast.
It's possible to have dead spots on the bread where the heat can't reach, especially when both racks are occupied since this can cut and redirect the air flow.
Mid-priced and premium toaster ovens almost never have the issue, however, and it's still fairly rare even with budget-friendly models.
Toasters vs. Toaster Ovens: Which is Better for Your Needs?
So, which toasting appliance is best for you?
If you are looking for a quick and easy way to toast some bread, both toaster ovens and toasters will serve you well.
If you don't want to put a strain on your budget, toasters are superior. They are generally less expensive than toaster ovens and can last roughly as long if properly taken care of.
If you value speed of toasting above all else, toasters come out on top. This is because toaster ovens needs a bit of time to warm up, unlike toasters which warm up within seconds.
If you want an all-in-one appliance that can toast bread as well as cook many other foods, toaster ovens are the clear winner. They have a rich variety of heating methods that works well with a vast array of dishes.
If you desire space above all else and plan on making food for the family, toaster ovens are the better choice. Even the smaller models offer plenty of room, enough to toast up to 4 slices of bread at once.
If you are a stickler about the taste and texture of perfectly prepared toast, stick with toasters. While you can certainly get high-quality toast out of a toaster oven, it's easier and cheaper to do so with a toaster.
Toasters Are Better If You Value...
Toaster Ovens Are Better If You Value...
Both toaster and toaster ovens are pretty amazing in their own regard. They each come with a set of benefits that you can take advantage of to make some really good food.
For us personally, we gotta side with the toaster oven though. We absolutely love that you can make all sorts of things and have a ton of space to do so.
Don't get us wrong! We still have a toaster that we use all the time for a quick morning breakfast. When it comes to providing a fast and easy toasting experience, toasters are wonderful.
If you are looking to get your own toaster and want to check out some of the best options on the market (yes, even if you are broke), check out our post "Top 7 Best Toasters of 2020".