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Avleen M.
Avleen M.May 13, 2020

Benchtop and Toaster Ovens Buying Guide

Everyone loves a good, home-cooked meal - anyone for crispy-crust pizza? A benchtop or toaster oven is a mini, portable oven that sits on your kitchen counter and achieves delicious results. Read on for more information about whether a toaster oven is right for you.

Which foods can you cook in a toaster oven?

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You can cook a variety of sweet and savoury foods in a benchtop/toaster oven (also known collectively as compact ovens or electric benchtop ovens).

This includes benchtop pizza, baked potatoes, roast veggies, spring rolls, nuggets, roast nuts, cookies and toasted sandwiches. You can even use a compact oven to bake a cake.

What is a toaster oven good for?

Its small, compact size

A small toaster oven shouldn’t take up too much space in your kitchen, and is also portable. This is ideal if you move a lot, as an installed oven isn’t a guarantee in every living space.

Additional cooking space

This is especially useful if you have:

  • A large family or household, and your installed model lacks the required oven space to cook dinner for everyone
  • A celebration or holiday scheduled and you need to cook a meal with multiple courses
  • A regular-sized electric oven but frequently cook multiple foods that require different cooking temperatures. By splitting food between the oven and toaster oven, you won’t have to wait around for one food to finish cooking before your food prep is well underway.

It's cheaper than a regular oven

The purchase price and installation costs of standard ovens make them more expensive than toaster ovens. Since benchtop ovens also cook food faster using less energy, they are gentler on your electricity bill, too.

A toaster oven has more functionality than a pop-up toaster

While pop-up toasters do the job when it comes to toasting thin, sliced bread, a toaster oven is able to prepare other bakery-style treats such as pastries, garlic bread and melted cheese on toast.

It’s easy to clean

With less nooks and crannies and a smaller surface area in general, a benchtop oven is much easier to navigate than a regular oven. Simply use a dish cloth, some warm water, white vinegar and dish soap.

Types of Compact Ovens

Toaster ovens

ToasterOven

These toaster ovens can usually toast up to six slices of toast, and some models include settings that let you choose your preference for either ‘light, medium and dark’ toast shades.

As well as making toast, often even lower-priced models of compact ovens are equipped with the functionality to let you bake, roast, grill and warm foods.

Compact toaster ovens are affordable, with prices starting as low as $29, such as for the Kmart 9L toaster oven (pictured, left).

Benchtop Convection Ovens

GlassOven

These sometimes feature a similar visual design to a regular toaster oven, however there are also several models of glass convection ovens (pictured, left). These use a sizeable heat-resistant glass bowl to place food in, while the lid contains a heating element and fan.

No matter their design, these types use convection technology to cook food.

While both regular toaster ovens and convection ovens use a combination of radiant heat, warm air and conduction to cook food, a benchtop convention oven also uses a fan to ‘turbo charge’ the warm air circulating around the food. This makes food cook faster and more evenly.

Pros

  • Multiple cooking methods available, including: steam, air fry, dehydrate and broil
  • Cooks food faster than a full-sized convection oven, at a lower temperature
  • Cheaper to buy and run than full-sized convection ovens

Cons

Other factors to consider when buying a toaster oven

Capacity

Capacity for a benchtop oven can range from around 9-45L, and generally the larger capacity, the bigger the dimensions of your new appliance will be, too.

If you’re using your toaster oven to cook meals, your required capacity will depend on the number of people in your household, and how much food you intend to cook in one session. Also consider the main type of food you’ll be cooking, e.g. if it’s large pies or pizzas, make sure the toaster oven can fit your favourite foods.

Pro Tip: Try and strike a balance between the amount of bench space you can spare, and a litre capacity that can cook your favourite foods. If you have limited bench space but a large family or household, this might be tricky.

Cost and Functionality

The average price of a benchtop toaster oven can range from $29-500 (with the most premium models close to $2,000). The cost depends on the range of cooking functions and extra features you opt for.

Entry-level toaster ovens: These can be very affordable, starting from $29. Even a cheap model usually lets you bake, roast, grill, toast and reheat, with adjustable temperature controls up to 250 degrees Celsius, and a 30 minute and/or 60 minute timer.

Mid-range toaster/benchtop ovens: Such as the Russell Hobbs toaster oven, the Air Fry Crisp’N Bake, houses a larger capacity, such as 20L. These usually also offer extra functions – in this case working as a 2-in-1 oven air fryer. The Kmart 3-in-1 Air Fryer Oven for $129 includes a dehydrator.

Higher-end models: These can feature up to fifteen functions. For example, Breville's toaster oven, the Smart Oven Pro, features ten cooking functions including making cookies and broiling. It also works as a slow cooker, and is convection-powered.

More premium benchtop ovens can usually also replace a microwave with included warm, re-heat and defrost modes. Others yet claim to make wood-fired style pizza in two minutes.

Keep in mind that price isn’t necessarily an indicator that a model will have the right features for you. It helps to think about which foods you commonly cook, then look out for cooking functions that correspond with these. While choosing a model with fancy features might be exciting at first, ultimately it's going to be a waste of money if you hardly use the extra features.

Extra Features

  • Controls: These should include, as a minimum, temperature controls and a timer. Check that controls are easy to read and navigate.
  • Timers: Check that these provided a clearly audible sound and visual signal once your food is ready.
  • Custom food trays: These assist the cooking method your toaster oven allows, for example: a pizza pan or roasting tray.
  • Auto-eject racks: automatically push racks halfway out of the toaster to check food or remove it
  • Adjustable racks: let you select the rack height to fit larger food.
  • Accessories: These will depend on your specific model, but examples include an air fryer insert, or rack tongs and a lid holder for safety when using glass ovens.

Thanks for reading, we hope this buying guide helps you shop with confidence, whether in-store on online. Our reviewers offer up some of the best real-world product information available. You can narrow down your shortlist and view toaster and benchtop oven reviews today.