Toaster Oven vs Toaster: What’s the Difference?
So, you’ve moved into your first apartment and you need a gadget to rustle up some quick meals or you are an experienced cook and you want to invest in some new kitchen equipment to make your life easier. A toaster or a toaster oven will be near the top of your list but which should you get? The humble toaster has been a resident of our kitchens for almost a century and even though they have become more sophisticated over time, they have retained their basic design. Toasters are, of course, still very popular but increasingly householders are discovering the advantages of toaster ovens with their advanced technology and versatile features. The counter toaster oven has been around for about 50 years but has become a lot more popular in the last decade or two.
Both the toaster and the toaster oven are convenient and very useful but before you make the final choice you should weigh up exactly what you want to use it for and how it will fit into the way you use your kitchen. Do you want to bake pizza or do you simply want to toast a bagel?
We have summed up the main features of a toast oven and a simple toaster here so that you can make an informed decision. However, bear in mind that there is quite a lot of variation between brands and models of toaster so you will also have to look out for a model that has the particular features that you want.
The Difference Between Toaster and Toaster Oven
Let’s start by listing what these two toaster appliances have in common. They are both compact (they fit on your countertop) and need an electricity supply to operate. Here’s some more details on the differences.
A Simple Toaster
This is a box-like appliance with slots at the top where you can put your food. The heat in a toaster is produced by an electric current passing through thin metal elements and it browns the outside of foods that are slim enough to fit in the slots. The design of a toaster has been the same for many years and is fairly standard but the number of slots can vary – it can be between two and six. The width of the slots is also variable; some models have the option of wider slots where you can fit muffins and bagels, others will toast artisan breads and most have a defrost function.
Toasters tend to be cheaper and you can be confident that cooking times are rapid – the heated elements are very close to the food item and from two sides you don’t have to turn the food over half way through cooking. This makes them very energy efficient because so little heat is lost. They are also very compact and take up little counter space in your kitchen. A toaster is practically foolproof to use. All you have to do is pop in the bread and slide down the lever. The toast pops up when it is done. The most complicated dial on a toaster is the one that controls how long it toasts for!
On the down side, toasters are quite prone to going wrong so they may need repairs or need to be replaced fairly often. However, the main disadvantage is that you can only toast food items that will fit in the slots! If you want to simply toast bread, that is not a problem but they won’t cope with anything as complicated as a pizza!
The Modern Toaster Oven
The clue is in the name – these are a combination of a toaster and an oven. There is usually an exposed heating element and a fairly large space underneath where you put the food. Many do a lot more than toast and are very versatile – you may be able to broil food as well. The beauty of them is that they do this without a lot of complication or hassle. Tuna melts, pizza and baked pasta dishes are all a breeze when you have a toaster oven.
You kitchen will soon be creating mini pizzas, small chicken or bacon dishes and perfectly finished chops and casseroles. All using your toaster oven! This is their main advantage – they have a wide range of settings and can therefore be used for cooking a wide range of foods. Most also have a timer function and are self-cleaning which are both huge advantages.
As well as costing more to purchase, they cost more to run because they need to be preheated and more heat is lost during cooking. They are are not as portable as a toaster and will take up more counter space.
What do you Want to Use it for?
Ultimately, your choice of appliance will come down to what you want to use it for. If you simply want that appliance for toasting a slice of bread in the morning, the best of the options for you is a simple toaster. If you want to toast bagels, simply buy one with bigger slots. However, if you want to toast larger food items (such as pizza or meats) and you want to try some baking, you will need a toaster oven. Some are even combined with convection ovens so you can alter the temperature.
Also, think about how much time you have to prepare food, particularly in the mornings. If all you can do is grab a piece of toast, you need a toaster. However, if you want to prepare a full cooked breakfast for all the family, you need the superior performance of a toaster oven.
Space is another big factor in your decision. Large kitchens with plenty of counter space can easily accommodate an oven toaster. That is not true for a smaller kitchen. Don’t forget that you need to consider height as well as length and depth. If you have wall cupboards, you need to make sure that the toaster oven will fit underneath them.
The Final Word…
So, which one will you choose for your kitchen? The bottom line is this: if you have very little time and want an appliance for toasting a piece of bread in the morning, a traditional toaster is all you need. On the other hand, if you want to create more sophisticated dishes and use your appliance for pizzas and full meals, it would be worth you investing in a toaster oven. However, double check that you have space in your kitchen before you make that purchase!