How to Use a Toaster Oven to Roast, Toast, Bake, and More

New to using a toaster oven? No problem! Follow these steps to make baking, roasting, and toasting in this countertop appliance a cinch.

Toaster ovens haven’t quite reached the same level of popularity as air fryers or multicookers, but they’re super handy for a lot of different recipes. It basically combines the countertop convenience of a toaster with all of the cooking functions of an oven. Toaster ovens are usually similar in size to a microwave (though you can find mini and extra-large versions), and have at least one cooking rack, plus an included sheet tray or baking pan. They’re great for small spaces, like apartments or tiny kitchens, and also produce less heat than an oven, which is a big bonus for summer baking. They also heat foods more evenly than microwaves, and are less likely to leave you with dry or soggy leftovers.

person putting cookies into toaster oven

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Toaster Oven Functions

Usually, most toaster ovens have functions like baking, toasting, and broiling. For most functions, you can treat them almost exactly like a mini oven. Unlike air fryers, though, most toaster ovens don’t have a convection fan that circulates heat, so don’t expect foods to get a super crisp crust (but you can find pricier models including this function if that’s what you’re looking for). Most toaster ovens are best for toasting bread and bagels, of course, but also for cooking foods like pizza, fish, bacon, veggies, and cookies. You can also use them to easily reheat leftovers.

How to Use a Toaster Oven

No matter what model you have, learn how to use a toaster oven by following these easy steps.

Step 1: Adjust the Racks and Preheat the Toaster Oven

If you’re planning to broil food in the oven, make sure the rack inside is set at the correct height. If you’re baking or toasting food, check that the rack is set up in the center of the oven. Then, plug the toaster oven into an outlet.

Technically, you can skip preheating if you’re just reheating leftovers or toasting a few slices of bread. But if you’re planning to cook or bake something at a consistent temperature, you’ll want to preheat your toaster oven to the cooking temperature, just like you would in a regular oven. Some toaster ovens have digital controls that make it super easy to select a temperature and function, while others might have dials you can adjust to the right setting.

Step 2: Place Food in the Oven

Most toaster ovens include a cooking tray or sheet pan—for functions like toasting bread or reheating food, place the food on the tray, then put the tray in the toaster oven. If you’re baking or cooking in one of your pans, prep the food and place in the pan, then place the pan in the toaster oven. Rimmed sheet pans or the included cooking tray will work for most foods, like roasting veggies or cooking chicken breast. However, pretty much any pan you’d use in an oven can be used in a toaster oven, as long as the door can still close when it’s placed inside. That includes steel, ceramic, stone bakeware, aluminum pans, and silicone baking sheets.

Step 3: Adjust the Settings and Set the Time

If you haven’t preheated the oven, adjust the settings. Most toaster ovens will have at least bake, broil, toast, and warm functions, but you might also see options like “defrost” or “reheat.” Some even have food-specific functions, like “cookies” or “leftovers.” If you choose one of those specific functions, you might still have to adjust the timing, because the presets will use an average cook time. For example, if you’re making one extra large cookie, it’ll probably need extra time, while tiny bite-size cookies would need less bake time.

Many toaster ovens will cook at similar times and temperatures to a conventional oven, and you can follow the directions in the recipe you’re preparing. However, some might cook a little faster, in which case you’ll want to reduce the cook time. The owner’s manual should provide guidelines for cooking, so check there the first time you use the toaster oven. Otherwise, as you continue to cook with it, you’ll start to notice if your recipes are done a few minutes early, or if they need the full cook time. 

You can also stick to the times listed in your recipe for broiling and roasting in a toaster oven. The manual should also give estimated cook times for functions like toasting and reheating. If the manual provides a range, such as 12 to 15 minutes, set the timer for the lower end of the range, then check on your food. You can always add a couple of extra minutes if your food needs more time to cook. After you’re finished cooking, use oven mitts or tongs to remove your food from the oven, and unplug it.

How to Clean a Toaster Oven

You probably won’t need to clean the toaster oven after every use, but when you do, many models have removable racks that can be hand-washed. Some ovens also have a removable tray at the very bottom of the oven that catches crumbs and grease splatter that can be removed and washed.

Wait until the toaster oven is completely cool, then remove the racks and crumb tray. Place in the sink, and wash with warm water and dish soap. Make sure each component is completely dry before you place it back in the toaster oven.

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