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I have a couple small tomatoes (about the size of a plum tomato) that I'm thinking of trying to oven-dry to see if we like them. Most recipes I've seen call for roasting them in the oven for 4-6 hours at a low temperature. We have few enough tomatoes that they would easily fit in our toaster oven, but I've only ever heard of using the toaster oven for shorter toasting or baking.

Is there any reason not to use the toaster oven for slow-roasting the tomatoes for multiple hours like this? The main things I'm considering are whether the larger oven is more efficient for long durations like this, and if the toaster oven will have any temperature issues operating for that long.

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In the question body, you say that you aren't trying to get roasted tomatoes, you are trying to get dried tomatoes. This is a very different process from roasting. Toaster ovens are great for roasting stuff, but regular ovens are much better at drying.

To get a nice texture in your dehydrated vegetables, you want to be as gentle as possible. You are trying to use very dry air, and just enough ambient heat to evaporate the wetness in reasonable time. Blasting the tomatoes with heat or scorching them is exactly the opposite of what you want to do.

But you see, toaster ovens are very much on the "blasting" side. They place the food close to the heating elements, which are frequently exposed, and let them heat the food pretty directly. There is much more direct radiation in their heating than there is conduction from the warmed up air. In contrast, the regular oven achieves an enclosed space in which the air is hot itself, and it conducts its heat to the food. Also, the oven walls warm up somewhat, and the top and bottom are much more evenly heated. You have gentler heat coming in from all directions there. It gives you a much better drying environment, at the cost of worse roasting results (less crisp/browned surface).

So, if you want to imitate a dehydrator (for which an oven is already an imperfect substitute) at least do it with a regular oven.

  • Thanks, I never would have thought of this! Yes, I'm trying to do "sun-dried" tomato without the sun. – David K Sep 9 at 15:46
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    Note: though I've dried tomatoes before now in a 'proper' dehydrator, thy don't come out like sun-dried. Flavour & texture is different. I tried it once, never bothered again. I didn't investigate the 'why', tbh, just assumed I needed 'sun'. – Tetsujin Sep 9 at 17:51
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    @Tetsujin - if that is the case, you could probably use heat-lamps and a fan. This calls for experimentation, but unfortunately I have neither the equipment nor the tomatoes :( – bob1 Sep 9 at 23:07
  • @bob1 a dehydrator is pretty close to heat lamps and a fan. So I assume one would need something different, but I also don't know what it would be. The whole story behind it is probably too much for comments, too. – rumtscho Sep 10 at 12:17
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Most of the toaster ovens I've seen have a timer that doesn't go much further than 30min / 1h depending on the model, so you'd have to reset the timer every time it ends. It's probably ok to use, but it will be annoying to be monitoring your roast so often.

There probably won't be any temperature issues, except that these ovens also usually leak quite some heat over time so you might have to wait to do this roast in winter :)

  • Mine does have a digital timer, rather than a dial, so the length of time may not be an issue. I haven't tested it out though. – David K Sep 9 at 15:39
  • Mine doesn't have a timer, period. There are certain advantages to buying cheap equipment, like not having to struggle when you want to do something the designer never though of. – Mark Sep 10 at 1:46
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Toaster ovens tend to not have very good insulation ... so although there's less to heat up, they leak more heat into their surroundings over time.

For the length of time that you're dealing with, I suspect that there won't be any significant energy savings (if at all), and the time to pre-heat is negligible compared to the total cooking time, especially as you said you're dealing with low heat.

A regular oven can be left mostly un-attended for the time, so I'd go that route.

I also like the regular oven for this sort of task, as I know I can fit my pyrex pan, and that works really well for roasting tomatoes and cleans up easily. (halve them, then place them cut side up in the pan, so the juices evaporate).

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