My toaster oven has a temperature gauge just like my oven 200-450 degrees. I opened a package of fish sticks and the instructions said "Do not cook in microwave or toaster oven." It only had instructions for cooking them in a regular oven. Do you have any idea why a toaster oven that can be put at the same temperature would not be good to use?
- Horrible temperature control - this is simply a problem of cheap construction. One could theoretically build an excellent toaster oven with precise temperature control, but why would you?
- Low thermal mass - If you get an oven to 400F and open it for long enough to put in food, the result is an oven at very slightly less than 400F, and which will quickly return to 400F. Do that with a toaster oven, and who knows what temperature you'll get, or how quickly it will get to your desired temperature (if ever, see #1). This is not a slam at toaster ovens, this is just due to them being approximately 2% of the volume of a standard oven.
- Closeness to elements. It's easy for toaster ovens interiors to vary by nearly 50F from middle to edge, simply based on distance to elements
Now don't get me wrong, I once made some kickin' Oysters Rockefeller in a toaster oven, when I thought that they would be the difference between serving an appetizer and being allowed to serve breakfast the next morning (wink, wink). If you know what you're doing, and watch carefully and continually, a toaster oven can be an excellent source of high(ish) direct heat. But they are extremely difficult to control, and extremely unforgiving of errors. I can't think of a circumstance where a toaster oven would be my first choice of cooking tool (and that includes microwave, campfire, plumber's blowtorch).
There are two differences that could be involved:
A fair number of toaster ovens have really bad temperature control. It's common knowledge in the polymer clay community that there are relatively few models that can be relied upon to bake your clay without producing clouds of foul black smoke.
The food is much nearer the element. When I cook fishsticks they end up frying slightly in a film a greese. Sometimes they pop a little. Could that be a fire hazard?
re toaster oven cooking :
I called frozen food co and the answer was the fear of the plastic container melting.
She suggested removing food from plastic and placing in reg cooking dish and maybe lowering temp 25º but keeping same time. I've been doing that for a year now (but not lowering temp) and it's been really convenient.
I have a Breville Smart oven and it's actually more accurate than than my reg. oven. There's only the 2 of us and unless we have company, I use the toaster oven. I do reduce the temp. by 25 degrees because of the smaller volume of space an closeness to the elements. I haven't had any problems at all.
Some people claim that temperature regulation is worse in a toaster oven. That simply isn't true. It's actually easier to control temperature precisely in the toaster oven because the space is so small so the temperature sensor can get a sense of the entire oven. In a large oven, especially a home gas oven, where would you place the sensor? If you place it too near the flames then it would measure the flames. And it certainly can't be placed in the center of the oven with the food is. Keep in mind that home gas ovens use mechanical thermostats that is hard to put remotely. Some better electric ovens use a wired probe that you can actually place into the food. Otherwise, there is no way to actually measure the temperature of the food. In the small space of a toaster oven, there is much less of a temperature difference between the food and wherever the sensor is located.
Furthermore, many better toaster ovens use electronic controls and multiple temperature sensors. The Breviile and Cuisinarts use multiple variable heating elements, multiple sensors and electronic controls. For example, some have 2 elements on top and 2 below, all of which are regulated individually and precisely. Try that with a gas oven! A convective fan can also help, evening out the heat.
As for the complaint of potters, the problem isn't temperature control, but rather the small space. When you place a 3D object in the small space, where some parts and edges are much nearer the elements than others, you'll get uneven baking and burning. It's why you don't want to bake a large turkey in a toaster oven. But most foods like the above fish sticks are flat and uniform, thus will heat evenly.
Someone also mentioned thermal mass above. That's a non-issue since one almost never opens a toaster oven during cooking. The small space and electric light makes food easy to see without opening the door. It's still a non-issue in those rare cases where you need to baste, add ingredients or position the food. That's because much of the heat in a toaster oven is radiant, not convective. It's why you don't really need to preheat toaster ovens. The small space and radiant heat mean that foods reach the desired temperatures quickly. There is no need to reheat the internal air every time you open the door, as would be the case in a conventional oven.
For those who forget their physics, radiant heat is how sunlight gets to us. The heat is nearly instantaneous since there is no need to heat up the air between the source and the target. If heating the air is required, heat from the sun would never reach us since there is no air in the vacuum of space. Toaster ovens use a combination of radiant heat and convective heat, where the air is heated. As such, minimal preheating is needed and the oven quickly returns to the target temperature if you open the door. That's why thermal mass is not a real issue.
Many dishes were ruined because my toaster oven temperature was off. I finally checked it out with a digital & an oven thermometer(s). Now I manually adjust the temperature & dishes turn out better. Invest in a reliable oven thermometer to avoid wasting money on ruined dishes.
See my picture for detailed examples.
The two issues I have had when baking in a toaster oven are precision and temperature curve. (disclaimer: I build and repair commercial ovens so if this gets complicated you can ignore it.) These problems are well documented by hobbyists using toaster ovens as reflow ovens. you can retrofit a more precise temperature controller if you want to over come the precision problem, but if the elements are undersized it takes longer to first get the oven to temperature and then when you introduce a large cold mass into a small warm mass you get a large temperature drop and then a longer time for your food to reach temp. you can overcome some of this by preheating, cooking smaller amounts, and cooking for longer times. A thermometer is often a great way to determine if it has finished cooking.
The reason is simple. If it uses plastic or paper packaging for cooking, the radiant heat of an electric oven is too hot and will melt the plastic and possibly ignite the paper. In a normal oven, the majority of the heat is not radiant but convective, and the heat source is relatively far away. If you don't use plastic packaging, food cooks just as well in the toaster oven. When I cook fish sticks I simply use aluminum foil or a metal pan, and discard the included paper or plastic tray. There is no pre-heating, and I usually finish by toasting for an extra crispy crust.
I used the Oster XL digital toaster oven for several years as my only oven. I was delighted with it. I was able to bake small pizzas cakes, cookies, casseroles, and meat dishes. It was very even heating and reheated quickly after opening the door. I fully understood why it was rated the best toaster oven on the market for several years in a row and receives great ratings on line. I know from experience that many smaller and cheaply made toaster ovens don't heat evenly as my mother always used to keep a toaster oven in the house for heating up toast and bagels for breakfast. But I truly don't understand why so many people have disparaged them here. I think it's like anything in life...you get what you pay for. If you only spend $19 on a toaster oven you get a crummy tool that doesn't heat evenly and has hot spots inside the oven. If you buy one that is rated highly on line by the people who purchased and use it daily you're going to get a really useful tool that most likely will do what it is supposed to do.
I use a toaster oven all the time for my cooking with zero problem. I live alone, so using the full size oven just seems wasteful and impractical when I cook 1-2 servings at a time. The toaster oven heats up the apartment less and uses about 1/14 of the electricity(1000 Watts vs 14 kW). I have cooked 4 chicken drumsticks (about 5-10 minutes longer than the recipe recommends) in that thing with ease, and mine is just a cheap Walmart model.
The thing is basically a counter top oven and if you have an electric oven (like myself) it works on the exact same principals, just on a smaller scale. Just be careful that nothing touches the sides of the ovens, don't cook anything that will splatter (fire hazard) and clean it out regularly (again, fire hazard) and you should have zero problems.