For the perfect pizza, casserole, or bagel, nothing beats a well designed toaster oven. Compared to a traditional oven, they can cook your food in half the time, using half the energy. Choose wisely, and the preset buttons can even make you a better chef.

The benefits of toaster ovens are obvious, choosing the right model for your needs however, that’s a little harder. I created this site, partly because I’m obsessed with the right shade of toast and partly to answer just that very question.

Here are the three best toaster ovens currently on the market. And below that you’ll find an in depth buying guide discussing the key features to look for in 2014.

Breville BOV800XL

Breville BOV800XLClocking in at 250 dollars, the Breville 800XL isn’t cheap. For the price however, you do get 1800 watts of power and .8 cubic feet of cooking space. The result is a countertop convection oven that can comfortably cook a meal for the entire family.

The user interface is very easy to use and it offers a choice of nine pre set functions in total. These range all the way from basic bread toasting to baking, broiling and even defrosting.

The led screen on the right of the oven is backlit, blue and easy to read. It also changes from blue to orange when the oven is pre heating which I think is a nice touch. Depending on the setting your using, this can take as little as two minutes.

Aside from its size and power however, what really sets the BOV apart from other toaster ovens is the Element IQ system. Unlike standard heating elements which can only be turned on and off, the BOV has elements that can be turned up and down individually.

If you’re cooking toast, this is obviously meaningless. If you’re broiling something however it can make all the difference.

It allows you to set a higher temperature at the top of the oven than at the bottom. And this in turn allows you to sear the top of a casserole while ensuring that the bottom is cooked at a lower temperature.

The result is a countertop oven that actually cooks better than most traditional ovens. And thanks to the choice of nine settings, it does it all automatically.

In terms of size, the BOV measures approximately 18 by 16 by 11. This allows you to toast six slices of bread at a time, bake a full twelve inch pizza or broil a casserole that is far too big for one person.

The timer can be set to up to 120 minutes so unlike, the Flash Xpress for example, you’re not limited to speedy meals.

You also have the choice of convection cooking which is basically a fancy way of saying fan assisted. The purpose of the fan is to cook food faster, using less energy, and ensuring that every corner of the oven is at the appropriate temperature.

The BOV comes complete with a regular wire rack, a pizza pan, a baking pan, a broil rack and a removable crumb catcher. I’m not sure if the wealth of pans is an attempt to justify the high price but it’s certainly nice not to have to buy them separately.

Overall, the only downside of the Breville BOV is that its size and its price. If you can get past these two cons, it easily has enough pros to make it the best toaster oven currently on the market.

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Panasonic Flash Express

Panasonic NBG110P Flash XpressPanasonic is a Japanese company and it shows in the G110P. It’s probably the strangest looking toaster oven currently on the market. Thanks to “Flash Express” technology however, it’s also the fastest.

The G110P uses infrared light to cook food instead of traditional heating elements. This not only results in food cooking up to forty percent faster, it removes the need for pre heating.

This can take a little getting used to and I personally managed to burn my first pizza. After that however, the speed is a major perk and something that you’ll miss when using other ovens.

Despite not looking like it, the user interface is easy to understand. It comes with six preset buttons making common meals a single step process.

The one downside of the Flash Express is its size. At .4 cubic feet, it’s approximately half the size of the Breville Smart Oven. This means 4 slices of toast max and pizzas no bigger than 9 inches. The timer is equally limited with a max setting of 30 minutes.

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Waring Pro TCO650

Waring Pro TCO650If you don’t want to spend over a hundred dollars on a toaster oven, another excellent option is the Waring Pro TCO650.

At the time of writing, it’s on the market for less than eighty dollars. And yet, despite this fact, cooking performance is on a par with the aforementioned appliances.

At .6 cubic inches, it’s also bigger than the Flash Express. It can comfortably handle six slices of toast, a twelve inch pizza or a casserole big enough to feed two. It has six different cooking settings and a timer that goes all the way up to sixty minutes.

Each setting is well calibrated and the heating elements are both well spaced and consistent. This results in food being cooked evenly and, provided you set the correct amount of time, perfectly.

Overall the combination of design, size and price make the Waring Pro one of the best value toaster ovens currently on the market.

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Presto Pizzazz

Presto 03430 Pizzazz PlusIf you’d like something a little different, another appliance that I’ve been very impressed by is the Presto Pizzazz. For toast, it leaves a lot to be desired. But for pizza and frozen appetisers, it performs surprisingly well and not just in terms of novelty value.

Unlike a traditional toaster oven, it cooks food out in the open air, using a combination of rotation and high temperature grills. The base rotates slowly, cooking one piece of food at a time.

The benefit being that you can watch your food cook during a dinner party and save energy to boot.

I was a little sceptical at first so it’s worth noting over a thousand people have given it the full five star rating on Amazon. It’s also excellent value at just 39.99.

Just don’t buy it for toast because it takes far too long. And novelty isn’t something that anyone wants first thing in the morning.

Click here to see the latest prices.

Toaster Oven Buying Guide: Key Features to look for.

Capacity

The first thing to consider when buying a toaster oven is the capacity that you want. Some manufacturers like to label their ovens as two slice/four slice etc. But this doesn’t actually tell you much. Some six-slice toasters are huge, others can barely fit a small pizza. The best way to measure capacity is therefore in cubic feet.

Size

If you’re worried about counter space, you might want to look at a smaller oven such as the Flash Xpress.

Racks and Trays

Depending on the size of oven that you select, you can expect it to have one rack or two. The type of rack doesn’t really matter as they can easily purchased separately. What is important however is that the rack/s are both removable and adjustable for faster/slower cooking. Many toaster ovens also come with baking and crumb trays etc.

Settings

The most common settings on toaster ovens are baking, broiling and toasting. With just these settings you can bake pizzas, broil chicken and fish, and obviously toast bread. High end toaster ovens also have additional settings such as reheating and defrosting.

Cooking Time

Cooking times on toaster ovens vary widely. The speed at which an oven cooks depends on capacity, the number of heating elements, the type of heating employed i.e. infra red or standard, and whether or not the oven has a built in fan i.e. convection. Regardless of what appliance you choose however, you can expect it to be faster than a regular oven.

Four Reasons to Buy a Toaster Oven

If you’re new to the world of toaster ovens, you’re probably wondering what all the fuss is about. Here are four reasons to buy a toaster oven even if you already have a perfectly good cooker.

  • Faster :Traditional ovens take between ten and fifteen minutes to pre heat. Toaster ovens take less than five. High end toaster ovens also have a convection feature. And this allows them to heat food up to thirty percent faster.
  • More Energy Efficient: Toaster ovens use less energy. They’re not only turned on for less time, they use less energy while running. This makes them good for both your wallet and the environment.
  • Easier to Clean: A smaller oven means less time cleaning. Go really high end and you can even find a toaster oven that cleans itself (almost).
  • Portable: Toaster ovens are small, light and therefore portable. They are therefore a popular choice for student dorms