More and more people are staying home to eat and eating better these days. In order to fully reap the benefits of this trend, it is necessary to be educated about home cooking equipment. While there are a wide variety of options when it comes to cooking gadgets, few compare to the toaster oven and conventional oven for versatility and the enjoyment of a great meal.
Most modern conventional ovens rely on electricity or gas for fuel these days, as opposed to the wood-fired ovens of the past. Typically, they are a part of a complete cooking unit with burners on top for cooking in pots and pans. Some conventional ovens are built into cabinetry and operated separately. Some of the many uses of the conventional oven include:
- Baking bread, pies and cakes
- Roasting or broiling meat
- Cooking casseroles
- Reheating previously cooked food
- Toasting or browning
Most conventional ovens heat from either the top or the bottom and have a self-contained thermostat to keep the temperature of the oven steady. Some modern conventional ovens have digital controls and are even computerized, providing advanced functionality. The bottom line in oven-cooking, however, is that the air in the oven compartment is heated and food is cooked gradually, with the heat working from the outside in.
Anyone who has used a conventional oven very much will tell you that while it may have its advantages, there is also a downside. Size is one factor that can make a conventional oven somewhat unattractive, especially when cooking smaller amounts of food is the goal. And in spite of the large capacity of a conventional oven, if it is filled completely, foods in different parts of the oven tend to cook faster or slower and may take longer than usual to cook. If all you want to do is heat some nachos, you end up using a good bit of energy for a very small task. In addition, many ovens are notoriously likely to heat up the kitchen, which can be a problem in warmer weather.
An option that might be more suited to every-day cooking needs is the toaster oven. While in the past, toaster ovens tended to resemble toasters more than ovens, modern toaster ovens are like fully functional mini ovens. Toaster ovens take up a fraction of the space that a conventional oven would use and can do many of the jobs of a conventional oven with greater efficiency. Toaster ovens cost far less than conventional ovens as well, making them a very appealing alternative.
Even though the average toaster oven does not take up much counter top space, it can function in a wide variety of convenient ways. Some can even be built into the cabinet arrangement, making more counter space available for other uses. Some larger toaster ovens are available that have quite a lot of cooking space inside. Some of the functions of various toaster ovens available today include:
Toaster ovens provide a wide variety of heating options, from very low temperatures (under 200 degrees) to very high temperatures (up to 450 degrees) for broiling or searing. A toaster oven can also be used as a warmer, since many of them come with a tray that sits on the top for this purpose. Like conventional ovens, they also have thermostats, so that you can rely on the temperature being consistent throughout the cooking time. Most models come with timers as well, allowing you maximum control over the cooking process. Some models offer the benefit of an interior fan for convection cooking, which moves the air evenly around the food as it cooks. Some advantages a toaster oven has over a conventional oven include:
- Smaller size, so less space in the kitchen is needed
- Less time to heat up and to cool down, so less energy is used
- Will not heat up the entire kitchen
- Easy to clean up – smaller overall size and easy to remove racks and trays
Like much of technology, cooking units of all types have seen many overall improvements. Smaller, more efficient gadgets are much preferred to older, more cumbersome devices and many can provide the same or better quality while doing their job well. If a large meal is always being prepared, the conventional oven may be the way to go. For small to medium-sized jobs however, from baking a dozen cookies to cooking a small roast, the toaster oven has a lot to offer the modern, do-it-yourself chef.
To learn even more about the differences between toaster ovens and conventional ovens, check out How Baking in a Toaster Oven is Different from Baking in a Conventional Oven.