In a quest to find the best toaster ovens of 2020 we researched more than 100 models before buying the 9 most compelling. We then used those machines to bake hundreds of cookies, more than 100 drumsticks, dozens of pizzas and cakes, and countless bagels and pieces of toast. For those that offer such a feature, we air fried sweet potato fries as well. After comparing both the food offerings and general user friendliness of each oven in a side-by-side manner, we've found the best for every kitchen, no matter your budget.
The Best Toaster Ovens of 2020
Best Overall Oven
Breville Smart Oven Air
For those that want the highest performing, most versatile cooking appliance for their countertop, the Breville Smart Oven Air is the clear choice. On top of providing field-leading baking performance and nearly unparalleled temperature accuracy, it also offers more cooking functions than almost any other oven. These capabilities include slow cooking, dehydrating, and air frying, amongst others. It's also easy to manage and use all of those different functions thanks to a large display screen and intuitive control panel. This may seem like a bit of an afterthought considering the Smart Oven Air's impressive resume, but it can make really good toast as well.
The only real downsides to the Smart Oven Air are its price and its size. Those extra features push the price well above that of most competitors, and the large footprint can make it feel like a bit of a space-hog on smaller countertops. However, it's likely cheaper and certainly space-saving when compared to getting a separate oven, dehydrator, slow cooker, and air fryer. If you're going to take advantage of all the Smart Oven Air has to offer, we certainly think it's worth the cost and counter space.
Read review: Breville Smart Oven Air
Best High-Performer for Standard Cooking
Breville Smart Oven BOV800XL
If you're enticed by the impressive baking quality and temperature accuracy of the Smart Oven Air, but don't think you'll use all of its extra features, the original Breville Smart Oven is a perfect fit. It offers all of the high-end cooking performance of the Smart Oven Air, but drops the extra slow cooking, dehydrating, and air frying functions. This comes with a significant reduction in price, making it a bit more palatable. It is also significantly smaller than the Air, making it slightly more friendly towards crowded countertops.
Though the Smart Oven is much less expensive than its multi-faceted cousin, it's still on the more expensive end of the spectrum. If you're just looking for something that can make toast and bake a few basic dishes, this extra cost likely isn't worth it. But if you want something that can churn out consistent results for even exacting recipes, this oven is up to the task.
Read review: Breville Smart Oven
KitchenAid 12" Convection Digital Countertop Oven
While the Smart Oven is our clear favorite, we'd feel remiss if we didn't give the KitchenAid Convection Digital Countertop some props as well. This oven nearly matched the backing performance and temperature accuracy of the top scoring Breville and made some great toast to boot. Plus it comes in a variety of different colors, offering an option for pretty much any kitchen aesthetic you're going for.
It's easy to balk at this oven's absurdly high list price, but don't let it scare you too much, you can generally find it for much less at online retailers. Overall the Smart Oven is a bit better and tends to sell for a bit less, but for those that don't like its styling, the KitchenAid is a worthy alternative.
Read review: KitchenAid Convection Digital Countertop Oven
Best Bang for the Buck
Black and Decker Countertop Convection Oven
For those trying to add a bit more food prep capabilities to their dorm room, or any budget minded person that needs an oven, the Black and Decker Countertop Convection is a great choice. For a two-digit price tag it offers the ability to make toast, bagels, frozen pizza, and even do some basic baking.
Unfortunately, the budget price does come with some minor drawbacks. We found that frozen pizzas needed to be left in the oven longer than suggested if you like the crust crispy rather than doughy. Relatively poor temperature accuracy means its hard to tell whether cookies are going to come out chewy or crunchy. The control panel takes some getting used to and does tend to heat up a good bit while in use. However, all of these drawbacks are relatively minor when you consider the convenience to cost ratio this oven delivers.
Read review: Black and Decker Countertop Convection Toaster Oven
Best for a Small Toaster Oven
Breville Mini Smart Oven
If you're short on space but big on baking aspirations, the Breville Mini Smart Oven was designed just for you. This space-saving model has nearly all of the performance and temperature accuracy of its big sibling, but in a more economical and space-saving package. The small size also lets it heat up incredibly fast, offering the quickest route we've found from emergency cookie craving to fresh baked goodness. It is also the smallest oven we've found that can still handle more finicky meals and baked goods, thanks to its stellar temperature accuracy.
Really the only complaint we can levy against the Mini Smart Oven is its relative lack of capacity, but that's a tradeoff you have to make if you're looking to save space. It could also be argued that the price tag is a bit steep, but dollar for dollar this oven offers more cooking performance than almost any model on the market. It is the perfect oven for cooking aficionados that live in small apartments, or for dorm dwellers that don't want to give up their baking habits.
Read review: Breville Mini Smart Oven
Best for Convenience
While the Panasonic FlashXpress is technically a toaster oven, it has quite a bit of microwave in its DNA thanks to unique infrared heating elements that can heat up almost instantaneously. Those elements both eliminate the need for preheating, and can produce such an intense heat that most standard cooking times get cut in half. They also can get a near perfect crisp on toast and bagels, and quickly heat up leftovers without any of the sogginess of a microwave. Basically, if you've ever wished that your microwave could also make toast, this is the oven for you.
The biggest downside to all this expedient heating is that moisture retention falls by the wayside. Case in point, we were never able to make chewy cookies with the FlashXpress, only very crispy ones. The machine itself is also a bit quirky, with some odd presets and a temperature scale that is based on celsius. This means you may not be able to select the exact fahrenheit temperature that a recipe calls for. But if you're mostly looking for a fast and convenient way to make toast, heat up leftovers, and prepare frozen foods, and don't mind making some sacrifices in the baking realm, the FlashXpress is the perfect countertop companion.
Read review: Panasonic FlashXpress
Why You Should Trust Us
Senior Research Analyst Michelle Powell has worked for more than a decade in the specialty food industry, including four years as the manager of an artisanal bakery. This experience affords her the knowledge and skill needed to meticulously compare the food offerings and other attributes of our testing ovens. Senior Editor Max Mutter has been assessing the relative attributes of kitchen appliances at TechGearLab for four years, having now penned reviews on more than 100 ovens, air fryers, pressure cookers, waffle makers, and espresso machines.
Related: How We Tested Toaster Ovens
Analysis and Test Results
In searching for the perfect countertop cooker for every kitchen, we researched more than 100 of the most promising models on the market. We then purchased the most highly regarded (at a normal retailer just like you — we never take any free gifts from manufacturers) and brought them into our testing kitchen. From there we designed a series of exacting tests to evaluate each oven's baking prowess, user friendliness, temper accuracy, adeptness at preparing frozen foods, and toasting performance. All of these side-by-side testing results have led us to the perfect oven for every situation, whether you just want to heat up some frozen pizza and leftovers, or need a tool worthy of your next great baking creation.
Related: Buying Advice for Toaster Ovens
We've found that spending more generally gets you better performance when it comes to toaster ovens, but that correlation definitely isn't linear. At the cheaper end of the scale, we've found that the Black and Decker Countertop Convection punches above its relatively low price tag. The Panasonic FlashXpress also offers a great value in a similarly low price range. However, it is a bit of a specialty product that excels at quick reheating, but not baking. Possibly the best value-per-dollar, the Breville Mini Smart Oven offers top-tier performance at a relatively reasonable price, though it does come with a smaller capacity. At the far expensive end of the spectrum, the Breville Smart Oven Air provides exceptional performance and a vast array of features, but asks a hefty premium for those offerings.
Being able to bake individual meals or small batches of confections without wasting energy and time heating up an entire conventional oven is one of the biggest advantages of having a countertop model. Accordingly, we assigned it significant weighting in our scoring scheme and made sure to bake a representative spread of tasty food during our testing. We evaluated each model's ability to cook evenly without drying out or undercooking any of the meals. This led us to look for the ideal crispy-on-the-outside chewy-on-the-inside cookies, fully cooked yet moist cake, and drumsticks with crispy skins and juicy, tender meat.
Though no models performed particularly poorly in our baking tests, there were some clear front runners. The Breville Smart Oven, the slightly upgraded Smart Oven Air, and the Calphalon Quartz Heat all shared top marks in this metric. All of these ovens prepped crispy on the outside moist on the inside drumsticks, chewy cookies with slightly browned edges, and kept cakes fluffy and moist without any hot or cold spots. Bottom line, no matter your baking proclivities, we don't think any of these ovens will disappoint.
The KitchenAid Digital Countertop Oven fell just behind the top Breville models in our testing, earning an 8 out of 10. It excels at getting chicken drumsticks crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. It was possibly even better than those Breville models at getting the outsides of cookies crunchy while leaving some chewiness on the inside. However, its cake slices came out still delicious, but noticeably less moist in comparison.
Also earning an 8 out of 10 in our baking testing was the Breville Mini Smart Oven. This oven rivaled its larger sibling but fell just short in a few areas. It wasn't able to get the same crispy skin on drumsticks, and didn't lock in the same amount of moisture when making a cake. However, it made some of the best cookies in our testing, with gooey insides and nice, crunchy outsides.
The Cuisinart just missed out on a top-tier score in our baking tests, earning a 7 out of 10. While it cooked pretty much everything we made in an acceptable manner, it did have a slight propensity to dry things out, meaning those that like their cake particularly moist and fluffy or their meat particularly juicy may be a bit disappointed.
The Panasonic FlashXpress and it's unique double infrared elements should be thought of more as a super fast reheater rather than a proper oven. As such, it excels at quickly making toast and bagels, heating up leftovers without the sogginess of a microwave, and prepping things like frozen burritos. However, itemss like cakes, cookies, and drumsticks come out with a very dry and charred quality. This relatively narrow and specialized skill set earning the FlashXpress a similarly truncated 4 out of 10 in this metric.
The Oster Extra Large Digital Countertop also earned a 4 out of 10 in our baking testing. it also tended to dry things out, though not to the degree of the FalshXpress, and had some issues with burning the surfaces of things while the centers weren't as done. For instance, it blackened the outside of the cake we made, but the center felt a bit underdone.
Ease of Use
Toaster ovens are, by their very nature, versatile. But with versatility comes complexity. The controls on these devices must allow you to select whether you are making toast, bagels, frozen food, baking, or broiling, and then allow you to choose the proper temperature settings and duration of cooking for each one of these functions. Models with intuitive controls and thoughtful user interfaces make navigating this myriad of options a breeze, but clunky interfaces can turn meal prep into a rage-inducing experience. We had everyone in the office dial each one of the models into a variety of settings to determine which were easy to use, and which may start you down a path towards anger management seminars. We also assessed how easy it was to remove and clean each crumb tray.
We found that companies tend to either go out of their way to design an intuitive and delightful user experience, or keep things disappointingly spartan, with very few models occupying a middle ground. The Breville Smart Oven, the Smart Oven Air, the KitchenAid Convection Digital, and the Calphalon Quartz Heat all sit in the former group. These models all feature large, easy to read LCD screens, and easily removable and cleanable crumb trays.
The Cuisinart and Breville Mini Smart Oven both scored a 7 out of 10 in our ease of use testing. Both models utilize a similar interface to the full sized, using a large LCD screen and knobs to select and display settings. The Cuisinart has only one knob. Pressing on it allows you to cycle through selecting function, temperature, and duration settings. While these controls are straightforward, the full sized Breville's dedicated knobs made things feel just a bit more seamless. The Breville Mini Has one knob to cycle through cooking modes, and uses arrow buttons to set temperature and time. We'd definitely prefer more knobs instead of buttons, but it feels like a small sacrifice to get such a space-saving package.
The best model in the runner-up group was the FlashXpress, which picked up a score of 5 out of 10. Its controls are generally clear, with dedicated buttons for each preset (annoyingly it does not have a bagel function, you'll have to settle for normal toast settings). However, using the device can be a bit tricky. You can't make any selections until you press the power button, and if you wait too long it will just fire up on its own, forcing you to shut everything off and start over. The temperature settings are converted from Celcius, so you likely won't be able to select the exact temperature your recipe calls for (for example, you can't set it to 400˚, but you can set it for 390˚).
The Black and Decker, which earned a 4 out of 10 in this metric, has dedicated buttons to select each cooking function. Up and down arrows allow you to adjust temperature and time, but the time button is hidden in a non-prominent spot amongst the cooking function buttons, prompting all of our testers to ask, "Why can't I set the time?".
Our least favorite model to use in our testing was the Oster Countertop Oven. Its control panel is simple enough, utilizing the kind of flat buttons you see on most microwaves. However, despite a fairly intuitive layout, we found these buttons to very insensitive, requiring large amounts of pressure to actually register a press. This resulted in lots of frustrated tapping before we could get it to cook anything, which is definitely not an obstacle you want between you and a late night pizza snack.
The most surprising results of our testing came from the temperature accuracy test. We were somewhat taken aback to find that a number of our ovens routinely differed from the indicated temperature by 20˚, with some having discrepancies as high as 50˚. It seems that achieving the correct temperature is the most basic function of an oven, and we felt those inaccuracies were unacceptable. As we dug into this issue further we found that it is quite a divisive topic in the baking world. You can find many articles peddling the idea that oven temperature is a relatively uncontrollable variable and we should thus stop worrying about it. However, you can find an equal number of articles extolling the virtues of accurate oven temperature and the fact that a change of just 25˚F can have a noticeable impact on the quality of baked goods. Both camps have a point. Obsessing over checking your oven with a thermometer is going to add hassle and take some (or all) of the fun out of baking, but having a more accurate oven will most likely yield better more predictable results. With that in mind, we measured temperature accuracy with two different NSF-approved oven thermometers and a Extech EA11A-NIST thermocouple thermometer.
To test accuracy we set each oven at three separate
In our testing, we set each oven to three different temperatures and monitored the thermometers for 30 minutes to see at which temperature each oven reached equilibrium. The Editors' Choice Award-winning Breville Smart Oven, its sibling the Smart OVen Air, the KitchenAid, and the Top Pick for a Small Oven Award-winning Breville Mini Smart Oven were the rock stars of this metric, all earning the top score of 9 out of 10. The Breville Smart Oven settled in at exactly 350˚ and 400˚ when set to those temperatures. When set to 450˚ it ran just 5˚ hot. The Smart Oven Air truned in a similar performance, generally staying within 3˚ of its set temperature. The KitchenAid also hit exactly 350˚ when set to that temperature and ran only 5˚ hot when set to 400˚ and 450˚. Despite being more susceptible to temperature fluctuations due to its small size, the Mini Smart Oven was always within 10˚ of the temperature we set it to.
The top performers in this metric obliterated the competition. All of the first runners-up, the Black and Decker and the Cuisinart, fell 5 points behind and scored 4 out of 10. The Black and Decker ran 10˚ cold when set to 350˚, and ran 20˚ cold when set to 400˚ and 450˚. The Cuisinart performed similarly but in the other direction. It ran 25˚ hot when set to 350˚ and 400˚, and 20 ˚ hot when set to 450˚. The Oster Countertop, and the Panasonic FlashXpress brought up the rear in this metric. The Oster ran very hotly at all temperatures. It was 30˚ hot when set to 350˚, 50˚ hot when set to 400˚, and 55˚ hot when set to 450˚. The FlashXpress heated up almost instantly but also ran hot. It was 20˚ over when set to 350˚, and 50˚ above when set to 425˚ (we had to adjust our test for the FlashXpress because its temperature presets are based on the Celsius scale). The Calphalon Quartz Heat consistently ran 15˚ cold in all of our tests, so while it definitely isn't accurate, it is at least consistent.
The quicker preheat times of toaster ovens when compared to conventional ovens make them a perfect avenue for quelling late-night hunger pangs by pulling a frozen pizza out of the freezer. Most of our frozen food testing focused on this staple. We consumed possibly dangerous
amounts of dough and cheese to find which ovens produced the crispiest crusts and gooiest mozzarella. We also threw in some frozen tater tots for good measure, as these ovens are also great for a quick hit of warm comfort food when it's needed.
Frozen foods fit right into the Panasonic Flash Express' wheelhouse. In our testing it had us enjoying pizzas with crispy crusts and gooey cheese that was just starting to brown on top, all in barely a third the time it took the other ovens to make a pie. Sure, the super-fast style of this machine left the exact center of the pizzas a bit doughy, but that really didn't take away from our overall experience. The one downside of this machine is that it can't fit a 12 inch pizza, maxing out at 9 inches. However, we found 9 inch frozen pizzas to be so hard to find that the machine's pizza capacity is functionally the much more available 6 inch pie. Still, you can make 3 of those smaller pies in the time it takes a normal oven to make a single full-sized pie, so it evens out a bit. This machine was also able to get tater tots very crispy while (surprisingly) still retaining some moisture and fluffiness on the inside.
The Breville Smart Oven Air is the only model we've found that can match the FlashXpress' proclivity for frozen foods. While the larger size means it takes a bit longer to make a pizza or tater tots, the Air creates a delightful crunch in both without sacrificing any tenderness. It can also handle a full 12" pizza pie, an inability of the FlashXpress that is its most glaring weak spot.
Somewhat surprisingly the models that led most of our other metrics were only middle-of-the-pack in our frozen food testing. Both the full-sized Breville Smart Oven and it's Mini version scored a 7 out of 10 in this metric. The Mini Smart Oven tended to leave pizzas a bit softer and doughier than we would have preferred, though this could be fixed by extending the cook time. The full-sized Smart Oven had some inconsistency problems, cooking the backside of the pizza more than the front. The KitchenAid had this same problem, and also scored a 7 out of 10 in this metric.
The Oster earned a 6 out of 10 in this metric. It cooked frozen foods fairly evenly but tended to burn the cheese on frozen pizza a bit. The Black and Decker and Cuisinart shared the low score of 5 in this metric. The Black and Decker was able to make relatively good tater tots, but it had some struggles with frozen pizza. In our testing, it frequently browned the pizza crust while leaving the cheese and pepperoni in the center a tad underdone. The pizza dough itself was certainly cooked and edible, but still felt well below the ideal level of doneness. The Cuisinart cooked pizza much more evenly but had similar issues with leaving the dough a bit too underdone. It was also able to crisp the outsides of tater tots nicely but left them just a bit too mushy.
If a toaster oven doesn't excel at preparing its namesake breakfast item, it's going to lead to some disappointing mornings. To avoid such a catastrophe, we made hundreds of slices on toast in our ovens, paying close attention to how evenly each slice toasted, both across the face of the bread and between the two sides of the bread. To make sure we covered every preference, we used white, wheat, and sourdough bread, and toasted at every setting from very light to borderline burnt. We also stuffed every oven chock-full of bread from wall to wall, then ran a standard toast cycle. This "toast map" elucidated if the oven had any cold spots, or if it started bleeding heat towards the edges.
Our toast tests yielded scores ranging from 4 to 8 out of 10. This is similar to the range of the toast test we conducted in our traditional slot toaster review. We would like to note that, being more specialized machines, we split bread toasting quality and bagel toasting quality into two separate metrics. For toaster ovens, we considered both bread and bagel toasting quality in the same metric. We've found, in general, that traditional slot toasters toast bread a bit better than ovens, and ovens toast bagels much better than traditional slot models. So while these scores aren't directly comparable across reviews, we think our descriptions and photos will give you all the information you need to compare the toasting virtues of a specific toaster oven against those of a particular traditional slot toaster.
The original Breville Smart Oven and the Smart Oven Air again led the field in this metric, sharing a score of 8 out of 10. The bagel modes of these models made some of the most evenly toasted bagels we've seen. Leaving the backsides of bagels warm and gooey while giving the cut sides a nice, even crust is a difficult thing to do, but these models did it with aplomb. They also achieved impressive consistency when toasting bread. When we did our toast map test, filling the ovens wall-to-wall with toast, we find only small cold spots at the very extreme edges of these ovens. In comparison, most models left edge slices looking sadly neglected.
The FlashXpress also earned an 8 out of 10 in this metric, largely due to its speed. It is the only model we tested that can make toast and bagels as fast, if not faster, than a traditional slot toaster. It also had basically no cold spots in our toast map. The infrared elements can also easily be used in a directional manner, so it has no trouble toasting the cut sides of bagels without browning the backsides.
We found the Cuisinart's toast to be acceptable, but to lack any particular qualities that would make it stand out. It toasts both bread and bagels relatively evenly, but certainly leaves some cold spots throughout. Both the KitchenAid and the Black and Decker avoid those cold spots, but also tend to toast the tops of bread slices noticeably more than the undersides.
Earning the last slot in our toast quality testing, the Oster Countertop Oven can still make toast that is more than passable. However, said toast had more inconsistencies and deficiencies than any of the other toast that came out of our testing. For instance, it tended to toast the top sides of the bread appreciably more than the bottom sides, and it had trouble getting the faces of bagels toasted without burning the edges at least a little bit.
With apartments and homes, on average, getting smaller and smaller, we need compact countertop ovens now more than ever before. However, these deceptively simple machines can vary widely in price, quality, and the features that they offer. We hope that our testing results have cleared up any confusion and helped you find the perfect countertop cooker for your budget, space, and tastes.
— Max Mutter, Michelle Powell, and Steven Tata