The Best Toaster Ovens of 2017
Cooking for one or two? After researching over 60 models we purchased 8 of the best toaster ovens and spent 100 hours testing their performance in everything from reheating to broiling. We turned the TechGearLab office into a scene from the Great British Baking Show so we could learn everything there is to know about these convenient countertop cookers. Whether you want a small, efficient oven that can handle a gourmet salmon bake for two, or just want an inexpensive way to heat up some frozen pizza, we've got you covered. If you're only interested in toast and bagels then you might want to check out our toaster review.
Read the full review below >
Test Results and Ratings
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Analysis and Award Winners
Updated May 2017
After another thorough review of the toaster oven market we still recommend the Breville Smart Oven for those looking for all of the performance of a full-sized oven in a smaller, more efficient size. If you want an inexpensive way to add some cooking functionality to your dorm room or small apartment we still feel the Black and Decker Countertop Convection offers the best value.
Best Overall Toaster Oven
Breville Smart Oven BOV800XL
The Breville Smart Oven was a universal favorite amongst our testers. Everything we baked in it came out moist with a satisfying bit of crispiness on the surface. It also made some of the best toast we've had from a toaster oven, and excelled at evenly defrosting and cooking frozen foods. We were incredibly impressed with its temperature accuracy, which never wavered by more than a few degrees. If you're looking for something that can handle temperature sensitive items, look no further. To top it off the Breville features a well designed and intuitive user interface. Just be careful, your conventional oven may get jealous if you end up using the Breville all the time.
Easy to use
Great all-around cooking performance
Great temperature Accuracy
Read full review: Breville Smart Oven
Looking to do some slow roasting? For $20 more the Breville Smart Oven Pro takes the incredible performance of the Smart Oven and adds a slow cooking feature for foods that need to cook for a long time at a low temperature.
While the Breville Smart Oven was our outright winner, the KitchenAid Convection Digital Countertop Oven was a close second. It only slightly fell behind the Smart Oven in our toasting and ease of use tests, and certainly belongs in the same high performing category. Additionally, it is available in a variety of colors, making it a bit more friendly for the kitchen decor conscious. The KitchenAid lists for much more than the Smart Oven, but can often be found online at a more comparable price.
Best Bang for the Buck
Black and Decker Countertop Convection Oven
While the Black and Decker Countertop Convection was not a top performer and received average scores in all of our tests, it did provide reliable and consistent results. It can make toast and bagels well enough that most people won't miss their traditional slot toaster. Cakes and cookies came out fluffy and chewy enough that none of our taste testers complained. While it didn't perfectly cook frozen pizza, it's pretty hard to not enjoy a slice of pizza. And it does all this while listing for only $100, that's a full $150 less than the list price of our Editors' Choice Award winner. Our least favorite thing about the Black and Decker is its somewhat clunky controls, but they are completely usable and with a little practice can become intuitive. So if you want something that can offer all the functionality of a toaster oven and don't mind some small sacrifices in cooking performance and ease of use, then the Black and Decker is a great and economical choice.
Poor temperature accuracy
Read full review: Black and Decker Countertop Convection toaster Oven
Top Pick for a Small Toaster Oven
Breville Mini Smart Oven
The Breville Mini Smart Oven offers almost all of the performance of the full sized Smart Oven, but in a smaller, more convenient package. This earned it our top Pick for a Small toaster Oven award. Its small size makes it an easy addition to even crowded countertops, and allows it to warm up exponentially faster than most of the other models we tested. It also excelled in all of our cooking tests, preparing everything from chicken to cake with aplomb. It does have a few less cooking presets and a slightly less streamlined control panel than its big sibling, but if your kitchen is cramped thats a small price to pay.
Great all-around cooking performance
Great temperature accuracy)
Read full review: Breville Mini Smart Oven
Top Pick for Convenience
If you mostly want to heat up leftovers, make frozen meals, and make toast for one or two people, then the Panasonic FlashXpress is perfect for you. It takes up less counter space than a 4-slot traditional toaster, and essentially provides the functionality of both a toaster and a microwave. While its 0 to 60 in 2 seconds flat heating style precludes it from performing well in baking applications, it makes quick, tasty work of prepared meals and leftovers. It also can make good toast much more quickly than any of the other ovens we tested, and very nearly as fast as a traditional slot toaster. So if you love your microwave but wish it could make toast, the FlashXpress is the ticket. Just remember not to stare at it as it glows like the sun.
Fast and convenient
Great toasting quality
Great for frozen foods
Read full review: Panasonic FlashXpress
Analysis and Test Results
The phrase "Jack of all trades, master of none," often carries a negative connotation. However, that is exactly what many a modern kitchen needs. Living spaces are becoming smaller as more people migrate to cities. This creates the need for a small, efficient device that can serve in the place of a number of other kitchen appliances. Even people with larger kitchens could benefit from a smaller more efficient device that can expedite their weekday dinner prep and possibly lighten their energy bills. Enter the toaster oven. We designed a gauntlet of tests to determine each model's overall performance.
Our overall scores are a composite of tests we ran to evaluate performance in baking, toasting, and frozen meal performance, as well as how easy the ovens are to use and the accuracy of their temperature settings. The following section describes the ins and outs of each one of these metrics, and how well each model performed in our testing. For a more in depth discussion of these tests were conducted, check out our how we test article.
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 looked at how close each model got to 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.
No product performed particularly poorly in our baking test, but there were some clear front runners. Score in this metric ranged from 4 to 9 out of 10. The Editors' Choice Award winning Breville Smart Oven brought home the top score of 9 on this test. The Breville made cookies that were just slightly less done than other models, but were very evenly cooked and had a great, not-too-moist yet chewy texture, if lacking just a bit of crispiness on the surface. It excelled in making cakes and drumsticks, delighting all of our testers on both accounts. The cakes were the most even and moist made during out testing, and the drumsticks came out with the perfect combination of crispy skin and tender meat.
The KitchenAid Digital Countertop Oven was just slightly inferior the the full sized Smart Oven in terms of baking. Accordingly, it earned a score of of 8 out of 10. The KitchenAid made similarly fantastic drumsticks to the full sized Smart Oven. Its cookies came out a little less moist and chewy, but they had a crispier exterior, giving them that crunchy and chewy juxtaposition that the top scoring Breville didn't obtain. The KitchenAid's cake was just a bit darker and less moist than the perfect golden sponge produced by the Breville, but still outperformed the majority of models in making the classic birthday party delicacy.
Also earning an 8 out of 10 in our baking testing was the Breville Mini Smart Oven. It was nearly as good as its full sized predecessor, but fell just short in a few areas. The drumsticks it produced were just a bit less crispy on the outside, and its cake just a bit less fluffy. However, it made some mouthwatering cookies, and was still a better baking machine than the vast majority of models we tested.
Closely following the top performers was the Cuisinart, which scored a 7 on our tests. It was able to match the top performers in our drumstick test, retaining moisture while getting the skins nice and crispy. It also baked cake and cookies evenly and well, but seemed to dry them out just a bit more than the full sized Smart Oven and KitchenAid, resulting in its slightly lower score. The Hamilton Beach Countertop Oven, which scored a 6, performed very similarly to the Cuisinart. However, it some extra difficulties in retaining moisture when baking small things like cookies. The Black and Decker also scored a 6 on our baking test. Across the board it baked just a bit less evenly than the better performing models, leaving some more done splotches in cakes and cookies, but not to a horrendous degree. It also tended to dry out food slightly more than its more accomplished competitors. It produced drumsticks and cookies that were moist enough to be appetizing, but not quite moist enough to be mouthwatering.
The Panasonic FlashXpress's high powered and lightning fast heating elements didn't lend themselves particularly well to baking. Nor do they seem to be designed for such an application, as the FlashXpress' timer maxes out at 25 minutes, much shorter than the 45 minutes that we baked drumsticks. Accordingly, it made drumsticks that felt a bit burnt and overly crispy, cake that was blackened on the outside, and cookies that were excessively crunchy. The latter may sound appealing to those that like a crispy cookie, but the majority of our testers preferred a gooier offering. In the end the FlashXpress earned a 4 on our baking test. The Oster Extra Large Digital Countertop also brought up the rear in our baking test, earning a 4. We still enjoyed the drumsticks it produced, but they were dry on top and moist on the bottom, making them less enjoyable than other models' offerings. Most of the batches of cookies we made in this oven came out ok, if a little dry, but a couple batches came out burnt. It blackened some of the surfaces of the cakes we made.
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.
Ease of use is a metric that clearly split the field. Half of the models we tested scored 7 or above, while the other half scored 5 or below. The clear frontrunner in this category was the Editors' Choice Award winning Breville Smart Oven, which scored a 9 out of 10. It utilizes a large LCD display and three dedicated knobs that allow you to select cooking function, temperature, and duration. It also has magnets that pull the rack out a bit when opening the door and a large, sturdy crumb tray that easily removes from the front. the runner up in this category was the KitchenAid, which earned a score of 8. It has a similar interface to the Breville Smart Oven with a large LCD and knob controls. However it uses only two knobs instead of three, which feels slightly less streamlined.
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.
Leading the pack of stragglers in our ease of use testing was the Panasonic FlashXpress, which scored a 5 out of 10. Overall the FlashXpress is a quirky product, and it carries that quirkiness into its interface. No selections can be made until the power button is pushed. Then temperature and duration settings can be selected via two sets of dedicated arrow buttons. Its temperature settings are converted from celsius settings, so you can set the oven to 390˚, but not 400˚. It has six cooking functions, each with its own button. Conspicuously absent is a bagel function, noticeably bizarre is a dedicated hash brown function. If you hesitate too long in punching in all your desired settings the impatient Panasonic will fire up on its own, requiring you to shut the whole thing off and start over. It also has the flimsiest crumb tray of the bunch
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?". Also scoring a 4 in this metric was the Hamilton Beach Countertop Oven. It has nice knobs for setting the function, temperature, and timer. However, it has no preheat function and does not tell you when it's up to temperature, you just have to set a 10 minute timer and assume that's enough preheating time. We would prefer some sort of temperature indication.
Bringing up the rear with a score of 2 was the Oster Countertop Oven. While the Oster's controls were fairly intuitive, we really disliked their design. It utilizes a touch control panel, so each button is not actually a button, just a printed word or symbol that sits on top of a touch sensor. This is similar to the controls used on most microwaves. However, on the Oster these controls were so hard to press that it often took multiple attempts just to get it into baking mode. When we heard banging and grunting in the office during our testing we knew the Oster was refusing to bend to someone's will.
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 peddleing the idea that oven tempertature is a realtively 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 bought three different oven thermometers and did all the obsessing so you don't have to.
In our testing we set each oven to three different temperatures and monitored the oven thermometers for 30 minutes to see at what temperature the oven reached an equilibrium. The Editors' Choice Award winning Breville Smart Oven, the KitchenAid, and the top Pick for a Small Oven Award winning Breville Mini Smart Oven were the rockstars 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 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. Both 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, the Panasonic FlashXpress, and the Hamilton Beach brought up the rear in this metric, all scoring a 2. The Oster ran very hot 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 Hamilton Beach consistently ran at least 20˚ hot, sometimes exceeding its set temperature by as much as 65˚.
For many the main draw of getting a toaster oven is having less time between them and a fully cooked, cheesy, doughy, and delicious frozen pizza. Accordingly, in our frozen food testing we focused on two staples: pizza and tater tots (this also made us quite nostalgic for pizza fridays in grade school). For pizzas we were looking for crusts that were crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside, fully melted but not burnt cheese, and savory pepperonis with just a bit of crispiness on the edges. With tater tots we wanted nice crispy skins with fluffy but not too dry interiors. Hold on, we'll be right back, we're going to go fire up the toaster ovens.
The scores in our frozen food test were relatively tightly packed, ranging only from 5 to 8 out of 10. The lack of low scores is because all the models' performances were at least comparable, so nothing deserved to be separated from the pack. We reserve high scores, 9 and above, for things that surprise us with their performance. In this case that would be something that managed to make us forget we were eating packaged frozen food. An, "It's not delivery, it's DiGiorno™," moment, if you will. Unfortunately, we didn't have any of those moments during our testing, but we did have some pretty delicious pizza.
Frozen foods are where the Panasonic FlashXpress came into its own, earning the top score of 8 in our test. It made frozen pizza with crunchy on the outside fluffy on the inside crust, and melted cheese that was just barely starting to brown. It left the center of the pizza just a tad too doughy for our liking, keeping it from earning an elite score. It also made tater tots that were a perfect golden brown on the outside with lusciously smooth interiors. We would like to note that, due to the Panasonic's relatively small capacity, we used a 6-inch frozen pizzas in our testing as opposed to the 12-inch pizzas used for all other models. It can handle a 9-inch pizza, but we found it hard to find one of those. Also, without the need to preheat the Panasonic made both of these dishes faster than any other model in our test.
The Hamilton Beach was one of four models that earned a 7 out of 10 in this metric. It performed very similarly to the Panasonic, except that it was a bit better at fully cooking the middle of frozen pizzas. However, it took almost 10 minutes to preheat, which felt like an eternity compared to the Panasonic's instantaneous infrared heating.
The Breville Smart Oven, the Breville Mini Smart Oven, and the KitchenAid also scored 7 in our frozen food test. All of these models produced similar tater tots with outsides that were just a bit less crispy than we would have liked, but with nice fluffy insides. The full sized Smart Oven and the KitchenAid had some issues with cooking frozen pizzas relatively unevenly. Both models tended to over cook the crust in relation to the center of the pizza, with the KitchenAid doing so to a slightly greater degree. The Mini Smart Oven tended to leave frozen pizza's just bit softer and more doughy than we'd prefer.
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 their just a bit too mushy.
The perfect piece of toast, an ideal that to our knowledge has not yet been obtained, is defined by evenness. Its face would have a perfectly even amount of toasting across its entire area, and both of its sides would be perfect mirror images of each other (something that toaster ovens struggle with). The only axis on which you don't want evenness is the z-axis. Toast that is toasted all the through feels like biting into cardboard, you want the center to be much less crispy than the exterior. Bagels are a bit different. The perfect bagel has an evenly toasted cut side but an untoasted and gooey backside. Most models have a bagel function that reduces the power of the bottom heating elements to achieve this. In our toasting test we evaluated how close each model got to these two ideals. Also, since toast is one of the items you may fill your oven to the brim with, we made toast maps. This involved filling each model with as much bread as we could to see if there were any particularly hot or cold spots.
Our toast tests yielded scores ranging from 4 to 8 out of 10. This is similar to the range from 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 Breville Smart Oven again led the field in this metric, scoring an 8. Its bagel mode made some of the most evenly toasted bagels we've seen. It also left the backsides warm but not toasted. Bread placed in the center of the oven was toasted near perfectly on the front side, but was toasted a bit lighter and had some inconsistencies on the backside. Our toast map revealed some cool spots around the edges of the oven, but to a lesser degree than some other models. The Breville Mini Smart Oven performed almost identically to its larger sibling in this test. Despite not having a bagel mode, it still made amazing bagels. The only really difference was the the Mini had some more cool spots at the edge of our toast map than the full sized.
The Brevilles shared the top spot in this category with the Panasonic FlashXpress, which also earned an 8 out of 10. While the raw power of the Panasonic's dual infrared heating elements can be a hindrance in some areas, they are perfect for toasting. It consistently toasted the outside of items evenly, while leaving the insides soft and chewy. It also had the most even toast heat map of the bunch, showing just a small cold spot near the door (this may be, in part, due to its smaller size, but impressive nonetheless). Despite not having a dedicated bagel function it was able to produce some great bagels, though it toasted the backsides more than the Brevilles.
Most of the ovens we tested fell into what you might call an acceptable midrange in our toasting test. The Cuisinart brought home a score of 7. It made evenly toasted bagels with a nice juxtaposition of crunchy and gooey that rivaled those of both the full sized and mini Smart Ovens. It lost some points in the bread toasting category. While bread placed in the center of the rack came out fairly well done and even, our toast map showed cool spots on the left and right sides of the oven that were almost the width of an entire slice of bread. The KitchenAid and the Black and Decker both scored a 6 on this test. The KitchenAid's bagels were of respectable quality, but it often toasted one half of the bagel significantly more than the other. It also tended to toast the bottom facing sides of bread much lighter than the top facing sides, and our toast map showed some significant cool spots on on the sides of the oven. The Black and Decker made fairly good bagels with just a few toasting inconsistencies on the face and warm, chewy backsides. Its bread toasting performance, however, was sub par. On medium settings it barely toasted the bottom facing sides of bread, and slices in the front corners of the oven came out very light. The Hamilton Beach trailed slightly behind these models, scoring a 5. It made decent toast with just a few inconsistencies, and tended to toast the backside of bagels a bit more than we would have liked.
The Oster Countertop Oven was the worst performer in our toasting test, reaching the finish line with a score of 4. As with all of the models we tested, it was able to make passable toasted goods, but it had the most deficiencies of the bunch. It often burned the edges of bagels and had difficulty toasting them evenly. It toasted the top sides of bread much more than the bottom sides, and it produced the most uneven toast map we encountered. All the bread but the slice in the exact center were more untoasted than toasted.
Countertop ovens now come in all shapes, sizes, and technologies, from those that effectively replace a microwave, to some that can almost take the place of a conventional oven. We hope our testing results effectively demonstrated the strengths and weaknesses of each model, and thus led you to the one you want.
— Max Mutter and Steven Tata
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