Best Overall Oven
Breville Smart Oven Air
: 17.2" x 21.4" x 12.8" | Maximum Pizza Diameter
Great all-around cooking performance
Excellent temperature accuracy
Bevy of cooking modes
May be too large for small kitchens
For those that want the highest performing, most versatile cooking appliance for their countertop, the Breville Smart Oven Air is a clear choice. On top of providing field-leading baking performance and nearly unparalleled temperature accuracy, it also offers a slew of functions that essentially make it an all-in-one countertop device. 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
: 11.2" x 18.5" x 16.2" | Maximum Pizza Diameter
Easy to use
Great all-around cooking performance
Great temperature Accuracy
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
: 16.1" x 18" x 12.1" | Maximum Pizza Diameter
Great Temperature accuracy
Good all around cooking performance
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
: 21.8" x 12.4" x 14.5" | Maximum Pizza Diameter
Poor temperature accuracy
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 ratios this oven delivers.
Read review: Black and Decker Countertop Convection Toaster Oven
Top Pick for a Small Toaster Oven
Breville Mini Smart Oven
: 15.5" x 14" x 8.8" | Maximum Pizza Diameter
Great all-around cooking performance
Great temperature accuracy)
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 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 habit.
Read review: Breville Mini Smart Oven
Top Pick for Convenience
: 13" x 12" x 10.2" | Maximum Pizza Diameter
Fast and convenient
Great toasting quality
Great for frozen foods
Functioning as more of a microwave/toaster hybrid than a true countertop oven, the Panasonic FlashXpress is the fastest appliance around that can make toast, bagels, heat up leftovers, and bake crispy cookies. This machine uses infrared heating elements that can get up to temperature almost instantly, eliminating the need for preheating. The intense heat also cuts most cooking times in half. We were able to make toast, bagels, mini frozen pizzas, and cookies more quickly in this oven than any other. It is also the fastest way to heat up leftovers apart from a microwave.
This is a bit of a quirky machine, with somewhat finicky controls and odd presets. The temperatures are also based off of round numbers in Celsius, so you won't be able to dial in the exact Fahrenheit temps that many recipes call for. Retaining moisture is also not a forte of the infrared heating elements, so this oven is better for people that like things crispy rather than chewy. If you've ever wished your microwave could make taste and didn't leave your reheated leftovers so soggy, this is a great addition to your kitchen.
Read review: Panasonic FlashXpress
Why You Should Trust Us
Steven Tata and Max Mutter have been testing and writing about kitchen appliances at TechGearLab for over 3 years. In that time they have personally used and meticulously evaluated over 100 of these appliances, and have spent countless hours researching over 1000 more products that didn't make the cut for being brought into the testing lab. In their quest to find the best countertop gadgets for every kitchen, Steven and Max have become experts in every step of at-home food prep.
To date, we have thoroughly researched more than 50 toaster ovens, 10 of which have made the harrowing journey through our testing kitchen. That journey involves cooking everything from simple toast and frozen pizzas to temperature-sensitive cakes and meats. We cook all of these things in multiple ovens, using the exact same ingredients and baking dishes, so that we can relatively score the cooking prowess of each. We also use multiple thermometers to assess the temperature accuracy of each oven to see which can satisfy even the pickiest of bakers.
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.
There isn't exactly a linear correlation between toaster oven price and performance. This means you can end up getting a lot more for a lot less. For those looking for a low budget option, we think the Black and Decker Countertop Convection offers the best performance to price ratio, outperforming some models that cost significantly more. The Breville Mini Smart Oven provides top-notch baking performance at a relatively mid-range price, as long as you can deal with a slightly smaller capacity. If you really want the best performance you will have to spend a bit extra on the full-sized Breville Smart Oven (or even more on the Breville Smart Oven Air if you fancy doing some slow cooking or dehydrating), but we think it's well worth it for aspiring chefs.
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.
While no models performed horribly in our baking tests, there were clearly some superior models. Leading them off was the Editors' Choice Award-winning Breville Smart Oven and the newly updated Smart Oven Air, both of which share the top score of 9 out of 10. Both these models produced a number of superlative adjectives on our notecards when tasting their drumsticks, cookies, and cake. What really sets these models apart is their ability to keep things delectably moist on the inside, while still achieving a delightful crispiness on the outside.
The Breville Mini Smart Oven performed very well in our baking test, but has a smaller capacity than most ovens.
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.
All of the Breville models able to produce some delectable drumsticks during our testing.
Closely following the top performers was the Cuisinart, which scored a 7 out of 10 on our tests. Its cooking was very even, and it was able to crisp the skin of drumsticks very well. However, it tended to dry most things out just a bit more than the top models (for instance, its cakes weren't too dry, but definitely not delectably moist). The Hamilton Beach Countertop Oven, which scored a 6 out of 10, performed very similarly to the Cuisinart, though small items like cookies came out even drier. 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.
We tested each model's ability to bake cake evenly and retain the right amount of moisture, it was a difficult job.
Overall, the Panasonic FlashXpress sacrifices baking performance for speed. It is better suited to quickly heating leftovers and making toast than baking a cake, as the intense heating elements tend to dry everything out. In fact, it timer maxes out at just 25 minutes, significant;y less time than some baked goods take to cook (our drumstick recipe called for a 45 minute bake time). Cookies cooked very fast, but no matter what we did in terms of adjusting temperature and time they came out incredibly crispy. This earned the Panasonic FlashXpress a 4 out of 10 in this metric.
The Smart Oven Air's unique air crisping feature allows for oil-free fries.
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.
We meticulously evaluated every oven's user interface. We particularly liked 3-knob designs, as seen here on the Chefman XL.
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 testing split our ovens into two distinct camps, with half the models scoring 7 out of 10 or above and the other half scoring 5 out of 10 or below. Again, the Breville Smart Oven and the Smart Oven Air were at the front of the pack, earning a 9 out of 10. The large LCD displays and multiple dedicated knobs for selecting cooking mode, temperature, and time make it very easy to navigate the multitude of functions these models offer. The KitchenAid has a similarly intuitive interface but has one less knob, so you have to do just a bit more fumbling to scroll through its settings.
With all of the various functions a countertop oven can perform, it is vital to have an easy way to navigate through them. The three knob design of the Breville Smart Oven makes selecting and adjusting functions a breeze.
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.
Cooking in a countertop oven can produce a lot of crumbs. Having a sturdy crumb tray that is easy to remove and clean can make a world of difference.
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 Breville Mini Smart Oven has a single knob and a set of arrow buttons. This feels much less streamlined than having multiple knobs, but it remembers your preferred settings to save you some time in the long run.
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 preheating 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.
Double checking all of the thermometers used in our temperature accuracy testing.
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.
Running one of our temperature accuracy tests.
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, the Panasonic FlashXpress, and the Hamilton Beach brought up the rear in this metric, all scoring a 2. 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 Hamilton Beach consistently ran at least 20˚ hot, sometimes exceeding its set temperature by as much as 65˚.
It's hard to think about the time savings offered by small, countertop ovens without quickly dreaming about the convenience and deliciousness of a good frozen pizza. Most of our frozen food testing centered around that lazy dinner special, and we threw in some frozen tater tots for good measure.
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.
The FlashXpress was particularly adept at preparing frozen food.
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 pizza 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 only model that could match the FlashXpress' frozen food performance in our testing was the Breville Smart Oven Air. Sure, it lacks some expediency in comparison, but it was able to cook frozen foods with impressive consistency. It also was able to give the crust of frozen pizzas some nice crunch, and it made the best frozen tater tots we've ever tasted.
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.
A fluffy field of tater tots, fresh out of the oven.
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.
We looked for bagels that were toasted as evenly as possible.
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've found that most countertop ovens can make decent, if not perfect, toast. We're talking toast that may have some hotter or cold bits towards the edges and some other minor inconsistencies, but that is generally going to please all but the pickiest of toast eaters. The Cuisinart falls into this category, as it does a decent job of toasting the cut side of bagels while keeping the backsides untoasted, but its toast generally has some minor cold spots throughout. The KitchenAid and Black and Decker produce fewer cold spots, but tend to toast the bottom sides of toast noticeably more than the tops. The Hamilton Beach suffers from both some minor cold spots when making more than 2 slices of toast, and tends to toast the backsides of bagels slightly more than would be ideal.
Toast maps like this one show both how well an oven toasts, and whether it has any cold spots.
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.
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.