Want to make some quick meals? We researched over 100 toaster ovens, then bought the 9 best and put them through a series of side-by-side tests. Toaster ovens use less energy and heat up faster than conventional ovens, and can heat up leftovers without the sogginess that is associated with microwaves. However, these countertop cookers vary widely in performance. Some have the fine-tuned temperature control needed for delicate pastries and gourmet meals, while others only really excel at making toast and frozen pizzas. Our testing covered every performance aspect of these ovens, so we can help you find the perfect model for your needs and budget.
The Best Toaster Ovens of 2018
Analysis and Award Winners
Since our last update we've added the hOmeLabs 6 Slice Convection to our review, which earned a Best Buy award for offering high performance at a relatively low cost. We still feel that the Breville Smart Oven is the best countertop oven you can buy, and the Panasonic FlashXpress has continued to serve up expedient lunchtime meals in the TechGearLab office.
Best Overall Toaster Oven
Breville Smart Oven BOV800XL
Your conventional oven better watch its back, because it might just become obsolete once you get the Breville Smart Oven. It excelled at everything in our testing, making things crispy when desired but also keeping things nice and moist when required. Its incredibly precise temperature control makes it perfect for fussy baked goods and nuanced dishes. Seriously, this countertop cooker can replace your conventional oven for everything but the Thanksgiving turkey. If you're willing to spend a bit more you can get an even more versatile tool in the Breville Smart Oven Air, which adds slow cooking, air frying, and even dehydrating abilities. If you just want the slow cooking ability, upgrading to the superior, yet more expensive Breville Smart Oven Pro lets you roast low and slow for a bit less than the Air.
Read review: Breville Smart Oven
KitchenAid 12" Convection Digital Countertop Oven
Though the Breville Smart Oven was our clear favorite after testing was completed, we were still enamored with the KitchenAid Convection Digital Countertop. We loved the toast it made, and it lagged only slightly behind the Breville in terms of temperature accuracy and general cooking performance. It also comes in a variety of different colors, so you can find one to match any decor. Don't be scared away by the high list price, this oven sells for much less online.
Read review: KitchenAid Convection Digital Countertop Oven
Best Buy for a Fully Featured Model
hOmeLabs 6 Slice Convection
If you're on a budget but don't want to compromise on size, quality, or features then the hOmeLabs 6 Slice Convection is the best choice of all the toaster ovens in our review. It has extensive cooking settings and a digital interface that feels less polished than those of more expensive models, but it still easy to use. Our main complaint about the hOmeLabs was its tendency to run much hotter than the temperature that we set it to. This is worth keeping in mind when you bake to prevent scorching your food. Overall it is a versatile toaster oven that provides a variety of features at a relatively low cost.
Read review: hOmeLabs 6 Slice Convection
Best Bang for the Buck
Black and Decker Countertop Convection Oven
We've all had those dorm rooms and small starter apartments that don't have a proper oven. If you're currently living in one of those places, are on a budget, and are desperate to improve your at home cooking options, the Black and Decker Countertop Convection Oven is a perfect choice. It's certainly not a gourmet machine, but it is more than capable of making some tasty meals, heating up leftovers, and handling all of your toasting needs. And it does all this for well less than half the cost of the high-end models. Our biggest complaint with this oven was that its control panel isn't completely intuitive, but in the grand scheme of things, this is a very small annoyance.
Read review: Black and Decker Countertop Convection Toaster Oven
Top Pick for a Small Toaster Oven
Breville Mini Smart Oven
If you're looking for great cooking performance that won't take up much countertop real estate, the Breville Mini Smart Oven is the clear front-runner. It offers nearly all of the cooking performance of its larger sibling (which won our Editors' Choice Award), and its small stature lets it heat up much faster than most of our other ovens, saving critical time in a cookie craving emergency. This oven is perfect for cooking aficionados that live in small apartments, or for those that don't want living in a dorm room to cramp their baking habit.
Read review: Breville Mini Smart Oven
Top Pick for Convenience
Blurring the line between a toaster oven and microwave, the Panasonic Flash Express uses infrared heating elements to preheat in an instant and cook food in a, well, flash. This little oven takes up less space than a 4-slot toaster and can make toast just as quickly. It also did well in our testing with making cookies, personal sized frozen pizzas, and tater tots, prepping all far faster than every other oven. The super fast cooking style does lean more to the dry and crispy side, so don't expect any moist and chewy cooks from this machine. If you've ever wished your microwave could make toast and didn't leave food so soggy, this is the perfect oven for you.
Read 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. You can read about these tests, and how each model performed in them, in the sections below.
For those looking to stretch their money as far as possible, the above Price vs. Performance chart will be useful. As you can see the both the Breville Mini Smart Oven and the hOmeLabs 6 Slice Convection offer good combinations of performance and price, as their dots sit towards the lower right corner of the chart (you can hover over dots to see which models they correspond to). You can also see that, although the Breville Smart Oven costs more, it performs significantly better than other similarly priced models.
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, which earned the high scoe of 9 out of 10 in this metric. It made almost perfectly gooey cookies that were fully cooked but maintained a pleasant moistness. 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 our testing, and the drumsticks had the perfect combination of crispy skin with he actual meat staying tender and not overdone.
The KitchenAid Digital Countertop Oven was just slightly inferior the full sized Smart Oven in terms of baking. Accordingly, it earned a score of 8 out of 10. The KitchenAid made similarly fantastic drumsticks to the full sized Smart Oven. Cookies made with this oven were a bit crispier than those made by the Breville, and would definitely be preferable to those that fall on the crunchy side of the crunchy vs. chewy debate. The KitchenAid' was slightly less adept than the Breville at maintaining moisture when backing a cake, but it still achieved a better consistency for this birthday confection than most of the other models we tested.
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.
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 and hOmeLabs, which both scored a 6, 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.
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 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.
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 was at the front of the pack, earning a 9 out of 10. Its large LCD screen and multiple control knobs made selecting various settings, temperatures, and cook time a breeze. 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 settings.
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 hOmeLabs' interface was very similar to that of the larger Breville but is less intuitive and doesn't display as much information, making it a bit more difficult to navigate. 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?". 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.
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, 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 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, hOmeLabs, 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 hOmeLabs ran 20˚ to 25˚ hotter than desired when we set the temperature to 400˚. 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.
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 hOmeLabs was one of the 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. Even though the hOmeLabs preheats to any temperature in under five minutes, it cannot match the Panasonic's near-instantaneous infrared heating.
Somewhat surprisingly the models that led most of our other metrics were only middle-of-the-pack in our frozen food testing. Both Breville ovens 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.
The perfect piece of toast is evenly browned and crunchy on the outside, and a bit softer on the inside. The ideal bagel has a browned, crispy face and a warm but still soft backside. We prepped both of these breakfast staples in each of our ovens and measured them against these ideals. We also created a heat map for each model, stuffing them to the brim with toast and then visually inspecting to see if there were ay hot or cold spots. This test evaluates whether you can make a lot of toast at once without sacrificing quality.
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 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 real difference was 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 evenest 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 and hOmeLabs brought home scores of 7. They made evenly toasted bagels with a nice juxtaposition of crunchy and gooey that rivaled those of both the full-sized and mini Smart Ovens. Both 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 ovens 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 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.
Still not sure? Take a look at our buying advice article for more info.