Dear Jim: My husband claims it is better to use the oven broiler than a toaster oven to toast bread and bagels and prepare small dishes. I think he is wrong and I want to get a toaster oven. Who is correct? -- Diane L.
Dear Diane: Chalk up one for the lady of the house. There are many reasons it is better to use a toaster oven than the large oven/broiler in your range. To go even one step further, for toasting bread, bagels, waffles, etc., a standard toaster is even better and faster than a toaster oven.
One good reason for using a toaster or toaster oven is to save money. The heating elements in your range oven can use more than 3,500 watts of electricity. A typical toaster uses only about 900 watts and a toaster oven uses from 1,350 to 1,500 watts. During the summer, your air conditioner has to run longer to remove all the extra heat created by the oven broiler so it is a double expense.
I would recommend you purchase both a toaster and a toaster oven for the best overall efficiency and time savings. Some simple toasters cost as little as $15 so it won't be a budget buster. A toaster toasts bread faster than a toaster oven and is the best choice when toasting just one or two slices.
If your budget is not limited, consider a toaster with digital controls. These provide more accuracy and consistency in the darkness of the toast. Since you mentioned bagels, select a model with a "bagel" setting. This toasts the bagel on only one side as opposed to bread on both sides.
West Bend has a convenient, fast model which automatically moves the slice of bread or bagel through the toaster. You put the slice of bread in the top of the toaster and it slowly moves down past the heating elements and it slides out the bottom on to a tray when it is done. The tray closes flat against the side of the toaster to save space when it is not in use.
When selecting a toaster oven, consider a more expensive one with digital controls. As with toasters, these provide more precise heating.The controls are also easier to see when your eyes may not focus as well in the morning. Measure the size of a slice of bread you typically toast to determine if the toaster oven will accommodate four or six slices at a time.
A good-quality toaster oven can be used for most of your smaller baking and roasting needs. A model which includes a convection feature will cook items faster. It costs more, so if time is not an issue, you may not need it. Models labeled as "infrared heating" toast bread faster. If you broil hamburgers, look for an easy-to-clean nonstick or porcelain interior.
The following companies offer toaster and toaster ovens: Braun (800-272-8622 www.braun.com), Cuisinart (800-726-0190 www.cuisinart.com), Rival (800-557-4825 www.rivalproducts.com), Sunbeam (800-458-8407 www.sunbeam.com), and West Bend (262-334-6949 www.westbend.com).
Send inquiries to James Dulley, 6906 Royalgreen Drive,Cincinnati, OH, 45244, or visit www.dulley.com.