Dinner à la Toaster Oven

Toaster ovens are good for much more than making toast. This countertop appliance can do many of the tasks of a full-size oven—provided you aren't making large quantities—while consuming less energy. "You can absolutely cook dinner in it and it preheats much faster and more efficiently than the big oven," RealMenJulienne says. And during the summer, a toaster oven won't heat up the house the way a full-size unit does.

"I've used my toaster oven for baked chicken, baked fish and veggies in foil, baked potatoes, and [to] roast veggies of every sort," gilintx says. "Obviously, servings have to fit in the oven, and it will take a little longer than a conventional oven, but I've never had trouble baking or roasting." Hounds also produce pizzas, casseroles, and baked goods such as cookies, pies, and quick breads using their toaster ovens.

Figuring out your oven's heating pattern will help you use it effectively. RealMenJulienne has a nifty trick: Fill a pan with flour and leave it in the heated oven until it starts to burn. "That will show you where the hot spots are and how best to place food inside it," RealMenJulienne says.

If you're in the market for a model that can just about do it all, BobB recommends the Breville Smart Oven. It's "like a toaster oven on steroids, it even has convection," BobB says. "We use ours for roasting, broiling, and baking anything that will fit in it—and that's a lot! Not to mention it makes great toast." lynnlato is also a Breville fan. "I love, love, love it," says lynnlato, who adds that although this model is expensive, "it's money well spent."

Discuss: Can I really bake dinner in a toaster oven?

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