Outsmarting the Breville Smart Oven

John Francis | Nov 22, 201803:32 AM     11

I've just gotten one of these, replacing a Krups toaster oven whose Toast and Cook buttons don't work after 7 years. The Breville is much more complicated to use, too complicated for me. What tricks and tips do Chowhounds use to make it simpler?

1. Preheating. I don't want to sit around while the oven heats nothing but itself - I want to put the food in and start cooking right away. If I do that, then the preset timing will be too long and the food will overcook or burn. How many minutes should I subtract from the cooking cycle to correct for this?

2. Rack Height. From what I've been reading, the top rack height for broiling is not a good choice, and the manual says in effect that it's up to me whether to use the bottom rack height for baking and roasting. Seems like the middle height is OK for everything that will fit in that space, right?

3. Convection. The manual says this produces "faster, more even, more energy-efficient cooking." But the cooking time remains the same whether Convection is on or off. If convection does indeed cook faster, how much faster? Also, "Some foods may not be ideal for convection cooking." Such as?

4. Frozen Foods. The manual says this "adds the recommended additional time required to defrost and then toast frozen bread or bagels and cook frozen pizza or cookie dough." But the cooking time remains the same whether Frozen Foods is on or off. How much should I adjust it, how much? Also, "The bake function is also ideal for cooking prepackaged frozen meals including lasagna and pot pies," yet the Frozen Foods setting is off and can't be turned on.

5. The manual recommends "experimenting" until I find the settings that will produce what I want. Experimenting is part of cooking, for sure, but with three dials and two buttons that affect cooking temperature and time, compared with one dial that controls a real oven, the odds are that I'll never get it right.

So for now I've settled on a default of 350°, the recommended oven temperature in many cookbooks for most dishes, and whatever cooking time it says on the package or in the cookbook, correcting for the preheating time. That's for just about everything. Does anybody have a similar approach to using the Breville, and what are your defaults?

I was also unhappy that whatever I cook on the broil rack or baking pan sticks to it - the Krups was better in this respect. Do I need to spray the cooking surface with Pam or whatever every time I use the oven?

From all this, it's clear that the Breville is not my ideal toaster oven. But I've bought it and now have to figure out how best to use it. Any helpful suggestions will be welcome.

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