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Cheap Toaster Ovens Buying Guide

Our research found that no cheap toaster oven is perfect. Virtually none earn glowing reviews across the board although several stand apart from their budget peers.

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Our top choices for best toaster ovens, the Black & Decker TRO480 (starting at $30) and Proctor Silex 31116Y/31118Y (white or black, respectively, both starting at $25), are compact models that draw commendations for their value pricing along with moderate-to-strong praise for their toasting and baking skills. The runner-up picks include the larger Hamilton Beach 31508 (starting at $30), which makes quick work of toast and simple baking chores, and the Hamilton Beach Toastation (starting at $37), which doubles as a pop-up toaster with a tiny oven and claims some loyal fans. Two cheap toaster ovens pale by comparison. Users say the Oster Vega TSSTTVVG01 (starting at $29) is nice to look at but the toasting process is overly complicated and the build seems rickety. The Maxi Matic Elite EKA-9210 (starting at $24) is marred by an odd control mechanism and the absence of a temperature gauge on the oven.

Reviews reveal that consumers appreciate the relatively small footprint that finds a spot even in compact kitchens and the price-to-performance ratio. What users are not so happy about is the frequency with which cheap toaster ovens produce mediocre toast (uneven, underdone, and/or burned) and indifferent results when baking, and whose interior capacity is actually less spacious than the marketing materials indicate. Some consumers also gripe about too many knobs and hard-to-adjust controls and others contend that newer toaster ovens are less durable than units that once graced their kitchens.

High-end toaster ovens generally outperform budget models and come with more bells and whistles. The wildly expensive Breville BOV800XL (starting at $250), for example, win accolades from experts at America's Test Kitchen and Good Housekeeping, and from consumers at Crate and Barrel partly because it toasts and bakes to near perfection (it boasts convection capabilities) and partly because the digital controls and numerous settings afford lots of flexibility and fine-tuning. The DeLonghi RO2058 (starting at $80) sits closer to the Cheapism range and also comes with convection fans that speed the baking process and circulate heat more evenly; it includes a rotisserie, as well.

Upmarket alternatives do have their downsides, though: Apart from the high price, they hog more counter space than cheap toaster ovens. And for all the carping, consumers seem to really like the convenience of these budget appliances. For the models on our list, at least, users generally say they've gotten their money's worth.

by Elizabeth Sheer (Google+ Profile)

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