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Cheap Toaster Ovens Buying Guide

Toaster Oven Reviews
Countertop Toaster Ovens, Digital Toaster Ovens

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.

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.

Toaster Oven Reviews

We didn't find any amazing stars in the universe of budget toaster ovens. Based on the toaster ovens reviews we read, some models are better at toasting, some are better at baking, and some do both at least moderately well. Regardless which model you're using, consumers say it's necessary to experiment with timing and settings to get the results you want.

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It's somewhat surprising that lower-cost toaster ovens struggle to fulfill one of their primary purposes: giving bread, bagels, and English muffins just the right amount of tender crispness. We came across plenty of griping in toaster ovens reviews about patchy, burnt, or underdone toast, although the models on our list fare better than most in this regard. Still, hardcore foodies stress that if excellent toast is your highest priority, a dedicated pop-up toaster is your best bet. Additionally, we noted some disappointment about uneven baking, noisy timers, hot exteriors, and limited capacity and longevity for all the budget toaster ovens we researched.

The Proctor Silex 31116Y (white) or 31118Y (black), both (starting at $25), is a good example of the mixed but mostly positive assessment of even the best bargain toaster ovens. One of our top two picks, this four-slice model is touted in a toaster ovens review by Good Housekeeping for fast toasting and good results when baking potatoes and cakes. That said, the experts ding the uneven toast, the difficulty of adjusting the toast setting, and the slow broiling. Some consumers also grumble about irregular toast and the need to monitor the goings-on, but the majority of toaster ovens reviews at sites such as Walmart talk up the fine output, especially given the price. Many of these users write about perfect toast and English muffins and efficient reheating/baking of small foodstuffs.

Another best cheap toaster oven, the four-slice Black & Decker TRO480 (starting at $30), garners applause for its toasting and baking prowess. Toaster ovens reviews at Bon-Ton, for example, say toast emerges evenly browned in rapid order, cupcakes bake up just right, and lunch for the office crowd warms to the proper temperature. Consumers who commented at Amazon offer small bites of praise for the toasting, baking, and warming functions while a large minority, particularly more recent reviewers, report uneven, overdone, and underdone toast; a few throw crumbs at the build quality, as well.

With its two pop-up slots and small electric oven, the Hamilton Beach Toastation 22708 (starting at $37) is something of a novelty in this product category. One of our runner-up picks, it appeals because of the combo design; toaster ovens reviews reveal that several consumers are serial buyers. But at Target some users report that bread and bagels stick in the slots and at Amazon some gripe that the slots are too shallow (i.e., the top of large bread slices don't toast) while others say the contents nearly fly out when the cycle ends. As for the baking, toaster ovens reviews contend the small interior works for a slice of pizza, a potato, or an eggroll but not much else, adding that the items must be centered for edible results.

The oven and toast functions on the six-slice Hamilton Beach 31508 (starting at $30) draw above-average ratings from consumers. Most are satisfied with the quick and effective toasting, although reviews at Walmart caution that the dials are imprecise and it's necessary to fiddle with the settings and then monitor the process to prevent burning. One post at Overstock.com asserts the Hamilton Beach 31508 is not true to temperature and experts at Good Housekeeping determined that broiling chicken breasts took a very long time. Still, plenty of toaster oven reviews report successfully baking pans of brownies, heating open-face sandwiches, and broiling fish or cut-up chicken.

Whether toasting, baking, or broiling, the Maxi Matic Elite EKA-9210 (starting at $24) inspires little confidence among users. Some report even and quick results, but many toaster ovens reviews at Amazon grumble about inexact controls and difficulty fixing the desired settings. Disappointed users say the position of the rack and the combination of lower and upper elements for toasting leaves bread burnt on one side; one reviewer suggests first turning on the bottom element and following up with the top element a short time later. Moreover, the absence of temperature gauges for the oven requires constant attention to timing, as does the supposedly simple process of toasting a bagel or piece of bread.

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Another model that seems to be more trouble than it's worth is the Oster Vega TSSTTVVG01 (starting at $29). The toast might be good enough, say some toaster ovens reviews at Best Buy, but the extra effort required is particularly irksome. Users balk at having to adjust two dials -- one for the function and one for the shade -- just to make a piece of toast and also assert the settings on the function knob are difficult to see. A post at Yahoo Shopping says it's hard to know whether you've chosen the oven, toast, or broil function. About the oven, users report it runs a bit hot but manages small batches of cookies, reheating leftovers, and baking frozen items relatively quickly.

Countertop Toaster Ovens, Digital Toaster Ovens

Toaster Ovens Capacity.

To determine whether a toaster oven is large enough for your family,experts recommend checking the interior measurements. But at the bargain end of the toaster oven market, it's hard to scope out these facts. Capacity invariably is indicated by the number of bread slices the unit can toast at one time, and the best toaster ovens are supposedly large enough for four or six slices. (The two-slice Hamilton Beach Toastation 22708 is an outlier.) Marketing materials for the best toaster ovens also frequently reference the size pizza that fits inside.

Almost universally, however, consumers assert that manufacturers' claims about capacity are overstated. One parent of three, for example, says she chose the Hamilton Beach 31508 largely because it's a six-slice model but quickly discovered it can accommodate only four slices. Another consumer notes that the interior of this toaster oven is just large enough to hold the equivalent of a one-pound bag of sugar without being dangerously close to the top or sides. The four-slice Black & Decker TRO480 likewise fails to meet capacity expectations; some users report that two bread slices cut from larger whole grain loaves take up the available space. And reviews of the Proctor Silex 31116Y/31118Y assert the toast rack is a tight fit for four pieces of bread.

The mystery of the interior dimensions leaves consumers little choice but to make a guess based on exterior measurements. The footprints for the best toaster ovens found in the bargain bin, however, are more or less the same and don't really reveal much about capacity. The Hamilton Beach 31508 measures 17 inches across the front and 13.5 inches front to back; specs say it's large enough for a 12-inch pizza but users beg to differ. The Proctor Silex 31116Y/31118Y is about the same size, running 16.25 inches across and 13.75 inches in depth and is right-sized for two personal pizzas. The Black & Decker TRO480 is a bit smaller, measuring 16 inches across the front and 11 inches from front to back. The Hamilton Beach Toaststation 22708 is about 17 inches long and its 9-inch depth makes it comparatively shallow. Although the specs say the Toaststation can accommodate two 16-inch pizza slices or two personal pizzas, some consumers grouse about a large footprint disguising a small interior.

Toaster Ovens Controls.

Upscale toaster ovens usually feature digital controls, while even the best budget models rely on old-fashioned knobs and dials for choosing and controlling the settings. Some consumers are relieved not to worry about fancy electronics going haywire but others are a bit flummoxed and irritated by the need to maneuver two or even three knobs just to toast a bagel or by settings that are too close to each other on the dial.

For example, one user gripes about having to turn a dial past "10" on the Hamilton Beach 31508 and then reverse direction for toasting and others say it's hard to figure out all the settings on the Black & Decker TRO480's three dials. Many users of the Oster Vega TSSTTVVGO1 insist it's all form, no function and complain that the dials are hard to set and sometimes turn to no effect. The Maxi Matic Elite EKA-9210 lacks temperature settings entirely, so eyeballing whatever is toasting, baking, or broiling is imperative.

The best toaster ovens in the budget zone generally feature timers that tick down for 15 or 30 minutes. (The loud ticking noise drives some people crazy, according to a smattering of reviews.) The ovens in the Proctor Silex 31116Y/31118Y, Hamilton Beach 31508, and Oster Vega TSSTTVVGO1 shut off automatically when the timer runs out, but the latter two also feature a "stay on" setting. The Black & Decker TRO480 boasts a "keep warm" cycle as well as a "stay on" option and the Hamilton Beach Toastation 22708 includes an automatic toaster shut-off, but you'll need to watch the oven contents carefully.

All the models we researched have an indicator light that lets you know the power is on.

Toaster Ovens Maintenance and Durability.

The best toaster ovens come with a crumb tray to catch bits of food that would otherwise fall and stick to the bottom and most provide a bake pan. The removable crumb tray on the Hamilton Beach Toastation 22708, Hamilton Beach 31508, Black & Decker TRO480, and Oster Vega TSSTTVVGO1 make for easy cleaning although one reviewer at Best Buy notes that the crumb tray on the latter must be tilted back before sliding out, which causes the crumbs to fall into the oven. The drop-down or hinged crumb tray found on the Maxi Matic Elite EKA-9210 and Proctor Silex 31116Y/31118Y are more awkward to clean. Whichever design is featured on the model you buy, keep on top of the pile-up: A dirty crumb tray can be a fire hazard.

The reviews we read indicate that toaster ovens are easy to maintain: Keep the crumb tray clean and wipe down the rest of the appliance as needed. Some high-end models boast a self-clean function or a nonstick interior; some cheaper toaster ovens, such as the Hamilton Beach 31136 (starting at $24), similarly feature nonstick surfaces. One consumer, however, wanted to avoid any chemical exposure and says the lack of a nonstick interior in the Hamilton Beach 31508 sealed the deal for her.

The build quality of budget toaster ovens is a topic of some discussion in postings by consumers. Most of the models we researched get zapped by any number of users for plastic parts that break, fall off, or melt; electrical components that malfunction; ovens that won't turn off; doors that stick; and insulation that doesn't contain the heat. Even the best toaster ovens come with a one-year limited warranty; the Black & Decker TRO480 sits apart with its two-year limited warranty.

Reviewers sometimes compare newer models with beloved old toaster ovens and find the former wanting. Newer toaster ovens, even the best, just don't seem to last that long. On the other hand, consumers who enjoy the fruits of their toaster ovens' labors are quite pleased with a price point that lessens the sting if the unit doesn't survive more than a few years.



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In this review:
  1. Best Cheap Toaster Ovens
  2. Discount Toaster Ovens Features Comparison Table
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