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Toaster, Oven, Or Toaster Oven?

My husband claims it is better to use the oven broiler than a smaller toaster oven to toast bread and cook small dishes. I think he is wrong and I want to get an inexpensive small toaster oven. Who is correct?—Diane L.

Chalk up one for the lady of the house. The large oven in a range is designed for baking, roasting, or broiling large food items or casseroles. Generally, for efficiency and time saving, use a microwave oven whenever possible, followed by a countertop appliance, and the large range oven as the final option.

There are many reasons it is better to use a toaster oven, or other small countertop appliances, rather than the large oven/broiler. For toasting slices of bread, bagels, waffles, etc., using a pop-up standard toaster is even better, more efficient, and faster than a toaster oven.

A toaster or toaster oven will save on utility bills. The heating elements in your range oven can use more than 3,500 watts of electricity. The heating elements in a typical toaster use only about 900 watts, and the ones in a toaster oven use from 1,350 to 1,500 watts. Also, it takes much less time to preheat a small toaster oven, so the elements are on for a shorter period of time.

Each kilowatt-hour of electricity an oven uses becomes 3,416 Btu of heat in your home. During the summer, your air conditioner has to run longer to remove heat created by the oven broiler, an extra expense. During the winter, this helps heat your home, but it is a much less efficient heat source than a heat pump or furnace.

I 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 at discount stores. A regular toaster will toast bread faster than a toaster oven and is the best choice when toasting one or two slices. To toast four to six slices, a toaster oven makes more sense.

If your budget is not limited, consider a toaster with digital controls instead of knobs. Digital controls provide more accuracy in the darkness of the toast. For bagels, select a model with a “bagel” setting, which toasts only one side. If the thickness of the slices of bread varies, such as with homemade bread, look for self-centering slots.

West Bend has a convenient, fast model that moves the bread or bagel automatically through the toaster for more even toasting. You put the slice in the top and it slowly moves downward and out onto an exit tray.

When selecting a toaster oven, consider a more expensive one with digital controls. These provide more precise temperature control. Before buying, measure the size of a slice of bread you typically toast. This will help determine if the toaster oven will accommodate four or six slices at a time. The number of slices indicated on the packaging is not necessarily accurate for all loaf sizes.

A good-quality toaster oven can be used for most smaller baking and roasting. A model that includes a convection fan feature will circulate the heated air throughout the oven to cook items faster. These models cost more, so if saving time is not a major issue for you, you may prefer a standard model. Toaster ovens labeled as infrared heating will toast bread faster. If you broil hamburgers or other fatty meats often, look for an easy-to-clean nonstick or porcelain interior surface.

The following companies offer toasters 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.

Mail requests and questions to James Dulley, Kentucky Living, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45244. Go to www.dulley.com to instantly download.

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