Since toaster ovens have the word “toast” in their name, you’ll be forgiven for thinking that browning bread is its main purpose in life. If you’re just using your toaster oven to make toast, though, you have been missing out and giving up some prime kitchen counter real estate to a glorified toaster.
Toaster ovens are, in fact, little ovens but with some big benefits over conventional ovens. Thanks to their diminutive size, they heat up more quickly, use less energy, and on hot summer days are the perfect way to bake something without heating up the entire house. Their small size also makes them the perfect go-to for whipping up snack-sized portions of favorite recipes and smaller batches of treats and many other uses. One of out all-favorite countertop models is the Breville Smart Oven.
Here are a few ideas to get the most out of the little oven sitting on your kitchen counter—at least when you’re not making a perfect piece of toast for breakfast.
- Toasting nuts. Arrange in a single layer on the toaster pan or a sheet of aluminum foil. Toast at 350°for 10-15 minutes, stirring every few minutes until nuts are toasty brown. Cooks Illustrated also suggests making breadcrumbs in a toaster oven.
- Baking small batches of cookies, muffins, individual cakes. The website Toaster Oven Love has great small-sized recipes like this one for fresh-baked cookies for a small snack. Depending on the size of your toaster oven, Cooks Illustrated points out that you may be able to even bake a full-sized eight-inch cake in a toaster oven.
- Cooking potatoes. Don’t turn on your giant oven to bake one or two potatoes. Instead, fire up the toaster oven to 400 degrees, rub scrubbed potatoes with oil, and bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until potatoes are tender and skins are crisp. Once you have perfectly roasted potatoes without turning on the oven, go wild and make twice-baked potatoes following our recipe here.
- Reheating leftovers. Toaster ovens are great for this task, especially if you’re trying to warm up fried or baked foods like biscuits, fried chicken, pizza, or hush puppies or anything that would get soggy in a microwave.
- Toasting bacon. According to Food Network, just lay those strips on the rack, set to 400 and start cooking. Turn it off when the bacon is to your desired crispiness.
- Roasting small batches of meat. According to The Kitchn, “a whole roaster chicken, quartered, fits easily,” in a toaster oven, “as does a pork tenderloin, a few pounds of ribs, etc.” Just cook like you would according to your favorite recipe.
- Prepping game day snacks. A snack-sized portion of drumsticks or chicken wings is always a good idea. Before you turn on your oven, follow your favorite recipe, line a small pan with foil and cook up a few wings.
- Whipping up a tiny batch of biscuits, following this recipe from Real Simple and Toaster Oven Love.
- Roasting vegetables like potatoes, sweet potatoes, garlicky green beans, or anything you would normally roast in the big oven.
- Making tuna melts or grilled cheese sandwiches.
- Cooking casseroles. Depending on your toaster size – and your pan size – you can bake some of your favorite crowd-pleasing recipes.
- Making taco shells by draping corn tortillas on the rack to form that trademark taco shape, following this recipe on The Potlicker.
WATCH: The Best Way to Reheat Ribs
The Best Way to Reheat Ribs
First rule of thumb: skip the microwave
Those are just a few of the many ways to use your toaster oven for more than just making toast to smear strawberry preserves and jam. If you have a family-favorite recipe, there is a very good chance that you can turn to your toaster oven to make it. You can make real food, rather than just re-heating or making recipes edited for the toaster oven’s specific use. Today, there are so many options and added bells and whistles on countertop options that make meal prepping and planning easier.