I’m a single 25-year-old who lives in an apartment with roommates. Like many people in similar living situations, this means I can’t cook the way my family did when I was growing up. I have to scale down recipes that are designed to serve four. I have to share an oven and jockey for counter space.
This can be stressful. It can also be hard for all of us to cook what we want when we want. And it was—until a few months ago, when I received a toaster oven as a gift.
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I never had a toaster oven growing up; we just had your typical two-slot toaster for bread and bagels. But having a toaster oven has opened my eyes to a whole new world. It’s changed the way I cook and made my life a lot more convenient.
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Here are some of my favorite things about it, and why everyone currently sharing a kitchen—or anyone looking to make their cooking more efficient—needs one.
The Best Toaster OvensWe baked 10 batches of cookies, broiled 100 asparagus spears, roasted 10 chickens, and toasted a whopping 860 slices of bread to find the very best toaster oven.
1. It Preheats Quickly
If you have an older oven like I do, you understand the struggle of waiting twenty minutes for it to preheat. A toaster oven eliminates that problem. Mine gets to 400 degrees in about 90 seconds. So now I get to eat my dinner quicker, which I will always be a proponent for.
2. It Takes Up Minimal Counter Space
If you also have a smaller kitchen, you know you need to be strategic about how you use your minimal space. The toaster oven does take up some space, but it's worth the space it uses. With everything it does, the sacrifice is worth it, though it is a small one to make.
3. It’s Perfect for Smaller Portions
Like all things with the toaster oven, it comes back to convenience. This appliance is great for making a meal for just yourself, or for you and one other person. The sheet pan that came with my toaster oven is the perfect size for roasting meats and vegetables, and even baking cookies. It allows me to mix up my weekly menu so I don’t get stuck eating the same thing five nights in a row. Plus, thanks to these smaller portions, I’m spending less money on ingredients overall.
4. It Doubles the Number of Ovens In My Apartment
Now if one of my roommates is using the oven, it doesn’t mean I have to wait until they’re done. Or I can have both dessert and dinner going at the same time, thanks to the extra oven on my team. It gives new meaning to the term “double oven.”
My Favorite Things to Cook in a Toaster Oven
Another positive about toaster-oven cooking? The results are as good as what you get from a regular oven. Here are some of the things I use mine for.
Roasted Meats and Vegetables: This one seems obvious, but it really is one of my favorite things to cook in my toaster oven. The toaster oven gets vegetables and chicken skin extra crispy. Plus, it’s an easy way to get a mess-free one-pan dinner that is also the perfect portion.
A great recipe for doing this is our Toaster-Oven Roasted Chicken Breasts with Brussels Sprouts and Shallots. Roasting the chicken on top of the vegetables is strategic: the vegetables help elevate the chicken, increasing heat circulation for more even cooking, and the vegetables get basted in the chicken’s drippings as it cooks. Before roasting, we brush the chicken with rosemary butter for extra flavor and extra-crispy skin.
Toaster-Oven Roasted Chicken Breasts with Brussels Sprouts and ShallotsTo achieve an effortless roast chicken and vegetable dinner, we used bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts for roasted chicken flavor in less time.
Pastas and Casseroles: The toaster oven is a great place to make casseroles from start to finish. You can actually cook pasta in your toaster oven and eliminate the need for all the extra pots and pans on the stove.
One recipe that does this is Toaster-Oven No-Boil Baked Ziti. The magic of this recipe is that you cook the pasta right in the marinara sauce right in an 8-by-8 baking pan. Once the pasta is almost cooked, you stir in the cheese and broil. It’s the perfect dinner for two, or dinner and lunch the next day for one!
Toaster-Oven No-Boil Baked ZitiYour toaster oven the perfect place to whip up casseroles.
Baked Goods: The toaster oven is also the perfect vessel for baking. The quick preheating is a helpful feature, but it’s also really great for scaling down the quantity of baked goods you want to make. You won’t be stuck with a surplus of cookies that go stale before you finish them.
Chocolate Chip Cookies for OneYou can treat yourself to freshly baked cookies without having to make a whole batch.
Toaster-Oven Lemon-Blueberry MuffinsBlueberry muffins are classic and delightful, but the longer they sit around the less appetizing they become.
All in all, the toaster oven is worth having on your countertop. It’s quick to preheat, perfect for scaling down your favorite recipes, and frees up the oven and stove for someone else to fuss with instead.