I love toaster ovens. Even when one owns a separate toaster and oven, the toaster oven is still one of the most useful appliances to have in the kitchen.
For bagels: Even with wide-slotted “bagel” models, slot toasters always require a perfect bisection, fill up with smoking crumbs, and burn the backs of bagels — especially the seeds on everything bagels. (Anyone want to challenge me on whether the “everything” seed set should include salt?) But toaster ovens provide toasting-level high heat on top with low, even heat at a safe distance from below — low enough to even toast cheese-topped bagels such as asiago.
For pizza: I’d never wish the mushy mess of microwave-reheated pizza on anyone. Oven-reheating is the way to go, but it takes far too long for most ovens to sufficiently heat up, so many people just give up and eat their leftover pizza cold or accept the inferior microwave output. Toaster ovens heat up quickly and reheat pizza almost as quickly as microwaves with far superior results.
For large crumbly items that you may wish to toast: Try to slot-toast a muffin or scone. I dare you.
For wide toast: Some of the best toasting bread is shaped a bit like a fat football. You know what I mean. These slices don’t fit in slot toasters, so you have to let it stick out the top and try to flip it in the middle of the cycle. You’ll never time it right.
For multi-person toast: Big toaster ovens can fit 6-8 slices of bread simultaneously. With a slot toaster, when you’re serving toast for two people (or three if you have a fat four-slot model), you have to take turns. But it never works very well. You can’t eat together unless the earlier-toast consumers wait, but then theirs gets cold. And the toaster’s too hot after the first set, so it burns the outside and undercooks the inside of the second set.
I’ve endured many long years without one, but as part of the terms of my wedding, I’m finally allowed to get one — and I can pick whichever model I want, regardless of cost or size. I’ve done some basic research, and as far as I can tell, the best one is the Cuisinart TOB-175. Not only does Consumer Reports rate it the highest, but it has an impressive 4.5-star average from 520 Amazon customer reviews. Nothing else comes close to that record.
As far as I can tell, the only negative thing about it is that many reviewers don’t like how it cooks the top much more than the bottom for standard toast, seemingly intentionally and by design. This is illustrated very well in one of Amazon’s user-submitted photos. But I think that’s how it’s supposed to be. Slot toasters do this, too, which is why most of them label which side is “in” for bagels — they’re just so imprecise that you probably don’t notice the difference. I admit that the pictured difference is more than many people may want, but for me, that’s a strength: it’s probably going to do a great job on bagels, where you want a much bigger difference than “regular” toast.
Does this seem like a sane choice? Anyone have it? Or is there another God-toaster-oven that I’m missing?