How to Cook & Make Food With a Toaster Oven

Seems like quite a simple task right? If you thought so then I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t be reading this right now...

Yes, cooking in a toaster oven may be as simple as throwing in your favorite food, then setting the machine and waiting until it’s finished. But hold up there a second, how do you know when it’s properly cooked?

If you’re unsure of which setting to use on your toaster oven or when the food is done, then we’re here to help. Today, we'll provide tips and tricks for cooking a variety of foods in your toaster oven ensuring they're fully cooked.

We'll start with the basic principles to selecting the right machines, and finally, the correct way to cook in a toaster oven. Stay tuned for full steps on how to cook a variety of foods to perfection, including eggs, steak and a good ol' grilled cheese sandwich!

Basic Principles to Cooking in a Toaster Oven 

  • ​A toaster oven is basically a miniature oven; the same principles you would use with your standard oven can be applied to your toaster oven.
  • ​Learn the functions of your machine. At the very least, understand the difference between bake, broil, and roast.
  • If cooking dough, cake, or anything that constitutes a raw base, preheat your toaster oven first! Throwing raw items into a toaster oven that isn’t preheated will result in uneven cooking.
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    If your machine has a convection setting, learn how to use it! It’ll become your most loved function. The convection function will assist you in properly cooking your foods by evenly distributing heat.

​Selecting The Right Machine - Main Design Features That Will Affect The Cooking Process 

The first step to cooking your favorite foods to perfection is selecting the right machine. For a list of the most important considerations to make when buying a toaster oven, take a look below.

Size

Are you planning to cook bread, sponge cakes, or other items that require room to rise? Then make sure there's enough space to accommodate that. It’s important to keep in mind the foods you plan to cook on a regular basis; this will help you determine which size of toaster oven will suit your needs best. Also, you should factor in the number of people you typically cook for. Finally, the last and most important factor in size is the counter space available to you.

Automatic Cooking Settings

If you plan to cook specific items in your oven like baked potatoes or pizza, you may want to look for a toaster oven with pre-cook settings for these particular foods. This makes the cooking process as simple as a click of a button.

Temperature Range

Having a wide temperature range will allow you to do anything from simply toasting breads to roasting nuts, broiling fish and cooking meats. The greater the temperature range, the more options to cook a variety of items.

Advanced Heating Elements

Advanced heating elements in toaster ovens offer energy efficiency that traditional ovens just can't duplicate.

Standard toaster overs, typically have one or two heating elements. In contrast, higher-end models have more elements and are highly adjustable, designed to accommodate a variety of cooking methods. These include broiling, convection heating, and baking.

Some models are even built with a setting that heats the unit (almost instantaneously), to a particular temperature without needing to wait for it to pre-heat. This is a great time-saving option!

Timers & Alerts

If you’re forgetful, then you’ll want to make sure your machine has a way to let you know when you’re food is ready.

Note: If your primary function will be to make toast in your toaster oven, then it’s not necessary to spend a lot on the model. The added functions or special features to an expensive model won’t affect its ability to toast your bread so keep this in mind.

How to Cook in a Toaster Oven

Referring back to our article on "How to Cook/Reheat Pizza in a Toaster Oven" we reviewed some things to keep in mind when cooking and reheating pizza. However, the points we mentioned, can also be applied to any other food you cook in a toaster oven.

Two of the most important things to remember, when cooking in a toaster oven, are:

  • All toaster ovens have hot spots, learn where these are so you can properly rotate your food for better control over the cooking process
  • ​Note the type of heating elements your toaster oven has; some only have one on the bottom, most have two (bottom and top), and some are equipped with elements on their sides

​How To Cook ‘X’ In A Toaster Oven

Ever wanted to cook the perfect grilled cheese, eggs, salmon or anything else in your toaster oven, but didn't know the proper procedure? Take a look below for an easy to follow how to, on the proper way to cook your favorite foods in your toaster oven.

Grilled Cheese

Making the perfect grilled cheese can be achieved by following this simple procedure. As a note, it isn’t necessary to pre-heat your toaster oven; we actually advise against it. For one grilled cheese sandwich, the best results will be achieved by:

  • Placing two slices of bread next to each other into the toaster oven. Set the toaster to light, to lightly toast the bread. If there is no timer on your machine, this will take between 1-2 min depending on your oven's power.
  • ​Once lightly toasted, place the desired amount of cheese onto both slices, ensuring the cheese doesn’t go over the edge.
  • When the cheese is almost melted, open the oven, place both pieces of the bread together. Then close the oven and allow the cheese to melt. This should take around 1-2 minutes
  • ​Remove the sandwich from the toaster oven, cut with a serrated knife and serve up some cheesy goodness.

Toast

Your toaster will typically come with a setting for light, medium or dark toast. Each setting will require a different amount of time to toast, dark requiring the most amount of time.

You’ll need to experiment with your settings because in some cases, the toaster oven may work off of the intensity of the heating elements rather than the time.

This means that regardless of the setting (light, medium, or dark), the time required to toast your bread, will be the same, Instead, what changes is the strength of the heating element.

If you want to make the best slice of toast, here’s how:

  • ​Place your slices flat in the toaster oven, select your desired setting
  • ​After the bread has lightly toasted, brush it will butter; making sure you don’t miss any crevices
  • When the butter starts melting, remove the slices, sprinkle flaky sea salt on top and return to the oven
  • ​Once the butter is bubbling and the bread is golden brown, you can remove the slices
  • Enjoy with your favorite jam, marmalade or have it plain in all its buttery glory

Hot dogs

If you’d like to cook your hotdogs in a toaster oven rather than boiling or heating them in the microwave, you’ll be happy to hear, the process is simple.

  • Line your toaster oven rack or a tray with tinfoil. This will prevent any liquid leaking onto the elements as the hot dog cooks and releases juices
  • Preheat the oven to 350° F
  • Ensure consistent cooking by scoring the hot dogs diagonally roughly 3-4 times, making the cuts 1/4 inches deep. Remember to use a sharp knife. Without scoring the hot dogs, steam may build up and cause them to burst
  • Cook the hot dogs for around 4-5 min on one side
  • Flip to the other side with tongs, then cook for an additional 4-5 min before removing from the toaster oven.

Toasting Tip: A minute or two before you remove your hot dog, place the bun in the toaster oven to toast. When the hot dog is finished, the bun will be lightly toasted.

For a little extra flavor, pop the hot dog in the lightly toasted bun, place 1 cheese slice (cut in half) lengthwise on the hot dog, and return it to the toaster oven for 30 seconds to melt the cheese.

Other Notes: 

  • Different brands of hot dogs contain specific fillers and are made up of varying amounts of fat. This means hot dogs with more fat require additional cooking time and are less likely to dry out. The leaner the hot dog the faster it cooks.
  • Some toaster ovens such as the Elite Maxi-Matic have a hot dog roasting piece that rotates the hot dog as it cooks, 

Baked Potato

For many, baked potatoes are one of the tastiest accompaniments to a meal, and cooking them in a toaster oven is easy and hassle-free. There are 2 main ways you can accomplish potato perfection; the first is by way of the standard cooking method and the second will be the quick cook method.

Standard Cooking Method 

  • Preheat the toaster oven to 375° F
  • ​Wash the potato well, removing all dirt from the crevices
  • ​You can keep the potato whole or cut it in half lengthwise, prick vent holes around the potato, roughly 1/2 inch deep
  • ​Brush with olive oil, sprinkle with seasoning (rock salt & pepper)
  • ​Place your potato on the rack inside the toaster oven. If you want to steam the potato rather than create one with a crispy skin, wrap in tinfoil
  • Cook at 375° F for 35 - 50 min

​Quick Cook Method

  • ​Wash the potato well, removing all dirt from the crevices.
  • Place the whole potato in a pot of water, bring the water to a boil and cook the potato until it is partially cooked. When you stick a fork in potato, it will push in and come out with little resistance
  • ​Follow steps #3, #4 and #5 from the standard cooking method
  • Cook at 220 degrees° for 10 minutes

Flavor Tip: Remove your potato from the tinfoil, and make a deep slit lengthwise down the center. Then, place a tsp of butter inside, sliced chives, bacon bits or any other toppings you’d like.

Need to speed up the cooking process even more?... Insert a metal skewer through the center of the potato while it is cooking in the toaster oven. The skewer conducts heat allowing the potato to cook from the inside while it’s being cooked from the outside.

Remember:

  • No matter which method you choose, you’ll need to remember, cooking time depends on a few factors. The type potato (sweet potato takes longer than baking potatoes), potato size, and the power of the toaster oven.
  • To test if your potato is finished, insert a fork into the center. If it removes easily, and without resistance, your potato is done.

Eggs

Cooking eggs in a toaster oven is a great alternative to frying them! 

Not only is it healthier, but it’s just as easy. And you can get even more creative with the ways you can cook them; see these recipes for the best ways to cook eggs in a toaster oven.

Cooking in the shell 

  • Preheat your toaster oven to 375° F
  • Crack the egg in half, and cook in the shell if you like runny yolks

​Basic Egg Bake

  • Preheat your toaster oven to 350° F
  • Crack the eggs into a ramekin (make sure it is oven safe) and beat lightly with a fork. Add any spices/herbs or cheese if you’d like the additional flavor
  • Bake for 10-15 min on the center rack (depending on the power of your oven)
  • ​Once the eggs have set, remove with a heat protective holder
  • Let it cool for a few minutes before enjoying

Eggs on a Cloud 

  • Set your toaster to the light toast setting
  • ​Place a slice of toast into the toaster oven
  • ​While your bread is toasting, separate the egg by placing the yolk in a ramekin and the white in a larger container, ready to whip
  • ​Whip the egg white until stiff peaks
  • ​By now, your bread will be toasted, brush it with butter or margarine
  • Place the egg white on the toast, and distribute it
  • Add the egg yolk to the center of the egg whites
  • Select broil on your toaster and broil for roughly 3 min or until the whites begin to brown slightly and the yolk appears runny.
  • ​Remove and enjoy!

Recipes:

Salmon

The great thing about cooking salmon in a toaster oven is that there are so many was you can do it! Here are 2 of the tastiest ways to cook your salmon, starting with the simplest:

Basic Baking 

The rule of thumb is that when baking salmon, you’ll want to cook it for roughly ten min per inch, take note of the thickness of your salmon portion before setting your timer.

  • ​Line your toaster oven rack with parchment paper or lightly oiled tinfoil; this will prevent sticking
  • Preheat the toaster over to 425° F, and set to bake
  • If you have a glaze to put on or seasonings, this is the time to do so
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    ​The salmon is fully cooked when it flakes apart easily
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    Tasty Tip - Marinating your salmon beforehand will create a more moist and delicious product!

​Basic Broiling 

The process of broiling salmon in a toaster oven is similar to that of baking it, with a few important differences. For starters, the main similarity to the cooking process is that you will cook the fish for the same amount of time.

Rather than placing parchment paper (which burns easily while broiling) on your grates , line them with tinfoil instead. During the cooking process, the temperature will typically reduce. To combat this, keep the door propped open so the broiler element stays on and can maintain a consistent temperature.

Un papillote 

Steaming in parchment paper, otherwise known as un papillote, is an incredibly easy and tasty way to cook fish.

For the perfect papillote, follow these steps:

  • ​Lay a piece of parchment down; large enough of a piece to wrap the fish
  • Place your piece of fish in the center of the parchment
  • In the meantime, preheat the toaster oven to 425° F
  • At this time, you can add any herbs, butter, wine or other flavor enhancing ingredients to your salmon
  • Wrap the salmon in the parchment by bringing the corners together, then twist them together to create a seal
  • ​Place on the rack and cook for 10-15 min until the paper becomes browned and puffy
  • ​Carefully pull out the papillote, open it up and enjoy your perfectly cooked piece of salmon which has been steamed in its own juices.

​Recipes:

Steak

The best way to cook a steak in a toaster oven is by broiling it. Follow the quick steps below for the perfect cut of meat from your compact toaster oven.

  • ​Line one of the toaster oven trays with foil, set aside
  • Preheat toaster oven to broil and 275°F. Preheating will take roughly 10 min
  • ​Rub your steak with whatever seasoning you want (etc. Peppercorns) , including olive oil or butter
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    Place the steak on the tray and pop it into the toaster oven.

Tasty Tips

  • For a more flavorful steak, marinate for an hour before
  • A medium rare steak will be cooked to 160° F. You can check the doneness of your steak with a meat thermometer

Remember: The fat from the steak may drip and cause splattering and smoke, therefore, keep a close eye during cooking.

Toaster Strudel

We all probably remember those toaster strudels (popularized in the 80’s) you could buy from the frozen section. Yes they are deliciously lacking nutritional value of any kind, but many loved them for the convenience and combination of tastes and textures.

Cooking them is simple; just turn the toaster oven on, and toss them in.  It’s relatively easy to make your own toaster strudel, take a look at the recipes below for examples. We’ll share some cooking tips to make sure you get the tastiest treat!

If you want the best toaster strudel with a crispy, buttery flaky pastry and gooey filling you’ll want to make sure you know how to cook your homemade toaster strudel.

Here’s how to achieve the best results:

  • ​Line a baking sheet with parchment paper
  • Preheat the toaster oven to 375° F
  • ​If working with a fresh toaster strudel, make a slit on top of each to act as a vent, chill for 20 minutes. Continue on to step 5
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    ​If previously formed, and you’re pulling them from the freezer, you’ll want to allow them 15-20min to thaw
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    ​Brush the tops with egg wash
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    ​Bake until golden brown, roughly 20-25 min (Depending on the setting and heat intensity of your toaster oven)
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    ​Remove from the toaster oven, let cook for 15 min, glaze and serve

Recipes:

​Wrap Up

Whether you’re cooking a pizza, baked potato, salmon or anything else. Make sure you’ve reviewed the basic principles of cooking in a toaster oven. 

Using your toaster oven to prepare your favorite items isn't just simple, it also saves energy and keeps your kitchen cool.

There is plenty of toaster oven hacks out there to help you cook your favorite tasty meal, the only limit is your creativity. Be bold, be creative, and get cooking!

Jessica Reimer
 

Jessica is a self-proclaimed DIY master, and is in love with everything in her home. Mother to two growing boys, and a new found lover of blogging, Jessica wants to find anything that will make her life easier!