Toaster ovens put to the test by Consumer Reports

The toaster oven is a trusty countertop staple that shouldn't be overlooked. Consumer Reports says the newest models do so much more than just toast and reheat.

Mercy Rodriguez uses her toaster oven for everything, and her grandkids especially like the chicken nuggets she makes.

"We're a small family, so I just use it more than I would use a large oven so it's just a convenience," Rodriguez said.

When it comes to testing toaster ovens, Consumer Reports takes a similar approach.

"Toaster ovens are a very versatile appliance. You can bake cookies, broil burgers, you can reheat leftovers," said Haniya Rae, Consumer Reports home editor.

To see how well a toaster oven can reheat foods, testers heated up frozen lasagnas.

"You don't want cold spots in a meal that's supposed to be warm," Rae said.

Testers used thermocouples to take the temperature at different points in the lasagna.

To check how well a toaster oven can bake, testers whipped up batches of sugar cookies and corn muffins. One toaster undercooked the muffins, while another toaster turned out perfectly browned corn muffins.

Consumer Reports also looked at features and how easy the toaster ovens are to use.

And yes - that means how well does it toast. Believe it or not, there is an industry standard chart that helps testers score how well each toaster performs. The best toasters match this evenly browned toast in the toast color chart.

So which toaster oven handles all of those tasks? The $170 Breville is top-rated, plus it's one of the least expensive models Consumer Reports tested.

It turns out perfectly browned toast, is very good at baking and reheating and it's easy to use. Even better - it's compact so it won't take up as much precious counter space.

And that's a pro for someone like Rodriguez.

"Even if I have a microwave I will always keep my toaster oven," she said.
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