Credit: Cuisinart

If you’re in the market for a toaster oven, whether to replace an existing one or even if you’ve never had one before, there are several factors you’ll want to consider before buying one. Let's look at what you need to look for and how to choose the best toaster oven for your needs.

Size - this is the first thing you’ll want to decide on. Decide where you plan to put the toaster oven and measure the space to determine what size will fit in that space the best. Total size is not the only factor, though. Interior sizes vary widely from model to model. Think about how you’ll be using the oven, what you plan to cook in it, and how many people you usually cook for. If you are a single person and just cook small meals for one, you’ll be able to get away with the smallest model. If, however, you have a big family, you may want to look for a larger oven that will toast six slices of bread at a time and be able to fit a small chicken, a frozen pizza or a decent sized pan of chicken and fries, for example. Take the time to look at the inside of the toaster ovens when shopping, because interior sizes vary and don’t always correspond with the actual size of the oven itself.

Features - There is a wide variety of toaster ovens on the market, from the simplest basic ones that just bake and toast, to high-end ovens with electronic controls, advanced features and varying functions. Again, you will need to assess what your own personal needs are when it comes to these features.

Some toaster ovens have a convection feature, which means there is a small fan inside that circulates the heat in the oven cavity. This can speed up cooking time and also allows for more even cooking. It is somewhat questionable whether this is really necessary in such a small oven, but it is still a nice feature to have if you plan to do a lot of baking in your toaster oven. The price difference is not that much between convection and non-convection ovens.

Most toaster ovens include baking, broiling and toasting functions. These cover the basic tasks that you will probably want to do.

Controls - the more advanced toaster ovens on the market come with electronic controls, timers, and even remote controls. Some have pre-sets for pizza, toast, baked potato, reheat, etc, much like a microwave. These can be very convenient to have if you’re not sure how long or at what temperature you should be cooking your meals. Keep in mind though, the more advanced features, controls and gizmos your toaster oven has, the more complicated it may be to use for some family members. If older children are to be using it, it may be too confusing for them. The same goes for family members who are not that comfortable with technology.

Safety - many of the cheaper models have very little insulation in them, making the outside surfaces very hot. This will be an issue if you have children in the house who could easily burn themselves on the oven either when using it or just reaching past it. Even those without children will want to take this into consideration, depending on where you plan to put your toaster oven. I have even burned myself before when working on the counter too close to my toaster oven. Ovens that have something insulating the walls and top of the oven are also more efficient, as there is much less heat loss. Expect to pay a little bit more for these types.

Warranty and Brand Name - Price does not always determine the quality of appliances, and toaster ovens are no different. You will, however, want to look for one with at least a one-year warranty. Since they are not very high-priced items to begin with, repairing them is usually almost as much as buying a new one, so you’ll want to try to get one that will last you a while. Also stick with well-known brand names, as they tend to have a better reputation for quality and reliability than the more obscure brands.

These are the main points you should consider when looking for the best toaster oven for you and your family. While not a major purchase that you should be stressing yourself out about, it is worth exploring your options and determining just what you want before going out and buying the first one you see on sale. Check out all the toaster oven reviews to avoid this error. They are a great convenience to have in the kitchen and you will find that once you have one that you like, you’ll wonder how you ever got along so long without one!