If you’re cooking for one or space is tight, a benchtop oven may be a useful addition to your kitchen.
Types of benchtop ovens
There are two types of benchtop ovens – the compact or toaster oven and glass convection oven.
The compact oven looks like a mini full-sized oven, while the glass convection oven is a large heat-resistant glass bowl with a lid containing the heating element and fan. Both types bake, roast, grill and toast.
In our tests we’ve found compact ovens are easier to use than glass convection models. The glass models have a glass bowl, which is heavy and awkward to wash in a domestic sink. It’s difficult to stir food in the glass models because the lid is heavy and gets very hot, although both types comes with a lid stand to rest the hot lid.
We measured the surface temperature of the external door, handle and controls while operating. There were no problems with the handles and controls – they all stayed cool enough to touch. However, the glass doors on the compact ovens and the glass bowls of the convection ovens can become very hot – between 75°C and 99°C – so be careful.
In previous tests, we’ve found the rear of the ovens was generally the hottest place so it’s important to allow plenty of clearance behind the oven. The top of the oven can also get hot so never place items there.
Benchtop ovens are small, so they heat up faster and use less energy than a full-sized oven for quick cooking jobs. But in dollar terms, the savings aren't likely to be huge.
For example, using a benchtop oven three times a week for one hour will cost you $17 to $34 a year depending on the model. In our recent test of single built-in ovens, the same amount of cooking sets you back $21 to $45 depending on the oven.
What to look for
Before you buy, consider these factors.
Easy cleaning: A non-stick interior lining is easy to clean. Look for models without too many cracks and crevices to accumulate dirt. All compact models had a removable crumb tray, which makes cleaning up spills easier.
Size: Check the oven is the right size to fit into the space you have available and is large enough to handle your cookware.
Controls: Should be clearly labelled and easy to press, grip or turn. Most compact models have at least three rotary controls: temperature, function selection and a timer. Glass convection models usually have two rotary controls for temperature and time, and a handle that also acts as an off/off switch.
Baking trays: Some ovens come with trays designed to fit the oven. This makes the best use of its limited space.
Racks and rack positions: The compact ovens in our test have three rack positions and some have reversible racks that give two height options for each position. A glass convection oven usually has two or three racks of different height.
Accessories: For compacts these can include a roasting tray (some come with a drip tray insert that allows fat to drain from the meat), pizza tray, biscuit tray, a handle for safer handling of the trays and racks, and a rotisserie for roasting meat. Glass ovens may have a height extension ring, an air fryer insert, rack tongs and lid holder for resting the hot lid.
Usable capacity: Our measured capacity is sometimes different to what’s claimed by manufacturers. Our height measurement is taken between the lowest shelf and the top element, and manufacturers often measure from the roof to the floor of the oven.
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