Benchtop ovens

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Cooking for one?

If you’re cooking for one or space is tight, a benchtop oven may be a useful addition to your kitchen. We tested four compact ovens and two glass convection models.

From our test

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Types of benchtop ovens

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.

Performance

We tested the ovens on three cooking tasks – grilling toast, cooking pizza and roasting a whole chicken. The results were mixed – no oven did a good job on all our cooking tasks.

The Breville The Smart Oven Pro BOV845BSS, Russell Hobbs RHTOV20, Breville The Toast & Roast BOV550 and Sunbeam NutriOven Convection Oven CO3000 did a very good job roasting a whole chicken. The Breville BOV550 has a “rotisserie” accessory for roasting meat.

The Sunbeam Pizza Bake & Grill BT5350 only did an OK job roasting a chicken. We had to increase the cooking time to make sure all parts of the chicken reached a safe temperature of 70°C.

As its name suggests, the Sunbeam Pizza Bake & Grill BT5350 did a good job cooking pizza. Both the glass convection ovens (the Homemaker Convection Oven AOT-F901 and Sunbeam NutriOven Convection Oven CO3000) did a poor job – the pizzas had no crispiness and the toppings were unevenly cooked.

But the two glass convection ovens performed considerably better when we grilled toast, both did a good job with all the bread evenly toasted. The compact models struggled toasting bread evenly. We think you’re better off using a toaster.

The compact ovens were easier to use than the 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 models come with a lid stand to rest the hot lid.

It also pays to check the oven’s usable capacity. The Breville The Smart Oven Pro BOV845BSS had a stated capacity of 22L and the Russell Hobbs RHTOV20 was 20L, but when we measured them, their capacities were only 13L. 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.

Energy savings

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.

Hot stuff

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.

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.
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