These mini-ovens have a wide range of kitchen uses, including toasting, browning, heating and baking.
Features common to most portable ovens include temperature range from 200-500 degrees; separate controls for each function; removable doors, crumb trays, racks, heating elements and rotisserie assemblies; automatic timer; adjustable door position; chrome-plated housing; and metal accessories.
Toaster oven/broilers have smaller capacities and are capable of toasting bread on both sides at the same time. Tabletop oven/broilers are much larger and will toast only one side at a time. While some models have top and bottom elements for baking and broiling, some come with only one element. This one-element unit stands with the element in the top to broil; when entire unit is turned over, the element is on the bottom to bake or roast.
These appliances are useful as second ovens or can be used in place of a large oven to reduce energy consumption. However, capacity is obviously limited and food preparation results may be less consistent than a conventional oven.
Toaster ovens come in different sizes, some with a signal bell that rings when food is done. Some models pop up toast from the top, like a regular toaster. Those that offer “slow-heat” cooking have low wattage current constantly flowing through top and bottom elements so different foods can cook simultaneously.
Other models provide two shelves for baking, but heat distribution may be uneven.
Other toaster oven features include a special defrost cycle and porcelain catalytic finish that cleans itself continuously at normal cooking temperatures.
Related to the table broilers/ovens are the smokeless broilers and broiler rotisseries, which have no covering but are safe for indoor cooking because they do not smoke or spatter. Two reasons explain this:
- Infrared heating element reaches a temperature well above smoke range and forms a heat shield around the element; grease disintegrates as it strikes the element… without smoke.
- A stainless steel reflector pan under the broiler rack or spit has water in it (about ¾”). Should drippings fall through the element, they land in the water. . . no spattering.
Most smokeless broilers have aluminum frame and chrome-plated grilling rack, spit and skewers. They disassemble for washing.
Microwave ovens use very short electromagnetic waves to cook foods in a short time-about 10 minutes per pound for most meat cuts. All basically cook the same, so it’s usually a matter of selecting the right size with the right features to suit your needs.
Microwave ovens offer a variety of features including digital timer, automatic cycling defroster, variable power dial for changing cooking speed and automatic food temperature control (oven stops automatically when internal temperature of food reaches temperature set on indicator).
Other things that must be considered are:
- Placement of oven. Will you need a left-hinged or bottom hinged model? How about the vent? A front-vented model can be placed under an upper cabinet, but a back-vented appliance must have air space of 2″ from the wall. Space requirements vary. Newer microwaves have been down-sized without sacrificing interior cooking space. Under-cabinet models also solve some counterspace problems.
- Kind of cooking to be done. If the oven will be used mainly for defrosting and reheating, a smaller, lower-priced, two-power model will be fine. The compact microwaves available may require slightly longer cooking times but are good for one or two-person households. A top-of-the-line model with variable power settings and temperature sensor probe is preferable for extensive, full-meal cooking. Check the wattage output, which will range from 300 to 700 watts. Cooking will take twice as long in a 300 watt, and most microwave cookbooks are written for 600 to 700 watt models.
- Timers. Since a lot of cooking will be done by counting seconds, digital timers are good. If it has dial timers, is one marked off in 15-second increments? Touch timers (those that are sensitive to finger heat) require fewer repairs than dial timers.
- The megahertz. (one megahertz equals one million microwave cycles per second). Most microwave ovens operate on 2,450 megahertz.
- Browning option. Some foods cooked for a short time with microwaves will not brown as in conventional cooking. (Foods with a high fat content, such as bacon, will brown in a short cooking time.) Is it worth more money to have a unit with a browning coil? (A few minutes in a conventional oven can finish the job. So can a microwave browning dish that costs much less.)
- Power setting. There are models with three to 10 power settings. Lower settings are needed for egg and cheese dishes, less-tender meats, baked products, softening butter, melting chocolate and defrosting.
Models with phase cooking make it possible to set both low and high power at one time, which is useful for those who cannot stay with the microwave to reset the timer when switching from defrost to cook.
Many models are also equipped with a memory function. Users can preset the time an oven turns on, at what power and for how long. This feature is particularly useful for families where both parents work outside the home-meals can be cooking with nobody in the kitchen.
In addition to cooking foods from scratch, the oven is also useful for heating beverages, soups, precooked casseroles, sandwiches, leftovers, canned vegetables and baked goods.
Microwave ovens are a safe and convenient appliance, provided that you know and follow some guidelines:
- Do not tamper with the safety interlocks, which prevent a microwave oven from operating when the door is open. Operation with the door open may result in harmful exposure to microwave energy.
- Do not place any object between the oven front face and door or allow soil or cleaner residue to accumulate on sealing surfaces.
- Do not operate if unit has damaged door (bent), hinges or latches (broken or loosened), door seals or sealing surfaces.
- Microwaves should be adjusted or repaired only by properly qualified service personnel.
To clean, use a mild detergent, water and a soft cloth. Commercial cleaners specifically for microwaves are also available. Odors can be eliminated from inside by boiling a solution of one cup of water and several tablespoons of lemon juice in the oven for five to seven minutes.
Convection ovens use electrical energy as do conventional ovens, but more efficiently. The air inside a regular oven is almost static, and cooking depends on the gradual conduction of heat from the outside to the center of food.
Convection ovens use a stream of power-driven air produced by a high-speed fan that swirls continuously over a standard heating element. This results in uniform temperature throughout the oven, which not only speeds cooking but saves up to 50 percent of the energy used by conventional ovens.
Because of the constantly circulating air inside convection ovens, they remain efficient when filled to capacity, even with foods touching each other and the oven walls. In fact, convection ovens are more efficient than microwave ovens for larger amounts of food, though they too lack the size of conventional ovens. Some can be used as slow cookers or to dehydrate fruits and vegetables.
Foods can be cooked at lower temperatures for shorter periods of time in convection ovens-in many cases, temperatures may be lowered by up to 75 degrees when baking, and roasting time is cut by about one-third.
Frozen convenience foods, such as TV dinners, can be cooked in half the recommended time with a 25 degree temperature reduction. Since convection ovens give off less heat than conventional ovens, the kitchen remains cooler when they are in use.
Convection ovens need no special adapter; regular household current may be used. They are easy to clean-most have either removable, dishwasher-safe components or continuous clean interiors, or both. Optional temperature probes are also available.
|Do not plug in more than one heat-producing appliance on 15-amp (normal house current) circuit at one time. It will probably overload the circuit and blow a fuse or trip a circuit breaker.|
|Extension cords are not advisable on heavy current pullers, but if one is absolutely necessary, use one as short as possible and use nothing smaller than a #16 gauge.|
|Always be cautious when using electric personal care appliances around water. These appliances can cause electrocution when plugged in, even when not in use. Recommend use in the bedroom or other room besides the bathroom, especially for children.|
Check your state and local codes before starting any project. Follow all safety precautions. Information in this document has been furnished by the North American Retail Hardware Association (NRHA) and associated contributors. Every effort has been made to ensure accuracy and safety. Neither NRHA, any contributor nor the retailer can be held responsible for damages or injuries resulting from the use of the information in this document.