There are few people who couldn’t benefit from buying a mini oven, sometimes known as a toaster oven, but how do you choose which one to buy? I can only give you my method of how I chose mine.
Firstly, I wasn’t too hung up on brand names. I was looking for a functioning mini oven that fitted my needs and requirements. Reading reviews can often lead you astray as you end up seeking “the best”, which invariably means you’re no longer focussing on your needs, but on chasing somebody else’s brand name dream!
So, I didn’t rush off to John Lewis to buy their top brand mini oven, I focussed on what was important to me. From this I started to understand what the options would be and the price bands. So then I built up my list of “must have” requirements.
All mini ovens are safe to use and are durable little work horses. They’re handy as a main oven if you live alone and are cooking for one, or in a family home setting when you’ve just one item to cook, or everybody else has gone out and you want a little treat. Motorhome owners and campers find them reliable, flexible and portable (many will store and transport them in a lidded plastic box, along with their food essentials and tea towels!)
Firstly, a mini oven HAD to have a temperature gauge just like on a full-sized oven. I didn’t want one that said simply Low/Medium/High, I wanted it to show the °C value. If you are only buying a mini oven for making toasties and browning the top of mash-topped dishes then this won’t be as important.
I will use my mini oven as a main oven, so having a full/proper temperature gauge was essential.
Most mini ovens will have a timer. This, for me, is one of the real bonuses as you can turn them on and know there’ll be a “ping” and the oven will turn off once it’s finished cooking. I’ve a habit of becoming distracted, so this saves me burning anything 🙂 Most timers will go form 0-60 minutes; most of my cooking is done in the 10-25 minute ranges.
I wanted the mini oven to have a choice of shelf positions. A few don’t, so this was one feature I wanted to keep an eye on. One benefit I see of this is that, at some future point, I’d want to get a second shelf, to use occasionally. This wouldn’t even be an option unless there were more than one shelf setting.
This was sometimes tricky to find out. A lot of mini ovens were measured in Litres. It seemed to me that ~14 litres would be the right size. I did want the mini oven to be able to cook a 10″ pizza, so I’d like to know the internal dimensions. This information isn’t always forthcoming – and, in the end, I didn’t have that information to hand for the mini oven I did buy, but a 10″ pizza DID fit as it was the first thing I checked once I got it home, by buying one 🙂 Will a 10″ Pizza Fit in My Mini Oven?
Mini ovens use varying amounts of power to run – so I started to look at this. I decided that I didn’t want one that was ‘underpowered’, so I dismissed those using under 1kW of power. I also didn’t want a very powerful one. In the end, I decided that I’d be confident and happy with a mini oven that needed 1.2-1.4kW of power. That was plenty to run it as an oven, without being overpowered.
I have a small kitchen, so thought about where it’d sit when not in use. I like a clutter-free kitchen so I measured my existing microwave and then compared the dimensions of the ovens to that. Most were smaller, so it wasn’t an issue. I also measured up one of my larger cupboards and saw that I could, if I really wanted to, put it away in a cupboard. Overall size isn’t especially important to many people – and, surprisingly, a mini oven is as light as a toaster, it’s nowhere near as heavy as a microwave oven, so it can easily be “popped away” out of sight if needs be.
Having met my essential criteria, price was then key. I just looked to see the price range I’d have to pay, then set my own personal price limit for what I was prepared to pay. I set my budget in the range of £30-40 – I knew at that price I could have a vast range mini ovens that would meet my needs.
- Rotisserie: Some mini ovens have a rotisserie – I knew I definitely didn’t want that. Mini ovens will always come with a little cooking tray to get you started and it’s easy to pick up small cooking dishes, or just use foil to reheat small items such as sausage rolls. There are few additional features to consider.
- Cool Wall: Some talk of “cool wall”, mine didn’t but it’s never got what I’d call “hot” on the outside at all! Maybe if I baked something at full temperature for an hour it might, but how hot they get can be over-egged by manufacturers as they fear litigation 🙂
- Hot Plate: I definitely didn’t want a top hot plate. Some people do, I appreciate that, but my need was just for a mini oven.
Which Mini Oven to Buy?
In the end, although I’d done all my ‘research’ I had sudden short notice that Lidl were stocking a mini oven the very next day. So I compared the information available and realised it looked like it’d do the job and it was in budget, so I rushed out to buy one!
The bottom line with choosing a mini oven is that they are very affordable and if it’s your first mini oven then there’s very little difference between them. The best thing to do is just to buy one, it’ll pay for itself soon enough as they’re so efficient at cooking and you’re only heating up a small space. Some foods cook quicker too. e.g. my pizza, rather than turning on my full-sized oven, at about 3kW, pre-heating, then cooking a pizza for 15-20 minutes, my mini oven requires no pre-heating and cooks that pizza in 10 minutes at 1/3rd of the power draw. Not only am I saving the planet by using less energy, I’m saving myself money with smaller bills!