With all of their settings, functions, buttons, racks, and whatnot toaster ovens can be confusing.
The good news is there are only 3 settings you need to know to get dinner on the table or a fresh-baked cookie in your hand. So grab a cup of coffee, friend and let’s chat about your basic toaster oven settings.
The most important thing you need to know about cooking with a toaster oven is that the settings control the heating elements inside your toaster oven.
If you have a digital toaster oven, each setting may also provide a preset or suggested cooking time for specific items like cookies or toast.*It’s important to note that the presets do not know exactly what you are cooking. If you select the “Cookies” setting, your toaster oven doesn’t know if you’re making mini chocolate chip cookies or giant sandwich-sized ones.
Just like with a traditional oven you (and your good judgment) are still very much a part of the toaster oven cooking process.
3 Basic Toaster Oven Settings
There are only 3 settings you need to know when you’re getting started with your toaster oven – Bake, Broil, and Toast!
The Bake Setting
This is the setting you’ll likely use the most.
It’s similar to a traditional oven with most of the heat coming from the bottom elements. Usually, the top elements are also on but using a much lower wattage than the bottom elements.
Depending on your type of toaster oven, it may cycle or pulse the top and bottom elements to vary their intensity and help your little oven maintain an even temperature.
Here are a few differences between baking with an oven vs. a toaster oven:
- Your toaster oven will preheat quicker. Depending on the size, it will preheat 30% to 50% faster than a traditional oven.
- Your toaster oven will usually bake faster. Until you get used to baking with your toaster oven, begin checking on your dishes about 5 to 10 minutes earlier than the shortest cook time listed on your recipe.
- Most toaster ovens have hot spots or areas that are warmer than others. To even out browning and baking, rotate your pan halfway through the bake time.
To give you an idea of how using the Bake setting works, below are basic instructions for the Breville Smart Oven Pro. For directions on using your specific toaster oven, please refer to your manual.
- Select the “Bake” setting
- Set the temperature called for in your recipe
- Set the time called for in your recipe
- Press start to begin preheating
- Once the toaster oven indicates it’s preheated, place your pan inside, close the door, double check that the timer has started (adjust the timing as necessary) and begin cooking.
If your toaster oven is not digital, you’ll want to preheat it for at least 5 minutes before adding your pan. Remember to reset the timer for the full cooking time after preheating.
For help with convection baking check out this post on Everything You Need to Know About Convection Toaster Ovens.
The Broil Setting
Broiling is a lot like grilling in that the heat is coming from one direction. With the broil setting your toaster oven uses direct radiant heat from only the top elements. During broiling, the bottom elements will be off.
Broiling is great for melting cheese on a batch of nachos for one, roasting red peppers, making indoor s’mores, or quickly cooking thinner slices of vegetables like eggplant or zucchini. Tim and I don’t eat meat but I hear it’s pretty popular for steak and seafood too.
Below are some basic tips for using the Broil setting, please refer to your manual for directions on your specific toaster oven.
- Most toaster ovens do not have you preheat with the Broil setting.
- Generally, you’ll want to use the top rack placement.
- Always use a broiler-safe pan, if you’re not sure just use the pan that came with your toaster oven.
- The heat is only from one direction. If you want to cook or brown both sides of an item, make sure to flip it.
- Use caution when grabbing pans that have been broiled, they will be extremely hot.
- If you find you’re burning food with this setting, adjust the rack height to a lower position.
- If your toaster oven has an adjustable broiler, play around with adjusting the temperature (500°F, 400°F, 300°F) or intensity of the heat (High, Medium, Low).
The Toast Setting
I won’t sugarcoat it. Toaster ovens do not make the best toast. At least, I’ve yet to use a toaster oven that made toast as well as a stand-alone toaster. That said, our little ovens toast good-enough for us.
As you’ll see below, the Toast setting is a bit more nuanced than the other settings.
Heating: With the toast setting, both the upper and lower elements are distributing an equal amount of heat.
Temperature: On a toaster oven with knobs or dial controls the intensity of the heating is set by using the temperature dial. While digital toaster ovens usually have a pre-programmed high temperature that is not displayed.
Rack Position: Some toaster ovens suggest the top rack placement while others stick strictly to the middle. For the best results, refer to your manual for the appropriate rack position.
What’s the difference between Light, Medium, and Dark?
The Light, Medium, and Dark settings control the amount of time the food is toasted to achieve your desired results.
Most toaster ovens/countertop ovens with digital controls allow you to set the toasting level from light to dark along with the number of slices. The toaster oven will then automatically adjust the cooking time depending on your selections.
These types of countertop ovens usually have a way to let them know if you are using frozen bread too.
On the Breville Smart Oven Pro, it’s the snowflake button. Pressing it will add an additional 15 seconds per slice for defrosting.
Like with the Bagel feature, we’ve been fairly happy with the Breville’s toast presets, though we have found Broiling works better for sourdough and other bread with low sugar content.
How to Make Toast in a Toaster Oven
On a toaster oven with knobs or dial controls, you’ll need to manually set the temperature you want and the amount of time to toast.
- First, place your bread slices in the center of the cooking rack (refer to your manual for the correct rack placement).
- If your toaster oven has a functions dial, set it to Toast.
- Next, set the temperature. These types of toaster ovens usually recommend a high heat (like 450°F) but you should play around with the temperature settings to find your sweet spot.
- Lastly, set the timer. The exact time will depend on your tastes, type of bread, the number of slices, and your toaster oven. It could be as low as 2 minutes and 30 seconds or as high as 5 minutes.
Instead of relying on those random Light, Medium and Dark marks on your timer take 5 minutes and make some toast.
Do It Now: Find Your Perfect Toasting Time
- Grab your cell phone, open the clock app and switch it to the stopwatch.
- Place a slice of your favorite bread in the toaster oven.
- Adjust the settings to Toast, set the temperature to 450°F (or your preferred number) and the time dial to 4 or 5 minutes.
- Start the stopwatch.
- After about 2 minutes and 30 seconds start watching the toast.
- As soon as the bread is as browned and toasted as you like, stop the stopwatch.
Now you know exactly how long to toast your bread. You can even mark it on the toaster oven if you want.
Can I Use The Broiler to Toast Bread?
Yes, but you need to hang out and remember to flip the toast over. Also, since the heat is only coming from the top elements it might not toast or brown the bread evenly.
How to Toast Bread With Your Broiler Setting
- Adjust your rack to the top position.
- Set the toaster oven to the Broil setting.
- Place your bread in the center of the rack and close the door.
- Broil the toast for 1 to 2 minutes, carefully flip the toast and broil for 1 to 2 minutes more.
- Remember, no promises for even browning 🙂
There you have it, everything you need to know about your basic toaster oven settings to get started!
I know it might feel a little overwhelming at first. But once you get used to your little oven you’ll be cooking up all kinds of tasty treats and yummy meals.
Start with something easy like these super addictive roasted sweet potato rounds, a baked potato or any toaster oven veggie recipe. If you want to give broiling or toasting a try treat yourself to a tasty batch of Cinnamon Toast or Broiled Zucchini or Summer Squash.
Whatever you make, have fun!