3 Easy Toaster Oven Settings To Get You Started

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.

Toast, muffins, and close up of two toaster ovens.

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!

A small blue casserole dish inside a Breville Smart Oven Pro.

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 use 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.

How is baking different with an oven vs. a toaster oven?

  • Your toaster oven will preheat faster. 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 baking time.
Preheating screen for the Breville Smart Oven Pro.

To give you an idea of how using the Bake setting works, below are basic instructions for the Breville Smart Oven Pro (BOV845BSS). For directions on using your specific toaster oven, please refer to your manual.

  1. Select the “Bake” setting
  2. Set the temperature called for in your recipe
  3. Set the time called for in your recipe
  4. Press start to begin preheating
  5. 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.

Single serving of nachos on a toaster oven baking sheet.

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.

Broiling Tips

  • 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).
Toast with a jelly heart on a white plate.

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.

Two slices of toast in a breville smart oven pro.

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.

Breville Smart Oven Pro Screen with Toast Selected

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 (BOV845BSS), it’s the snowflake button.

Pressing it will add an additional 15 seconds per slice for defrosting.

Snowflake button on the Breville Smart Oven Pro

Similar to the Bagel feature, we’ve been fairly happy with our 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.

  1. First, place your bread slices in the center of the cooking rack (refer to your manual for the correct rack placement).
  2. If your toaster oven has a functions dial, set it to Toast.
  3. Next, set the temperature. These types of toaster ovens usually direct you use a high heat (like 450°F) but you should play around with the temperature settings to find your sweet spot.
  4. 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.
Close up of toaster oven knob controls and toasted bread.

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

  1. Grab your cell phone, open the clock app and switch it to the stopwatch.
  2. Place a slice of your favorite bread in the toaster oven.
  3. Adjust the settings to Toast, set the temperature to 450°F (or your preferred number) and the time dial to 4 or 5 minutes.
  4. Start the stopwatch.
  5. After about 2 minutes and 30 seconds start watching the toast.
  6. 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!

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    1. Hi Tulsatownie,

      We’ve had success braising potatoes in a dutch oven with a little veggie stock but have never tried boiling anything. It might be possible?

  1. We have the Breville Smart Oven Pro and find our toast is superior to that of any toaster we’ve ever owned. I am very picky about my toast so we have owned a bunch of toasters over the years (I am closing in on 75 years, so have owned a lot of toasters!). The key, for me, is that I like the darkness about halfway between darkness settings 4 and 5. I accomplish that by simply adding one to the number of slices. For example, if I’m toasting 3 slices of bread I set darkness at 4 and number of slices at 4. Works for us!

  2. I have the Breville smart oven air and recently I start learning to bake. I am trying to bake angel cake that needs only top air after preheating, but the broil function doesn’t allow changing temperature since it only has high, medium and low. The manual didn’t say cookies function uses just one or both element to heat.

    1. Hi Chie,

      The cookies function uses both the top and bottom elements.

      We have the Pro model (not the air) and the Broil settings are actual temperatures like 500, 400, 300.

      You might want to reach out to Breville and ask if the Broil settings are one set temperature at varying intensities or if there are different temperatures for the high, medium, and low settings.

      Good luck with your angel cake!

  3. What toaster ovens have the lowest temp settings? Need something that can cook at 120 or even lower if possible, is there any that can do this?

    1. Hi Ryan,

      On our basic little Oster and our Breville Smart Oven Pro, the lowest temperature on the BAKE setting is 120F.

      You might want to look at toaster ovens that have a Dehydrate feature (like the Breville Smart Oven Air or the Ninja Foodi XL) as that setting usually has a range of lower temperature options. I think some go as low as 80 or 85. I can’t say for sure if it will function the same as the BAKE setting – you’d have to verify that with the manufacturers directly.

      If you find an oven you’re interested in and want to see the temperature range for any of the settings try Googling for the oven’s manual. Some manufacturers list the temp range for each one altogether in a grid or have it included in the directions for the setting.

  4. Can I put the ceramic or plastic utensils in oven toaster like tea mug, plactic microwave proof plates for hot the meal or tea?

    1. Hi Saima,

      There’s usually an ‘Important Safeguards’ section at the beginning of most toaster oven manuals. That is the best place to get safety info that’s specific to your little oven.

      For our toaster ovens, we avoid anything plastic as it can melt/be a fire hazard. With things like ceramic, you’ll want to refer to the heat-safe directions on the bottom of the dish or plate as each one will be different.

      Also, we have a post listing some of the things we don’t put in our toaster ovens that you might find helpful. You can see it here: https://toasterovenlove.com/never-use-in-toaster-oven/

      Thanks for stopping by and happy cooking!

  5. Hi i baked focaccia and pizza and cinnamon rolls in my Star-Light Pro CAB-4024BL, 2400W, 40l toaster oven and the top and middle were cooked but it didnt cook the bottom of the cinnamon rolls and didnt toast the bottom and make it crispy on the other ones.

    1. Hi Daniel,

      I’m sorry your food isn’t turning out as expected, that sounds super frustrating.

      Do you have the manual for your oven? I couldn’t find it online, I’m not sure if that brand is sold in the U.S.

      I’d suggest checking the manual to make sure that you are using the appropriate settings. The oven should be heating your food on both the top and bottom if it has a standard BAKE or convection BAKE setting.

      If you don’t have the manual or it’s unclear, try reaching out to the company they should be able to help you sort out the problem.

      Best wishes!

  6. I have a Black-N-decker Toast-R-Oven and I want to cook fish in the minimum amount of time with it. What is the highest heat? There’s 450 and then there’s toast after that. Is toast higher than 450?

    1. Hi Ferit,

      Usually, when there is a TOAST selection on the temperature dial it is for the highest temperature the oven goes to. These days though toaster ovens are so different it’s best to refer to your manual or the manufacturer for detailed information about your specific toaster oven. Black and Decker’s website has individual pages for their products which include a Q&A section that might be helpful. Otherwise, it looks like you can use the ‘contact us’ link in the footer of the website to reach out to their customer support.

  7. Purchased a cuisinart tob_7. What is the. Difference in 7 and tob-10?
    Also has convection. Is that better than not?
    The cook book is not to my liking. Can I find ordinary directions? Like how to cook a steak?

    1. Hi John,

      Congrats on your new oven!

      Cuisinart (a company we are not affiliated with) makes a lot of ovens. You might want to reach out to their customer support and see if they can give you a run-down of the features for the different models. Here’s a link to their contact us page: https://www.cuisinart.com/customer-care/contact-us

      They can probably point you to directions for recipes you might be interested in too – it looks like they have some on their website.

      Also, try searching on YouTube. There are a bunch of videos for cooking different meats (including steak) in a toaster oven.

      Good luck and happy cooking!

  8. I have the Breville Smart Oven Air. This is my second one,the first was just replaced under warranty as the the door got stuck on open,
    All transaction went smoothly.
    I have noticed that while using toaster function it only seems to brown on 1 side. My original Breville did the same thing.
    Any thoughts on this?

    1. I bought one Smart oven Pro and took it back toasted on the top only. This one is doing the same thing. Right rack, setting and doesn’t make any difference what darkness setting. UGH.

      I’m calling Breville tomorrow. I bought mine at BBB.

    1. Hi Betsy!

      We got the cutting board for our Breville Smart Oven Pro (model BOV845BSS) on Amazon. I believe you can also find them at Bed Bath & Beyond, Williams-Sonoma, and Sur La Table (if you’re looking for some in-store options).

      They make them for most of the Breville ovens, if yours is different, just make sure to search by the model number.

      You can see a mini-review, more photos of the board and a direct link to the one we bought on Amazon in this post: https://toasterovenlove.com/toaster-oven-baking-dishes-accessories/

  9. We have a cooks 6 slice toaster oven – also convection. Both top and bottom elements light on bake, Your site says the element will go off regulating the heat. Both elements go off and on at the same time. Any thoughts? This is our 2nd one (both did the same thing) and we’re thinking it’s just defective. Thanks!

    1. Hi, Melissa!

      That is how most toaster ovens heat during the Bake cycle but I’m sure there are some that work differently too. Your toaster oven might appear to have both of them on at the same time but they are probably not using the same wattage or power – usually, the bottom is stronger than the top.

      I couldn’t find the manual for your little oven online to see if the manufacturer gave any info on the heating during baking. It is entirely possible both elements are heating with the same amount of power. In that case, it’s more like the toast setting and will probably cook much faster than expected.

      If your food is turning out to your liking – I wouldn’t worry too much about it.

      If things aren’t going so well – I’d reach out to the manufacturer and see if they could offer insights/assistance to help you have a better experience using their product.

  10. I have a Mainstay 4 slice toaster oven and it has 2 knobs top temp/mode knob and bottom knob time it has a stay on setting to the left of off and goes up to 30 minutes. In need on how to cook salmon and chicken in it without the chicken grease spillover

    1. Hi Debra,

      I couldn’t find interior dimensions for your oven but something like the Chicago Metallic Non-Stick 4-Piece Toaster Oven Set might work. It’s got a small rack for cooking the protein, the rack fits into the cookie sheet or the roasting pan to catch any juices and liquids released during cooking.

      You’ll want to measure the interior width before purchasing any pans as some of the pieces might not fit – like the muffin pan (it has handles that make it a little wider than expected)

      Nordic Ware has a bunch of toaster oven broiler pan sets too! I’m not a huge fan of the gold coating they use but the black rack is very sturdy.

      Happy Cooking!

  11. Would love know best way to make pizza bagels in a toaster oven without making the biggest mess. I get the idea that you need to put it right on the wires so the bottom will toast, but then cheese always falls off and makes a big mess on the bottom.

    1. Hi, Jennifer!

      If you’re talking about homemade pizza bagels, we actually make them right on the pan. The bottoms get toasty but the middles stay chewy – here’s the recipe/method: https://toasterovenlove.com/toaster-oven-pizza-bagels/

      For crispier bagels just toast them before topping and baking.

      If you’re cooking frozen pizza bagels, you might want to try using a rack/baking sheet combo. It makes cleanup super easy. You can see a few options near the top of this post: https://toasterovenlove.com/how-to-toaster-oven-baked-potatoes/

      Good luck with your cheesy bagels 🙂


    1. Hi, Helen!

      I did a little searching on Amazon and it looks like even the largest toaster ovens/countertop ovens max out around 8-inches for the interior dimensions. The problem is those dimensions are usually only from the top to bottom, once you take into account the heating elements and the rack placement the available space gets a lot smaller.

      The only one that looks like it might have enough room is this Extra Large Oster Countertop Oven. I’d call Oster directly and ask before buying anything to make sure the pot you want to use will fit.