Beginner’s Guide to Cooking With a Toaster Oven

Did you just get a new toaster oven? Or maybe you’re hoping to put one to use that’s been collecting dust on the countertop for ages. Either way, you’re in the right place and we’re so glad you’re here!

Potatoes on a cooking rack baking and pan in a toaster oven.

Below you’ll find (*almost) everything you need to know to easily cook the food you love with your little oven. 

These tips and articles are for all of the things we wish we had known when we first started cooking with our toaster oven over 6 years ago.

*Quick Note: We’re vegetarian and have zero experience cooking meat in a toaster oven. All of the tips and information below can be applied to any recipe, but for specific directions on preparing beef, chicken, or fish we’d recommend exploring some of the resources in the More Recipe Inspiration section below. 

Table of Contents

Getting Started With a New Toaster Oven

These days toaster ovens have a lot of bells and whistles. Settings like Air Fry, Dehydrate, and Griddle sound fun but if you don’t actually know how to use them, it can get frustrating pretty quick. 

Toaster Oven Essential - The Manual

Reading the manufacturer’s manual before you begin may help to prevent recipe flops and get you off to a good start. That’s why it’s one of the 5 Things We Always Do Before Using a New Toaster Oven

Note: Most manufacturers direct you to run the oven empty at a high temperature before cooking with it to remove any packaging residues. Make sure to do this in a well-ventilated area with the windows open and turn on any fans or venting.   

Convection countertop oven preheating.

While you’re waiting for that burn-off to finish, take a minute and read over this article for the 3 Basic Toaster Oven Settings.

You’ll learn about the differences between baking with an oven vs. a toaster oven, how broiling is similar to grilling, and why the toast setting can be a little fussy. 

Once your new oven is all set up it’s time to get cooking!

Important Tips For Cooking With a Toaster Oven 

Remember It’s an Oven Not a Microwave. When handling cooked dishes always use oven mitts or gloves. Toaster ovens get hot inside and outside too, so be cautious around the exterior walls of the oven during use. 

hands covered with red oven gloves reaching into a toaster oven

Avoid Papers and Plastics. Don’t place any flammable materials inside the oven including paper towels and plates, plastic wrap, cardboard, plastic containers, or anything that can catch fire or melt. 

Use Metal Pans. The one that came with the oven is the best place to start. And be cautious when cooking with pans and dishes made of other materials (like glass), some manufacturers have stated their baking dishes are not meant for use in a toaster oven. Related Reading: 4 Surprising Things I’ll Never Use in Our Toaster Oven

Preheat Longer When Baking. Most digital toaster ovens are designed to beep as ready before they have reached the target temperature. According to the manufacturers, this allows the oven’s temperature to recover quickly once the food is added.

In my experience, that lower initial temperature can be an issue when baking (and air frying in some ovens). For those functions, we let the toaster oven preheat for at least 5 minutes or until it has reached the full temperature before adding our food. 

Same Size, Single Layer. For the best results, chop your food into similarly sized pieces. To keep from overcrowding the pan, cook food in a single layer – not in a big pile. 

For Crispier Dishes, Elevate The Food. To make crispy fries and nuggets, use a rack inserted in a rimmed baking pan. The rack elevates the food allowing the warm air to better circulate around it. 

Hand holding a pan of cooked fries on a rack inside a sheet pan.

Rotate The Pan. Even out hot spots (areas that are warmer than others) by rotating your pan halfway through the cooking time.

Watch The Food, Not The Clock. Most toaster ovens tend to cook food faster than a traditional oven so it’s best to start checking your dishes for doneness about 5 to 10 minutes earlier than the shortest cooking time listed.

If your Brussels sprouts are browning too fast, lower the temperature. If your fries aren’t crispy enough, try turning the temperature up!

Since all ovens are different, you’ll have the best results if you rely on your senses and intuition too, not just the suggested cooking time.

What Should I Cook First?  

Below are our most popular easy toaster oven recipes. Each one uses just a few ingredients and will help you to get more comfortable cooking with your oven’s different settings and functions. 

  1. The Ultimate Guide to Toaster Oven Baked Potatoes 
  2. How To Roast Asparagus Spears in a Toaster Oven 
  3. Toaster Oven Grilled Cheese Sandwich (10 minutes!) 
  4. Toaster Oven Cinnamon Chips 
  5. How to Broil Zucchini or Summer Squash  
  6. Gooey Toaster Oven S’mores
Baked potato topped with black beans and salsa.

For more simple and tasty recipe ideas check out these 25 Easy Toaster Oven Recipes for Beginners

Once you’re ready to move beyond the basics, you can find all of our Toaster Oven Recipes here. From muffins and quick breakfasts to fun snacks, and filling vegetarian dinners there are over 150 recipes to choose from. 

Convection and Air Frying

What is a Convection Toaster Oven? It’s a small countertop oven with a fan inside. 

Cookies baking in a toaster oven with an arrow pointing to the convection fan.

The convection fan circulates heated air around the inside of the oven during cooking. This results in more evenly-cooked foods that get crispy and browned outside while staying tender and juicy inside. 

One thing to note about this super-heated environment is that it can cause your food to cook faster.

Cookies baked at different time and temperature on a sheet pan.

When using a convection toaster oven it’s best to:

  1. Lower your toaster oven’s temperature by 25 degrees.
  2. Begin checking for doneness 2/3 of the way through the cook time.

Although this is a good starting point, you might need to do some experimenting to find the perfect settings for your little oven.

Person pulling basket of potato wedges out of an air fryer toaster oven.

What is an air fryer toaster oven? It’s a convection toaster oven where the fan can move at a faster speed.

The higher speed increases the airflow resulting in food that’s cooked in a shorter amount of time and with a crispier exterior.

To learn more about cooking with convection and all of the fantastic ways you can use it to make crispy, tender, juicy foods in your toaster oven check out the articles below.

Keeping Things Clean 

Your toaster oven will run better and last longer if you clean it after each use. You don’t need to do a deep-clean every time but regularly wiping it down will make a huge difference. 

Hand using a rag to clean toaster oven glass door.
  • Allow the toaster oven to cool down completely and unplug it.
  • Wipe away any splatters with a slightly damp sponge or cloth (don’t forget the ceiling!).
  • If you’ve got spills or crumbs in the bottom, empty and wipe down the crumb tray too.
  • Lastly, don’t forget the glass door. A quick wipe with a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser or some glass cleaner will keep grease from building up on it. 

When it comes to deep-cleaning there are a few do’s and don’ts you’ll want to keep in mind (like don’t use oven cleaner). We’ve tried to cover them all in this post for How to Clean a Toaster Oven

NOTE: Never line your crumb tray with foil. Covering your crumb tray with anything is a fire hazard and something all toaster oven manufacturers advise against. 

Now you’re probably wondering can you use foil in a toaster oven? The answer is…maybe. 

Roasted spaghetti squash halves on a small foil lined pan.

These days, every manufacturer has different directions for using foil in their ovens. To make it even more confusing, sometimes those directions vary across the models they offer. 

That’s why the best way to know what’s recommended for your oven is to check your owner’s manual or the manufacturer’s website. 

Temperature Troubleshooting

If your toaster oven is burning cookies after just a few minutes of baking or your roasted veggies are never browning the first thing you should check is the oven’s temperature. 

Oven thermometer inside a large toaster oven.

That’s because toaster ovens sometimes fib about their temperature. 

You can learn more about how to test the accuracy of your toaster oven’s temperature here.

That way you’ll know what adjustments are needed (longer preheat, lower temperature setting, etc.) to accommodate your little oven’s heating quirks.

Toaster Oven Guides and Hacks 

You probably already know that toaster ovens are great for cooking frozen pizza bagels but what else can they do? Below are just a few of our favorite ways to use our toaster oven. 

Warm pizza slices on a plate with a blue napkin.

For more fun ideas check out these 11 Surprising Things You Can Do With a Toaster Oven or our collection of Toaster Oven How-Tos.

More Recipe Inspiration

If you’re looking for a toaster oven cookbook, we really like America’s Test Kitchen’s Toaster Oven Perfection.

Toaster Oven Perfection book cover featuring a variety of dinners and desserts.

It’s got lots of tips and a variety of recipes to suit all types of eaters. You can read our full review of it on our Cooking For Two Cookbooks page

The Gourmet Toaster Oven by Lynn Alley and The Skinnytaste Air Fryer Cookbook by Gina Homolka also have yummy recipes with great instructions. 

Manufacturer Websites can be a good place to find recipes (especially ones that are specific to your little oven). Cuisinart, Breville, Oster, Hamilton Beach, and Ninja all have recipes available on their websites. 

Closeup of bread loaf in red dutch oven.
Small No-Knead Bread made in a toaster oven.

If you like watching people cook, YouTube is full of helpful toaster oven tutorials created by talented cooks. Here are a few to check out:

TosTinMan Easy Cooking: From spaghetti and meatballs to bacon and eggs he cooks all kinds of comfort foods using a Black and Decker toaster oven. 

Nutmeg Notebook: Learn how to make plant-based oil-free recipes in the Breville Air Fryer Oven.

Artisan Bread With Steve: Watch him make a loaf of bread and a 9” pizza in his Oster toaster oven.

Lois Dewitt: From lentils to chili and apple crisp, Lois will show you how to make a variety of recipes from her cookbook Pop it in a Toaster Oven

Depending on the size of your oven, you may not need a smaller recipe at all. Most traditional oven recipes can be prepared in a larger toaster oven or countertop oven.

Have a favorite recipe you want to try making? Use the same cooking temperature, but check on it early and make adjustments (like reducing the cooking time/temp. or changing the rack placement) as needed.

If you have a tip you’d like to share or a question, feel free to drop it in the comments.

Our goal is to make this guide as helpful as possible. We’ll be updating it with new resources regularly and are always open to suggestions. 

We hope you have lots of fun cooking with your toaster oven! 

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  1. I am looking at buying a toaster oven for our camper. What size toaster oven’s do you use? The 9 or 10 Liter would fit in the camper best, but the 20 Liter or more looks more like the size you probably use. I just am struggling with the right size to buy and then if we bought the 9/10 liter, what size pans would work. Thank you for any guidance!

    1. Hi Anita,

      I’m not certain about the liter measurements for our main toaster oven (a Breville Smart Oven Pro OV845BSS) but I’d guess it’s probably 20 or 22 liters.

      I like to do most of my cooking on a quarter sheet pan which means I need a countertop oven that is at least 13.25-inches wide from one interior sidewall to the other and 10-inches deep from the back wall to the glass door. You want to leave a few inches on each side for proper airflow around the oven.

      To find the right oven for you, the two things you’ll want to consider are 1) how much counter space you have available for the toaster oven and 2) what you want to cook with it.

      The type of pans you can use will really depend on the design of the toaster oven and its interior measurements. Most toaster ovens come with a baking pan. Looking at the dimensions for that pan will give you a really good idea about the other kinds of pans that will fit.

      For example, if the pan is 10 x 10-inches, then you know an 8 x 8 square pan and a 9-inch pie pan will both fit. If it’s a less common size like 9 x 7-inches then your pan options are going to be limited.

      If you intend to have your toaster oven out all of the time and don’t have a lot of counter space in the camper you may have to make some compromises.

      Also, I don’t know much about campers but if the voltage is an issue, you’ll want to make sure to check on that too. Large ovens are usually 1300 to 1800 watts. Small to medium ovens usually run anywhere from 900 to 1600 watts. But not all of them are like that, one of our ovens is a very tiny Breville mini oven and it is 1800 watts.

      This post has some more tips that might help you when choosing a toaster oven:

      Hope that helps a little and best wishes with your toaster oven hunt 🙂

  2. Hey, I got Morphy Richards 52Ltr RCSS but I don’t understand which functions shall I use to for what and at what temperature.

    1. I’m not familiar with that brand of oven, have you tried contacting their customer service for help? Also, it looks like if you search “Morphy Richards 52Ltr RCSS” on YouTube there are a lot of videos including a bunch by a channel called “Bob’s Oven” that makes a lot of recipes – you might want to check them out.

      Happy Cooking!

  3. I’ve got a 30L Joyoung oven. Living in China no one has a traditional oven. Cooking with my oven is always a gamble. Last week I tried to make Butter tarts and burned them completely, in only 1/3 of the required cooking time. Today I baked brownies… needed every single minute the recipe asked for. I can’t win, but at least they can be eaten.

    1. HI, Kelsey!

      I’m sorry to hear your little oven is being so darn temperamental! But it is awesome the brownies turned out alright 🙂

      It sounds like your thermostat might be off or miscalibrated. If there’s enough room, I’d put an oven thermometer in there while you’re baking (they make some that can hang from the rack) then you can check the actual temperature occasionally and adjust as necessary.

  4. I have a Cuisinart convection toaster oven (Model # TOB-280N1) and I absolutely love it. It came with a pizza stone. I exclusively use Calphalon baking pans in my oven. In fact, the 13×9″ baking pan fits perfectly and I use it for cakes in this oven. What makes Calphalon superior to other baking pans is that there are no handles protruding on each side of the pans. I have roasted veggies, baked cakes, breads, etc., and everything has turned out beautifully. I highly recommend the oven that I have. I also have a Wilton (12) muffin pan and it works great also. I bake 12 muffins in it every single week. It is aluminum, and I use cupcake liners in it.

  5. My mom has a Cook’s convection oven that is about 6 or 7 years old. She hasn’t been able to use it as she lost the user’s manual. I have been desperately trying to get one for her in time for Xmas to surprise her. Do you know where I can obtain manual for Cooks CK-COV-900 convection oven ?

    1. Hi Brian, well that is a hard one. It appears Cook’s Essentials does not have a manufacturer website or a place where their manuals are readily available online. It looks like they manufacturer a lot of products (including toaster ovens) for QVC. Have you tried reaching out to them to see if they can supply you with a new manual or put you in contact with the company? On their contact page, there is an instant chat, email and phone number. Here’s a link:

      If they can’t help shoot us an email, we’ll try and help your search any way we can.

      Happy Holidays!

    1. Thanks, Cindi! We’ve been trying a lot of cleaning suggestions that haven’t worked but I think we’re finally heading in the right direction 🙂

      What part of your toaster oven do you find is the hardest to clean?