Saturday, June 25, 2011

The humble toaster oven

The humble toaster oven, which is smaller than a regular oven, can do almost everything the regular oven does and in smaller batches. Because of its smaller size, the toaster oven is also good for saving on your electricity bill. In the summer time, your kitchen will stay cooler if you don't fire up the regular oven. You would be surprised to know what you can make in the toaster oven. I've made ribeye steaks and salmon steaks by using the broil function on my cheap Black and Decker toaster oven. My new acquisition of a GE convection toaster oven from the Goodwill store has enabled me to cook even more things because it's bigger and can fit a pizza pan. As long as you can control whether the heat comes from the top, bottom, or both, you can make a great variety of tasty things in whatever kind of toaster oven you own. Since there is less space in the oven, it takes less time to pre-heat (sometimes no pre-heating is required). The toaster oven is perfect for students because it takes less space, saves time and money, and does most of what a regular oven does.

Oven basics
For those of you who don't know the difference between broiling and baking, it's basically about which heating coils are being turned on. If you want only the top coils to be on, choose the broil function. Toasting is when both the top and bottom coils are on. Baking is usually when the bottom coils are hotter than the top coils. It might vary from brand to brand so check your manual. I used to have a Bella Cucina toaster oven that made things very simple - the dial had only 3 settings (top, bottom, or both). For most toaster ovens:

When the heat comes mainly from the bottom, your pie crust will get more heat than the top. This is a great thing because your topping would most likely burn if this were not the case. The top coils might be on but the bottom coils will be hotter.

This is the setting for a very quick searing of the top of your food. Only the top coils will be on. In case you don't have a mini torch around the house (really, who does?), the broil function is what you can use to make the top crust of a creme brulee.

Toasting (or all coils on!)
This is the fastest setting because both the top and bottom coils are on. This setting is good for toasting your bread or bagels and reheating food. Be careful with this one because you might burn your food if you're not careful about setting the right temperature. To prevent accidental burning, you might want to wrap your food in aluminum foil.

Convection toaster ovens
This is a relatively new thing in the toaster oven world. Convection ovens have a fan that blows the air around while the oven is on so that your food cooks more evenly. If you've ever baked anything that came out uneven, it's because most ovens are not the same temperature in all spots. The fan evens out the temperature in a convection oven.

Now that we have the basic ideas of how the toaster oven works, let's make some food! The first thing I'm going to show you is how to bake bread. In subsequent posts, I'll show you more recipes that you might not consider doing with a toaster oven. After a while, you might end up using the shelves in your regular oven as extra storage space because you'll be doing most of your cooking in the toaster oven!

Ok, so let's get back to the bread. Most bread recipes include yeast (1 or 2 tsp), flour (about 3 cups), sugar (about 1/4 cup), salt (1/2 to 1 tsp), and water (about a cup). These are the basic ingredients and you could use the same ingredients and approximate measurements for making 2 balls of pizza dough. If you eat a lot of bread, go get a bread machine from the Goodwill for about $8 and use the mixing function to mix your dough. That will save you a lot of time and energy. Then, put the dough in a bread pan (or any pan) to let it rise. When it's big enough, set the toaster oven to the bake function at about 325-350F for 30 minutes and go away. When the timer dings, check the bread by tapping it. If it sounds hollow, you're done. If it's not done, bake it for another 10 to 15 minutes. When it's done, let it rest for about 20 to 30 minutes before cutting into it. Here's a video of my "new" GE toaster oven from the Goodwill store:

This video has been featured on other websites such as Large Toaster Oven and Bravetti Toaster Oven.


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  2. Our's help you to find a standard toaster.Pick a toaster oven with a digital touchpad get a handle on if simple washing is very important to you.Electric touchpads tend to be simpler to help keep clear than knobs,as they are level and haven't any lines to gather debris. Additionally they provide more accurate options than dials.