By Louis DeNicola, Cheapism.com
Ding! It could be the sound of hot holiday leftovers or breakfast toast to accompany your eggs. With a good toaster oven in the kitchen, you can save the energy and time it takes to heat up a full-size oven. On the high end are toaster ovens that can replace a conventional oven for most tasks, but those models can also cost hundreds of dollars. On the low end are too many toaster ovens that can't seem to toast a piece of bread properly and take as long to warm up as a regular oven. In a quest for a perfectly browned middle ground, Cheapism found four models between $20 and $40 that don't impress every last user but perform well for the price.
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- The Black & Decker TRO480 (starting at $28) has all the basics a consumer could want. It's large enough to fit four pieces of bread and has a removable tray that slides out for easy disposal of crumbs. A timer goes up to 30 minutes, or you can set the oven to stay on until you turn it off manually. This model boasts keep-warm and bagel settings in addition to the usual toast, bake, broil. Reviewers posting feedback online report success making everything from toast to cupcakes.
- The Proctor Silex 31116Y and 31118Y (starting at $25) are four-slice toaster ovens available in white and black, respectively. According to online reviews, consumers have found that these models toast and bake at least as well as expected, given the price. A timer turns off the toaster oven automatically and tops out at 15 minutes, although the stay-on option lets you cook something longer. The crumb tray drops down on a hinge instead of sliding all the way out.
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- The Hamilton Beach 31508 (starting at $37) is larger than the other models on this list. It fits up to six pieces of bread and toasts them consistently, consumers say in reviews posted online. Several reviewers praise this toaster oven's baking and broiling capabilities as well. It has a slide-out tray for easy removal of crumbs and a 30-minute timer.
- The Hamilton Beach Toastation 22708 (starting at $37) has a versatile and unusual two-in-one design that combines a toaster oven and a pop-up toaster. The narrow profile doesn't take up much counter space but also doesn't leave room for a full pizza, cake, or roast like other models in this price range. The dials are basic: one to control the two-slice toaster and one to control the oven temperature. This unit has a drop-down crumb tray.
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A toaster oven can make a useful addition to a kitchen, particularly with certain convenient features. A fully removable crumb tray can make cleaning easier and a higher capacity can feed more people at once, although reviews often criticize the scant space inside toaster ovens. Manufacturer specs typically list the exterior dimensions rather than the interior volume, so consider checking out a unit in person, if possible, before buying.
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