Convection vs. Steam vs. Infrared
Today’s countertop ovens are engineered to do a heck of a lot more than just toast. They are designed to hopefully allow you to replace some of what you use your full sized oven for, but in a smaller, more convenient and better energy efficient size. There are a variety of different cooking technologies found in newer toaster ovens that allow you achieve great results in less time. Some of these include the use of convection baking, steam and infrared light. These have been used in commercial ovens for awhile, and they are now becoming more and more prevalent in ovens made for home kitchens.
What Is A Convection Oven?
A convection toaster oven is one that includes a fan for hot air circulation. While food is cooking a small fan inside of the oven blows and distributes heat around the interior. This has two distinct effects on the cooking process. First, it helps ensure food is cooked evenly on all sides. Food is baked, browned or seared, depending on the settings, consistently so that no one side is over or under done. This can produce a juicy and well done finished dish. Secondly, with evenly and concentrated heat, cooking times can be drastically reduced. This may take some time to get used to, as some recipes may have to be adjusted. But the time saved in the long run can really make this into a useful advantage.
There are quite a few convection countertop toaster ovens on our list with one of the most popular and highly rated ones being the Breville Large Smart Oven. Breville really put a lot of effort and thought into the design of their new toaster ovens, and it has really seemed to pay off. Owners have been very impressed with convection cooking aspect of this machine.
This form of cooking is probably the one most familiar to a lot of people. Water is heated up to its boiling point and the hot steam that is produced is used to cook the food. Some of you might have pressure cookers that make use of steam to cook foods like rice and vegetables. Steam can also be used in toaster ovens although the availability of this in toaster ovens is limited.
We do not currently have any models on our top 10 list that have a steaming feature, but one of the newer toaster ovens that does steaming is the Cuisinart CSO-300 Steam/Convection Oven. As a toaster and convection oven, this unit does not really stand out, however, the steaming function is where this oven really makes its name. It works great on foods that you would normally wanted steamed like vegetables, rice and even some frozen dinners.
Infrared Light Technology
This method of cooking uses light energy to heat up and cook food and it is a similar technologically speaking to microwave cooking. One distinct advantage of this form of cooking is speed. An oven that uses infrared light to cook food almost requires no preheating and the intense light drastically cuts down on cooking times. One of the drawbacks of this method of heating food is that it can get really hot. It may be great for toasting and reheating but cooking delicate foods such as fish might not produce desired results.
There is one toaster oven on our list that uses infrared light to cook and that is the Panasonic Flash Xpress. If you prepare a fair amount of toast, bagels, frozen dinners and pizza, then this a great choice for a countertop oven. Owners rate this very high for these tasks. For other forms of cooking and baking this oven is not a top performer and their are other ovens on our list that will do a much better job.
As you can see, there is more than one way to heat and prepare food in today’s toaster ovens. Convection seems to be the most popular feature in today’s newer models because of its versatility and its effectiveness in a small countertop oven. If you are looking for a second oven or something that can replace a lot of the tasks that you use your regular sized oven for, then this is probably the safest direction to go.
Here is a great video demonstrating the advantages of using a convection oven. The video compares the use of a full sized oven, but the technology is basically the same for a convection toaster oven.