A toaster oven is one of the most convenient pieces of equipment you can have in your kitchen if you're a fan of baking who doesn't use a regular-sized oven often.
If you're looking into getting a toaster oven, you'll want to understand the difference between convection and conventional heating. There are both convection and non-convection toaster ovens, so it's essential to understand the difference between the two heating options before deciding to invest in this must-have kitchen appliance.
The following sections will cover the key differences between convection ovens and conventional ovens, the different types of toaster ovens, how to tell if a toaster oven is convection or non-convection, and some pros and cons of the different types of toaster ovens.
The crucial difference between convection and conventional ovens is the difference in heat consistency. A convection oven offers the most consistent heat when cooking. When you make use of the convection setting in your toaster oven, it uses fans to regulate the heat to cook your food in a more uniform environment. The convection fan allows the oven to keep moving the heat around the interior, creating an even cooking experience that a conventional oven cannot duplicate.
A Convection Oven Uses a Fan to Circulate Hot Air - Ensuring Consistent Temperatures Throughout the Oven
A conventional oven's heat comes from a heating coil at the base of the oven which heats the air, and the hot air moves upward. Without fans to keep the heat flowing, it's much more difficult for this type of oven to have heat reach every area of its interior, which is sometimes an issue because it means certain areas are warmer or cooler.
Consistency is vital when baking at all stages, which is a significant reason why some people heavily prefer convection ovens over conventional ovens. It's also a reason that makes air fryers very popular, as air fryers also use convection style heating to create that crispiness that people often associate with fried foods.
Despite this, conventional ovens are by no means bad options. Many people use them and find ways to navigate the heating inconsistency issue by adjusting the orientation of whatever they're baking to help it cook evenly. Conventional ovens also have the benefit of being cheaper than their convection counterparts.
However, most convection ovens come with an option to disable the fans that circulate the heat. In doing this, you'll essentially turn the convection oven into a conventional oven, and this flexibility is another aspect that incentivizes people to choose convection ovens over conventional ovens.
Concerning the different types of toaster ovens, convection and non-convection are the main two types to pay attention to. The overall heating element has a more significant effect on the cooking experience than any other, as it's more or less the same in toaster ovens as in regular ovens.
A countertop convection toaster oven uses fans in addition to radiant heat and conduction. By doing this, it heats up to the set temperature quickly and provides circulation to prevent the hot pockets of air that can form from heat sitting in one spot for too long. Like when you air fry something, fans that create better air circulation allow you to get crispier skin on meat during the convection cooking process by reducing moisture.
The Cuisinart Air Fryer Toaster Oven Has Both Conventional and Convection Heating Options
The cooking time is also reduced versus a regular toaster oven. The heat is moving around your food on all sides, expediting the overall cooking process.
For an even more air-focused option, you may want to consider air fryer toaster ovens. These devices combine the best aspects of convection toaster ovens and air fryers, like the COSORI Air Fryer Toaster Oven.
When cooking with a convection toaster oven or air fryer toaster oven, you must be mindful of the lack of moisture that will come with the cooking process. While the amount of air circulation these appliances use is good for crisping the skin on meat, when it comes to baked goods, it can potentially dry out your pies, cakes, and other baked foods.
A Standard Toaster Oven Uses Radiant Heat and Lacks Air Circulation (Unlike a Convection Toaster Oven)
This downside is why it's advisable to get a toaster oven with an option to turn off its fans, as that makes it easier to cook certain things without taking out all the moisture and leaving them dry. Alternatively, the popularity of air fryers and convection toaster ovens has led to many tailor-made recipes for baking with these appliances.
You may not get the same results with a convection toaster oven that you'd get with regular-sized convection or conventional ovens, but the differences are not that substantial. Anything you can make in a regular-sized oven can also work in a toaster oven so long as you make the right tweaks.
Due to their lack of fans, a non convection toaster oven relies on the radiant heat that it creates. This means they have the same issue of inconsistent heating that conventional ovens suffer from - although this issue isn't as pronounced. Due the smaller size of a toaster oven versus a traditional oven, the hot air is more evenly distributed. This makes it easier for the heating elements inside to bake food evenly.
Still, non-convection toaster ovens take longer to heat up and don't do nearly as great a job eliminating moisture as convection toaster ovens. This makes them less desirable if you're a fan of crispiness, and there are no great ways to get around this issue besides getting a convection oven or air fryer.
In addition to not having air circulation, a non-convection toaster oven's lack of fans allows it to have a smaller size than a convection toaster oven. This is particularly useful for fitting the toaster oven in a kitchen that has limited space. However, it also means you won't have as much interior space in the oven to cook certain foods.
While the downsides of a non-convection toaster oven are considerable in certain aspects, they aren't major if you're not big on baking. Non-convection toaster ovens require less work to cook food properly because you don't have to manage air circulation that can quickly dry out certain foods.
In this way, they are more limited in what they can do, but that's not necessarily a downside if you want something simple. And suppose you're not looking to spend much money on a toaster oven. In that case, the non-convection toaster ovens tend to have lower prices than the convection ovens, making them a more attractive option for many people.
From the perspective of which have more features and more quality baking opportunities, convection toaster ovens have the edge over non-convection ovens. Non-convection ovens are still excellent, as, despite their cons, they still have many pros. The most significant two pros are ease of use and generally lower price.
When you're new or unfamiliar with baking in a general sense, a non-convection is handy if you want to test the waters. While conventional heating gets the job done well enough without you having to do much, we strongly recommend convection toaster ovens. They are superior for the reasons we went over above, especially if you want to get the most out of your baking.
They are more challenging to use, but the versatility they bring to the table is something that non-convection ovens cannot match. Once you learn the necessary adjustments for baking with convection heating, it's hard to return to conventional heat.
This is mainly because of a regular oven's heat limitations that arise unless you're cooking something that's specifically easier to cook with traditional heat.
Certain convection toaster ovens like the Cuisinart TOB-260N1 can also turn off the fans inside to replicate a more conventional oven baking experience. When you consider this, there's even less need for a non-convection toaster oven. The only instance where a non-convection may still be preferable to a convection oven is if you want a smaller toaster oven.
A convection toaster oven is worth investing in if you already have a regular-sized conventional oven. It'll provide an entirely new baking experience that you'll be able to explore, and you'll always have your conventional oven to fall back on.
In contrast, if you already have a regular-sized convection oven, you can still get a convection toaster oven. However, it's not as necessary because it'll be a miniature version of what you already have. Getting a toaster oven that uses conventional heating would be the better option, especially if your convection oven doesn't come with the feature to turn off its fans.
The better choice between convection and conventional toaster ovens will primarily come down to whichever one you currently lack in your kitchen. You'll also have to consider how much you value the benefits of convection heating compared to conventional heating.
The benefits aren't necessarily significant enough to always justify the higher prices of convection toaster ovens. Still, many baking lovers find the pros to outweigh the cons.
Regardless of whether you prefer convection or conventional heating, it's worth researching the types of convection and non-convection toaster ovens available. While they are all either convection or non-convection, many of them have additional features that can make them more desirable outside the heating method they use.
If you're uncertain where to start your search, you can check out the wide range of reviews to find convection or non-convection toaster ovens that are ideal for your needs.