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May 17, 2009 03:07 PM

Decoding Toaster Ovens

I bought a Kenmore toaster oven that has convection. It has four modes--bake, broil, toast, and pizza. The broil function is like a regular oven, i.e., only the top element heats, but during the bake function both elements--upper and lower--are on. Therefore, unlike a regular oven, where only the bottom flame is on during the bake function, the toaster oven has both elements on and therefore the food being baked gets charred on the top. The "pizza" function is a complete mystery--both elements are also on--but since I will never eat a frozen pizza, which is what it is apparently designed for, I pretty much ignore it.

The question is, is this odd "bake" configuration--where both elements are on--endemic to toaster ovens, or do I just have a wierd model?

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  1. Are you allowing the unit to pre heat first?

    2 Replies
      1. re: BMartin

        I tried pre-heating. The top heating element still goes on in the bake function after the pre-heating. I'm still confused,

    1. This is an old thread, but in case BMartin is still reading, and it's still a problem:

      I just looked at customer comments on the Sears web site, and there are lots of complaints similar to yours. it may just be that the Kenmore toaster oven is poorly designed:

      More generally, Lois DeWitt's "Pop It in the Toaster Oven" has this to say about toaster oven baking:

      "For top performance, preheat the toaster oven for 5-10 minutes. Avoid opening the oven door frequently while cooking, to avoid heat loss. Baking heat should be even. If the muffins on one side of the tin are browned and those on the other side are not, there could be a problem with the elements. Of course toaster oven models vary and so do their baking times. It might be necessary to adjust the baking time...for your toaster oven. If the variation is more than 5-10 minutes, the elements of your toaster oven may be malfunctioning. Most toaster oven manuals have a basic index for cooking times that you can use as a gauge to determine whether the elements are in good working order."

      1 Reply
      1. re: armagnac

        I am still reading. Thanks. There are work arounds on this Kenmore that I have used so I am happy with it. But the instructions are dreadful. It is unmatched for roasting asparagus.

      2. Not that odd - the Breville Smart Oven has nine different modes, each of which employs different combinations of heating elements (it has three top elements and two bottom ones). Some modes cycle different elements on and off, others use only certain elements but leave them on. They all work quite well for their respective functions.

        In addition to the four you cite it has Bagel (like toast but with an emphasis on top browning more than bottom), Reheat, Roast (similar to Bake but leaves off the top middle element), Warm, and Cookies. Most of these can be used with or without convection.

        It sounds complicated but actually turns out to be quite easy to use, since for each of the nine modes, it "remembers" the setting you chose last time and defaults to it.

        4 Replies
          1. re: BobB

            Bought a Breville Smart Oven on Craigs list. $200 new in box, never been opened. I have had a number of toaster ovens over the years and the Breville is by far the best oven I have ever had. I bake in it, broil , toast and reheat. It has never dissapointed me. Pretty pricey but I think it will be the last toaster oven I buy.

            1. re: Raymondo

              I'm sorry I didn't buy one originally--I had never heard of themn until BobB mentioned them above.

              1. re: BMartin

                I had never heard of Breville myself until my old Black & Decker died and I started researching them. It's not only well built and a great performer, it's also slightly larger than your standard toaster oven so it can handle a lot of tasks for which we might have used a full-sized oven, especially when cooking just for two. It comes with a 12" x 12" broiler pan and a 13" round pizza pan which are also solidly made, not the tinny junk pans that you usually get with toaster ovens.