Toaster vs Toaster Oven: What’s the Difference? Your Questions Answered

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There are so many different foods which arguably taste better when they are toasted. From bread to muffins to bagels to waffles, these foods are nowhere near as good when they haven’t spent a few minutes in a toaster or a toaster oven. 

While you can’t argue that these foods taste better untoasted, there is a huge argument surrounding toasters and toaster ovens.

For such a long time toasters have been the go-to appliance when you want to toast some bread or a bagel, but they now have a rival, and that is the toaster oven. 

This debate really does divide the nation. Some people love their toaster, and others love their toaster oven, while most people seem to be under the impression that there isn’t a difference between the two.

There is a difference between these two devices, and we’ll be taking a look at that in this guide. So if you want to find out more about these devices then keep on reading. 

Are Toasters and Toaster Ovens the Same Thing?

Before we go any further, let’s make it clear that toasters and toaster ovens are not the same thing. These devices may have similar names, and they may appear to do seemingly similar jobs, but they are actually very different from one another. They are as different as an air fryer, convection oven, and microwave oven.

Some of the jobs that these devices complete are the same as each other, but there are a lot of functions which a toaster oven can complete that a toaster simply cannot.

So now that we have established that these are two very different devices, let’s take a look at what it is that makes these devices different from each other. 

What is a Toaster?

First let’s take a look at the good, old, trusty toaster. This device was first created in the late 19th century in Scotland, United Kingdom and is the oldest kitchen appliance after a heating element and electric oven.

From its early days, the toaster has always been powered by electricity, and it quickly became popular across Britain. Early models of the toaster only had the ability to toast one side of the bread at a time, so it required you to flip your bread halfway through the process.

But it wasn’t long until a toaster that could toast both sides of bread simultaneously was created, and since then the changes to this device have been minimal. 

Toasters have a very basic design, with only one real variation: 2 slices or 4 slices. Even though these are the only real variations between the devices, toasters are available in a wide range of materials, colors, and prices, allowing you to buy one that suits you.

Toasters tend to come with a few different heating settings, but specific heats are not given, usually you will just find a dial ranging from 1-5. The lower the setting, the quicker that the toaster will toast your bread, or whatever else you want to put in the toaster. You can have a convection toaster though.

So toasters are a very simple device, but what about the toaster oven? Let’s have a look. 

What is a Toaster Oven?

Now, let’s take a look at the toaster oven. These devices are often viewed as the modern counterpart of the traditional toaster, but the toaster oven was actually first invented in 1910 by a scientist working for Westinghouse Electrical Company. 

Toasters have a very basic design, but toaster ovens are seemingly a lot more advanced. To start with, there are two different variations of toaster ovens which you can get: countertop and mounted toaster ovens.

Countertop toaster ovens are free-standing and can be moved about on top of the kitchen counters. Whereas mounted toaster ovens are generally mounted in cabinets and cannot move once they have been installed. 

Just like toasters, toaster ovens are available in lots of different colors, materials, sizes, and prices, giving you a wide range to choose from. But they also come with a lot of features which you would never find on a toaster, such as a grilling feature or a defrosting feature.

Due to these additional features, toaster ovens generally come with a lot more dials and controls which you can alter depending on what you are using the toaster oven for. The are some similarities to the conventional oven in the regard and you can have a convection toaster oven.

We’ve touched on some of the differences between these two devices, but let’s take a deeper look at what these are. 

What is the Difference between a Toaster and Toaster Oven?

Just by looking at the toaster and the toaster oven, it is clear that these are two very different devices. But what exactly is it that makes them so different from one another?

Let’s take an in depth look at some of the key differences between these kitchen appliances to establish exactly why a toaster and a toaster oven are not the same thing. 

Size

One of the biggest differences that you will notice between toasters and toaster ovens straight away is their size. Toaster ovens are generally small devices, whereas toaster ovens are considerably larger.

The main reason for this obvious difference in size is the functions that a toaster oven can do that a toaster oven cannot, so let’s have a look at what they are. 

Toasters have one function, and that is to toast things. They might be able to toast things to different speeds, but all they can do is toast things. Whereas toaster ovens have the ability to toast things, but can also do a lot more on top of that. You can cook frozen pizza, toast a bread slice, etc.

Toaster ovens are a lot more advanced than toasters. Instead of just being able to toast things, you can use your toaster oven to reheat food from the day before, defrost things that have been frozen, and even bake and broil food. 

Not all toaster ovens come with all of these functions, but you will find that a lot of them do have a number of functions similar to this. This is the main reason why a toaster oven is more commonly compared to an oven than a toaster.

So you may notice size as one of the main differences, but this difference is just the surface of a whole load of things that differ between toasters and toaster ovens. 

Temperature

Another major difference between the toaster and the toaster oven is the temperatures that they are able to achieve.

As well as the temperatures that they are able to achieve, the actual temperature settings themselves are very different on toaster compared to toaster ovens, so let’s have a look why. 

As we mentioned earlier, the settings on a toaster are very basic. Some toasters are so basic that they do not even have an on/off switch, instead they simply turn themselves on when they are plugged into an electrical outlet.

But even the more advanced toasters are still fairly basic, with the majority simply having a dial to adjust to different heat settings. These heat settings will not be given a specific temperature, instead they are simply numbered, with the lower numbers generally meaning that your food will toast quicker.

Toaster ovens, on the other hand, are a lot more advanced. These devices come with specific temperature settings allowing you to alter the temperature to exactly what you need for the food that you are cooking.

Toaster ovens are able to offer so many different functions because you can achieve very precise temperatures and timings with these devices. So even though toasters are great, they are a lot more basic than toaster ovens when it comes to temperatures. 

Speed

The final major difference that you will find between toasters and toaster ovens is the speed at which they can toast things.

Toaster ovens may offer a lot of functions and features which toasters cannot, but if you strip this device back to its most basic function, then the toaster definitely comes out on top.

Toaster ovens are excellent because they allow you to cook lots of things, but when it comes to toasting things they can not compare to the toaster. Of course, toaster ovens are capable of toasting food, but they are very slow.

This is mainly because they are designed to adhere to specific temperatures, and so it takes them a little longer to reach the ‘toasting’ temperature. Whereas the much more basic design of a regular toaster allows them to heat up a lot quicker. 

However, just because toasters can heat up quicker doesn’t mean that they are always better. Anyone who has ever used a toaster will know that you will often find that the toaster has heated up too quickly which has left your bread burnt.

So even though toasters are able to toast things a lot quicker than toaster ovens, you never really need to worry about your toast burning in a toaster oven. Due to this, it is difficult to say which is the best, but toasters are definitely faster. 

Toaster: Pros vs Cons

To help you decide which is the best for you, we’ve put together this quick list of pros and cons for toasters. 

PROS CONS
Available in lots of styles and color patterns You can only toast things with this device, nothing else
Does the job quickly and can make up to 4 pieces of toast in just a couple of minutes You can only toast 2-4 pieces of bread at any one time
Small and lightweight meaning it does not take up unnecessary room in your kitchen Temperatures are not precise, so there is always the chance that your bread may burn
Can be used to toast bread, waffles, bagels and lots more   

Toaster Oven: Pros vs Cons

Similarly, to help you decide if a toaster oven is the right choice for you, we’ve put together this table to help you decide. 

PROS CONS
Includes lots of functions such as toasting, broiling, defrosting, etc. Take longer to heat up than toasters, so you will have to wait 
Very precise temperatures so your toast will not burn Large design means they take up room in your kitchen
Come with timers, so you know when your food is ready  Some models can not be moved once they have been installed
Available in lots of colors and designs   

Other Things to Consider

We’ve outlined some of the main differences between toasters and toaster ovens above, but there are some other differences between the two that you need to consider.

The things that we looked at earlier were just general differences between the two appliances, but there are some other things that you should consider if you are torn between purchasing a toaster or a toaster oven. 

Electrical Efficiency 

Something that is often a hugely influential factor for people considering buying electrical appliances is efficiency. Electric can be very expensive, so before they purchase a device a lot of people want to know how much it is going to cost them to operate it. 

It is a common misconception that toasters should be more efficient on electricity than toaster ovens as they have fewer functions. But in reality, most toasters will actually use the same amount of energy as a toaster oven. 

Toasters generally use between 800-1500 Watts when they are used, averaging out at approximately 1,200 Watts. The majority of toaster ovens also have an operating power of 1,200 Watts.

So if you were to use a toaster and a toaster oven for the exact same amount of time then you will use the same amount of electricity, even though toaster ovens come with so many additional features. 

However, remember that we are just speaking generally here. If you specifically wanted a toaster or a toaster oven that uses a low amount of electricity then you will probably be able to find one to fit your needs.

But, out of the two, neither is necessarily more efficient as they use a similar amount of electricity when used for the same amount of time as each other. 

Safety

Another thing that you might want to consider before choosing either a toaster or a toaster oven is safety, as this is another area where the two devices differ from each other.

Obviously, both devices are perfectly safe to use otherwise you wouldn’t be able to purchase them as easily as you can. But there are some features which make one a little safer than the other. 

If you wanted to argue it, then the toaster is safer than the toaster oven. This is mainly because the toaster oven has a lot more features and functions which increases the risk of something going wrong and could potentially make it more dangerous.

The fact that it has these additional features also increases the risk of burns, fire, electrical shocks, and explosions. However, this shouldn’t put you off of buying a toaster oven as a lot of electrical devices have these same risks. 

In fact, even though the toaster has a lot fewer functions than a toaster oven, it also has some risks that are similar to that of a toaster oven. In particular, toasters are prone to overheating which could result in burns if you do not handle them properly and leave them to cool down after use.

Always make sure you empty the crumb tray after toasting bread or whatever. A removable crumb tray is an essential safety feature as the crumbs can catch on fire if not removed.

So it is important to consider safety when buying either a toaster or a toaster oven, but remember that all electrical appliances come with safety risks. 

Functions and Cooking Features

We’ve briefly touched on this multiple times throughout this guide, but let’s finally take a deep look at the differences in cooking features and functions between the toaster and the toaster oven. 

We have already covered the full extent of a toaster’s abilities. These devices can toast a variety of foods, but that is as far as their capabilities go.

Everything tastes better when it is toasted, but it does limit the amount of things that you can cook in the toaster as the majority of things that you can toast have to be precooked.

Whereas toaster ovens have a lot of additional cooking features which allow you to cook a lot of different foods in them. 

Toaster ovens are so popular because of how versatile they are. Not only are they versatile, but they actually combine a lot of different kitchen appliances into one device, including the microwave, toaster and even the oven.

So not only can you toast things in these devices, but you can also bake things such as cookies and cakes. They can even be used to roast a whole chicken and vegetables for a roast dinner, which in a way kind of removes the need for your actual oven. 

But toaster ovens are limited in what they can cook by their size. So while you may be able to cook a small chicken in it, you would struggle to fit any cut of meat larger than this into the toaster oven.

This is probably one of the few reasons why a lot of people have both a toaster oven and a regular oven, rather than just having a toaster oven in their kitchen. So you can cook a lot of things in a toaster oven, but this doesn’t remove the need for your other kitchen appliances. 

Toaster Oven vs Regular Oven

Finally, let’s discuss the differences between a toaster oven and a regular oven. We touched on this briefly in the last point, but let’s take a deeper look at the differences between these two appliances. 

If you compare the toaster to a regular oven there really is no competition, the oven is objectively better than the toaster, and they aren’t even really in the same category as one another.

The oven can cook food in a variety of different ways, whereas the toaster is pretty much limited to reheating food that has already been cooked, and toasting it in the process. 

But if you compare the toaster oven to the regular oven then there genuinely is some room for competition. This is mainly because the toaster oven is able to complete a lot of the jobs which a regular oven can, and is also able to complete some functions which a regular oven cannot.

Just like a regular oven a toaster oven can cook foods, bake sweet treats, and reheat food, but it also comes with the ability to defrost food and toast food as well. 

There are lots of things that you can cook in a toaster oven that you would traditionally cook in a regular oven. But the size of a toaster oven really limits what you can cook which is the main reason why people choose to have both a toaster oven and a regular oven, rather than just a toaster oven. 

Summary

In short, the main difference between a toaster and a toaster oven is the fact that a toaster oven has lots of functions for cooking foods, whereas a toaster can simply cook food and that is it.

There are lots of other minor differences between the two, but this is the main thing that sways people to buying one over the other.

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Cassie brings decades of experience to the Kitchen Community.
She is a noted chef and avid gardener. Her new book "Healthy Eating Through the Garden" will be released shortly. When not writing or speaking about food and gardens Cassie can be found puttering around farmer's markets and greenhouses looking for the next great idea.
Cassie Marshall
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