There are two types of benchtop oven available, the compact or 'toaster' oven and the glass convection oven. The toaster oven is a mini version of a full-sized oven, while the glass convection oven is a big heat-resistant glass bowl with a lid that contains the heating element and fan. Both types bake, roast, grill and toast, and some even have a hotplate on top – all this at a fraction of the price of a full-sized oven. We explain the pro and cons of benchtop ovens and the features to look for.
Benchtop ovens are compact and may use slightly less energy than a full-sized oven, but their small size rules out big cooking jobs – so it's dinner for two at most. They get the job done, but when we tested them we found they aren't always the greatest at cooking. You can get some OK results through experimentation, however.
A typical convection microwave oven (or even just a microwave oven with grill element), offers more options and better cooking than a benchtop oven. However convection microwaves are generally larger and more expensive – starting at about $500, but typically priced at $800 or more.
- Capacity: Is the oven big enough to fit my cookware, but small enough to fit my bench space?
- Controls: Are the controls clearly labelled and easy to press, grip or turn?
- Racks: How many racks does it have and are there reversible racks for extra height options?
- Accessories: Which accessories does it come with, and do these suit my needs? E.g. pizza tray, roasting tray and rotisserie for compact ovens and air fryer insert, rack tongs and lid holder for glass ovens
- Cleaning: Is the interior non-stick or ceramic with few crevices and are the trays dishwasher-friendly?
Door glass temperatures can reach from 75°C to 99°C, and the rear of the oven can get even hotter (up to 168°C in one case we've seen), so be cautious and leave clearance around the oven for air circulation. Be careful of touching the oven during or after use and don't leave anything on or near the oven that could be damaged by high heat. On a positive note, for the models we've tested, the handles and controls all remained cool enough to touch safely.
Toaster ovens and glass convection ovens start at $39 and go to $500 or more.