By Brendan Nystedt
This post was done in partnership with The Sweethome, a buyer’s guide to the best homewares. When readers choose to buy The Sweethome’s independently chosen editorial picks, it may earn affiliate commissions that support its work. Read the full article here.
After more than 50 hours of research and testing—and making stacks and stacks of toasted white bread, mini pizza bagels, and cookies—we think the Panasonic FlashXpress toaster oven is the best for most people. This model performed as well as (or better than) models that cost twice as much. Its compact size takes up less space on a counter, yet its interior is still large enough to comfortably reheat leftovers and frozen snacks.
Who should get this
A toaster oven is a great multipurpose small appliance that lets you toast bread and bake and reheat foods without firing up your full-sized oven. A compact one works well when you’re making single-serving meals and snacks or if your rental has a tiny kitchen with an oven that doesn’t work well (or is missing altogether). Looking for regular old toasters? We have picks for those, too.
How we picked and tested
Photo: Michael Hession
We looked for toaster ovens that were easy to use, reliable, quick, great at toasting bread and baking cookies, and available for between $25 and $270. A Sweethome survey revealed that most of our respondents wanted to cook leftovers, pizza, and convenience foods like Hot Pockets, so we looked for a model with enough capacity for those jobs that wasn’t too big. Our pick would ideally take up very little counter space in the type of tiny kitchen you find in small studio apartments or a mother-in-law unit.
Our heat-map test results from five of the better ovens we looked at. Photo: Katie Hausenbauer-Koster
We put seven toasters through a battery of tests with three tasters in our New York City test kitchen. First, for our toast test, we filled each toaster with as many slices of basic white bread as we could. For consistency, we set each machine to the medium shade setting and used the toasted results to create a heat map. This showed us any hot spots, as well as how each one performed as a toaster.
In the five models we thought had the most promise after the heat-map toast test, we also ran a bonus round of testing on boneless, skinless chicken thighs to test each oven’s broil mode (except the Panasonic FlashXpress, which doesn’t have one). The results were disappointing on every single model, so don’t expect much from this feature, even if the oven can roast and bake with no problem.
The compact Panasonic FlashXpress excels at basic tasks like toasting bread, reheating pizza slices, and cooking bite-size snacks. Photo: Brendan Nystedt
We recommend the Panasonic FlashXpress for its strong baking performance, compact size, and reasonable price. It cooked toast and other foods to an even, lovely golden-brown better than most other models we tried, and its toast shade settings were among the most accurate we tested. For a relatively low price, the FlashXpress stands out from a crowded pack of mediocre, cheap models, offering performance and features we found comparable to toaster ovens that are larger and double the cost.
Bread toasted on the medium setting came out beautifully golden brown without any scorching or charring. Only one other toaster oven we tested was able to toast bread as impressively—the Cuisinart TOB-260N1. Other models we tested, such as the KitchenAid KCO273SS, toasted bread unevenly, with extreme light and dark patches. The Panasonic FlashXpress was the only toaster oven we tested that had both quartz and ceramic infrared heating elements, which consistently produced evenly browned toast batch after batch. For more on different heating elements, check out our full guide.
Low heat—and a lack of color—on the two pieces of bread we put in the front of the oven. Photo: Katie Hausenbauer-Koster
When mapping the Panasonic’s internal heat distribution, we found a 1-inch margin right behind the door where the toast didn’t brown well. Because you can’t fit full slices of bread in that space anyway, it’s not a huge deal (just remember to push your bread all the way to the back of the oven rack). However, it did affect other foods that were in that zone. Though Bagel Bites and cookies placed in the cool area were thoroughly cooked, they weren’t as pleasantly browned. However, similar problems were common in many of the ovens we tested.
A pricier, medium-sized toaster oven
The roomier Breville Smart Oven is our runner-up pick. Photo: Michael Hession.
If you need a larger toaster oven than our main pick, we recommend the Breville Smart Oven. This model did well across the board in our tests, evenly toasting bread almost as well as our upgrade pick, the Cuisinart TOB-260N1. Though it’s pricier than our main pick, the Breville Smart Oven has a more modern, intuitive interface and an easy-to-read display.
This model doesn’t have an internal light, but it turned out consistent results batch after batch.
A large toaster oven with more accessories
Our upgrade pick, the Cuisinart TOB-260N1, is large enough to fit nine pieces of bread. Photo: Brendan Nystedt
If you want your toaster oven to cook nine slices of toast at once, the big, versatile Cuisinart TOB-260N1 convection toaster oven is the best that we found. The Cuisinart TOB-260N1 is a different beast entirely than the Panasonic FlashXpress: It’s more than twice the price and almost twice the size, and its much bigger oven cavity can handle a wider variety of cooking tasks. Compared with all the other large toaster ovens we tested, this was the top performer by an impressive margin. When compared head-to-head with the Breville Smart Oven Pro, the Cuisinart TOB-260N1 cooked toast more evenly. It has a better warranty, more accessories, and a slightly bigger capacity to boot.
Note from The Sweethome: When readers choose to buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn affiliate commissions that support our work.