Ever since we read a post about oven energy and efficiency on our sister site Re-Nest, we had been yearning for a convection toaster oven. However, in a countertop-challenged kitchen, it wasn't something we could see fitting into our lives any time soon ... until we tried the Breville Smart Oven. This oven isn't small, but we're definitely finding a way to make room for it.
Countertop ovens are, of course, invaluable in kitchens without full-size ovens, but they can be useful for anyone who wants to conserve power and avoid firing up the main oven to cook small portions. It might not be an issue for most of us right now, but we can also imagine how nice it would be to roast vegetables or bake cookies in hot weather without heating up the whole room (or whole apartment and everyone in it, as is the case in our studio). And then there are all the great uses Sara Kate recently shared in 10 Best Uses for Your Toaster Oven – things like warming plates, toasting nuts, and defrosting frozen ingredients.
The Smart Oven – features and strong points
Having missed out on these advantages for so long, we were excited to start using Breville's Smart Oven. The Smart Oven is an 1800-watt oven with an optional convection setting. Within the sleek, stainless steel exterior is a 4/5-cubic-foot nonstick interior, five quartz heating elements, and three rack positions.
The oven has nine menu functions: Toast, Bagel, Bake, Roast, Broil, Pizza, Cookies, Reheat, and Warm. Each of these has preset temperatures and times, which are easy to adjust if desired. In fact, the functions, dials, and LCD screen are impressively streamlined and intuitive. (And for those of us who are aesthetically inclined, the absence of garish fonts, colors, and doodads on this oven is a breath of fresh air.)
We have played around with all of the settings, making toast, bagels, toasted nuts, roasted vegetables, roasted chicken, baked tofu, pizza, cake, and quick bread. Whether you select the convection option or not, the oven preheats quickly and cooks evenly. With the energy-efficient convection setting on, it also cooks more quickly. We have actually switched to using the Smart Oven for almost all of our toasting, roasting, baking, and heating needs.
The oven comes with a magnetic wire rack (which pulls out when the door is opened – very cool feature), two 12 x 12-inch baking and broiling pans, and a 13-inch non-stick pizza pan. There's also a removable crumb tray that makes cleanup easy.
We have only two criticisms of the oven. First, the digital timer alert is not as loud as we'd like. Since we have been using this for baking, we expected the beep to be more like that of a full-size oven and audible from another room. But this is really a minor issue, and we'll just rely on our portable timer.
Another possible drawback is the oven's size. It measures 18.5 x 12.5 x 10.75 inches, which might not be a problem if you have large/deep counters, but for small space dwellers, it isn't ideal. (At the same time, this oven's size is what makes it especially useful for baking and roasting a variety of dishes.) So where did we put it? On top of the fridge. We weren't sure whether this was a good idea at first, but fortunately heat has not been an issue.
Do any of you own the Smart Oven? What do you think?
• More information: The Smart Oven
• Buy it: Breville BOV800XL The Smart Oven, $245.65 at Amazon.com
Related: 10 Best Uses for Your Toaster Oven
(Images: 1: Breville, 2-5: Emily Ho)