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Choosing a Countertop Convection Oven

Q. I’m thinking of purchasing a countertop convection oven. I’ve read several articles on the subject, but still don’t know enough about it to make a purchase. Can you steer me in the right direction in terms of what to buy? Will a countertop convection oven do the same thing a toaster oven does? Will it give pizza a crispy crust?

—bigfoot01, via FineCooking.com’s CooksTalk forum

A. I bought a large countertop convection oven when I was asked to write a toaster oven cookbook. I was so used to cooking in a regular oven that I challenged myself to make similar dishes in the countertop version. These smaller ovens have a reputation for just making toast and sandwiches, but I was amazed at the results and the versatility of the countertop oven.
 
It is important to think of the countertop model as a real oven and not just an accessory. I’ve found that the convection feature works very well on most models. Pizzas do get a crispy crust, and the skin on roast chicken also crisps nicely. I also use it for small meat roasts, meatloaf, casseroles, and small baked goods.

When looking for a countertop oven, make sure it is big enough for the dishes you have in mind for it. Measure a couple of your favorite baking dishes and be sure they fit in the oven you are considering. Most ovens come with a baking sheet, but I’ve found a couple of extra ones come in handy. It is important when using any convection oven to allow sufficient space for air to circulate, so be sure there is space on both sides of any dish or baking sheet.

Toaster ovens are available conventional, and with convection, and if you have a choice, you should get one with the convection feature.

For more details on cooking with convection, read Susie Middleton’s Better Cooking Through Convection, visit our special section In the Kitchen, and watch a video detailing how convection ovens work.
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