Green Kitchen: Try a Convection Toaster Oven

10_28_08_ovens_vs.jpgIt seems like even the tiniest drop in temperatures sends us into the kitchen with the oven blasting full-force for cookies, casseroles, pizza, and the like. In our household, we cook for two humans and sometimes the dog. So a full-size oven that can handle a 25-pound Thanksgiving turkey, while a nice option, seems like too much power when it's baked potato night (and we don't usually turn to nuking things).

Enter the magical countertop-sized, energy-efficient convection toaster oven. Do you have one of these? We just bought one over the weekend...

We've been wanting to try one of these ever since our regular toaster oven went kaput. The miniature convection oven is actually large enough to bake a medium-sized casserole, a loaf of bread, or a 12-inch pizza—and it uses much less energy for two reasons.

First of all, it's smaller than a conventional oven. It takes less oomph to turn it on, less time to heat up, and wastes less energy when baking smaller portions. In that sense, it's a no-brainer: why use the entire oven heated at 400 for one or two portions of food when you can accomplish the same task in less time on your countertop?

But secondly, convection ovens have special powers. Instead of radiating heat from coils on the bottom, like a standard oven (and therefore risking that the left side of that must-be-perfect-cake cooks differently than the right side), a convection oven of any size circulates hot air with a fan.

This means that food is cooked more quickly and evenly...and that saves time, energy, and frustration. This is what commercial kitchens, chefs, and know-better home cooks have done for a while, but now the technology is affordable for those of us on budgets and small enough to squeeze into apartment living. Bet you just opened up a new tab to find the best deal, didn't you?

A new Target opened up in our area, and we purchased the Oster galvanized steel convection toaster oven for $45 during their new store sale. You might check at Linens 'N Things before they go out of business. Friends have said that a good price to pay is anywhere between $60 and $90.

Photos via sxc.hu (oven) and Target.com (Oster Toaster Convection Oven).

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