I'm hardly the poster child for appliance care. My toaster oven has seen more fire than it has toast. But in spite of (or maybe because of) my kitchen shortcomings, I've become kind of a pro at getting a long life from my toaster oven. Just like its full-sized kitchen counterpart, your counter-top oven needs a little weekly, monthly and annual attention to keep it running smooth.
If you want your oven to keep chugging through all of your kitchen trials from Buffalo wings to Japanese mochi, you'll want to make sure you're dotting every "i" when it comes to toast oven maintenance.
1. Clean inside...
If you don't want your taco shells to take on the flavor of every burnt-to-a-crisp mozzarella stick that's ever been inside your toaster oven, regular cleaning is a good idea. If your oven has an enamel interior coating, just wipe it down with some warm water and dish soap. If not, scrub it first with steel wool before using a tough sponge to get at the grease and residue. Always be sure to thoroughly rinse your oven afterward—that is, if you don't want soap-flavored toast.
2. ...and out.
Keep the outside of your toaster oven looking good by wiping it down with a lint-free cloth. Do this regularly—once a week or whenever you notice it's a bit dingy.
3. Watch what goes in.
You know better than to put anything melty like plastic in the oven, but you might not think twice about letting cheesey nachos drip down. Commit to using a tray whenever you're dealing with drippy foods, especially anything greasy. The grease from food can drip down onto toaster coils and start a grease fire.
4. Use it like it was meant to be used.
Not all toaster ovens are created equal. To make sure yours lasts a long time, get familiar with what your oven can handle. Some high-end models can roast a small chicken, while others are just good for some bagels and a slice of pizza.
5. Give it some room.
Even if you're just reheating pizza in your oven, it can still cook up some really hot temperatures. Just like any other device, you'll want to give it room to breathe. Make sure there's at least 6 inches clearance on each side of your oven, both to protect your toaster and the other heat-sensitive gear in your kitchen.