What's the difference between a Toaster and a Toaster Oven? Experts explain

Which toasts the best and boasts the most versatility?

Toaster vs Toaster Oven - KitchenAid Toaster Oven on a countertop with a chicken on the left hand side of it
(Image credit: KitchenAid)

With almost identical names, it might feel like the toaster oven vs toaster debate is just splitting hairs. However, as someone who tests these products for a living, I can tell you that there's much to be made of the differences. 

You might think that a toaster just toasts bread, but if you've done any research into the best toasters on the market, you'll know that advanced models get techy with different bread types. They can also make grilled cheese sandwiches, pastries, and pop-tarts. 

The best toaster ovens take a more general approach to toasting, but will offer baking, broiling, air frying, grilling, and more. They'll be a hard-working appliance on your countertop. Here's everything you need to know if you're struggling to choose between the two.

What can a toaster do?

The Smeg X Dolce & Gabbana toaster collaboration next to the matching juicer on a white background with citrus fruits around it

(Image credit: Smeg)

Toasters are a kitchen classic. I would argue that any countertop is incomplete without one. These nifty appliances don't demand much space, working simply and quickly to take your bread to golden brown toast.

The beauty of toasters is that even the most technical models are simple. Sure, they'll have different settings for different types of bread and baked goods, but, at the end of the day, you put your toast in a slot, lower it, and minutes later, it pops up crisp and brown. Some of the most advanced toasters will automatically lower and lift your toast, but that's about as crazy as things get.

A basic toaster won't cost you too much. You can pick up a compact, two-slice model for $30, such as the Elite Gourmet, which is $29.99 at QVC. However, if you keep scrolling through the toaster offering, you could end up splurging on a Smeg four-slice toaster for $279.95 or Breville's Toast Select for $199.95. Don't even get me started on designer toasters (just make sure to look at the Smeg X Dolce & Gabbanna Meditteraneo).

Toasters are great if you just want to warm and brown breads and pastries, these are an inexpensive, compact option. You'll have to pick yours carefully since slot size can limit what you put in your toaster. Some simple, extra accessories, such as sandwich racks (available at QVC) can give you the capacity to make a grilled cheese sandwich in your toaster. 

What can a toaster oven do?

A Calphalon Performance Countertop French Door Air Fryer Toaster Oven making a tart

(Image credit: Calphalon)

Toaster ovens, often called countertop ovens, are less of a kitchen classic and more of an appliance trend. If you're looking for an energy-saving alternative to your main oven, you're in good company with these compact, efficient ovens.

The best toaster ovens can handle more than simple toast. They'll air fry, grill, bake, and roast, meaning you can cook a range of meals in your toaster oven. Even better, you'll often get more precise temperature and time controls than the simpler, crude controls on a basic toaster.

The downside of toaster ovens are how bulky they are. A toaster is small enough to sit unnoticed on the countertop. You can tuck it into drawers and cupboards, but a toaster oven demands a lot more space. These are often heavier than toasters too, so we wouldn't advise putting them high up in cupboards either.

Differences between a toaster oven and a toaster

Dash toaster in black on a countertop

(Image credit: Dash)

There's some obvious back and forth in the toaster oven vs toaster debate. Toasters are smaller, simpler, and often cheaper than toaster ovens. They're perfect for browning bread, but you won't be able to do much else. Toaster ovens are the opposite. They're bigger, but can handle a lot more than toasting tasks. Here's a deeper dive into the differences:

Toasters are compact and lightweight, even if you've opted for a four-slot option. This makes them easy to store and maintain in comparison to toaster ovens. Brands such as Instant and Ninja have made toaster ovens that aren't very tall, but they still demand a lot of countertop real estate in comparison to a toaster. They're heavier and harder to lift up in to wall cupboards too.

The beauty of toasters is that they'll pop up your toast in a matter of minutes. The ultra-hot elements should be able to evenly brown and crisp any breads and pastries that you but into them. Giving a toaster oven the same job might mean that it takes slightly longer. We've always found that they need a little pre-heating. However, you can toast open-face melts, sandwiches, and handmade pastries a lot easier.

A whote rack of white toast on a wooden countertop

(Image credit: Clubfoto via Getty Images)

Controls and versatility
Toaster ovens really come out on top when you're looking at the controls. Most will air fry, bake, broil, dehydrate, and more, as well as toast, of course. Toasters on the other hand hone-in on bread. The best, most complex options will have precise settings for different bread types, across rye, brioche, bagels and more. If you buy regular bread, a toaster will evenly brown both sides. Specialist settings for defrosting and bagels will always be better on toasters. However, if you make your own bread and know that the slices can be weird, wonderful, and not very friendly for conventional slots. Similarly toasted sandwiches and baked goods, such as muffins and croissants always do better in toaster ovens.

Toaster ovens are typically more expensive than toasters, if you look at comparable models. That's not to say that there aren't inexpensive toaster ovens and luxury toasters out there, but it's an average.

Our top picks put head to head

The KitchenAid toaster oven air frying nuggets on a tray

(Image credit: KitchenAid)

Which should you buy?

A rack of brown toast with a slice of toast in the background as well as a book and a cup of coffee

(Image credit: Linde via Getty Images)

If you're all about bread, a toaster will be the best option for you. It can consistently brown a range of types, whether that's rye, white bread, pop tarts, bagels, and more. If you fancy something with a little more versatility, or you like toasting sandwiches and pastries, it's worth considering a toaster oven. 


Is it better to have a toaster oven or a toaster?

Ultimately, this will depend on your needs. If you exclusively eat breads, already own an air fryer, and more often than not, need the full capacity of your oven, you'll be better off with a toaster. If you're looking to save on space and your utilities, it's worth looking into toaster ovens.

Do I need a toaster if I have a toaster oven?

You can use both, but you'll be wasting space in your kitchen. Toaster ovens do a great job of producing evenly golden toast in next-to-no time.

How do I know which toaster to choose?

There's a fair amount to consider, so if you need help on how to choose a toaster, we've got the answers. You'll want to think about how many slots you want, whether they need to be a special thickness or length, and what settings and functions you consider to be essential. We talk you through all the decision making factors in our guide on how to choose a toaster.

Laura Honey
eCommerce Editor

Laura is our eCommerce editor. As a fully qualified barista, she's our expert in all things coffee and has tested over thirty of the best coffee makers on the market. She has also interviewed Q-Graders and world-leading experts in the coffee industry, so has an intimate knowledge of all things coffee. Before joining Homes & Gardens, she studied English at Oxford University. Whilst studying, she trained as a master perfumer and worked in the luxury fragrance industry for five years. Her collection of home fragrance is extensive and she's met and interviewed five of the world's finest perfumers (also known as 'noses'). As a result of this expansive fragrance knowledge, she always puts quality and style over quantity and fads. Laura looks for products which have been designed simply and with thoughtful finishes.