clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

On Black Friday, the Only Gadget Actually Worth Buying Is the Toaster Oven

Sorry, Instant Pot

If you buy something from an Eater link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics policy.

A toaster oven.

In this era of hyper-convenience, the most coveted items for at-home cooks are often wildly outfitted, high-tech multitaskers sold as shortcuts to save time in the kitchen: a “multi cooker” that’s a slow cooker, a miniature oven, and a food warmer; a pressure cooker that’s also somehow an air fryer and dehydrator; and yes, of course, the ubiquitous Instant Pot, an electric pressure cooker and slow cooker (plus a bunch of other things) rolled into one.

But here’s the secret: While I often evangelize for the Instant Pot, I pretty much only use it as a pressure cooker, leaving its rice cooker, yogurt maker, and sous vide functions fallow. Essentially, I’ve turned the complicated appliance from a fancy multitasker into a weighty unitasker, that hyper-specific category of single-use (and therefore not particularly useful) items like a garlic press, a countertop pizza maker, or a salad chopper. Which is a shame, because multitasking kitchen devices are indeed worth owning. But you don’t need one with a million buttons or Bluetooth capability. In fact, the only multitasker actually worth owning is decidedly less high-tech: the toaster oven.

Growing up, my family never owned a “traditional,” just-for-sliced-bread toaster, and we rarely used the microwave. To my mom, the toaster oven was the go-to vehicle for heating up American convenience foods. The toaster oven’s longer cook time would render them far less “convenient,” of course, but undoubtedly made everything taste better: Stouffer’s frozen mac and cheese trays (the top layer of cheese would bubble and broil beautifully), leftover grocery store fried chicken (the breading would crisp up into something oil-boilingly crunchy and not soggy), Hot Pockets (a Hot Pocket in a toaster oven takes an absurd 35 minutes, yes, but gets the crust way crispier than the weird microwave-friendly “crisping sleeve” ever will). For more than a decade as an adult, I lived in an apartment without a microwave. Everything frozen I just cooked in the toaster oven, and I firmly believe my 99-cent pot pie and that pepperoni pizza Hot Pocket tasted all the better for it.

But the toaster oven is more than capable of cooking “actual” foods: roasting vegetables, making kale chips, drying apple slices, toasting nuts and seeds, and (I’m told, though have never personally attempted) baking a small cake or pie. For those who live alone and don’t want to turn on an oven to cook a single-serving item, like a foil-packeted salmon steak, the answer is a toaster oven. If it’s 100 degrees outside and I don’t want to do any “real cooking,” the answer is a toaster oven. To make any sandwich a melt, the answer is a toaster oven. To toast toast, the answer is a toaster oven. It’s a pretty impressive list when compared to the tasks accomplished by that ultimate unitasker: the toaster.

It’s hard to resist the siren song of the Instant Pot and the other multi-use gadgets flaunting their “7-in-1!” and “10-in-1!” bona fides, convincing us we need tools we didn’t even know existed or already own. (Did you know that the hot-ticket countertop item of recent years, the air fryer, is… just a fancy convection oven?)

But really, the only multitasker you need — and maybe the one you already have — is the humble toaster oven. (Seriously, if you’re in the market, get this one.) Everything else is toast.

Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links. For more information, see our ethics policy.

Sign up for the Sign up for the Eater newsletter

The freshest news from the food world every day