A toaster oven is a countertop appliance that is mainly used to warm or toast food, but can also be used to cook things like a regular oven. Toaster ovens are often used as a replacement of regular ovens. Because they heat up fast, they can be used to broil or bake while saving money on energy. They also the added benefit of not heating up the house as a regular oven would. However, these appliances are relatively small, so the amount of food that can be cooked at any time is limited. As a result, they are mostly used for small things such as cooking French fries, roasting vegetables, and preparing frozen bread rolls or muffins.
A toaster oven works on radiant heat, basically the same way than the average toaster does. Basically, the system works by changing change electrical energy into heat energy through the use of wires and nickel/chromium metal alloys. As the oven is turned on, the heating elements, usually in the form of metal coils, start heating up, producing infrared radiation. Most toaster ovens come with metal coils at the top and bottom, so they offer even cooking. One without an upperheating element is not very effective for baking.
When the toaster function is used in a toaster oven, an internal timer indicates when the appliance should shut off, preventing burning. When using the oven function, there is no automatic timer, but the user can program how many minutes he wants the oven to run for. A toaster oven may come with a slow-heat cooking option to help cook different foods evenly. It can also have two shelves for different intensity when baking. Some ovens offer a defrost cycle or other additional options, but these may not work as well as they do in a microwave or a regular oven.