The Best Toaster Oven for Your Needs

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The Best Toaster Oven for Your Needs
You may use toaster ovens to heat up a quick snack, but they can actually use up to 50 percent less electricity than conventional ovens. So, if you're in the market for a new toaster oven, here are a few ways to shop smart and find the right one for your budget.

First, when choosing a model, always think about what you'll be cooking in it. If you're mainly warming up smaller meals, look into entry-level models, which are ideal for basic warming, baking and toasting. These generally cost under $50, and while they don't have the extra bells and whistles of the pricier models, you probably won't be using those features.

If you often cook in batches or for large groups, a mid-range model has more power and capacity, which is likely a better bet for your kitchen. These models range between $50 and $150, and are much roomier and more versatile for bigger dishes, like lasagna and even roast chicken.

You'll also get slicker features, like digital controls and a temperature probe, so you can cook your meals with more precision. Mid-range models are great as a second oven, too -- in fact, some can handle up to 90 percent of what a conventional oven does.

When it comes to capacity, some companies like to boast about how many bread slices a toaster oven can hold, but it's not entirely accurate. Some ovens will claim to toast up to six slices at once, but since there is no universal standard for slice size, you should take these claims with a grain of salt. For a better idea of capacity, go by the actual dimensions.

So in the end, assess your cooking needs, your counter space and your budget before you choose the right toaster oven. Try out these tips, and you'll be heating up your meals without burning your budget!

10 Overhyped Kitchen Products
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The Best Toaster Oven for Your Needs -- Savings Experiment
Whether you're updating your appliances or planning a full remodel, seeing past the hype can be tough when everything looks so good.

Here are our nominations for the 10 most overhyped kitchen products and the smarter options that beat them.
Pro-Style Ranges: Viking claims its range "captures the professional performance of a commercial range and places it at your command and in your home." Yet our tests find that $4,000-plus pro-style ranges perform no better than cheaper, conventional models.

Smarter Option: Faux-pro-style ranges from mainstream manufacturers combine stainless-steel style, performance and reliability for thousands less.
Speed Cooking: Speed cooking combines microwaving with convection or baking and broiling to cut cooking time. But performance was spotty in our tests. Some foods came out great, while others were undercooked.

Smarter Option: Ovens and ranges with convection use a fan to circulate hot air, so you can bake and roast at lower temperatures for shorter times.
Steam Ovens & Ranges: Sharp claims that in its oven, "super-heated steam cooking melts away fat" and is "simplicity itself." Using the countertop model we tested was simple enough, as was a KitchenAid range with a steam option. But the built-in steam oven from Miele was less user-friendly. We also found that food cooked in some of those ovens had just as much fat after steaming as before.

Smarter Option: Skip them.
Multimedia Refrigerator: Side by sides with TVs and calendars promise to help you organize your life. Samsung says its Wireless ICE will help as your family "plans their schedules, leaves messages, posts pictures, watches TV, and shares meals." But none of the multimedia fridges we tested out-cooled the best conventional fridges.

Smarter Option: Buy a top-rated refrigerator and a capable flat-panel TV.
Turbocharged Dishwasher: Kenmore claims its TurboZone's spray jets blast "into every corner of dirty, baked-on dishes to get everything clean without soaking or scrubbing." But we found that most regular dishwashers do a very good job of cleaning dishes, even with baked-on food.

Smarter Option: Pick a cheaper dishwasher that blends top cleaning with quietness and shorter cycle times.
Appliance Drawers: These drawers are touted as flexible and stylish. Our tests of various models show that their lower storage capacity, efficiency and performance, coupled with their high prices, negate their perks.

Smarter Option: Choose a good French-door fridge for style and accessible storage. Run the rinse-only cycle on a regular dishwasher for small loads. Free up counter space with an over-the-range microwave.
Pricey Faucets & Sinks: American Standard gushes that its faucet "provides a lifetime of smooth handle operation," while Kohler claims its thick, 18-gauge stainless sinks provide "exceptional resistance to stains." We found few performance differences between the least and most expensive versions.

Smarter Option: Faucets in chrome or with physical vapor deposition finishes performed best regardless of price.
Trendy Counters: "Practical artwork" that requires "virtually no maintenance other than normal cleaning," heralds Trueform Concrete. Limestone is "velvety smooth" says another company. Our tests found concrete to be fragile and susceptible to scratches, chips and hairline cracks. As for limestone, our wear tests left it scratched and stained.

Smarter Option: If you crave the stone look, go for granite or quartz.
'Green' Flooring: Bamboo, cork and linoleum are all considered renewable alternatives to standard hardwood and vinyl flooring. But some in our reviews didn't hold up to the usual spills, scratches, dropped plates, and sunlight in a typical kitchen.

Smarter Option: Solid wood floors can be sanded and refinished several times, while plastic laminate and vinyl proved toughest overall.
Home Depot and Lowe's tout services that simplify kitchen remodeling process. But our surveys show that no one retailer was impressive for design help, product quality and price.

Smarter Option: Check our ratings for the stores with the attributes that matter most to you. Consider local independent stores and personal references as highly as any preconceived notions about price, quality and convenience.
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