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The Kitchen Cabinet

Warming Up to the Toaster Oven

January 28, 1988|MINNIE BERNARDINO | Times Staff Writer

Is the toaster oven getting more work than the conventional big oven? If it belongs to a family like mine, definitely.

Two teen-agers can't live without this little appliance for their pizza snacks. A seven-year old boy depends on it for his English muffin, which he splashes with peanut butter and jelly. Almost every single morning, the toaster oven starts getting warmed up for my husband's usual breakfast of a buttered French roll or bagel. On weekends it may take more beating from all of us; there could be waffles, croissants, baked potatoes, open-faced sandwiches or possibly some leftover chicken, or pastries that a microwave would steam rather than crisp.

Our first toaster oven was a GE unit, purchased about 15 years ago. Then we moved on to two others, both toaster oven/broilers. We're now on our fourth one, going on its sixth month. With a rebate, the price of the Proctor-Silex Toaster Oven/Broiler, model 0245, was unbeatable, and the unit's white sides were sleek and clean-looking.

A Major Objection

Except for darkened crumb markings on the bottom tray and a little multicolored streaking of cellophane bread packaging that stuck to the unit's chrome top when it was hot, the toaster oven has performed to our satisfaction. Our major objection with the Proctor-Silex is that it will not toast slices consecutively. A brief cooling time is needed to reset the thermostat or the spring lever that activates the toaster will not stay down. However, when the door is opened, the rack easily pulls out for access to cooked food, although the heating element does not shut off automatically.

In spite of all the conveniences offered by toaster ovens, they do not equal the quality and speed of toasting provided by traditional pop up toasters. Now that the wide-mouth, long-slot, cool-wall toasters have become available, some people have switched to these because the units will accommodate thicker breads.

However, for those who remain devotees of the toaster oven, here is an update of some of the recent arrivals in the marketplace. Most new models feature double-wall construction for cooler exteriors and continuous clean interiors to facilitate cleaning. There has not been much of an improvement with the crumb tray, however, and it remains a constant challenge to keep the tray spic and span.

Italian-Made Oven

Contemporary styling and color combine with multifunction appeal and efficiency in the Alfredo Bake 'n' Broil Oven with Toaster Feature ($99) from DeLonghi America Inc. The Italian-made oven is stunning in red, a color that's boldly being introduced in many countertop appliances this year. Another option for the daring kitchen designer is the beautiful black unit accented with red button controls. Both these ovens, plus the third in Euro-white with black facing, have tinted glass doors and continuous clean porcelain enamel interiors.

Aside from styling, the DeLonghi oven distinguishes itself from other types with its extra-large capacity. The oven will take a 3-pound chicken, a 10-inch cake or pie, as well as a 2 1/2-inch casserole. Its ample internal height prevents thick breads from burning on top, and its full depth accommodates four large slices, automatically toasting them to preferred doneness. To toast, the control knob is turned to a desired color gauge. The knob rewinds, shutting off the heating element when done. Some people might object to the noise that accompanies this rewinding process.

When it comes to a variety of selection and a good toasting performance record, Black & Decker provides it all. Its new generation of Toast-R-Ovens (priced from $52 to $109) are no longer available in the old chrome look, which has been replaced with white, light-almond or wood-grain finishes. The line includes one simple Toast-R-Oven toaster (model TR020) that toasts, defrosts and top browns; and eight types of Toast-R-Oven broilers. Also available is the Toast-R-Oven Heat Guard Mounting Hood for under-cabinet mounting.

The most popular in the Black & Decker group is the TRO50 toaster oven/broiler ($69.98). Styled in coffee cream with a wood-grain top, the oven offers continuous-clean interior and swing-open crumb tray for easy clean up. It'll hold four slices of bread, a six-cup muffin tin and six burger patties. Another good seller is the Ultra Oven Toast-R-Oven Broiler ($100.90), which accommodates six toast slices. Styled in black and wood-grain, this large oven offers a flip-top, keep-warm surface. All models have a signal light; and when toast is done, the oven shuts off and a bell rings.

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