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Are you considering buying a toaster oven? Or perhaps you already own one, and you want to make sure you and your family will be safe with this appliance in your home. So, are they safe?
Toaster ovens are generally safe. Like other appliances in your home, toaster ovens do carry risks if used carelessly or if they’re not properly maintained. If you follow the manufacturer’s guidance and take appropriate precautions, toaster ovens are relatively safe.
What exactly is a toaster oven?
Toaster ovens are usually smaller than regular ovens and sit atop your kitchen counter. They’re generally much cheaper than traditional ovens. They use “radiant heat” to cook and toast food.
The heating mechanism of a toaster oven works similarly to a regular bread toaster—electrical energy is converted into heat, given off by metal coils. Many toaster ovens have two sets of heating coils (one at the top and one at the bottom), but some only have one coil at the bottom.
Why can a toaster oven be dangerous?
As with any household appliance, it’s good to be aware of potential dangers you could face when using a toaster oven.
1. Fires: This is perhaps the biggest danger that comes with owning and using a toaster oven. Because toaster ovens are relatively small, crumbs and bits of food can quickly build up on the bottom of the oven. When these particles come in contact with the exposed lower heating coil, there’s a potential for fire.
Furthermore, some toaster ovens can get very hot external walls, particularly during extended use. Although less likely, a fire could be caused by a toaster oven touching something combustible.
2. Burns: As with any cooking appliance, there’s an inherent risk of burns when using a toaster oven. However, this risk is somewhat heightened with toaster ovens because of their smaller size—it can be more difficult to place and remove items than with traditional ovens.
Therefore, the risk of accidentally burning your fingers and hands on the inside of the oven is a real one. Plus, as external walls on toaster ovens can get very hot, burns from the outside of the oven are a possibility.
3. Electric shock: As mentioned, toaster ovens work similarly to ordinary toasters—they use powerful electrical currents to generate heat. If a person touches the heating elements with their hand, or with a metal conductor like a knife, it’s likely to result in a serious electrical shock—potentially a fatal one.
Plus, if the inside of the oven somehow becomes wet, the electrical current could be conducted via the water and a person could be electrocuted simply by placing or removing food.
4. Shattering glass: This is perhaps the least likely potential danger of a toaster oven, although it’s still a possibility. If the oven was to get overly hot for some reason, the glass door could shatter outwards and this could harm people in the vicinity.
How can I use a toaster oven more safely?
While the above-mentioned dangers are a real cause for concern, their risks can be significantly lowered by taking appropriate precautions and following the guidance given by toaster oven manufacturers.
1. Place your toaster oven in a safe location. Make sure the surface it will be on can withstand heat. Most kitchen countertops should be fine for this, but some are not very heat resistant. Don’t put other appliances or objects against any of the toaster oven walls—leave at least a 10 cm (4 in the) distance.
2. Never leave combustible materials on or around the oven e.g. oven mitts, dishtowels, plastic, and paper. Heat alone can start a fire.
3. Clean your toaster oven regularly. A build-up of crumbs can easily start a fire. Juice and fat from meat as well as general oils can be dangerous as they are flammable. Spilled sauces or other liquids pose an electrical shock risk. Some toaster ovens have a removable tray that catches these deposits for easier cleaning.
4. Be wary of burns. Toaster oven burns are common because of their smaller size and door. Always use oven mitts. Put the oven out of the reach of small children and teach older children the dangers of touching both the inside and outside of the oven.
5. Don’t use metal utensils to reach for food. This poses a serious electrocution risk. Only use wooden or heat-safe plastic utensils.
Are toaster ovens safe? Yes, if they are used with due precaution and they’re maintained properly. Toaster ovens do pose more risks than traditional ovens, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be used safely.
While dangers such as fire, burns, and electrocution are serious, they are simple to avoid. By reading this article, you’re now aware of the risks involved with toaster ovens and know how to use a toaster oven safely.