I have the same toaster oven as the one in the photo above. I love it. I use it more than my traditional oven. The Breville Smart Oven, although it's not called a toaster oven, is basically a toaster oven on steroids.

It sits on a countertop like a toaster oven. It toasts bread like a toaster oven — except it does six slices at a time instead of four. It reheats pizza like a toaster oven, but it also can cook a whole pizza on a 13-inch pizza stone. Last night, I cooked a pot pie in it. It's one of those appliances I didn't know I needed until I bought it because I didn't know it existed. The $250 price tag was a bit of a splurge when I bought it three years ago, but I think it was well worth the money.

When it's time to buy a new appliance, it's always a good idea to know what's available so you can buy the one that fits your needs.

Determining your needs

A toaster is sufficient for making toast, so if you're in the market for a toaster oven, you probably want to do more than just toast bread and bagels. Before looking at toaster ovens, know the answers to these questions.

  • How much counter space do you have to dedicate to your toaster oven?
  • How many slices of bread or bagel would you like your toaster oven to handle at one time?
  • What would you like to make in the toaster oven besides toast?
  • Do you want a toaster oven that also works as a convection oven?
  • How much is your budget?

Once you know the answer to these basic questions, it's time to start looking. After some general research and time spent looking at toaster oven prices and ratings on Amazon, here are some recommendations to get you started. I've separated them according to price range. (Prices online can fluctuate.)

Best for light jobs and small spaces: The basic toaster oven

If you don't have a lot of counter space, or you'll only be using your toaster oven for making toast and reheating individual portions of leftovers, a small toaster oven is all you'll need. Basic toaster ovens that are on the smaller size are usually economical so even the higher-priced options aren't too high.

black-decker-basic-toaster-ovenBest inexpensive small toaster oven: The Black + Decker TO1303SB 4-Slice Toaster Oven seems to be the standard in small, basic toaster ovens. It toasts four slices of toast evenly according to many of the 1,492 customer reviews that give it an average 4 stars, and it reheats pizza nicely.

hamilton-beach-small-toaster-ovenBest high-priced small toaster oven: The Hamilton Beach 31512 Convection 6-Slice Toaster Oven gets a 4-star average review from 72 reviewers. It makes good toast and its convection feature cooks foods more quickly and evenly. This toaster oven holds a 9-inch pizza and can even cook a 6-pound whole chicken.

Best budget-friendly large toaster ovens: Under $100

If you have the counter space, a larger toaster oven has multiple uses. If you cook frequently, it provides additional oven space, especially when entertaining and cooking large meals. In the warmer months, it won't heat up your home like your range oven will. And, it is more energy-efficient than a large oven. Larger toaster ovens can be budget-friendly or they can run hundreds of dollars.

black-decker-largeBest budget-friendly larger toaster oven on the lower-priced end: The Black + Decker TO3250XSB 8-Slice Extra Wide Toaster Oven makes toast and much more. It can cook a 12-inch pizza and fits a 13x9-inch pan (typical lasagna size). It has four functions: convection bake, broil, toast and keep warm. On Amazon 322 customers have given it a 4-star review.

Oster-toaster-ovenBest budget-friendly larger toaster oven on the higher-priced end: The Oster Extra Large Capacity Countertop 6-Slice Digital Convection Toaster Oven does quite a bit for the price. It can fit a 16-inch pizza, bake a whole chicken, roast or lasagna, and it has two racks for cooking more than one item at at time. Currently on Amazon, and 206 reviewers give it a 4.5-star average.

Best higher-end large toaster ovens: Over $100

Higher-priced models often have a few extra bells and whistles, but have the same basic benefits of the budget-friendly models: additional oven space, keep the kitchen cooler, and energy efficiency.

cusinart-toaster-oven-largeBest higher-end large toaster oven on the lower-priced end: The Cuisinart TOB-195 Exact Heat Toaster Oven Broiler has the controls on the bottom so it has a large baking area, but it's not as wide as some other models. It can bake a 12-inch pizza, toast 6 slices of bread, and it has seven functions: pizza/bake, toast, convection, bagel, reheat and defrost. Reviewers say it's great for pies and give it a 4.5-star average rating from 758 customers.

Breville-toaster-oven-largeBest higher-end large toaster oven on the higher-priced end: The model above my own Breville Smart Oven, the Breville BOV845BSS Smart Oven Pro Convection Toaster Oven with Element IQ. People love this high-end toaster oven with plenty of bells and whistles. It has a 5-star average on Amazon from 97 customers. It has a 10-hour slow-cooking feature not found on very many toaster ovens, and it has 10 preset features: toast, bagel, bake, roast, broil, pizza, cookies, reheat and slow cook. Some costumers say they never have to turn on their regular ovens because this "does it all."

Once your new toaster oven is set up on your kitchen counter, try one of these recipes. If you've never had one of these before, you may wonder how you ever did without this appliance.

Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.