The Fresh Loaf

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Toaster Ovens

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chris319's picture
chris319

Toaster Ovens

I recently got a great little toaster oven, a WaringPro WTO450 and I like it a lot. However, I recently tried baking a small sourdough loaf in it at the maximum temperature, which by actual measurement is about 425 degrees F. Disappointingly, the top of the loaf was quite burnt. I'm sure this was due to the direct exposure to the top heating element.

Would I be opening a Pandora's box by trying to disable the top element? I don't know if the element simply plugs in or if I would have errant wires to deal with if I disconnected it. Any toaster-oven experts here? I do have a big energy inefficient oven I can use and the top element does not come on when baking. If disabling the toaster oven's top element is not in the cards, I'm prepared to abandon the idea.

The toaster-oven works great with biscuits where a crispy crust is not desired, but I had to crank the thermostat way down and increase the baking time.

leekohlbradley's picture
leekohlbradley

Not pandora's box exactly but I would say at least try some other things before you get into modifying your oven! It might work but still, it's always hard to explain to the insurance company if things go wrong.

Have you tried putting tin foil on the top of the bread for part / all of the bake? I make small loaves in a very small toaster oven with no temp control and use this technique. I even cut the foil to be roughly the size / shape of the anticipated burn spot if I'm feeling fastidious :D

My previous oven was probably something more like you have—toaster oven with temp control. When baking at the max temperature I'd put the bread in a glass or metal container, and even a pot with the handles / lid removed, and covered with tin foil. Worked great for steaming and protecting it from hot spots. Of course it would require a few minutes of baking bare at the end to crispen up nicely...

barryvabeach's picture
barryvabeach

Chris, I would try the foil first.  If that doesn't work, try to check the thermostat-  I just looked at a photo online, and at 450 - which is the highest temperature marked - it also says broil.  I would turn it to bake, and set the temp at 300, and just look and see if the upper element glows red at all. Since it has a separate function for broil - we can hope that the upper element won't come on at all at that setting. If it doesn't, then set it to 400 and check again. It may take a few minutes to turn red, but you should be able to see it.  If it does, then set it a little lower and repeat.  If it turns out that it always sends current to the upper element, then it is not too hard to rewire it, but it helps if you are pretty handy with tools, and know a bit about electricity.   As leekohlbrad points out, if you mess it up, it can cause a fire, so i would try to find someone you know who is experienced in working with electricity.  It should take around 20 to 40 minutes to take it apart, and disconnect the wires, and put it together.  Once that is done, you won't be able to make toast.   BTW, the thermostats on the small toaster ovens are notoriously inaccurate, and it is pretty common that if you set it to a temperature, the actually temp will swing widely around that temp.

chris319's picture
chris319

I hear you about explaining to the insurance company. If I remove the element, there will be two sources of 120 volts with no place to go, so that would have to be dealt with.

The toaster-oven came with a metal crumb tray and a metal baking sheet. I placed one of them on the bottom level where it acts as a heat shield for the bottom element. I might take the other one and use it as a heat shield for the top element. My concern is that this won't give me much space in between for the loaf. I also have a 9" pie pan which I call my "batard pan" and it just might squeeze in there, but that means all of my loaves will be short and squat. That's why I was thinking of disabling the top element. I've tried to disassemble this oven before -- all of the screws are Philips head, but that sucker just won't come apart (keeping in mind that I'll have to be able to put it back together again).

I'm thinking an aluminum foil covering might stick to the dough unless I formed it just so. I could take two pie plates and make sort of a dutch oven with the top one upside down, assuming there is enough space vertically to accomodate them. What this would do to the crust remains to be seen. First I'm going to try a heat shield for the top element.

Both elements work in the "bake" mode. I checked the temp with a Cooper Atkins oven thermometer and the maximum temperature is 425 degrees F which is fine for my purposes. There is an Oster toaster-oven where they anticipated this problem and in the "bake" mode, the top element is at half voltage but that toaster-oven has other issues.

chris319's picture
chris319

Oster has some toaster-ovens with a "warm" mode and they explicitly say in the instruction manual that only the bottom element comes on -- just what I'm looking for! Unlike the broil mode, the thermostat is operative in the "warm" mode.

I look for a model which does not have "digital" controls but rather, simple mechanical controls like my Waring has. From reading the reviews on amazon.com I surmise that a lot of ovens die because the electronic components can't withstand the heat of the oven itself. These things get hot inside and out.

barryvabeach's picture
barryvabeach

Chris,  sorry to hear both elements come on at all times.  Again, if you have a friend who is familiar with electricity, it is pretty simple to rewire without danger.  The best method, and that would increase the cost, is to install a switch and so that you could manually turn off the upper element, but that might exceed the cost of the toaster.

chris319's picture
chris319

I finally got my Waring open and the operation was a resounding success! All I had to do was disconnect one wire (the one that comes from the switch) and voila! As designed, one side of the broil (upper) element is permanently connected to the incoming AC but now the circuit is incomplete so the top element doesn't light.

I read some reviews of the Oster on amazon.com. The model I was interested in is a convection oven. Some people were complaining that it wouldn't get up to 400 degrees, but I don't know if that's in convection mode or regular. The Waring goes up to 450 by actual measurement. So now I don't have to buy a new oven, which is nice. If I want to broil I can use the big oven.

I baked a test loaf in the modified Waring and the top was a little pale -- better than being burnt -- but I think this can easily be remedied.

Antilope's picture
Antilope

a loaf of bread in a Nesco type roaster? I know bread can be baked in a slow cooker, but it won't brown due to the low temperature. A Nesco type electric roaster gets up to 450-F, however.

barryvabeach's picture
barryvabeach

Chris, congrats on your success.  Ideally, you would buy the appropriate gauge high temperature wire, and an appropriately sized switch, and run that wire to a switch, and then to the upper element so you could keep it shut off when you need it off, or turn it back on at the end of the bake to brown the top a little.  Do not use regular wire, the insulation could burn as the oven heats up, and short out and cause a fire.

chris319's picture
chris319

The bottom of today's test loaf was a little too dark. My solution was to take a sheet of white teflon I happened to have, and cut it to fit the toaster-oven tray. This puts some insulation between the bottom element/tray and the food, and the loaves slide right off! We'll see if it actually works.

Sheet teflon is available from www.mcmaster.com.

leekohlbradley's picture
leekohlbradley

I don't want to be a pain but er... doesn't teflon not do too well at high temperatures?

When I get burning on the bottom I try to put an air layer between the bread and the intense heat of the pan/sheet/thing it's on. A grill or low steaming rack work great for this.

That said, in my TINY toaster oven I just put the bread directly on the rack, with tinfoil top and bottom. I put the top tinfoil on after baking ~5 minutes, so no sticking. I find both bottom and top elements have to be on to get an even bake. Using only the bottom, the top doesn't cook quite enough.

chris319's picture
chris319

You have to look at the temperature rating of the teflon. Some types of teflon are good up to 450 - 500 degrees F.

The teflon I recently purchased is starting to stain, but it's only a cosmetic flaw so I'm not worried about it.