A great all around performer that was held back due to poor temperature accuracy
$300 List | $299.95 at Amazon Pros: Dual cook mode adds versatiliy for complex dishes, included pizza stone Cons: Pricey, slightly lower performance than other models in price range Manufacturer: Cuisinart
In our testing, the Cuisinart Chef's Convection Oven placed itself solidly in the upper echelon of toaster ovens. It received high marks for toasting, baking, and ease of use. The only thing that separated it from the top award winners was its below-average temperature accuracy. This might cause issues if you bake very temperature-sensitive items, but most likely would not be noticeable otherwise. If you're not particularly concerned with temperature accuracy, the Chef's Convection Oven is a potential choice to add to your kitchen countertop.
In our testing we used the Chef's Convection Toaster Oven, model number: TOB-260N. That model has since been discontinued and replaced with the Chef's Convection Toaster Oven, model number: TOB-260N1. After a detailed review of the new model's specifications, it is clear that it is essentially the exact same machine with some minor cosmetic differences. Therefore, we feel confident that our testing results apply to this new model as well.
Editor's Note: This oven review was updated on January 28, 2022, with more details concerning our favorite ovens and why we would choose them over the competition.
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Cuisinart was on par with, but just slightly inferior to, the two top performers in our baking test. The only reason it missed out on a higher score was that it was somewhat less adept at retaining moisture. It made cookies with crispy edges and gooey middles that, if anything, were just a tad too dry. It cooked cakes very evenly but again with a slightly drier texture. Its drumsticks were top-notch, but again the meat was just a bit drier than that of the best performing ovens.
Ease of Use
In our ease of use testing, the Cuisinart again sat right behind the top performer. It has a solid crumb tray that is easy to remove and clean. A well-lit LCD screen displays all relevant information, and one main knob allows you to toggle through settings. Spinning the knob cycles through the Cuisinart's ten main cooking modes: toast, bagel, waffle, bake, broil, roast, pizza, sandwich, keep warm, and leftover. Pushing the button at the center of the knob selects the cooking mode and turns the knob into a temperature selector. Pushing the button again selects the temperature and lets you then select the cooking time.
Once selections are made, a start/stop button begins the cooking cycle. Convection can easily be turned on and off at the push of a button. It also has a dual cook button. This allows you to program in settings for foods that have two cooking stages. Say you have a dish that requires slow cooking at 250˚ for an hour and then another 20 minutes at 450˚ to brown the outside. You can plug this into the Cuisinart, and it will automatically run through both of those stages with no mid-cycle adjustments required. You can also set the oven to a low temperature, like 150˚, to keep items warm after cooking. Just note that the oven can't cool down instantaneously, so be careful about overcooking things if you use this option.
Our temperature accuracy test is where the Cuisinart really fell behind the top performers. When set to 350˚ in our test, the Cuisinart was 10˚ hot at the 15-minute mark and rose to 25˚ hot at the 30-minute mark. It consistently ran 25˚ hot when set to 400˚. When set to 450˚, it fluctuated between 20˚ and 25˚ hot.
The Cuisinart shared the bottom score with another model in our frozen meal preparation test. It could cook frozen pizzas fairly evenly on the surface, but it often left the dough at the center quite underdone. We got similar results with tater tots: crispy outsides with insides that felt too soggy. While most of these problems could probably be fixed by lengthening cook times, it is annoying to follow the provided cooking instructions and have less than stellar results.
The Cuisinart was again just below the top performers in our toasting quality tests. It made phenomenal bagels, on par with the quality of any other model in our test lineup. It toasted faces evenly with just a few light spots. It was also able to leave the backsides untoasted. Its toast map showed a fairly large toasting sweet spot with all three slices in the center of the rack toasting fairly well, but it did produce some light spots near the crusts. The slices adjacent to the sidewalls did come out very light compared to those in the center. Overall we feel most people will be happy with the toasting quality of the Cuisinart.
Should You Buy the Cuisinart?
The Cuisinart is a solid, upper-tier performer that will function well in most kitchens. However, it is priced similarly to other slightly better-performing models, so it would not be our first recommendation for most people looking for a toaster oven. Its dual cook function is unique and interesting and may make this a good choice for people who often cook things that require two different cooking stages. The Cuisinart has a reasonable list price, but other similarly-priced models perform better, so we'd have a hard time calling it a great value.
What Other Toaster Oven Should You Consider?
With a middle-of-the-road performance and a price higher than one of the highest ranking ovens in the review, it is hard to say the Cuisinart is the one for anyone. We much prefer the versatile Ninja Foodi Digital Oven with its high rank, impressive cooking performance in all our tests, and a lower price than the Cuisinart.
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