Last week I bought a new Oster® countertop oven from Costco for a bargain price of $49.99, taking a chance it would be satisfactory in being the multitasker it’s advertised as. Beyond a toaster oven, this model is larger, with enough rack space and internal cubic area to accommodate roasts or a full size 12″ pizza. It also has a convection feature called “Turbo”, incorporating a fan to circulate the hot air evenly within the oven chamber. A feature my full size oven has as well. My main selling point was that it could do most of the things my full size oven does with less energy and cleaning hassle. Plus it looks pretty cool, and it was only fifty bucks, so shoots!
While this post isn’t intended to be a complete review of this product (in part, yes it is), here’s all the information about it:
Oster® Brushed Stainless Steel Countertop Convection Oven
Adjustable broil for low-heat broiling, like cheesy garlic bread or high-heat broiling for meats. 150-450° temperature range. Avoid turning on your conventional oven to keep the kitchen cooler and conserve energy. With the Oster® brand, you can cook with passion and serve with pleasure.
TURBO CONVECTION HEAT TECHNOLOGY
For flakier crusts, juicier meats, crisper edges and deeper flavors in less time.
CERAMIC BAKING PAN
Non-Stick Baking Pan. PTFE and PFOA Free. Natural ceramic finish offers healthier choice for cooking & makes clean up easy.
Ideal for everyday meals and snacks and as a second oven for holidays and entertaining
Avoid turning on your conventional oven and use this countertop oven to heat and cook quicker.
Consumes less energy than a conventional oven.
- Fast, more even convection cooking
- Easy-to-use dial controls
- 2 rack positions
- 60-minute timer with auto shut-off and bell signal
- Removable crumb tray
- Ceramic Non-Stick baking pan and integrated broil rack
- Brushed Stainless Steel Exterior
- Energy Saver – Consumes less energy than a conventional oven
- Outside dimensions: 18.50″W x 15.66″ D x 10.62″ H
- Oven rack size: 12.5″Wx11.5″depth
- Oven chamber height between top and bottom heat elements: 6″
- Weight: 11.94 lb.
- Cord length: 24″
- Watts: 1500W
Price: $49.99 (Costco Hawaii Kai location)
Here we have my copy of the product sitting on my counter, waiting to get used for actually the fourth time now, since I used it before only for making toast, with wonderful results. Perfectly even toast, done a bit quicker than the smaller, crusty old clunker toaster oven this one replaced.
Being what it is, this countertop oven does have a slightly larger foot print than my old GE toaster oven, however it still fits neatly in the corner of my kitchen counter, not really encroaching too much more on my prep area work space. The back of the unit bows out to give the oven chamber enough depth to fit larger foods such as typical 12″ frozen pizzas, while maximizing use of the void in the corner where the oven is placed.
For $50, the quality of the unit looks remarkably high end, with a beautiful brushed stainless steel cabinet, and nice feel to the control knobs. If there’s anything that says “cheap” about it, is the thickness (or lack of) of the stainless steel cabinet, oven rack and integrated baking pan, while the oven door is rather light, making it feel sort of flimsy when you open and shut it.
If there’s a couple of features I’d like to have that this doesn’t, is a built-in oven light and thermostat-controlled temperature readout. Particularly the latter, as here you’re just depending on what temperature the analog dial is set on after you preheat it. Which to note, I still don’t have one of them remote wired oven probe thermometers, something I’ve been meaning to get.
MEN NEVER READ INSTRUCTIONS
Moving along to cooking this frozen DiGiorno rising crust pizza, with those wonderful results making simple toast, I thought this thing would do just as fantastic with none other than, yup, pizza. Having cravings for one the other day, I ran to the supermarket and picked up a rising crust DiGiorno Pizza, which always works for me. That said, I honestly haven’t cooked frozen pizza at home in years.
Here’s where it gets interesting, as I decided to pull the “Who needs instructions? We don’t no friggin’ instructions!” approach many men are guilty of. Come on fellahz, I know you’re out there. You never read the instructions, thinking this new toaster oven or that new lawn mower is such a no-brainer, so why bother? Not only that, but I also didn’t completely follow the instructions on the DiGiorno rising crust pizza box, which says explicitly to PLACE THE PIZZA DIRECTLY ON THE OVEN RACK. Let alone, have I ever made pizza from scratch, so I didn’t understand the dynamics of baking the crust, which apparently it needs to breath while baking to let the moisture out, or you get a soggy, non-crispy finish underneath.
A friend of mine swears by using a pizza stone in the oven when cooking his frozen pizzas, saying the crust turns out crispy and almost pizzeria perfect. I’ve also read you can use non-glazed quarry tiles (glaze has lead in it) from the hardware store for the job with great results a fraction of the price, compared to commercial pizza stones.
So I followed the pizza box instructions on cooking temperature, however I wanted to try out the Oster® countertop oven’s “Turbo” convection mode, so instead of bake as instructed, I put it on “Turbo”, which uses both the top (2) and bottom (2) heating elements (4 total), plus a convection fan that quietly operates through a vent on the right side of the oven chamber. Since convection is supposed to cook faster, I set the timer for 20 minutes and stood by to visually monitor its cooking progress. I knew this first time run wasn’t going to be a fire-and-forget session.
This is where I really should have listened to the instructions on the pizza box and placed the pizza directly on the oven rack. Instead, I placed it on foil covering the rack, for one reason only: I didn’t want to mess up my new oven with melted cheese dripped over the rack and bottom, regardless of already covering the crumb tray at the bottom with protective foil. It’s kinda’ like that new shoes or new car syndrome, where you’re so paranoid about dirtying it for the first time. Know what I mean? lol
Back to using a pizza stone, Popular Mechanics has this to say about it, “Compared to the metal of a baking sheet, the ceramic material of a pizza stone holds heat more evenly, and the porous surface draws water out of particularly wet areas of the dough as it cooks. Plus, when you preheat the stone, it gives the dough a strong burst of initial heat, puffing up the crust. A pan can’t do that.”
Someone on reddit had posted a popular comment that’s been quoted in articles about cooking frozen pizza in an oven properly. His best recommendation is not use a pizza stone, but as the box instructions say, place it directly on the center oven rack. Yet, don’t follow the instructions on the box about placing the pizza in frozen, but thaw the pizza out first in the refrigerator. Before placing the pizza in the oven, preheat the oven to its highest possible temperature to blast the crust, then reduce the temperature to the recommended setting and finish cooking it.
As it will turn out, that baking pan vs. pizza stone has the same effect – or make that lack of effect – as my use of thin aluminum foil under the uncooked crust sitting atop the rack in my attempt here, where it didn’t let moisture escape out of the dough, resulting in it being soggy underneath.
To be honest, I can’t remember how I cooked frozen pizza the last time, whether it was on a baking pan or directly on the rack. Normally I stay away from putting food directly on the oven rack, only because of again, the potential for making a mess in the oven.
About finished baking, above you see the crust has risen properly, just like the picture on the box. More importantly, my new oven still looks new with no messy spills or crumbs! Or is that more important? Well not if the pizza isn’t cooked properly!
Interestingly, while using the “Turbo” convection mode, it took longer than the maximum 25 minute cooking time on the pizza box, requiring about 30 minutes to finish. Its should have been done in more like 15 minutes. Something’s not right about that. I’ll have to do more testing with other foods using that convection mode later.
All pau, this side looks fine, but, ai-yah, look the other side. It’s burnt!
The burnt side happened in the back side of the oven, where it bulges out, on the side where the convection fan blows. That must mean the hottest air flow is right around that area and remains there. After finally going through the instructions after the fact, it doesn’t matter. Nowhere in there does it say anything about having to rotate the food around while using this oven, in any mode.
As it turns out, knowing there’s this hot spot, next time I would indeed turn the pizza around at least once or twice while baking. Or shoot, maybe return the oven? Still on the fence on that. I haven’t read any reviews that mention this a known flaw with this model. The only known problem I’m concerned about are several folks saying the mechanical timer knob eventually goes bad.
As it turned out, the DiGiorno was still delicious (for frozen pizza that is), with the top side of the crust being cooked thoroughly and crispy, aside of that burnt portion. It was the underside of the crust that was the problem, where the center was soggy, while the pie’s overall underside wasn’t as crispy as it should have been.
Lesson learned? Follow the cooking directions to the “T” by baking it (not convection) directly on the center rack. Next time I’ll also try thawing the pizza first before cooking it, as that reddit person recommended. If that doesn’t improve the results for a crispier crust, perhaps I’ll consider investing in a pizza stone, go budget with an unglazed quarry tile, and/or use my full size oven. Or shoot, I’ll just dial up Pizza Hut.
As for this new budget priced countertop oven from Costco, regarding the longer cooking time using the convection mode and high heat “burn zone” in the back, I’ll need to investigate that further and see if this unit is operating properly. If it’s a problem, and not user error, I’ll return it for another model. We’ll see.
P.S. A couple legit’ pizzas from Maui Brewing Company Waikiki…