With the Cuisinart TOB-195 I guess you pay for some of both. When my wife's GE toaster oven of several years, yes the original toaster oven that barely fits anything but toast or a pot-pie in it,gave up the ghost I mentioned that I wanted to replace it with an oven that could be used for baking, broiling and on occasions when you need a second oven for warming multiple side dishes. So we read hundreds of reviews and picked this one, which is the stainless version of the 175, sleek, and very attractive on the counter. Compared to the ancient GE we had it takes up more space, but then this oven has more to offer than our large oven other than cubic feet.
Recommend this product?
First let's dispel the so called problem with the crumb tray. If you are buying an oven for this feature then shop somewhere else because you are focusing on the least important feature. From my perspective the tray on the old GE was hinged on the bottom requiring an extremely difficult maneuver to clean. The 195 can be easily spun around and the non-stick tray comes right out and goes into the sink for a quick soak. After about 1/2 hour you can rinse it off and it goes back in. Again, unless you live to clean crumbs out of your oven this is a non-issue.
This leads to a minor mention of the non-stick interior. It's not like a plastic Teflon coating, but it looks like a stainless coating. You can simply wipe it clean, or in the case of the crumb tray or baking tray that comes with the unit, soak it in the sink for a while and it washes clean easily.
The next non-issue is the rack and positioning. There are two positions, one for toasting and one for baking/roasting. The rack, which is not like the old ones made of heavy wire, but more like steel you would see in your big oven glides in and out of grooves in the oven. The toasting height is in the middle to assure even exposure to the elements. If you pull the rack out from this position it will stop on a catch before coming all the way. This is a safety so your hot Eggo's don't fall along with a burning hot steel rack onto the counter and you. To remove it just lift up on the end and slide the rest of the way out. You can easily slide it into the bottom slot, just like a regular oven. From the lower position you can fit loaf pans, casseroles, and a variety of other bake ware without coming up against the top of the oven.
So far I have baked pumpkin bread (two loaves at a time) and banana bread with the convection feature that circulates the air evenly around the oven and they came out perfectly the first time. With convection I was able to decrease the cooking time by 10 - 15 minutes. For a 2 pound meat loaf I decreased the temperature by 25 degrees and and cooking time by nearly 15 minutes. Another great feature is that you don't have to pre-heat the oven well in advance. About 3 minutes is good enough, a real energy saver.
Another odd source of contention I read was unplugging the unit after using it as stated in the manual. A safety expert would tell you to do that on any appliance that you don't use (blender, mixer, etc.), since they draw a little amperage even while you're not using them thus the safety concern. Since we use our oven in some capacity (i.e. toast) nearly everyday, it is impractical to unplug it every time. If you only intend to use this occasionally, then by all means unplug it. You might even save a nickle on your electric bill. For the record, we unplug all our appliances while on vacation, but not during normal everyday use.
Staying on the safety theme, ovens get hot when you use them. This one is no exception, although I happened to notice that it doesn't get nearly as hot as the old GE, so this one marks an evolutionary improvement.
How does it toast? Great! The first time we used it we experimented with the darkness settings, as you would with any toaster, and each found how we like it. Turning the toast feature on is a 3 step process but very easy with the easy touch buttons on the front panel. Pushing the toast button prompts you set the desired darkness on a scale from 1 to 7. Once set push start. If you always like it the same way then just push toast, and start. The toaster does all the rest for you taking into consideration the starting temperature of the oven. It will count down the time remaining by giving longer toast times for a cold oven, and faster times for a hot oven. I like this feature because I can time the toast to come out right when the eggs are done. When the toast is done the unit beeps a few times to let you know. There are additional, nifty features for toasting frozen bagels or English muffins that eliminate the need for microwave intervention.
I can't tell you how reliable it is since we've only had it about 6 weeks, but we had it over the holidays and used it quite a bit. For baking it's great, especially with the convection feature. We haven't made pizza in it yet, nor have we cooked a 4.5 pound chicken. I also intend to use it as broiler, so we'll see how that goes. There is additional rack positioning features not worth mentioning at this point. I forgot to mention that the unit comes with a baking/broiling pan with the same kind of non-stick material. It's much more high quality that you would expect to come with it.
The only weaker points I would have to echo with other reviewers is that the timer doesn't shut the oven off or reduce the temperature to warm, which might be nice. But neither does my big oven and that might be a problem when baking if your cake needs more time. And the other is that compared to some other units it's a little pricey, but I consider it worth the value. At BB&B you can get this with a coupon which makes it more appealing.
Finally, it is what is. It's not your old oven, it won't do features that it's not designed to do (i.e. toast by the minute rather than by darkness). So make sure that this is what you want in a toaster/oven/broiler with all of it's inherent features.
May 5th, 2009 UPDATE
So now we have had some time to use this oven and test it's durability a little. We have hardly given it a day's rest. One thing that we've found is that we enjoy our home-made deli sandwiches toasted a little bit, especially on cold days. They just taste better and I can't tell you why it's easier to do it with this oven but it is. Perhaps the ease of the sliding rack and large oven size than we were used to before facilitates the toasting.
I have cooked nearly every food group since the original review. Broiled fish, cooked casseroles, baked chicken and one night I made a Greek recipe for ground lamb using the convection feature and invited our neighbor over. The minute she walked in she was greeted by the aroma of the herbs and spices as the air not only circulates around the food but gives you a good idea of what's in the oven. Potatoes smell especially good while convection baking and take about half the time.
I have come to like rewarming leftovers in this oven over the microwave in certain circumstances. Pizza definitely comes out crispier, some meats come out less chewy too. We had left over oven-baked chicken and a noodle casserole one night, so I put them together in the same casserole dish and warmed them with the convection feature and they actually came out better than the first night. Go figure? The chicken was crispy and the noodles were great!
Finally, today I took a nylon brush and cleared the few crumbs that collect from the space underneath the door. No neighbors banished us for having these crumbs there or for the few crumbs that collected on the tray that I also cleaned this morning. The tray now has some stains on it as does the cooking tray which makes it look more like we use this oven all the time, which we do. It still toasts as well as it did the first time and if anything, we use it more than we did when we first got it.
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