The $179 Frigidaire Professional 6-Slice Convection Toaster Oven is shockingly bad at doing the job for which it was designed. This is especially true when compared with the other three toaster ovens we tested: the $299 Cuisinart CSO-300, the $249 Breville Smart Oven, and the $149 Panasonic FlashXpress. Even the toast test flummoxed the Frigidaire and nearly set off the smoke alarms. Twice. While it comes close to the considerably more expensive Breville Smart Oven on looks, it ultimately came up short in every category.
That's unfortunate since the Frigidaire offers some high-end features that I was eager to test. It boasts a pizza setting that can bake up to a 12-inch pie -- it even includes a pizza pan. Still, the Frigidaire produced the absolute worst pizza in all three test runs. Unfortunately, this became a theme for nearly all of the food tests we performed. Given the lower-cost, impressive Panasonic oven, Frigidaire can't fall back on the lower price as an excuse for this model. In all, I cannot recommend it.
The Frigidaire offers features that rival the Cuisinart and Breville toaster ovens. It can switch back and forth between traditional and convection cooking with the press of a button. The Breville offers that same functionality, but the Cuisinart can only alternate between convection and steam modes. Also, the Frigidaire is equipped with infrared heating technology that claims to preheat and cook food more efficiently. The Panasonic toaster oven uses infrared heating technology, but doesn't have a convection setting. Eight different presets come standard with this Frigidaire model: Bagel, Toast, Bake, Broil, Cookies, Pizza, Reheat, and Warm. The Breville has a specific "Roast" setting and the Cuisinart has "Steam Cook" capabilities. This Frigidaire has a heating range of 150 to 450 degrees Fahrenheit, while the other three toaster ovens go up to 500 degrees. Also included with this model: an adjustable cooking rack that you can set to three different heights, a removable crumb tray, a bake pan, and a pizza pan.
Usability and design
This Frigidaire is a solidly built toaster oven with a stainless-steel finish and LCD screen that make it look like a much more expensive model. It really does bear a striking resemblance to the Breville Smart Oven, which gets high marks for design and costs about $70 more than the Frigidaire. And here's some more good news: the Frigidaire gets a decent score for usability. Every setting is viewable on the LCD screen for easy adjustments, and there's a button specifically for quick transitions from traditional to convection heating. There's also a mode dial, which allows you to navigate among the various presets. For efficiency, the temperature and time buttons double as toast settings. So, depending on which mode you choose, the buttons either adjust temperature and time or toast darkness and number of slices. Then, you turn the dial underneath to select your preference.
It's pretty simple to use after a few tries, although it could be even more streamlined. The Cuisinart CSO-300 Combo Steam + Convection Oven uses a single dial to navigate among the different presets, and to set the timer and temperature. It makes even better use of the LCD screen since you can navigate without having to bother with several buttons and dials. So, yes, the Frigidaire is easy to operate. Regrettably, that doesn't matter much since the preset modes are more decorative than functional.
This is where things get particularly dicey for the Frigidaire toaster oven. Early in the testing process, I came across a significant flaw. The "dark toast" setting dramatically overestimates the amount of time it takes to toast bread. I was skeptical when the preset read 13:23 for toasting six slices of bread, but the timer is self-adjusting depending on how many slices of bread you use and the internal temperature of the toaster oven at any given time. That's a great feature, and I trusted it to adjust the timer as needed.
Not so. Toasting bread on "dark" consistently gave readings in the 12-to-15-minute range. The takeaway here is that toasting anything for 12-plus minutes is a potential fire hazard that produces charred nubs rather than finely toasted pieces of bread. The other three toaster ovens produced crisp, golden brown toast using a comparable setting in well under 12 minutes.
I also decided to toast a couple of frozen waffles to see if that would be a more realistic use for the dark toast setting. It was less burnt, but still mostly inedible. I scoured the user's manual to see if there's a caveat in the text about using the dark toast setting only when your bread or waffle has been frozen, but alas, no such warning existed. Clearly, there's a disconnect between Frigidaire's "rapid cooking infrared technology" and the presets.
The Frigidaire made the least consistent toast by far. We performed three tests each at the light, medium, and dark toast settings using six slices of bread in the Frigidaire. That's 54 pieces of bread total. Things went very well for both the light and medium tests, but the dark test was a disaster. As you can see in the image below, the dark toast setting is completely useless.
You can easily avoid that problem by never making dark toast or by taking it out early, but it seems like a hazard that could point to a larger issue. If you're using this toaster oven for the first time, happen to enjoy dark toast, and walk away from the machine to do other things, you could come back to a big, smoky mess. The Cuisinart, Breville, and Panasonic all produced much more consistent results at the light, medium, and dark toast settings.
The Frigidaire made decent cookies, although they were slightly brown and bordered on overdone. The preset timer inaccurately estimated the cooking time once again, but not by as much as the dark toast setting. The preset defaulted to 350 degrees for 11 minutes using convection. I adjusted the timer down to 8 minutes on the third test and the results were much better. This is where I started to call into question the overall functionality of the presets.
The frozen pizza setting on the Frigidaire was similarly off base. If I had let it bake for as long as the default pizza setting suggested, there might have been another dark toast situation. Like the toast and the cookies, there's a huge difference between the amount of time needed and the default time given on the pizza setting.
During the next two tests, I followed the instructions on the pizza box instead of the presets and they were quite undercooked and floppy. So ultimately, neither option made a substantial pizza. It seems particularly difficult to find a cooking sweet spot using the Frigidaire, no matter what food you're making. At this point, I'm inclined to blame the presets and the heating technology since it doesn't seem to follow a predictable pattern. The Panasonic was the most consistent out of all four toaster ovens, but it can only make small, personal-serving pies. Go for the Cuisinart or Breville if you plan to make larger pizzas.
With no roast setting, I followed the instructions suggested for the weight of the drumsticks and cooked them at 350 degrees for 50 minutes. The very first run on the Frigidaire was fairly successful; the chicken was pretty juicy and crisp. The second run yielded moist chicken that was not at all crisp, and the third run produced chicken that wasn't moist or crispy. So once again, the results were extremely inconsistent. Overall, the chicken was edible, but not as reliable as what we cooked in the Cuisinart, Breville, and Panasonic.
The maximum temperature on the Frigidaire is 450 degrees, although the suggested temperature for broiling burgers in toaster ovens is 500 degrees. As a result, the meat took much longer to cook than it did for the Cuisinart, Breville, and Panasonic. In this case, though, it didn't matter because none of the toaster ovens made a good burger. After some deliberation, we decided that the small size of toaster ovens and the high heat required for broiling just doesn't create an ideal cooking environment. So, cooking burgers in this or most other toaster ovens will either require a lot of practice or you should just avoid it completely.
I toasted a couple of frozen waffles on the dark toast setting to see if there was a reasonable explanation for having such a long preset default. They were also burnt, although not to the same extent as the toast. You can see the result below.
I also toasted two frozen waffles in the Panasonic, since it has a dedicated frozen waffle setting. I can't draw a direct comparison since I didn't use a dark toast setting in the Panasonic, but it does make it clear how much easier it is to use other toaster ovens. The Panasonic easily achieved the desired result and the Frigidaire floundered.
The cooking rack, crumb tray, bake pan, and pizza pan are all removable and simple to clean. Similarly, the inside of the toaster oven is nonstick and easy to wipe down as needed. However, if you accidentally allow your toaster oven to toast bread for 12-plus minutes, you are going to end up with smoky, charred food residue that will cover both the inside and outside of your appliance -- now that will take more effort to clean.
I can't recommend this product to anyone. While it has the appearance of a capable machine, it completely fails to meet my basic expectations. The features and settings are positives in its favor, but how useful are they if the results are so unpredictable? I can't quite pinpoint why it cooks so inconsistently, but there's a clear issue with the convection and infrared heating and how they work both separately and in concert with the presets.
If you completely ignore the presets and tirelessly tweak your cooking times, you could probably reach a point where you are satisfied with the way the Frigidaire cooks. But, why go through the hassle when there are far better options out there? For a smaller, less expensive toaster oven that performs extremely well, I would recommend the Panasonic FlashXpress. You can find it on Amazon for $89 (at the time of this writing), which is far less than its $149 sticker price and it won't regularly surprise you with wonky results. Or, if you want something that looks like the Frigidaire, but, you know, works, go for the Breville. It has an even larger capacity than the Frigidaire, so it's ideal if you're keen on cooking a lot of family-size pizzas.