Why You Should Use A Light-Colored Pan In Your Toaster Oven

Morning carb fanatics fall into two camps: those in favor of toasters and those who swear by toaster ovens. While the toaster tends to be more common and compact on countertops, the toaster oven is a useful alternative with distinctive and varied advantages.

Perhaps most significantly, the toaster oven's flexibility is a major selling point in deciding between appliances. According to Wayfair, toaster ovens offer more space than standard toasters. They're also easier to clean and have various settings that allow for cooking variety. Not only can you toast your food, but you can also bake, broil, and reheat. And you're not limited to, well, toast. Food Network notes that you can use your toaster oven like a miniature oven and make bacon, vegetables, and even baked goods. 

But while toaster ovens enable more widespread usage, they also take longer than standard toasters and microwaves. Because they use direct, gradual heat, toaster ovens follow a slow-burn approach. Getting your food to the right temperature is therefore a balancing act — one that may require a simple adjustment of your pan.

Light-colored pans enable even, controlled heat

Darker pans generally absorb heat faster than lighter bases, according to Livestrong, and while dark pans help food cook quickly, they are more prone to cause burning. Meanwhile, lighter pans absorb less heat and enable slower, steadier bakes. This phenomenon boils down to science — literally. While roasting, toasting, broiling, and the like, food undergoes radiant heat transfer, notes Serious Eats. In order for something to fully cook, heat must be transferred from the outside of the food inward.

On a darker pan, the exterior of your food may cook too quickly for heat to effectively travel to its center. This is how and when burning occurs ... and may leave your food with an overcooked exterior and still-cold middle. As such, a light-colored pan is usually a safe bet when making food that requires even, controlled cooking. That's not to say dark pans can't be used to your advantage; rather, they can and should be employed when seeking ultra-crispy food. Cooks Illustrated says dark pans are best for cinnamon rolls and pizza — foods where crust is key.

Oh, and tread carefully when it comes to tricking your toaster oven. Parchment paper may disguise a dark pan's color, but it won't actually help your food cook more evenly, advises Taste of Home. If all you have is a dark-colored baking sheet, cover it instead with a silicone baking sheet or, per Cooks Illustrated, foil.

Once you experiment with your pan, you can gradually incorporate a few other changes to your toaster oven strategy. You'll guarantee you're getting the most out of your appliance — and maybe convert to team toaster oven.