An under-counter toaster is actually a common misnomer referring to a space-maker toaster or under-cabinet toaster oven. The design essence of this particular appliance is to mount it under the cabinet in order to save space on kitchen counters, but still have immediate and continual access to it. This type of toaster was introduced by Toastmaster, Inc. in 1985. Since then, several manufacturers, most notably, Black and Decker, have recreated and improved the design.
To accurately describe an under-counter toaster, one would assume the toaster would be mounted underneath the kitchen counter rather than underneath a kitchen cabinet. Hence, the more accurately named “under-cabinet toaster,” but either moniker would result in the same appliance. The under-cabinet toaster resembles a small oven, complete with a hinged door and a rack in the middle. Bread, bagels, freezer waffles, or toaster pastries are inserted horizontally, rather than vertically, to be toasted. Aside from the space-saving benefit, the primary advantage to this type of appliance is the ability to toast, bake or broil items with toppings.
From a culinary standpoint, a toaster oven is more versatile than a traditional pop-up toaster. Food items like personal pizzas, sandwiches, bruschetta and even cookies can be made in a toaster oven. Given the versatility, the frequency of use may be increased for some home cooks, thus the advantage of having an under-counter toaster model. The ability to mount a toaster oven to the underneath of a cabinet frees up valuable countertop space while still providing easy access for frequent use.
As useful and practical as an under-counter toaster may be, there is one disadvantage to this type of appliance. The heat that an appliance such as this generates may pose maintenance problems for small, unventilated kitchens. The problems may arise from heat damaging the cabinet above the toaster or from smoke should a food item burn, proper cleaning is neglected, or the toaster malfunctions. Naturally, these issues are all considered an addressed during manufacturing and many models feature specifications that are designed to prevent warping and provide easy access for cleaning. Fortunately, under-counter toasters are less likely to cause heat damage to wood than their coffeepot counterparts, which use water that creates steam.
With proper installation and maintenance, a space-making toaster oven can be a very useful appliance, especially in terms of convenience and energy usage. It can save the home cook from having to heat up their entire oven to bake small, single serving items and can be used for quick prep of a variety of foods. By researching different models and selecting one that is the right size and design for the intended space, this type of toaster could prove to be a very practical appliance.