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.