(Or, in other words, does size really matter.)
As you may already know, I am a bit of a sucker for kitchen appliances. I love to test different ones out, and when I discover I’m not really using one, I either find a friend who’s happy to give it a new home, or I donate it to a charity.
For starters, I loved having two ovens back when we used to entertain a lot. It truly did save a lot of time spent in the kitchen, especially when I was trying to do both pastries and cakes in the same day.
As it’s now just the two of us, and has been for most of 2020 and this snippet of 2021 so far, I also find myself using the mini oven more often than my glorious full-size monster.
Which has got me thinking: can a mini oven ever really outperform its much larger cousin?
Let’s try to answer that question by asking some common sense questions.
Your main consideration when making this choice between mini oven and full-size oven is the amount of time you spend in your kitchen, and the dishes you like to make.
Maybe you don’t even need an oven, and cook exclusively on the hob? Or maybe you like to unwind by baking, and need a very reliable oven?
If you usually eat out, have the Deliveroo app on your phone’s home screen and don’t really bother with much, you’ll be fine with just a cooktop. If you would like to hold on to the option of roasting, a mini oven will do just fine.
On the other hand, if you consider yourself more of a chef than a mere cook, a full-size oven is the way to go. There’s simply no replacing it, if you are looking for that professional level of taste.
Let me also just note that a mini oven will save on your energy bills, and it will require about half the amount of energy a full-size oven needs. As for cooking time, it may vary a little between the two, but not incredibly so. Regular ovens are better insulated and will store heat better, so the smaller size won’t actually result in double the speed. Sorry if that comes as a disappointment!
A note on sizes
If space is an issue, you naturally want to go for the mini oven. You can store it on a countertop, you can store it in a cupboard, and you can move it around as needed.
If space is not the issue, you can consider an all-in-one solution, complete with a hob and oven (or even a double oven!).
Very small spaces however often benefit the most from a built-in oven, so you might want to consider that option if space truly is the major deal-breaker.
Ease of installation
You might also want to consider the convenience of a mini oven. You don’t need to do anything other than unpack it, give it a bit of a wipe down, and plug it in.
Full-size ovens though do need professional installation. Especially gas ovens. They would also benefit from a carbon monoxide detector, just to be on the safe side. You never know when you’ll accidentally leave the gas just that little bit open.
Electric ovens also need to be installed correctly, especially if you are setting them up between cabinets. Wall ovens need the same kind of care, and you won’t just be able to start using them the minute they arrive.
Of course, a smoke detector should accompany any oven (even a mini one), to ensure you are staying perfectly safe and that no amount of forgetfulness on your part (or a very interesting episode of Bake Off) causes a bit of a disaster.
Obviously, a mini oven will be much less of an investment. You can usually find one for as low as £50, but will probably need to go up to £150 or higher to get a truly exceptional model.
On the other hand, conventional ovens will be over £300 to start with, and can go up to several thousand pounds too.
This of course doesn’t mean anything. If budget is not an issue for you, you won’t care about the cost. Or, you could easily source a pre-loved oven for a fraction of the cost.
Focus on your needs rather than the cost, and then choose a model that also fits your budget.
A practical prattle
Finally, let me just add a brief point on the practicality of each oven option.
For starters, you can of course reheat your leftovers in either. Mini ovens will do a more energy-efficient job, and you’ll feel much more practical, as you’re not turning the oven on just for the purposes of reheating.
If you purchase a toaster oven, it will do a great job of warming dishes up too, though it might not come with all the added options a mini oven provides (i.e. no roast chicken for you).
Mini ovens also won’t heat the entire kitchen up as much as full-size ovens, which is great in the summer, but can be a bit of a let-down in the winter, especially if you love the smell of baking coupled with the warmth that fills the entire kitchen.
And naturally, mini ovens are easier to clean – given the fact that they take up much less space. You can still make quite the mess though, especially if you’re making something that can spill over or drip.
The final verdict
Now’s the time for me to give you my verdict, right?
If you live in a small space (even if it’s just a temporary setup), I vote for buying a mini oven. You can rehome it later on if you don’t use it anymore, but it can be a true lifesaver on the nights when you just crave some baked mac & cheese.
If space is not an issue and you do like to cook and bake, I definitely vote for the conventional oven. I know it might be a bit old fashioned, but I truly believe that size does matter (at least in the kitchen). A full-size oven will always achieve the best possible results, as there is more room for the air to circulate.
If you are not much of a cook, and can’t really be bothered, you don’t really need either. A simple toaster oven might do the trick, or you can just order a meal in when you particularly fancy something with a baked crust.
Do you own a mini oven?
I’d love to hear your input on the dilemma – especially if you own both a conventional and a mini oven!
As for myself, I’ll probably go back to fully embracing my full-size oven as soon as we are able to have guests over in the house again. Until then, I’ll be grateful for the fact that I have both.