toaster with toasted bread

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The toaster is much more than a one-trick pony. Although this handy device is as quintessential to American kitchens as stoves and refrigerators, it’s still often regarded as a single-use tool for toasting sliced bread. Sure, it gets that job done well, but limiting your toaster to toast isn’t tapping into its surprising potential. One of the most low-key versatile tools in the kitchen, it’s an appliance that goes far beyond Pop Tarts and bagels. Then when you consider the invention of the reusable toaster bag, which allows you to heat just about anything that’ll fit inside the pouch, it opens up a whole new world of possibilities — all while preventing crumbs or grease.

Not to be overshadowed by it more dexterous kitchen counterpart, the toaster oven, a toaster can do everything from taking care of lunch and reheating food to providing healthier snack options and bringing crispiness back to leftovers in a way microwaves could only dream of. Here are the absolute best uses for your toaster.

Grilled cheese

split grilled ham and cheese

When it comes to cooking bread in a toaster, you needn’t stop at basic toast. In fact, toasters can come in handy when assembling full-blown sandwiches. This is especially ideal when you’re strapped for time, or you simply don’t feel like hauling out the griddle or the panini press. Grilled cheese is a particular breeze in a toaster. This is one example that cooks up perfectly in a toaster bag, which helps to avoid crumbs and dripping cheese, and also hold the sandwich in place.

As long as having those panini grill marks on your bread isn’t a dealbreaker, then toaster grilled cheese is an ideal solution. Simply assemble your cheese(s) of choice on your bread of choice, add in anything else you’d like (sliced tomatoes, deli meats, or even peanut butter for a delicious yet unconventional grilled cheese ingredient); place the sandwich in a toaster bag; and pop it in the toaster for a few minutes to achieve ooey-gooey perfection, not to mention bread that’s surprisingly crispy.

Leftover pizza

two pizza pies with meat toppings

Though it may be the easiest option, you should never reheat pizza in the microwave. Your slice will inevitably end up with cheese more soggy than melty and gooey, and a hard crust that is verging on inedible. There are plenty of better ways to revive your slice including the skillet and oven, but the toaster will also do the trick — if you happen to have some toaster bags handy.

According to Delish, simply plop a slice of bagged leftover pizza into the toaster and you’re golden. A low-medium setting will ensure that your slice is brought back to its molten glory, tasting nearly as fresh as the moment you ordered it. Obviously, certain styles — and slice sizes — work better in toaster bags. Square options like Sicilian and Detroit are ideal, but any type of pizza will do, as long as you’re willing to cut and reconfigure a bit.

Defrosting bread

bags of frozen bread

The freezer is one of the best ways to keep bread fresh, but when you’re ready to use that loaf again, the toaster can come in clutch. It can help speed up the thaw process and cut down on overall cooking time. Some toasters even come equipped with a defrost setting. Now, this doesn’t mean you can defrost everything in there — we’re by no means suggesting that you should cram a frozen chicken breast or salmon fillet in your toaster — but, per Women’s Health, frozen bread can be placed in the toaster to warm it up enough where you can work with it in any recipe, from bread pudding to panzanella.

As long as you’re able to slice your frozen bread into a size that’ll fit in the toaster slots, you’re good to go. After all, defrosting in a toaster is much better than letting bread warm up at room temp, which just makes it stale (via Epicurious).

Bruschetta

Bruschetta platter

Naturally, toasters are ideal for making toast. But why stop with a simple breakfast side? There are endless possibilities for toasted bread that aren’t limited to a smear of butter and jam. In fact, toasters can work wonders with dinner party snacks as well. The perfect crowd-pleaser, bruschetta (aka crostini) is one of those blank-canvas foods that allows you to customize to your heart’s content, and with a toaster, it’s quick and easy (via Cuisine at Home).

Basically, just start like you’re getting ready to make traditional toast, with a couple pieces of sliced bread — really any loaf will do, but, according to Busby’s Bakery hearty rustic types, like ciabatta, are best. Drizzling some extra-virgin olive oil on the bread, pre-toaster, helps achieve that signature bruschetta crunch. Once nice and golden-brown, you’re free to garnish and layer as you please, from a classic bruschetta recipe topped with tomatoes to strawberries, fresh mozzarella, butternut squash, and beyond.

Tortillas

plate of hard-shell ground beef tacos

The fact that toasters don’t tread in oil (or really, any fats) makes it a convenient tool for healthier cooking. Sure, you can always butter things up after the fact, but the actual cooking process is lean and clean, which affords ample opportunities for healthier snack options. Case in point: making tortilla chips and taco shells that aren’t fried (via Kitchn).

If you have fresh tortillas on hand, whether flour or corn, and you don’t want to go through the messy process of deep-frying or pan-frying, you can go the toaster route to keep things cleaner, quicker, and much healthier. Just cut up the tortillas to your desired chip size and shape, place a handful in a toaster bag, and cook on high for optimal crunch. Alternatively, for taco shells, all you need to do is place small tortillas directly into the toaster (no need for a bag), and they’ll naturally toast into a hard-shell shape, ready to be stuffed with your filling of choice.

Sweet potatoes

Sweet Potatoes with various herbs

Few ingredients are as versatile as the sweet potato. It can be turned into a side of fries, a hearty casserole main, or an irresistible pie for dessert. The humble root vegetable can even take the form of toast, subbing in for bread as the base for any number of spreads and garnishes (via Epicurious).

All it takes is slicing fresh sweet potatoes into even slivers — thin enough to fit into toaster slots — and cooking them on the highest setting until the surfaces are slightly browned and they’re fork-tender. Once texture and tint is achieved, the sky’s the limit in terms of toppings. Treat them like toast or tartines and add whatever you’d like, from goat cheese or almond butter to marshmallow fluff or scrambled eggs. You can even use the toasted sweet potatoes as chip replacements and dip them into whatever kind of spreads you’re craving.

Meatless burgers

Veggie burgers on board

A far quicker, cleaner, and easier alternative to cooking on the grill or stovetop, toasted meatless burgers are so deceptively simple, you’ll wonder why you haven’t been doing this your whole life. They’re especially great if you’re looking for a healthy meat-free meal in a pinch. Whether cooking with Beyond Meat, Impossible Foods, or the veggie burger brand of your liking, all you need to do is plop a couple patties directly into the toaster (you don’t even need to thaw them from the freezer), and cook on high.

According to vegetarian cooking hack expert Jerry James Stone, you may want to run it through the toaster a couple times if you prefer your patties with a little more crispiness. Regardless, toasters are a convenient way to cook veggie burgers evenly and consistently, with nice crispy edges that are primed and ready for the bun. Just be careful not to use any meat-based burger patties, which will drip grease into the toaster and pose a fire hazard.

Asparagus

bunch of asparagus in basket

It’s not just plant-based burgers that toasters can cook efficiently, but also plain ol’ vegetables. Asparagus, a notoriously fickle stalk that’s hard to cook evenly and consistently due to the varying thickness of the stalks to stems, is one ingredient that benefits from the even heating of the pop-up toaster (via The Guardian). Their thinness makes it way too easy for them to fall through the slots, so cooking in a toaster bag is pretty much essential. Depending on the size of the stalks, you may also need to do some trimming to ensure they all fit, and that the tips of the tops fall just below the rim of the toaster. (Don’t worry, there are plenty of great ways to use those leftover asparagus ends.)

Cook at the highest setting (possibly two times) and voila! Season to your liking, and perhaps cut them into bite-sized morsels, and you’ll have ready-to-eat asparagus — and a nourishing side dish — in minutes.

Bacon

slices of bacon

Toasters aren’t merely suited for meat-free meals and fryer-alternatives. Just because grease isn’t involved, doesn’t mean you can’t use your toaster to indulge in your favorite comfort foods a bit too. Tasty strips of bacon can easily be cooked in a toaster if you’d rather avoid the muss and fuss of frying on the stovetop or cooking in the oven.

First things first: You don’t absolutely don’t want to place bacon directly in your toaster due to the fire hazard that can be caused by dripping grease. Use a toaster bag to ensure those strips are cooked safely (via I Forgot It’s Wednesday). Since the toaster presses against the bacon vertically, it allows the meat to cook evenly as fat drips away to the bottom of the bag, resulting in bacon that’s extra crispy, with all the same familiar salty goodness you know and love with this porcine snack.

Breakfast pastries

loaf of banana bread with unpeeled bananas

Why stop at Pop Tarts when there’s a whole wide world of baked goods to toast? Similar to leftover pizza, breakfast pastries heat up much better in a toaster than a microwave. It’s all about achieving that ideal texture, and toasters tend to revive pastries to their original crispy, golden-brown glory far better than zapping them. So if you’re looking to warm up a morning snack, certain pastries fare particularly well with a stint in the toaster: scones, Danishes, quickbreads (e.g. banana bread, zucchini bread), and muffin tops are all perfect candidates (via The Washington Post).

Even pastries that don’t necessarily fit well into a toaster slot, like a croissant, can also be cooked via toaster, using add-ons like a warming rack that fastens above the device. This way, you’ll be able to heat up your pan au chocolat without cramming it into a heap of flaky crumbs.

Cookies

pile of chocolate chip cookies

A warming rack is a surefire way to heat up a cookie with radiant toaster heat, minus the mess. But if your device isn’t equipped with one, not to worry. As long as the cookie of your choice is large enough and firm enough to hold together, this is one snack that can easily be dropped directly into the toaster itself. Heartier and thicker cookies are your best bet (as opposed to wafer-thin ones that’ll likely crumble apart), and you’ll want varieties that aren’t enrobed in something that’ll turn into a melty mess (i.e. don’t drop a bunch of Thin Mints into a toaster bag).

Per a user on Reddit, cookies like chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, and peanut butter can easily be warmed through with a brief stint in the toaster. Cooking at the lowest setting allows them to retain their original ooey gooey goodness that makes them so craveable.

French fries

bowl of french fries

If you have the will power to somehow have leftover french fries, be sure not to toss them. Your toaster can help crisp them back to life in surprising efficiency. Obviously, something deep-fried like a french fry, diminishes in quality rather rapidly, which is why it’s important to reheat properly if you want to continue enjoying them before they get too soggy or stale.

Like asparagus, they’re too thin to just drop directly into a toaster slot, so you’ll need a toaster bag to keep them all together and cooking evenly. The results are shockingly crispy and fresh, with the same pleasant crunch you’d get when you first order them (via Delish). How long you toast them is a matter of textural preference, so if you like your fries to be extra crunchy, just run them through the toaster cycle another time. And if you happen to be an onion ring fan, simply follow the same procedure.