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10 Life-Changing Oven Alternatives For Small Kitchens

10 Life-Changing Oven Alternatives For Small Kitchens

As much as an oven may appear as an irreplaceable appliance, there are some fun oven alternatives that can change your life. Change your cooking habits, nutrition, the amount of time you spend in the kitchen, and even your kitchen organization.

We’ve managed to rake up 10 oven alternatives you can use in a small kitchen. But before you choose one, make sure to sort out your priorities and needs.

Some are better suited for tenderizing meats, others make wonders for stews and soups, while yet another batch is great for baking.

To make the choice easier for you, we’ve listed the pros and cons of each oven substitute. We’ve also pointed out some of the dishes you’ll be able to make with each appliance.

P.S.

This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking a link like that, I’ll earn a small commission (at no additional cost to you) to feed the bottomless pit that is my cat.



Air Fryer

Not so long ago we were in the middle of the air fryer craze. The hype might have gone down a bit but it still doesn’t change the fact that an air fryer is a solid alternative for ovens. Especially in a small kitchen.

COSORI Air Fryer Max XL 5.8 QT 13 Cooking Functions


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Air fryers heat up much faster than traditional ovens due to rapid air technology. So where you’d normally turn on the oven and wait for it to heat up, an air fryer is ready to cook pretty much from the get-go.

The even distribution of hot air is also made easier due to the air fryer’s small size. By rapidly circulating the scalding heat, the air fryer can cook your food as if it were being fried in hot oil.

Rozmoz 8-in-1 5 Quart Air Fryer

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So there’s your main benefit: an air fryer is a healthier alternative for traditional deep frying that gives you crispy fried food with much much less oil.

This is not to say that you can only cook deep-fried food in an air fryer. Here are other meals you may be cooking in this oven alternative:

  • any frozen food
  • finger foods
  • some meats
  • seeds and granola
  • roasted vegetables
  • some baked desserts (not the liquid base ones)
Pros of an air fryer as an oven alternative:

A typical air fryer is much smaller than a convection oven which makes it a great addition to a small apartment.

It also allows you to cook most of the meals you’d typically be able to make in a traditional oven.

With the added benefit of being able to deep-fry foods without actual frying involved, it is a great choice for those who need to regulate their fat intake.

Cons of an air fryer as an oven alternative:

Same as before, an air fryer is typically much smaller than a convection oven. Which is not disappointing if you were dreaming of roasting a whole chicken.

In general, air fryers are not great at handling large amounts of food. So it is a good choice for one or two-person meals, but not more. Although some bigger air fryers can cook for up to 5 people.

The sad truth is that an air fryer just can’t cook some types of food that would typically be okay in an oven or a deep-fryer. Liquid batters are off the table, as well as grilled cheese, broccoli, leafy greens, fish, or burgers. If you want to find out more about stuff you can’t cook in an air fryer and why check out this article.


Electric Grill

One of the most cost-effective oven alternatives for small kitchens is an indoor grill. It may not have everything a traditional oven has to offer. However, it is a great way to diversify your oven-less cooking repertoire.

TecTake Electric Griddle Grill Combo

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An electric grill can be used to cook a variety of meats and vegetables. Here are some dishes you’ll be able to cook with this oven substitute:

  • steak, meat, chicken
  • burgers
  • fish and seafood
  • veggies and skewers
  • breakfast meals
  • naan bread, quesadillas, and even grilled pizza

So there’s a lot of cooking ideas for an indoor grill to go around.

Hamilton Beach 6-serving Electric Indoor Grill

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You can get one with a grill hood lid that traps the heat and allows your food to properly cook. Other electric grills take on the form of a panini press that acts not only as an extra griddle but also allows you to put a proper sear on your dishes.

Cuisinart Stainless Steel Electric Griddler

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Pros of an indoor grill:

Depending on the number of doodads and options, you can get a decent electric grill at a much cheaper price than some options on this list.

Indoor grills are also quite compact in comparison to some other appliances. So this appliance can comfortably sit on a countertop without disrupting your cooking.

They are also easy to clean thanks to a drip tray and a usually dishwasher-safe design.

Some indoor grills even come with waffle plates that allow you to make delicious waffles first thing on a Sunday morning. And isn’t that sweet?

Cons of an indoor grill:

If you can comfortably envision yourself living without meat or paninis, then an indoor grill won’t do you much good. So if you want to cook casseroles and bake cupcakes, we’ve got other oven alternatives for you.

Also, if you need to cook for a large group of people, the electric grill may take up a lot of space in your kitchen to accommodate that.

If you’re looking for an indoor grill at a cheaper price point, be prepared that some of them only allow you to eyeball the temperature changes (if they allow it at all). Some grills will need you to go the trial and error route to perfect a medium-rare steak or properly cooked-through corn.


Toaster Oven aka Convection Oven

A toaster oven or a convection oven is the closest you can get to a traditional oven substitute.

Oster Digital Convection Toaster Oven

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The terms “toaster oven” and “convection oven” (not the built-in kind) seem to sometimes be used interchangeably. There is a big difference between them since what makes a convection oven stand out – the fan. It circulates the air and makes your meals cook not only faster but more evenly as well.

However. Since regular toaster ovens are mostly capable of only reheating foods while built-in convection ovens are huge, expensive, and not so energy efficient, a miracle happened.

Oster French Convection Countertop Oven

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You can now buy a convection toaster oven.

Combining the best of both worlds, it is a smaller oven that can fit on a kitchen courter or under a kitchen island. Since it is equipped with a fan, you can cook your food like you would in a traditional oven.

There’s no need to list out all the recipes you can cook in a convection toaster oven because it is a genuine traditional oven substitute. Roast a chicken, make a homemade pizza, cook a family dinner, bake cakes and casseroles.

Seriously, my small apartment came without an oven and I’ve been living with a convection toaster oven for the past 10 years. No complaints.

Pros of a toaster oven as an oven substitute:

As said before, this is the most sufficient oven alternative you can find.

Ninja DT251 Foodi 10-in-1 Toaster Oven

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Many of these ovens can double as many other appliances. For example, they can act as an air fryer, a dehydrator, or even allow you to cook a rotisserie chicken by affixing it to the oven walls. Case in point, the one above is a 10-in-1 oven substitute.

Also, these electric ovens come in a variety of sizes. So if you are concerned about fitting one in your small kitchen, you can find one that will comfortably sit on your counter. And they are portable, so you can take one with you to a camper or a cabin.

Additionally, toaster ovens come in a wide price range. So you can match one to your needs and budget restraints.

And some of them have such a sleek and modern look, that even interior design aficionados won’t mind having one in their kitchen.

Cons of a toaster oven as an oven substitute:

Since they are smaller than regular ovens, they won’t fit a turkey inside or allow you to cook a meal for a family of four.

Also, some of these oven alternatives have a limited temperature range. Which, as an owner one, I can say is only noticeable when you need to get it scorching hot for, say, an authentic Italian pizza (although it’s nothing a pizza brick can’t fix).

Sometimes, the temperature setting can also be a bit wonky and not line up with what the dial says. Nothing a quick adjustment period can’t fix. And it is a problem that usually persists in toaster ovens of the lower price range.


Slow Cooker or Crockpot

Now, there seems to be some confusion on whether the term “slow cooker” can be used interchangeably with “crockpot”.

They are used interchangeably, especially in product listings. Still, it is important to know which does what and what to look for when choosing one for your kitchen.

These two oven alternatives do rely on the same principle: it slowly cooks the food at a low temperature. Seriously, slow cooker recipes average from 4 to 10 hours of cooking time.

Crock-Pot 7-Quart Manual Slow Cooker

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The main difference between a slow cooker and a crockpot lies in the position of their heating elements. A crockpot is usually a ceramic or porcelain pot with heating elements all along its walls and on the bottom. However, a slow cooker features a metal container with heating elements placed only at the bottom.

Hamilton Beach 6-Quart Set & Forget Programmable Slow Cooker

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While still a viable option, a slow cooker is best for cooking such dishes as soups or stews. There is concern that because of low temperatures and the heat coming only from the bottom, it may not be able to cook large cuts of meat while successfully killing all bacteria.

West Bend Griddle Base Slow Cooker

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On the other hand, some slow cookers (like the one above) allow you to remove the pot off of the heating element. It can then double as an extra stovetop. And having an extra appliance to cook on in a small kitchen can be a lifesaver for some.

Regardless of their differences, you can use both the slow cooker and a crockpot for cooking a variety of dishes such as:

  • meats
  • stews, chillis, and ragus
  • soups
  • lasagna, baked pasta, casseroles
  • mashed potatoes, baked beans, corn on the cob, and other side dishes
  • granola, cake, cobbler, brownies, cheesecake

As you can see, you’ll be able to make almost anything you’d normally cook or bake in the oven.

Pros:

A slow cooker can be used for cooking stews, soups, side dishes and even baking damp delicious cakes.

Also, the main benefit of a crockpot or slow cooker is being able to set it up and leave it. No wasting away over a hot stove, smelling of oil, and feeling your clothes dampen with steam. Especially with a crockpot, you won’t even need to stir the dish for it to cook properly.

As mentioned before, a slow cooker can double as a griddle (like the one above), which makes it a multipurpose appliance – always a plus in a small kitchen.

Elite Gourmet 1.5 Quart Mini Slow Cooker

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Speaking of small kitchens, crockpots and slow cookers come in a variety of sizes, ranging from 1.5 to 8 quarts. So you can choose the one that suits you and your countertops to save space.

A crockpot is also relatively portable, so you can store it anywhere you want and hide it away when needed.

Cons:

A slow cooker is called that for a reason, and if you don’t plan ahead you’ll be left without dinner. Remember, a typical recipe can take from 4 to 10 hours of cooking.

Also, while versatile, crockpots and slow cookers specialize in tenderizing meats, not giving them a nice sear or act as a broiler.

Because different things cook at different temperatures and times, some dishes may not cook evenly. For example, potatoes will cook slower than pork, which, in a stew, might be a nuisance. Most recipes have a way of getting around that by pre-boiling the potatoes, but still. That is something to be aware of.

Additionally, because it takes so long to prepare a meal in a crockpot, you cannot change things midway. The slow cooking process takes time and you’ll be able to finetune the recipe only on the second try.


Pressure Cooker

What is a pressure cooker and what do you do with it?

You can see a pressure cooker in two versions – a stainless steel one for your stove or an electric one that looks similar to a crockpot.

Presto 6-Quart Stainless Steel Pressure Cooker

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In short, a pressure cooker is a sealed pot with a valve (typically on the lid) that controls the pressure inside. When the liquid inside forms steam, the pressure inside the cooker rises. This method allows you to cook your meals a lot faster. It also forces liquid into the food resulting in caramelization and tenderness.

Instant Pot Duo 7-in-1 Electric Pressure Cooker

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So, you’d say, it’s just a glorified steamer, right? Nope. With this nifty appliance, you can roast a whole rotisserie chicken in just 28 minutes.

So there are tons of meals you can cook in a pressure cooker including:

  • BBQ, pot roast, chicken, and other types of meat
  • soups, chili, curry
  • bread, cakes, and cheesecakes
  • mac and cheese, lasagna, pasta, rice

Yes, you can do a lot of things with a pressure cooker from baking a cake to cooking a lasagna.

Pros of a slow cooker/crockpot:

A pressure cooker significantly reduces the cooking time of your dishes. By a lot, mind you, just look at the 28-minute rotisserie chicken. For those who don’t have much time to cook, this is an all-around winner.

It is also great for tenderizing cheap cuts of meat, making pot roasts, and BBQ. So if you are a meat lover, a pressure cooker can allow you a lot more cooking options in the kitchen.

While it is not a full oven substitute, it still brings a lot more versatility to the kitchen table. You can still experiment with baking and making dishes you otherwise wouldn’t be able to cook on the stovetop.

It also comes in a variety of sizes and price ranges, so you can match one to your cooking needs and budget. Pressure cookers, especially regular stainless steel ones, are quite portable and can easily be stored in a small kitchen.

Yedi 9-in-1 Programmable Pressure Cooker

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Additionally, some pressure cookers have a tiered interior which allows you to cook several dishes at once without intermingling tastes or smells.

If you are a bit concerned about cooking with a pressure cooker, you can get an electric version. They are much more hands-off and make handling steam more intuitive. They also come with several other built-in appliances, like a slow cooker.

Cons of a slow cooker/crockpot:

This a totally new method of cooking that may render your cooking instincts irrelevant, at least in the beginning. It also deals with heat and steam at high pressure which, if handled recklessly, can be quite dangerous. So stick to the instructions.

A traditional stainless steel pressure cooker looks like a regular pot. It requires a stovetop for cooking so if you don’t have a large stove, it can inhibit you from preparing a large enough dinner.

If you decide on an electric pressure cooker due to its versatility and intuitive design be prepared that they come at an increased price. Although having a pressure cooker that doubles as a slow cooker and a yogurt maker might be worth the additional funds.


Microwave Oven

Everyone knows what a microwave is. Most of you probably have had contact with a microwave before. But if you don’t, let’s look at what a microwave is and how it operates.

Toshiba Smart Microwave Oven

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A microwave oven uses heat from electromagnetic radiation to cook your food. Interestingly, the microwaves heat up only the food instead of the surrounding walls. It cooks at full capacity the moment it’s turned on.

A microwave is most commonly used for reheating leftovers or heating up simple things like milk or microwave meals. But that doesn’t mean you can’t cook traditional homemade dishes using a microwave. Even baking in a microwave isn’t off the table.

Emerson 1100W Griller Microwave Oven

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So here are some of the recipes you will be able to try out in a microwave:

  • roasted vegetables and baked potatoes
  • risotto, enchiladas, fajitas
  • english muffins
  • mug cakes and desserts
  • fish, ground beef, weiners
  • poached eggs

So as you can see, a microwave is fully capable of bringing some delicious variety to your dinner table.

Pros of a microwave as an oven alternative:

The truth of the matter is that a microwave cooks meals ridiculously fast. Because the heat in it targets the food directly instead of pre-heating the whole chamber and then getting to the food, it can save you tons of time. And they are also incredibly easy to use.

When comparing a microwave to convection ovens, it certainly wins in the pricing department. If you’re looking for an oven substitute on a budget, a microwave is worthy of consideration.

It is also easy to find a place for a microwave in a modern apartment. Either keep it on a counter or get a microwave rolling cart that’ll also offer you more storage in the kitchen.

Some microwaves come with a grilling option or special containers that allow for grilling. That’ll give you even more microwave oven baking and cooking options.

Cons of a microwave as an oven alternative:

Some microwaves can’t deal with thick foods. While small pieces of meat, for example, can be completely cooked through, a chicken breast might not be as lucky. Although, this problem ranges from microwave to microwave since some microwaves actually have convection and/or grilling option.

If you’ve never dealt with a microwave, there is potential for mishaps like exploding eggs or tin foil. Never put an egg or tin foil in a microwave.

It also might take some trial and error to figure out your specific microwave. Since it usually deals with watts and modes instead of degrees like an oven, it might be tricky to get used to.

Also, if you really want to explore the baking side of owning an oven (substitute), a microwave is not for you. Unless, you want to perfect the art of baking mug cakes, lemon bars, and peanut brittle.


Dutch oven

Dutch ovens are famous not only because Le Creuset makes them look ridiculously good. They are extremely versatile and can give some other kitchen appliances a run for their money.

Lodge Enameled Lilac Dutch Oven

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The most outstanding characteristic of a dutch oven is its thick walls. This feature allows the oven to conduct and retain heat more easily. Furthermore, the heat and moisture trapped under the lid can be effortlessly transferred into the food.

Its ability to retain heat for long periods of time means you can cook pretty interesting things right on the stovetop:

  • stews, chili, and soups (similar to a slow cooker)
  • pasta, lasagna, mac and cheese
  • sautéed and steamed vegetables
  • deep-fried foods

Uno Casa Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven

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Now I know what you’re thinking. Yes, a dutch oven cannot really be called a traditional oven substitute. If anything, it sounds more like a slow cooker alternative. To which I’ll say two things.

First, a dutch oven is still a uniquely versatile cooking dish. With it, you’ll be able to produce some delicious meals that otherwise wouldn’t be possible to cook.

Lodge Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Dutch Oven

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Second, if you do have a cheap crappy toaster oven with no convection, you can combine it with a dutch oven to produce some incredible results. Since a dutch oven relies on heat retention rather than convection, it can help you get around your countertop oven’s convection-less shortcoming and unlock its true potential.

Pros of a dutch oven as an oven stand-in:

As it was said before, a dutch oven is pretty versatile in what it can produce. And even on just the stove, you can make fried, steamed, sautéed, tenderized, and slow-cooked meals.

With a small dutch oven you can add more functionality to your toaster oven that lacks (or has weak) convection. You can even try your hand at baking a loaf of bread in it.

Dutch ovens are considered pretty energy-efficient since they heat up quickly and retain that heat for long periods of time.

Dutch ovens are extremely portable and can be taken on a camping trip for some delicious outdoor cooking. There are tons of recipes aimed at using a dutch oven over the campfire.

They come in a variety of sizes so you can match one to cooking needs.

And they look wonderful, bringing a certain kind of aesthetic to the kitchen table. Some models look good enough to serve the food straight out of them.

Cons of a dutch oven as an oven stand-in:

Dutch ovens are pretty well-known for being expensive. While not exactly true, since you can get a dutch oven at an affordable price, keep in mind that their prices range from $40 to $360.

Cast-iron dutch ovens are cheaper than enamel ones but there is a caveat. They need to be properly Seasoned and are tougher to clean which can be tricky to handle for someone who’s never dealt with cast iron before.

Truth be told, dutch ovens are not light. They can make a dent on a baking rack or damage the cooktop if you’re not careful. Its weight can also somewhat limit its storage methods in a small kitchen.

With just a stove, a dutch oven is not really comparable to traditional convection ovens. However, as mentioned above, it can significantly enhance the capabilities of your existing toaster oven.


Roaster oven

A roaster oven is a little gem that is not often talked about but it can definitely act as a regular oven substitute. Especially if you want to cook meat.

NESCO 18 Quart Roaster Oven

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Roaster ovens are often used in the kitchen during the holidays when there are many dishes to prepare and not enough space in the oven. They are large enough to fit an entire Thanksgiving turkey leaving the convection oven free to be filled with apple pies.

The easiest way to describe the roaster oven would be to say that is a high-temperature crockpot equivalent. Your food sits in a tight space under a lid, surrounded by a scorching heat. Thanks to its design, the oven traps moisture inside which results in more delicate and tender meat that is not dried out or shrunk.

Sunvivi Electric Roaster Oven with Self-Basting Lid

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This could be a great oven substitute on par with a countertop oven since it cooks pretty much anything including:

  • roasted meat and poultry
  • steamed vegetables
  • poached fish
  • cookies, steam bread, and other desserts
  • casseroles, chili, lasagna and more

Yes, a roaster oven can even satisfy your love of baking.

Pros of a roaster oven:

This appliance is pretty close to a full-on oven replacement. It can certainly save you when you need to whip up a large dinner and only have a burner stove.

Also, most of the entrances on this list are relatively small (mostly to be able to fit in a cramped kitchen). But roaster ovens don’t shy away from their size and can comfortably roast a whole turkey under the lid.

Speaking of the lid, the roaster oven’s cooking method relies on trapping steam in its metal dish. This results in moist, juicy, perfectly cooked meat that is not dried out. And it eliminates the need for basting so that’s less effort for you.

There are also plenty of recipes on the web to help you get a perfectly cooked meal out of your roaster oven.

The cost of getting this oven replacement is on par with other appliances such as crockpots or air fryers. Which is still cheaper than a regular convection oven.

Cons of a roaster oven:

When it comes to roasted poultry, some can’t wait to eat the savory browned skin. Since roaster oven relies on trapping steam in the baking dish, it can be hard to achieve browning. This can be counteracted by oiling up the skin to repel water.

There is some debate on the topic of whether you can bake the liquid dough in the roaster oven. However, some quick internet search suggests that as long the pan fits into the oven and it is properly pre-heated, you’ll be able to bake whatever you want.


Omnia Oven

If you have a gas stove or a portable burner, this is an oven substitute for you.

Omnia Stovetop Oven

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The Omnia oven looks like a cross between a dutch oven and a baking bundt pan. But beneath the surface hides one of the most interesting modern oven alternatives.

Once you put it on the stove, the flames heat up the base pan and the air trapped inside. The hot air from the flame then also travels up the “chimney” in the middle of the pan enveloping whatever you’re cooking inside from the top. This results in the food being cooked from top to bottom with regular air circulation.

Omnia Oven Silicone Mold

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The Omnia oven will work on any kind of stove except for induction plates. An induction plate won’t generate hot air that needs to travel up the chimney. So you’ll need something more traditional, like a propane or butane stove.

Omnia Oven Baking Grid

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Due to the unique shape of the bundt pan, you won’t be able to bake pizza or other round and flat dishes. But other than that, with the Omnia oven, the sky is your limit.

Pros of Omnia oven as an oven substitute:

This cooking oven doesn’t rely on electricity. So if you want to be able to eat a homemade meal off the grid or on a camping trip, Omnia is for you. All you need is a portable burner stove.

Since it looks like a regular baking bundt pan with a lid, this makes it perfectly portable and easy to store in a small kitchen.

It is also lighter thanks to its aluminum structure. This allows the pan to rapidly heat up from the gas stove and retain that heat.

Of course, another advantage of this oven substitute is its ability to bake nearly anything. Many appliances have limitations to what they can and can’t cook. But this one is near-universal.

Out of all the oven alternatives on this list, this is the only one with full capabilities of the oven that requires only a cooktop or portable burner stove.

Cons of Omnia oven as an oven substitute:

The necessity for a gas or butane stove is kind of a double-edged sword with this one. If you already have one, great. But if you live in an apartment with an induction stove in the kitchen, it’s not so great. You could still get a portable burner and set it up on your patio (not sure about the balcony), but that’s about it.

There are not many recipes available for the Omnia oven, so you will have to figure out this appliance through trial and error.

Omnia oven consists of a stainless steel base plate and an aluminum baking dish. Although it is FDA approved, some people tend to be concerned about aluminum reacting to acidity and leaching into food. If you are concerned about that, you can get a silicone cover for the inner baking dish. And while the Omnia itself is quite affordable the cost of extra accessories can add up.


Pizzazz Rotating Pizza Oven

If your entire reason for getting an oven alternative is cooking delicious pizza at home, we’ve got good news.

Presto Pizzazz Plus Rotating Oven

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Pizzazz is one of the most peculiar appliances you can have in a kitchen. It is a rotating oven that specializes in cooking pizza and frozen foods.

This appliance is basically a nonstick metal tray that sits between two heating elements. As it rotates, it cooks the food from both sides.

This rotating oven is meant for cooking pizza and some frozen convenience food such as:

  • chicken nuggets
  • jalapeno poppers
  • egg rolls
  • cinnamon rolls and cookies
Pros of Pizzazz as an oven alternative:

This oven alternative is as small as a portable burner stove. So it’s easy to find some space for this appliance even in the smallest kitchen.

Also, thanks to its specialized profile and unique design it saves up to 60% in energy compared to a conventional oven.

Plus, it does not need to preheat and can make a better pizza than a toaster oven at this price point. And it is a great kitchen appliance to have if you are in college or need to put a spin on your regular cooking.

Cons of Pizzazz as an oven alternative:

While it is light and portable, the Pizzazz oven has a specialized profile. It can make pizza and a variety of frozen foods but that’s it. So if you want an oven alternative that can bake a cake or roast a chicken, there are other appliances that’ll suit your needs better.


Hopefully, you’ve found a perfect substitute for your missing oven. To make it even more small-kitchen-friendly, make sure to check out this post on how to save counter space and also this post on creating a kitchen pantry (and consequently freeing space).

Now go and get cooking/baking/roasting with your new shiny not-oven.

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