Product Review: The Hamilton Beach 31199XR Countertop Convection Oven
My Search for a Countertop Oven
When we moved into our 1983 short sale home this year, we knew there was a lot of work to be done. The previous owner had stripped many of the fixtures, including the kitchen stove and oven. We plan on renovating the kitchen, so we won't be buying new appliances until that gets done.
We don't like to eat out much, so we had to find an interim solution for cooking our meals at home. At first I thought I might use a little toaster oven we had bought on a trip to use at our hotel. However I found that, other than baking a little frozen baguette, it failed miserably at the most simple baking functions. Cookies burned on the bottom; muffins cooked unevenly. I had to find something better.
My Solution (Or At Least I Thought So)
I needed something that would cook food evenly, be large enough to cook casseroles, and also cost way under $100. I began to research toaster ovens, and as I often do, I looked for a "Consumer Reports" recommendation. As a Best Buy, they recommended the Hamilton Beach Set & Forget Toaster Oven with Convection Cooking. It was quite fancy, schmancy and just under $100 online, but it was sold out everywhere I looked. For WEEKS on end.
I had no way of knowing if or when this oven would ever be available. I was so fixated on this particular model because it had gotten rave reviews, that it took me a while to have my light bulb moment: "Why don't I look for another model that will do the job and gets good reviews, even if it doesn't have some of the bells and whistles of the Set & Forget?"
That's when I discovered this little gem and also got introduced to the world of convection cooking.
The Hamilton Beach 31199XR Countertop Convection Oven
I really think calling the Hamilton Beach 31199XR a toaster oven is a misnomer - it is really a countertop convection oven. Here's a quick rundown on the features:
- Extra large size will hold 2 12" pizzas (exterior dimensions - L:19 x W:16 x H:13.5 inches)
- Three cook modes: bake, broil, and convection
- 4 rack positions
- Infinitely adjustable temperature up to 450 degrees, plus broil
- Up to 2-hour timer with auto shut-off
- Stay-on option
- Slide-out crumb tray
- Accessories included: 2 bake racks, 2 baking pans, 1 broil grid
Once I decided that this was the oven I wanted, I purchased it online and couldn't wait to put it to work!
This oven has definitely lived up to my expectations, and then some. The only difficulty I've had is in my learning curve with convection cooking, but that has been an operator issue - the oven itself performs well.
The biggest things this oven has going for it are its size and convection capability offered at a very reasonable price. The capacity of the 31199XR is 1.1 cubic feet, larger than most countertop convection ovens out there and enough to cook 2 12" pizzas at once. While I haven't done that, I did manage to cook one 12-lb. turkey with ease.
I was also able to cook 2 good-sized side dishes at once.
While there is a bake setting, I usually go with convection, just because it cooks more evenly and a lot quicker. You can, of course, hear the noise of the fans during convection cooking, but I don't find it bothersome. Occasionally during convection cooking, I will hear an extra sort of whine - it usually doesn't last long and isn't too bad.
The broil setting works well, too...just move the rack up to the top position, and it toasts bread nicely, as well as cooks up a mean batch of nachos.
The only thing I really wanted that this unit doesn't have is digital controls, but the knob controls work just fine, and I'm quite happy with them. When you use the timer, it does make the characteristic clicking as it counts down the time, but it's not too bad.
Since I've had the 31199XR, I've cooked a wide variety of foods, and the oven has done a great job. Here are a few examples of how the 31199XR has worked for me:
I needed a batch of cornbread for Thanksgiving dinner, so I mixed up a batch of Jiffy cornbread mix and poured it into a greased 6-inch preheated iron skillet. The recipe called for cooking at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes, so I set the oven at 375 degrees convection.
I checked the cornbread halfway through the cooking time (about 7 minutes) and it was beginning to brown. Since food tends to brown quickly with convection cooking, I cut the temperature back to 350 degrees.
After 14 minutes total, it was done - a nice golden brown!
Chocolate Chip Cookies
I have been really pleased at using convection to bake cookies in this oven. They cook quickly and evenly, and the bottoms don't burn. The batch here was store-bought Nestle Tollhouse cookie dough in a tub. I scooped out heaping tablespoons onto the baking sheet that came with the oven. The recipe called for cooking at 350 degrees for 11 to 12 minutes, so I set it at 325 degrees convection.
After about 5 minutes, they were just beginning to brown. I left the temperature alone.
After 10 minutes, they were done - nice and golden brown! (Just a note: When I make cookie dough from scratch, it cooks faster, so I start checking it after 8 minutes. Also, a minute can make a big difference with any cookies, so I use a digital timer, rather than the knob timer on the oven.)
This once-a-year dish is a special request of my husband's at Thanksgiving. It has a store-bought rum and brandy mincemeat filling, and the jar directions say to bake the 2-crust pie at 425 degrees for 25-30 minutes. I set the oven for 400 degrees convection.
After 15 minutes, the crust was getting pretty brown.
As I do in a standard oven, I put on a pie crust shield to keep the edges from getting too brown.
After 25 minutes it was done.
The 31199XR did a great job on this staple of holiday meals. The recipe called for cooking at 425 degrees for 15 minutes, and then cutting back the temperature to 350 degrees for 30-45 minutes. I decided to start off at 400 degrees convection.
After 15 minutes, I put on a pie shield for the crust edges, and cut the temperature back to 300 degrees. Normally I only reduce it by 25 degrees from what the recipe says. However, since this pie is pretty soupy to start with, I wanted to give it ample time to cook, without having the top and crust get too brown.
After thirty minutes, a wooden skewer poked in the middle came out clean - it was done!
31199XR Feature Chart
Countertop Oven Feature
Large capacity (> 1 cu. ft.)
Timer w/auto shut-off
Infinitely adjustable heat setting
Removable crumb tray
Price: <$100 retail
A countertop oven is really great if you're renovating your kitchen, or if you frequently need extra capacity to what your standard oven offers. It's also a great alternative to keep your electric bills down, and to keep your kitchen cooler during summertime cooking.
So if you're shopping for a countertop oven, how do you decide if the 31199XR is right for you? Here's a table with features available in the wide variety of countertop ovens on the market. Pick out the ones most important to you and see how the 31199XR stacks up.