Are Toaster Ovens Supposed To Smoke?

Toaster ovens aren’t really supposed to smoke. The reason that some toaster ovens do smoke from time to time is usually that a small piece of food has gotten stuck somewhere within the appliance, and is now burning due to exposure to the heat of the oven.

However, there are other causes too and we’ve gathered all the relevant information here – read on to find out more!

Are Toasters Supposed To Smoke?

Well, no, not really.

While it isn’t uncommon for a toaster oven to start to smoke thanks to any number of different causes, it isn’t supposed to happen either.

If your toaster oven begins to smoke, stop using it and unplug it straight away!

The main reason that toasters and toaster ovens will catch on fire is that there is a small piece of food still stuck within the appliance. If this happens, that small piece of food will be in extremely direct contact with a heat source for an extended period of time.

Over time, the water will boil off from that small piece of food, and eventually, it will catch fire. This fire will smoke, creating the appearance that your toaster oven itself will catch fire.

Generally speaking, a toaster oven will not ignite, but rather a small piece of food within the appliance will begin to smolder. This piece of food will be burning, but there isn’t enough ‘fuel’ within it (as it is so small), so it will burn gently rather than actually igniting.

What Causes Toasters To Smoke?

Food Debris

When you’re making toast or a similarly crumbly meal in the toaster, it is very likely that a small amount of the food will fall off inside the toaster, thereby becoming trapped within the appliance, or otherwise just on the base of it.

This small amount of food debris will be exposed to heat on a regular basis if you’re using your toaster oven often, and this will mean that the debris starts to scorch, and then burn. Over time, the small pieces of food will begin to burn, thanks to the heat and the readily available oxygen.

This burning will produce smoke, making it look as though your toaster oven itself is burning.

Oil Drippings

This is a less common version of the previous cause, but it’s definitely worth speaking about. If you’re cooking something in your toaster oven which requires a lot of oil to cook, or perhaps has fat in it already (if it’s an animal product, for example), then there’s a chance that oil will drip onto the base of your toaster oven.

If this happens, then the oil will be exposed to heat over time, leading to it charring and burning. This can be seen on old, poorly taken care of baking sheets – oil has leaked onto the sheet, and then blackened and baked solid. This will happen on a smaller scale in your toaster oven.

Charcoal Buildup

This is much less common than the other two causes, but it can still happen, which makes it worth considering. Over time, the heating element in your toaster oven will heat and cool an enormous number of times. Over time, charcoal from the heating process can begin to gather on the element.

When the charcoal is at a sufficiently thick layer, it can start to smoke when it is heated, which is obviously not safe.

What Should I Do If My Toaster Smokes?

If your toaster begins to smoke, immediately unplug it from the wall and place it somewhere away from substances likely to catch fire. This means that you should remove it from the room if the room has soft furnishings or carpet, and potentially even place it outside.

If you do decide to place it outside, make sure to place it away from flammable organic matter. Instead, keep it on paving slabs or the pavement where possible.

If the smoke coming from your toaster is particularly strong and you can actually see flames, then you should switch it off at the wall and get a fire extinguisher. Use the fire extinguisher as directed on the body of it, and put the fire out safely and quickly. Any fire prevention methods would be suitable here, including a fire blanket.

Do not pour water onto the toaster oven, as that could go wrong for you in two different ways. 

Firstly, if the toaster is still plugged in, then you’re putting yourself at risk of major electrical shock. This is extremely dangerous and should be avoided.

Secondly, if the cause of the fire could be a buildup of oil or fat, a water source will only serve to make the fire worse. As water and oil don’t mix, you won’t extinguish the fire with water, you’ll simply be pushing it around. In practice this can increase the surface area of the fire, leading to the fire spreading and thereby becoming worse.

In a dire situation where you do not have access to any of the relevant fire safety equipment, you can still do something. Unplug the toaster oven from the wall, and, if safely possible, move it to somewhere fireproof. When the toaster oven is safely there, call the emergency services and ask for assistance.

How To Stop My Toaster From Smoking

Clean The Base

Cleaning the base of the toaster oven is a very important step to ensure that you’re reducing the risk of the oven smoking as much as possible. The number one cause of smoking and fires in toaster ovens is small pieces of food debris that are stuck in the bottom of the appliance, getting burned whenever the appliance is switched on.

Therefore, take care to carefully clean out your toaster oven at least once per month.

Clean The Element

While the risk of the element of your toaster oven catching fire is significantly less likely than the risk of food debris catching fire, it’s still a real risk. Therefore, regularly cleaning the element of your toaster oven is vital in reducing risk.

To properly clean the heating element in your toaster oven, first, switch off the oven and allow it to cool completely. Then, using a cloth with a small amount of a mild cleaning solution on it, gently wipe off any excess charcoal. The thing that will get the powder off isn’t the solution, but rather elbow grease, so it may take a little time.

Use Precautions When Cooking Something Crumbly

When cooking something crumbly, you can reduce the risk of a small piece or two falling into your toaster oven by cooking the food on a baking sheet or some similar implement. This would mean that any crumbs generated would be caught by the sheet, leading to the smoking never occuring.

Of course, to be completely safe, it would be wise to still clean your toaster oven once a month. That will ensure you get rid of all crumbs, completely removing the risk of the oven smoking.