Read the Guide
Although from time to time the Consumer Product Safety Commission has recalled specific models of toaster ovens because they constitute a fire hazard, these products generally are safe for ordinary household use. Still, remember that any appliance that uses electricity can catch fire, so be cautious when you use it.
To start with, read the manufacturer's guide to your toaster oven from cover to cover. Not only will the guide tell you how to use your appliance correctly, it will also include a list of warnings that will help you avoid a kitchen fire.
Consumer Reports suggests that you buy a toaster oven with a plastic housing, because it won't get as hot as a metal oven does, and thus won't transmit as much heat to countertops and cabinets.
Good Housekeeping evaluates and ranks toaster ovens, and also offers some advice about using them safely. The magazine highly recommends toaster ovens that automatically turn themselves off. Consumer Reports concurs on this point, so when you're deciding which toaster oven you'll buy, you should look for a model with this feature.
Just to make sure your toaster oven won't overheat, Good Housekeeping suggests you pull the plug when you're through using it.
Keep It Clean
Clean the toaster oven's crumb tray regularly, and wipe out any grease that may have splattered on the interior. Some models have self-cleaning cycles that will help you maintain the oven. Keeping the oven clean will go a long way toward preventing a fire.
If the Worst Happens
Sometimes despite your best efforts, bits of food or fat will fall down onto the heating unit of your toaster oven and smoke or flame up. If this happens, unplug the toaster oven immediately. If you can do so without putting yourself at risk, pull the oven out from under any overhanging cabinets. Do not, however, open the door---leave it shut till the fire goes out.