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Brava Oven Review | PCMag | Topdeblogs

Connected countertop ovens are steadily becoming more common, with a variety of microwave-sized smart appliances out there that can bake, broil, sear, and reheat, among other varities of food preparation. At $995, the Brava Oven is one of the most expensive models we’ve tested, but it’s also the most advanced. It can cook food in ten different ways, has lots of automatic cooking presets for both ingredients and meals, and features built-in cameras for watching your food cook on your smartphone. It’s also incredibly fast, heating up food in about half the time as the Tovala Steam Oven. That makes it our Editors’ Choice for smart ovens.

Stylish Silver Box

The Brava is a sleek, stylish 11.4-by-16.4-by-16.0-inch (HWD) metal box with rounded corners and a matte aluminum shell that wraps around the sides. The front door is the same matte metal as the sides, with a wide, flat handle for pulling it down to access the 6.4-by-13.0-by-12.5-inch cooking compartment.

The top surface of the oven is mostly covered by a textured black rubber panel, with the exception of a 3-inch glossy black glass strip near the front. This is the Brava’s control surface, which consists of a 5-inch, 834-by-480 touch screen and a large circular button surrounded by a multicolor light ring. The control surface is covered with laminated Gorilla glass and can be easily wiped clean.

Brava Oven: Accessories

The inside of the oven is all business, with bare stainless steel sides contoured to hold the six heating elements in three grooves each on the bottom and top. The top of the compartment also hides two 5MP digital cameras at the front and back, that provide a live view of whatever you’re cooking through the touch screen or your smartphone (which is very useful since the oven doesn’t have a window). The sides of the compartment have two sets of notches for holding up to two trays, and a recessed connector on the left side lets you use the included TempSensor meat thermometer.

The $995 core model includes the TempSensor, a non-stick aluminum tray, a glass tray, and a meal kit for two. The $1,295 Chef’s Choice version is the same oven, but with extra aluminum and glass trays, a covered chef’s pan, a four-compartment egg tray, and a $100 credit to buy accessories, ingredients, and meal kits from Brava.

Controls and App

The touch screen on the Brava provides all of the controls you need for cooking with automatic presets or manual settings. A home screen shows eight tiles in two rows: Cook, Recents, Favorites, Search, Sear, Toast, Bake, and Reheat. Swiping right goes to a second page with six more tiles: Brava Air Fry, Dehydrate, Keep Warm, Utilities, Settings, and Support.

Brava Oven: Touch Screen

The Cook menu offers access to all of the Brava’s automatic cooking options. You can select a variety of foods and dishes based on ingredients and recipes, from simply baking chicken leg quarters and frozen burritos to full recipes like bread pudding and frittatas. The Brava smartphone app for Android and iOS has a variety of recipes that work with the oven’s automatic cook settings, or you can prepare food your own way using the broader automatic ingredient and dish modes.

The other menus that list specific cooking types are manual or semi-manual, and often let you set heat levels, zones, and timers yourself. Sear heats the oven to full over a short time to give a crispy finish to your foods, letting you set which of the oven’s three zones (any or all) heats up and whether you want a top, bottom, or double-sided sear, with cook times between 30 seconds and five minutes. Toast presents a variety of bread and bagel types, and lets you dial in the desired level you want over cook times that range between one and eight minutes. Bake is the most direct: Set the temperature, press the button, and that’s it. Unlike the other modes, Bake doesn’t let you set the cook timer until it’s preheated; the cooking timer only appears on the screen after it preheats over a period of five to ten minutes. Reheat lets you simply heat up dishes using a timer.

Brava Air Fry and Dehydrate are the two less conventional cooking modes the oven offers. They use hot air circulation to work like an air fryer and a food dehydrator rather than an oven. Air Fry circulates very hot air around your food to produce an effect similar to frying with far less oil, like the Gourmia Air Fryer. Dehydrate maintains a very low heat (around 135 degrees, lower than most ovens can consistently reach) over a long period of time to dry out foods like fruits, vegetables, and jerky.

Installing the free Brava app on your phone lets you monitor your food while it cooks. Once it’s installed and linked to the oven, it will send you notifications when you start cooking, and let you keep an eye on it through the internal camera. The app is mostly an assistant rather than a remote control for the oven; you have to set your cook settings on the Brava’s touch screen itself, and can only use the app to track what you’re cooking and look up recipes.

Brava Oven: TempSensor

Cooking Meal Kits

As mentioned earlier, Brava offers complete meal kits. The kits provide meals for two people and cost $50 each. That’s pretty pricey for meal kits, and since the Brava has plenty of automatic cook settings for recipes and broader categories of meals than the meal kits, we can’t recommend buying them apart from the sample meal kit you can get with the oven (unless you really want to splurge).

I started with the Double R Hanger Steak meal kit for two, with sweet potatoes and kale salad with pomegranate vinaigrette. Unlike the individual trays of the Tovala meal kits, these all feature separate fresh ingredients that need to be prepared at home. It’s an experience similar to Blue Apron and other meal kits, but with automated cooking. The kit includes two hanger steaks, a large sweet potato, a bag of kale, a jar of pomegranate seeds, two small, peeled shallots, and quarter teaspoons of garlic powder and chili powder. It requires you provide your own cooking oil, and salt and pepper to taste.

Preparing the steaks was the simplest part: Place them in zone 1 of the metal tray, and season with a pinch of salt. After that, cut the sweet potato into half-inch chunks and toss them with cooking oil, chili powder, garlic powder, and salt before spreading them on zone 3 of the metal tray. Plug the TempSensor in and insert it into the center of one of the steaks, then place the tray in the top position of the oven.

Brava Oven

The Double R Hanger Steak kit can be found in the Cook menu, under Beef. With the meal selected and the TempSensor in place, the screen on the Brava offers a selection of doneness options, from medium-rare to well done. I selected medium, with an internal temperature of 135. After tapping through a few screens to make sure everything was in place, the button turned green to indicate it was ready to start the cooking process.

The meal kit instructions directed me to prepare the salad while the steaks and sweet potatoes cooked. The process involved dicing the shallots, mixing them with the red wine vinegar and olive oil in a bowl, and tossing the kale and pomegranate seeds together with the dressing. Simple, but it doesn’t have anything to do with how the oven itself treated the food.

The steak and potatoes were ready after about 10 minutes, on the quicker side of the 10 to 19 minutes the app suggested. The oven instructed me to remove the steaks and cut them into slices to stop the cooking process at their current doneness. The steaks came out perfectly, tender and just a bit pink in the middle. A little salt was all they needed to taste excellent. The sweet potatoes were undercooked, but it was entirely my fault; the large chunks I cut were larger than the recommended half-inch pieces. Putting them back in the oven at a standard 350-degree bake for a few minutes got them nice and tender. The salad also came out very nicely, but again that doesn’t reflect anything about the oven.

The next meal kit was a California Turkey Burger. I prepared the turkey burger and onion as directed by placing them on the metal tray, seasoning with salt, pepper, and oil, and inserting the tray into the oven in the top position. I set the burgers to cook, and after nine minutes they were done. I removed the tray and placed sliced gouda on the burger, then put the two halves of the hamburger bun on the glass tray and set it in the oven to toast with the residual heat. A few minutes later, I assembled the burger, omitting the included avovado simply because I don’t care for it.

The turkey burger was cooked through and the onion was nice and tender. This time the oven didn’t use the TempSensor to track the meat’s progress, but even with the preset cooking time it came out cooked through but not dried out. The onion even got a hint of caramelization, which is impressive for less than 10 minutes of cooking time without even preheating the oven.

Cooking Your Own Food

Brava Oven

I then cooked some non-kit-specific food in the Brava to see how its automatic cook settings worked when I wasn’t following a particular recipe with a specific set of ingredients. I first prepared a simple fish fillet. The oven cooked it in about four minutes, and it came out perfectly tender, cooked through but not dry. The Brava didn’t prompt me to use the TempSensor, but the fish still came out excellent.

I then baked a boneless, skinless chicken breast in the Brava. This took a bit longer and used the TempSensor to ensure the internal temperature was correct. The oven gave me a choice between “juicy” and “well done” settings, then asked me to dial in the thickness of the chicken breast. I chose well done and entered perhaps a slightly greater thickness than the cut required. The results certainly weren’t very juicy, but the chicken breast still came out moist enough to enjoy, even with the most conservative settings.

Finally, I dehydrated some apple slices in the Brava. I sliced them thinly, laid them out on the glass tray with a sprinkle of nutmeg, and used the Dehydrate mode to heat them to 135 degrees for two hours. They came out dried and a bit crispy for an easy, healthy homemade snack. Note that you’re limited to dehydrating on a single small tray with the Brava, so you can’t make nearly as much dried fruit or jerky with it as you can with a multi-tiered bulk food dehydrator.

A Countertop Catchall

The Brava Oven is a powerful smart appliance that can cook food quickly in a variety of ways. Its automated settings worked perfectly with both Brava’s meal kits and my own dishes in testing, and its manual cooking modes are capable and flexible. It can’t steam food like the Tovala, but instead it can air fry and dehydrate, and its cook times are much faster.

The latest version of the June Oven ships this May for $599. We were greatly impressed by the original model, which cost $1,500 when we tested it three years ago. The new version is similarly equipped to the Brava, with air frying and dehydration functions, though its conventional heating elements might not be as speedy. That makes the Brava the fastest, most full-featured smart oven you can buy now, and our Editors’ Choice.

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