A countertop oven may seem superfluous, but this one changed my cooking and eating habits
Home cooking with less prep and cleaning.
I love cooking, but squeezing in the time to prepare a meal from scratch can be hard. Cooking aside, the prep and cleaning work cut deeply into the time I should spend binge-watching content. Brava’s intelligent, app-connected countertop oven promises to free up time to let me cook while leaving enough hours in the day to watch all of Squid Games in a single night. That promise, however, comes at a price.
Typically priced at $1,295, with the included accessories, the Brava oven—which is about the size of a microwave—costs as much as a full-fledged stove. To offset the cost a bit, Brava offers a payment plan of $45 a month. While you are spending more initially, I’d argue that you will end up spending less in the long term, especially if you usually eat out or get delivery. Based on delivery tips and restaurant markups on deliveries, the monthly cost pays for itself.
Before you start using the smart oven, they offer a live video tutorial with a Brava employee that walks you through the process. Here they explain how to use the oven and answer any questions you might have. I found this super helpful and appreciated the starter recipe recommendations. Brava also has a Facebook group for users to share tips and recipes. Getting to know your Brava is necessary since it works inherently differently than your regular oven.
Cooking with the Brava oven
The Brava can cook food in 10 ways, including functions to bake, sear, air fry, dehydrate, and broil. It uses what they refer to as Pure Light Cooking, which is a combination of visible and infrared light that can go from zero to 500 degrees Fahrenheit in a fraction of a second. Unlike conventional ovens, even though the Brava reaches super-hot temperatures internally, the exterior of the machine remains cool to the touch.
When you’re cooking with the Brava oven, food placement is crucial. Stick a slab of butter on the opposite end of the cooking tray and it won’t melt. If you place your chicken where the potatoes are supposed to be neither food will cook properly. The lamps act like spotlights on the food and focus their energy on specific sections without heating the surrounding areas.
The smart oven comes equipped with three bulbs on top and three on the bottom. This splits the oven into three cooking zones. The including cooking accessories—egg tray, flat tray, and glass tray—are divided and labeled into three sections, so you’ll always know where to put the ingredients. This arrangement lends itself to typical meals that include a protein, a vegetable, and starch. This helps with timing. You don’t need to worry about alarms set for cook times going off in the middle of your marathon binge. Also, since heat hits food from the top and bottom simultaneously, you don’t have to flip or stir the ingredients. The oven also doesn’t need to preheat. This is a huge time saver, especially when compared to frozen foods that can take a third the amount of time as a conventional oven.
Pure Light Cooking also makes it possible for the Brava to switch between cooking functions easily and without any more work for the user. Various light frequencies can pierce food at different depths. This means you can cook the inside of the steak and automatically switch to a high-intensity sear to finish it off. Unlike a convection or conduction oven, Brava’s lights can be easily focused and adjusted. This means the Brava oven can go from searing to baking without needing to transfer ingredients from one appliance to another.
The smart oven uses a five-inch touchscreen located on top to choose recipes and customize settings. You can find the included 500 smart cook recipes developed by Brava chefs here or on the companion smartphone app. Within each of these smart cook recipes, there are pro tips on how to prepare the meals. Every Tuesday, seven to 10 new recipes show up, and both old recipes and new ones are touched up. While your food is cooking, two cameras inside the oven let you watch the cook either on your smartphone app or via the touchscreen on the machine. Once you’re finished cooking, the machine has a black rubber surface to place cooked meals.
What did I make with the Brava oven?
First I went for fried eggs. I wanted to start with something that isn’t a pain to make, but a lot of people screw them up. I chose how many I was cooking, cracked the eggs into the egg dish accessory, choose the desired hardness level, and then fine-tuned additional cooking time for further customization (I recommend decreasing the time, but it also depends on the size of your eggs). After pushing through all the options on the touchscreen, it instructs you to press the glowing green button. The video stream pops up on the main screen so you can watch the progress. From there, you can see the heating elements and lights changing frequency to follow that specific fried egg cooking program.
You can scramble or fry eggs in a similar amount of time, I preferred this method because of the easy cleanup. The eggs easily slid out of the egg dish accessory and any residue was simple to wash off. You don’t need to use oil and there are no pans to scrub. The final product resulted in eggs with browning around the side as you’d get from a pan. After finishing, it gives you the option to check food or add additional time. You are able to fit two trays at a time in the machine, so this frees you up to toast bread and make eggs simultaneously.
Next, I moved on to S’mores since it was lunchtime so desserts are allowed and I already had those ingredients in my house. This was the dish I was most excited to try since I’m always craving sweets and I was curious how the machine would handle three layers of ingredients. I expected it to make a mess.
Like with the eggs, you choose how many you are making and the Brava oven instructs you where to place them on the glass cooking sheet. In about 3 minutes, perfectly browned marshmallows, toasted graham crackers, and melty chocolate came out looking almost exactly like I put them in. It wasn’t until I bit into the s’more that all the ingredients blended together. The chocolate, which appeared to maintain its shape, collapsed into the perfect (messy) landslide.
I also experimented with various meats. When cooking meat, you’ll need to use the included temperature thermometer. With proteins of all shapes, heights, and sizes, this helps you cook your food to the correct temperature without risking eating undercooked meat. Another interesting note—which helps save time—is that all the smart cooking programs in the oven are designed to start from right out of the fridge. Instead of leaving meat out on the counter to thaw or reach room temperature, you lightly season the meat with salt and pepper, insert the thermometer, and toss the meat on the tray. The Brava cooks steaks with a surprisingly nice sear on top, chickens that are tender and juicy, and vegetables with a crisp.
I enjoyed using the Brava oven simply because it’s a cooking tool, not a Keurig for food. You have the ability to customize your cooks, making it a machine for experimentation. If you enjoy the hands-off approach, you can also just use the presets. This makes it a machine for all cooking styles. Brava gives you time back and feels like an assistant or sous-chef more than an appliance that can help you live a more efficient culinary lifestyle. The accessories—chef’s pan, metal tray, glass tray, and egg tray—are also easy to clean and are non-stick, so cleanup is quick and doesn’t feel like a chore. The oven also has a 100-day return policy, so if it’s not working for your lifestyle, you can always ship it back.