Cooks without active monitoring
Responsive customer service
Needs a dedicated circuit
Steep learning curve
Preset recipes don’t always work well
We purchased the Brava Smart Countertop Oven so our reviewer could put it to the test in her kitchen. Keep reading for our full product review.
From smart refrigerators to smart ovens, the Internet of things (IoT) has already changed the way we cook and how we use our appliances, and the Brava Smart Countertop Oven is a perfect example of that. These IoT-enabled appliances allow us to remotely control and communicate with them through our phones and/or through cloud-based services. Advances in machine learning and artificial intelligence techniques are transforming these appliances from smart to intelligent, where they are able to actually do the work for you while adapting and learning from your preferences.
Smart ovens promise the possibilities for home-cooked meals for those who don’t have the time to cook or simply are not culinarily inclined and even for those who love to cook but also love using technology. Cooking salmon with a crisp skin, yet a tender center is an artform chefs pride themselves on. Can an oven replicate that? Is it possible to cook multi-component dishes on one tray at the same time in an oven and have each one cooked to perfection? The Brava oven claims to be an innovative oven that is capable of simultaneously cooking multiple food items with Pure Light Cooking ™ technology and understanding how each of the items is to be cooked.
I tested the Brava Oven starter set to shine some light on its performance. Read on for my insights on this oven.
Setup Process: Requires a dedicated 20-amp circuit
The oven requires a 20-amps dedicated AFCI circuit breaker to operate safely. I double-checked the wiring to make sure it was a 12-gauge wire and that the circuit breaker was also rated at 20-amps. I also made sure that while operating the Brava, it was the only appliance running on that circuit.
Overall, the software seems to be pretty secure and did not have any open services that could be exploited.
The oven emits a bit of hot air during cooking, so I had to make sure it was set at least 4 inches away on all sides from any wall. Once plugged in, I followed the on-screen instructions to connect the Brava to my home Wi-Fi. The rest of the setup is pretty standard—I signed in, downloaded the app on my phone, and followed the prompts on the display panel. Brava also has a detailed video tutorial that explains the setup and answers many questions a new user might have, or you can sign up for one of their free live tutorials.
Design: Ultra-modern with sleek lines
The sleek lines and cube shape make the oven look quite nice. The cleverly designed display panel is on top, which makes it easy to interact with the oven and read instructions. The cooking trays included with the oven give you a roughly 8.5 x 11.5-inch surface to cook on. While I was able to cook a whole large chicken and a dry-rubbed spatchcocked chicken, as well as roast a duck, this oven will not be cooking the whole Thanksgiving turkey or making a dozen large cookies at one time. At most, I was able to fit in six double chocolate chip cookies in one go. That's not bad when you are only craving cookies past midnight, but not helpful when you want to bake a whole batch. It is limited in space.
The six innovative lamps correspond to zones in the oven. This is how the Brava cooks food: with light. Each zone has two lamps, one on top and one at the bottom. The cooking functions determine how hot the lamps will get and at what intervals. This is what allows the Brava to cook multiple ingredients at the same time. It is able to sear in one zone and gently cook in the other. The multi-zone cooking is innovative and it was my favorite feature of the oven.
The silicon mat on top makes a great landing pad for hot trays and pans and saves space when the rest of the counter is otherwise occupied. The oven heats up inside but stays cool to touch on the outside.
Performance: Wows on custom cooks
We started off on the wrong footing, the oven and me. It started with a feeling of "meh." I had been testing it for a few days with the "getting started" recipes and I was not really wowed by any of the things cooked in it. Granted they were cooked, but I could cook them just the same in my air fryer or convection oven and didn’t have to spend time carefully arranging food on the tray. And then there was the sourdough toast that was unevenly toasted and dry. Bacon was chewy even though I set it to crisp. It took a couple of tries to cook the bacon to the desired crispness.
It wasn’t until I made a seared skin-on salmon that I did a turnaround. I really could not believe that it came out perfectly cooked without any help from me—crispy skin, flaky and tender center, with no resistance. I was also delighted with the combo cooks where I was able to cook two ingredients at a time. On two-tray cooks, I cooked shrimp on one tray and warmed pre-cooked tortillas on the other, and the icing on the cake was the three-zone cooks, especially the salmon with asparagus and cherry tomatoes.
The Brava excels at starting to cook from the moment you set food in it. It does not need to be preheated except when baking, in which case it rapidly preheats within a couple of minutes.
The oven truly wowed me with the custom cook function. I was able to add my own recipes, decide the cook times and the power settings for each zone, and go from there. That, with the pro-cook function, makes the oven a lot more customizable. The other big wow factor came in the form of being able to add customization to just one zone and leave the others as they were. After I finished cooking chicken and broccoli, I wanted the broccoli more seared. I was able to set the touch-up only for the zone where broccoli was and leave the chicken on the tray in the oven without fear of overcooking it.
There is a learning curve to using the oven and you have to learn to cook by zones and carefully place food in each zone. As I tested the oven over many weeks, I realized my main frustration is with the preprogrammed recipes and not the oven itself. Some of them were written for Brava’s meal prep service, and while Brava no longer provides the meal kits, the recipes are still in the system. The other letdown is that recipes are also mostly bland. There are a few recipes that try to bring in global cuisine like sesame chicken, orange chicken, Korean chicken wings, bulgogi, tikka masala, tacos, fajitas, enchiladas, and a few more, but most other recipes are basically bland. Adding any additional spices or herbs to the food being cooked from a preprogrammed recipe resulted in burning the spice.
I had to customize some recipes that I was trying for the first time. This is a good thing and a bad thing. It’s good because the machine learns how you like your food to be cooked and you have the option to save the customization. It’s bad because the oven is supposed to produce at least a decent result to begin with. The sesame chicken recipe I tried ended with really tough and dry chicken the first time. On my second try, I stopped the oven mid-way during the cooking, turned the chicken to cook on the other side, and reduced total cooking time. The resulting sesame chicken was much better. Chicken recipes with the temperature sensor inside the protein fared a lot better than the ones without.
For air frying and dehydrating, Brava uses hot air circulation. I was able to set the temp to as low as 135 degrees Fahrenheit in the dehydrating mode and dehydrate some apples to a perfect crunch. While the air fryer worked well on my marinated chicken tikka drumsticks, I did miss having a perforated base under it for better airflow.
Security and App: Promising
Given that this is an internet-connected oven, it is important to pay attention to the network security of the oven as the consequences of a device getting hacked can be severe. Overall, the software seems to be pretty secure and did not have any open services that could be exploited.
The app is available on both iOS and Android. For the app to work, the Brava oven must be connected to Wi-Fi. The home feed on the app is jam-packed with guides on getting started, "how-to" videos, recipe tutorials, tips and tricks, and most importantly recipes. For most of my cooking in the Brava, I searched for the recipe on the app, sent it over to the oven, and then just followed instructions to load up the tray and press start. Once the cooking starts, the app displays the name of the recipe being cooked, the time the recipe has been cooking, and a live video of the food being cooked. The app also lets you publish a custom recipe or share a recipe with friends via social channels or text messages and add recipes as favorites, so you don’t have to search for them again. For each of your custom recipes, you have the option to keep it private or share it. Each recipe gets a unique key that you can share with other users.
Between the pro-cook feature and custom-cook feature, I felt there was room for creativity and customization.
I loved the feature in the app where the oven notifies you ahead of time that a cook is about to be complete. I was able to get ready to go and check if the food had cooked to my liking or if I needed to touch it up a little by baking or searing for a little more time.
The recipe search function works well, and the recipes are categorized with type, dietary preferences, ingredient type, and even tray type. There are also options to download custom cooks by other Brava users onto your oven.
The Brava oven puts its various functions under tiles. These functions work independently or as a combination with other functions. The oven has basic features like bake, sear, toast, and keep warm and also specialized features like cook, pro cook, air-fry, dehydrate, slow cook, and reheat. The preprogrammed recipes under the cook tile are recipes Brava chefs create using various functions of Brava, and some recipes use more than one function to achieve the desired result. The control panel is highly customizable. I was able to choose which tiles to display and whether I wanted the temperature displayed in Fahrenheit or Celsius. You can also change tones and colors of the start button.
After learning how to use the Brava I quickly fell in love with the custom cook feature. Once I cooked something and touched it up for some extra searing or to reduce the doneness, I was able to add it as a custom cook to save for the future. It is a great feature for personal family recipes that are not in the Brava yet. You can add them so your kids or significant other can cook them at the press of a button. Between the pro-cook feature and custom-cook feature, I felt there was room for creativity and customization. However, there is a steep learning curve in helping the oven “learn” your cooks and preferences and there is room for improvement here.
For cooking proteins that require monitoring for internal temperature, the oven directs you to use the temperature sensor probe. The probe also acts as a measuring guide. It’s first marked for 1 inch and then in ½-inch increments. The oven interface has a slider that asks to input the thickness of the protein you are about to cook. Sadly, the temperature sensor cannot be used on proteins that are less than 1-inch thick. However, there are pre-programmed settings you can use to cook thinner protein.
The customer support was highly responsive and answered questions very quickly. There is also a Facebook group for additional support and interaction with chefs.
The starter set comes with a temp sensor, a metal tray, and a glass tray. Although you can buy the upgraded sets from the get-go, there is also an option to add the extra accessories like the chef’s pan and baking set later on. While you are learning to use the new oven, Brava has a list of acceptable non-Brava cookware that you can use in the oven. I was able to use my aluminum pans for chocolate zucchini bread and for baking a focaccia.
Price: On the expensive side
The starter set of the oven retails for about $1,300 and the fully equipped chef’s choice is around $1,700. Granted, we are used to paying more for technology products and this oven can’t really be compared to a standard oven, but it's still an expensive one, especially since you can’t feed a crowd cooking in this oven. The accessories to make it fully functional for breakfast and slow cooking cost extra when you buy the starter set. And there is also a recurring fee of around $10 per month for premium membership once the first two years are up.
Cleaning: Watch out for the lamps
Brava recommends doing a basic cleanup after each cook. This is to avoid a grease build-up that is harder to clean later. I used the recommended dish soap and damp towel method and was able to get the oven clean. Brava also recommends using cleaning wipes, and for a deeper clean, Brava recommends using either the Astonish oven cleaner or the liquid Bar Keeper’s friend. For cleaning the camera, a gentle wipe down with a clean towel or a paper towel got it fairly clean.
The lamps are self-cleaning and should not be meddled with in any way. No touching! And no spraying of any cleaners on them. There is however a "clean lamp" feature in the settings that you can use when something gets on the lamps, and you need to burn it off.
I really could not believe that the salmon came out perfectly cooked without any help from me—crispy skin, flaky and tender center, with no resistance.
All the Brava accessories except the temperature sensor and chef’s pan are dishwasher safe and also clean up really fast. To avoid temperature shock, I put the trays on the silicon mat on top of the oven after cooking and added water into them after cooling. After a little soak they cleaned very easily by hand and in the dishwasher.
Brava Oven vs. June Oven
The June Oven, which The Spruce Eats also tested, comes equipped with all the functions that are similar to the Brava, plus it has the added advantage of recognizing your food, remote preheating, and adjusting time and temperature from your app.
The Brava excels at starting to cook from the moment you set food in it. It does not need to be preheated except when baking, in which case it rapidly preheats within a couple of minutes. It’s single-tray multi-zone cooking is absolutely unparalleled. However, it is more expensive than the June Oven so it's worth deciding which features matter to you most.
It has a ton of potential.
Retailing for about $1,300 for the starter set, this is not an oven for everyone. However, if you are looking to save time and eat more homemade meals, it is worth the investment of both the time you spend learning to use the oven and the money.
- Product Name Smart Countertop Oven
- Product Brand Brava
- Price $1,295.00
- Product Dimensions 11.3 x 16.4 x 17.3 in.
- Color Silver, Black, Red
- Material Anodized aircraft-grade aluminum exterior shell, stainless steel interior chamber, custom-developed glass light bulbs, impact-resistant glass on display panel and heat-resistant silicone mat, PFOA and PFTE free aluminum accessories, extra resistant borosilicate tempered glass and cast-iron chef’s pan.
- Electrical Requirement Dedicated electrical circuit (20 AMP circuit breaker)
- Camera 5-megapixel, ultra-wide angle
- Connectivity Wifi and Bluetooth
- Hardware Quad-core ARM Cortex A53 processor with Mali T400-MP2 GPU, 8GiB eMMC flash storage, 1GiB LPDDR3 RAM
- What’s Included (Starter Set) Brava oven, 1 temp sensor, 1 metal tray, 1 glass tray, 2-year Brava plus membership
- Power 1800 watts/20 amps
- Warranty 1 year (limited)
- Returns 100-day hassle free return policy