Jun 17, 2023

Brava Smart Oven review

We have two rules in our house: no feeding leftovers to the cats, and no eating out at restaurants during the workweek (unless there’s a really good deal on wings somewhere). I have a strong background in food and nutrition writing, and my husband is a chef with experience in everything from fine-dining establishments to steakhouses and diners, so we spend the majority of each night cooking and meal prepping.

Thanks to our dine-in lifestyle, we knew the Brava Glass Smart Oven would fit into our cooking habits perfectly. A little too perfectly, even: With its hundreds of preset recipes and food combos, its ability to get piping hot without the need for a time-consuming preheat and its wireless temperature sensor that accurately predicts cooking times, it instantly became clear we’d be unable to make a single meal without it. Read on to find out if the Brava is a worthy investment for you.

The Brava Glass Smart Oven — which was named one of our top picks from CES 2023 — takes the guesswork out of cooking almost any meal with its extensive library of recipes and customizable cooking options, all via light technology that heats up and cools down almost instantly.

If you want your kitchen to possess the eerily advanced technology of something you’d find in an episode of “Black Mirror,” the Brava Smart Oven is the device for you. It uses infrared technology and six high-powered halogen lamps to create instant high heat from every angle (think 0 to 500 degrees Fahrenheit in a single second). Unlike a microwave, it produces a restaurant-quality sear without drying out your food, all while being able to cook foods of various textures and consistencies in the same batch.

The Brava measures around 11 by 16 by 17 inches, allowing it to take up the same amount of space as, say, a large microwave or air fryer. It requires ventilation on all sides, so it’s designed to live on your countertops a few inches away from any walls or other devices and not built into a cabinet.

At $1,995, the Brava Glass is quite pricey, but keep in mind that it serves the function of several appliances, like a convection oven, air fryer, toaster, Dutch oven, slow cooker and more. It also comes with lots of helpful accessories like an egg tray, loaf pan, muffin tin and chef’s pan that are nonstick, easy to clean and designed uniquely to fit into the Brava oven.

Its app is rife with helpful features like recipe suggestions, along with options to customize your own, questions and comments from fellow Brava users and a how-to guide to get you acclimated with the appliance, making it super easy to get started.

The Brava Smart Oven is living in the year 3023, and I, a mere mortal, am stuck in 2023. While I initially felt intimidated by all you can do with it, its interface is incredibly user-friendly. We first began with a simple entry-level meal of toast and poached eggs. Unlike a stovetop poached egg that requires nearly 15 minutes for water to boil, the device produced near-perfect runny eggs in around five minutes with no more than a couple teaspoons of water drizzled on top. Making fried eggs was so simple I had to blink a couple times to make sure I wasn’t missing anything. Simply crack them into the egg tray — no oil or cooking spray required — then select your preferred doneness and take them out four minutes later with minimal cleanup.

The Brava gives you so much control over your meal it inspires a sort of decision fatigue. We selected on a scale from 1 to 10 how toasted we’d like our bread, and it produced a perfect golden brown on the top at a 4.5 (the bottom half was missing that crunch, but we let it slide). The following day, we tried a level 6 for the toast, which came out perfectly on both sides.

The brand was kind enough to throw in every add-on available for me to try, from an egg tray to Dutch oven and chef’s pan, all of which are easy to clean and high quality. That wireless temperature sensor is game-changing too. Instead of having to poke and prod our proteins mid-cook, only for heat and steam to release from the appliance, they get hooked up to a wireless sensor you insert into your proteins before popping them in the oven, making for a mess-free and tangle-proof experience. With that, you’re guaranteed proteins cooked to a safe-for-consumption level of doneness. The Brava promptly notifies you when your food is done, allowing you the freedom to venture off while it does its thing. The built-in camera on the oven and on the app yields those same benefits: Instead of having to open the appliance itself to check out the status of your food (which, again, releases heat, slows down cooking and can burn your hands), you get to watch it cook live, like a baby monitor for your meal. How’s that for a literal food baby?

The touchscreen atop the oven really is something else. Through the screen, you can customize virtually every facet of your meal. While this may not be the most energy-efficient element, I walked past the oven several minutes after we were done cooking and found a carousel of recipes on display like a mini billboard that was at once entertaining and educational. Why, yes, of course I would like to know about the history behind the báhn mì sandwich and promptly salivate over it until I can make one through the Brava.

Instead of using several different sheet pans for a typical steak, potatoes and veggie dinner, we used a single pan. After plugging in our choice of combo meal and thickness of the meat, veggies and potatoes, the touchscreen advised us in which zones to place each ingredient in order to cook each item with the appropriate temperature. In theory, this was incredible. In practice? We’ll get to that in a bit.

While I feel lucky to have solidified proper at-home cooking habits, I can see this appliance giving that extra push to those who have resolved to cook more at home but aren’t quite there yet — whether it be to eat healthier, save money, save time or finally use up that produce in the fridge that usually goes bad before you have the chance to eat it. You don’t need to stick to boring hit-your-macros types of combos either. The appliance has how-to guides on everything from osso buco to paella for advanced, impressive dishes you might have otherwise not attempted, which is great if you’re looking to get adventurous in the kitchen in a more controlled environment.

Steak is a tricky thing to cook on the best of days, so we approached it with a lot of grace when it came to cooking it in the Brava. We used the touchscreen to select our desired medium-rare consistency at 120 degrees Fahrenheit and watched like kids on a snowy Christmas morning as it turned crispy and golden on top via the spy cam. We were given a cook time of around 18 minutes, but the Brava prompted us to take everything out by the eight-minute mark. We were disappointed, yet not shocked, to find the bottom of the steak virtually raw (keep in mind it still reached an internal temperature of 120 degrees Fahrenheit, so it was still technically safe for consumption). The potatoes were still raw and cold on the inside, and the roasted vegetables were not cooked to our liking (we love a wilted, almost caramelized onion). That meant we had to send the potatoes and veggies back in the Brava because we had yet to discover the touch-up function. From there, we had to whip out our cast-iron pan to reverse sear the rest of the steak, leading to more cleanup than originally planned.

We’re by no means massive eaters, but I did find the trays to be on the small side for two people. We had to cut down our veggies by half in order for them to fit on the pan and avoid crowding. We decided to risk it for the sake of maintaining heaping portions (my bad), which prevented that nice golden hue from forming on each side. While you can totally use both the top and bottom racks for a well-balanced two-person meal, we weren’t given that option, so we downsized our servings instead. That’s probably a good thing if you’re trying to control your portions, but we love fueling up with heaping plates of high-volume foods that provide tons of crunch, color and flavor.

Given that the Brava Smart Oven can, in theory, replace several appliances you already have, it makes for a space-friendly, financially sound investment. However, if you currently own the likes of an oven, air fryer, microwave, toaster and more, it might be an opulent purchase worthy more of showing off to easily impressed guests than using on a daily basis.

Despite the minor hiccups I experienced while using it — many, perhaps, attributed to a learning curve I’ve yet to surmount — the Brava Smart Oven signalizes the future of cooking wherein we’re no longer blindly guessing whether our food is properly cooked (and waiting hours for it, at that), and instead, taking a perfect bite each time.