If you read my best toaster oven piece, then you know that I’m no stranger to them. I spent hours combing through what was on the market, eliminating the fluff, avoiding the “toaster” and focusing on the machines that would provide me (and those alike) the results, or requirements, I was looking for.
What are those results, you ask? Well, for one, I’m not looking to toast bread. A toaster oven, which is really at this point a mini-oven, should be able to roast, broil (or sear), bake and even keep food warm. It needs to be able to fit more than a pizza and its controls must be variable enough that a chef (or an aspiring one) feels as though they have enough control that it allows for creativity within the kitchen.
And that’s why The Brava is such a vexing product to me. And I mean that in the most humbling of ways. Call it a form of flattery through a side serving of negativity. But keep reading and you’ll learn why.
The Brava is No Ordinary Toaster Oven
The Brava is no ordinary oven. If you’re familiar with the June oven, then the Brava might make more sense to you. But this ain’t no June Oven, according to its CEO, his culinary masters and everyone working on the PR team.
The Brava uses completely new technology and is focusing on food curation, and somehow (IMHO) appeals to both noobie cooks and those one chef knife bag away from being designated a professional.
In fact, that’s what’s so confusing, or vexing about the Brava to me. I’m no chef, but I like to work my way around the kitchen, testing timing, adding ingredients and experimenting on how to enhance a recipe.
Yes, the Brava still appeals to me. Why? Because it allows me to achieve simplicity if I so choose. Or I can opt for complexity. It’s sort of a choose your own adventure of ovens. Why?
How the Brava Oven Works
This is how the Brava works. It’s an oversimplification but bear with me. The Brava uses super powered bulbs that achieve infrared cooking (i.e. not conduction or convection cooking which tends to dry out foods by warming the surface or air).
There are 3 bulbs on top and 3 on the bottom. Each bulb (aka heating element) can be controlled individually, unlike all toaster ovens on the market today.
This means that you can have a variety of things (aka varying density) on one tray and cook ingredients to perfection. It’s an entirely new way of thinking about cooking in an oven. But not one that blows one’s mind. It’s more like “but of course, that only makes sense”.
The folks at Brava (their expert chefs), on a single tray, made me a complete meal of salmon, tomatoes, and broccolini. They cooked it all at the SAME TIME and it was virtually perfect.
First off, the team has spent a countless amount of hours testing a variety of ingredients to know what cooks in what amount time. As result, they’ve got a database that you can access directly from the machine’s touchscreen (it also has a smartphone app – duh).
So, in this case, they were able to choose the aforementioned ingredients as a macro and hit the go button.
But that’s not all: they’ve also got a thermometer that has 3 sensors in it. This got stabbed into the salmon and allowed me to select my internal desired temperature of medium rare.
And best of all, because these bulbs produce instant heat and don’t require the air to be warm, so there is ZERO preheating. This means less energy usage and less time waiting. Music to my ears.
Note: the Brava can bake. Which means it can heat the air. It does this using a combination of the heating elements, the fan, and the correct tray (there is 1 glass tray and 1 metal tray).
Following that the Brava oven displays the predicted cooking time – in this case about 14 minutes – and adjusts according to the salmon’s internal temperature.
In my case, it added about 2-3 minutes to the speculated time. This felt somehow calming on account of the fact that I knew what was happening and no guesswork was needed.
And walla, the food was cooked and I was eating. The broccolini still had the right amount of snap, the salmon wasn’t dry and the tomatoes were juicy but not a soggy mess – no easy feat if you ask me.
Cooking with light is the REAL DEAL.
What’s Next For Brava
Inside the Brava is a camera. But unlike the June Oven, they’re not trying to guess what you’ve placed in there…yet. However, as they build up their database and customer feedback – the Brava is connected to WiFi – they will add some machine learning into the mix.
And while they don’t plan on identifying the foods you’re putting in the oven – largely because that’s a trivial matter – Brava does say they’ll soon be able to identify when food is burning and turn off or reduce heat.
But snazzy tech aside, you, the expert chef, can still cook like one. And while Brava plans to partner with a food packer who will create prepackaged meals, you can individually select ingredients from the touchscreen and cook leverage its thermometer and knowledge-base to get things cooked just right. And if you’re like me, you know, as an expert and informed as you’re, there is no accounting for variable weights, thickness and sizes. Yet, the Brava can.
Brava Oven Final Thoughts
The Brava is not cheap. Anything but by comparison to the top end of most toaster ovens; it’s $995 on their website right now, but that’s a preorder price. It will increase to $1295 once the “early bird” pricing is over. When that will be, I don’t know. But I think they plan to ship the preorder units in November of this year, 2018.
To be candid, I’ve never used such an advanced oven. There are a few manufacturers that are coming out with competitors, such as Meile’s Dialog oven. However, the Brava is more approachable, since it doesn’t require a professional or permanent install. And yes, the Brava will fit under most if not all counters.