Can this $1,000 countertop oven transform how you cook?
We pull the Brava oven to the test.
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How many things does a countertop oven have to do to be worth $1,000? Brava, one of the biggest names in high-tech, high-concept countertop ovens, thinks their newest model is worth the price tag, with enough special features to completely change how you cook.
But we wouldn’t be Reviewed if we just took their word for it. After cooking veggies, searing steaks, roasting chickens, and baking up a storm, here’s our take on whether or not the Brava oven is worth the big bucks.
What is the Brava?
The Brava is a countertop oven that uses a combination of visible and infrared light to cook food. It claims that it will cook faster than other methods without requiring preheating, turning, or stirring. In addition to six high-powered lamps, it’s equipped with eight temperature sensors and two particle detectors that adjust the oven temperature and the cooking time as it operates.
According to the company’s website, “When you choose a setting and push the button, Brava takes over to ensure consistently delicious results.” The Starter Set comes with metal and glass cooking trays that are divided into two zones horizontally.
The oven has a main touchscreen from which you select specific functions like Cook, Bake, Toast, and Reheat. Within some of the programs you can select a specific food, a portion size, and how you want it prepared (or a recipe), and then receive instructions as to which tray to use and where on the tray and in the oven to place it. You are also given the option of changing the cook time.
The oven includes a temperature probe, as well as pre-programmed instructions on how to use it with foods like chicken and steak. You can also press on a Helpful Tips box with suggestions for serving sizes, timing, tools, ingredients, and detailed preparations steps.
Other programs, like Bake and Dehydrate, only give temperature and time options and more limited tips. You can also search for specific preprogrammed recipes from the Brava chefs, which will guide you through steps on the oven’s touchscreen.
You’ll need to connect the oven to WiFi to receive software upgrades, download recipes, and monitor your food’s progress on your smartphone. You also can access Brava recipes on the mobile app, which comes in handy if you forget to jot down ingredients before grocery shopping.
How does the Brava oven look and feel?
The Brava is big and boxy, with a matte anodized aluminum finish that makes it look like a giant Apple product. It’s a lot larger than a toaster oven, but doesn’t have the capacity of a full-size oven. The cooking trays measure roughly 12 inches by 10 inches, and the oven can accommodate a whole chicken, but not a turkey.
On the top of the oven, there’s a silicone surface that doesn’t get hot to the touch and is a good place to rest a tray when it comes out of the oven. Oddly, there’s no window in the door—rather, there’s a camera in the roof of the Brava that displays what’s inside the oven.
As it cooks, the panel also displays what food you’re cooking, how long it’s been in the oven, and the projected number of minutes until it’s done; and if you’re using the probe, it shows the internal temperature of the food. When your food is ready, the oven chimes.
The nonstick and glass baking trays are included in the Starter Set. Other packages, like the Bake & Breakfast and Chef’s Choice, include additional trays and baking pans such as egg and muffin trays and a casserole dish.
What we like
- It has a beautiful control panel that’s intuitive to navigate.
- You can see inside the oven on the panel or on your phone.
- It comes with a temperature probe.
- The automatic programs take most of the guesswork out of cooking.
- It sears well.
What we don’t like
- It’s expensive.
- It’s takes up a big chunk of counterspace.
- It’s less than perfect at browning and crisping a whole chicken.
How does the Brava perform?
Most of your time with this oven will be spent on this function. It has categories for specific items including eggs, vegetables, meats, poultry, and seafood, as well as pizza and frozen foods. Within each grouping there’s lots of variations. For example, choose beef and you’ll see options for everything from burgers to stir-fries.
First, I roasted baby broccoli and made Brava’s Bacon & Brussels Sprouts. In both cases, the vegetables came out extremely tender-crisp and I added minutes to the preprogrammed time to make them a little more to my liking. The veggies were easy to cook and delicious. The actual cooking times weren’t significantly shorter than what I’d expect from an oven, but there was no preheat.
As suggested by Brava’s chef, I also cooked two-inch thick strip steaks and was super impressed with how well they browned on both sides while the centers stayed medium rare. Wondering if thinner steaks would brown as well, I next prepared a one-inch thick steak and was rewarded with similar results. It’s rare to get such good browning in a broiler. My one complaint is that the layer of fat on the side of the steaks didn’t brown at all.
To test the oven’s ability to cook three items at once on a single tray, I followed the Brava’s recipe for Salmon Filet, Asparagus and Cherry Tomatoes. The fish came out flaky and moist, the asparagus tender-crisp, and the tomatoes split but not burst in just 12 minutes. While the recipe may not have cooked faster than cooking the components individually at the same time, I loved the convenience of having a full and delicious meal ready on one pan so quickly.
Homemade pizzas came out crispy with leopard-spotted bottoms, and I loved the way the pies glided right off the nonstick tray for slicing. It also saved quite a bit of time but not having to preheat for pizza.
One of my acid tests for any oven is roasting a whole chicken. For this task, Brava calls for using the probe and cooking to a safe temp of 165°F. The good news is that from start to finish, the chicken was ready in less than an hour. While the meat was moist and tender, it didn’t have the all-over golden-brown, crispy skin that we love about roast chicken.
On top it was browned and even burnt in spots, and the bottom that rested on the tray was browned. However, the lower portions of the legs and breasts were pale. Yes, it quickly produced an edible chicken, but for me this was no replacement for an oven-roasted bird or even a supermarket rotisserie chicken.
Using the egg tray, which doesn’t come with the basic package, I made fried eggs (without any butter) that came out with cooked whites and runny yolks. But they were too perfectly round and didn’t have the irregular, lacy, crispy edges that are part of the appeal of sunny-side-up eggs.
While poached eggs came out ideally shaped to plop on an English muffin, they were cooked through, not at all custardy. Eggs hard “boiled” in the shell were slightly undercooked and hard to peel.
When I made toast on a metal tray at the same time as fried eggs, the toast came out pale on top and dark brown on the bottom. None of the egg dishes cooked more quickly than if I had prepared them on the stovetop, but the nonstick egg tray was very easy to clean.
In this mode, you manually set the time and temperature. There’s a preheat of about three to six minutes—you can disable this preheat, but Brava warns that your brownies or biscuits could take longer to bake. Both chocolate chip cookies and blueberry cake came out nicely done in about the same amount of time as if I’d baked them in a conventional oven.
However, I was only able to make a half dozen cookies at a time, while in a full-size oven I could’ve baked at least a dozen, and double that if I used two racks.
Brava toasted evenly and gave a nice range of settings from light to dark brown.
This mode is designed to give intense heat akin to broiling. I used it to cook a steak and although it browned well, particularly on the bottom, I actually got better searing on the Cook function.
Frozen and scratch French fries and homemade chicken nuggets came out crispy, but unevenly so.
I successfully dehydrated 12 ounces of cherry tomatoes in 12 hours. If you’re willing to run the oven that long for a small bowlful of dried fruits or vegetables, you’ll be happy with the results.
It took three times as long to get a plate of meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and gravy hot enough to serve as in a microwave and the edges were definitely a little more dried out.
I was able to keep my meat plate dinner at a serving temperature for a half hour.
Is the Brava easy to use and clean?
There’s no use and care manual packed with the oven. Plug it in, and the panel prompts you to hook it up to WiFi. If you prefer, you can operate the oven without connecting it, but you won’t be able to receive software updates or use the app. The Support page of the website has a user guide for further instructions.
For the most part, the oven’s panel is very intuitive to use. Under the Cook function, there are selections for many common foods, and the panel guides you through the cooking process. You need to go through several steps before you press the start button—you’re required to swipe and press pads to select your item, then confirm the cooking time, then the right position in the oven.
While initially it seems like a lot of steps, you soon get the hang of it and it ensures you’re doing things correctly. You can also find all of the walkthrough info on the app. If you want to set your own temperature and time, you have to use the Bake function. For Air Fry and Dehydrate, you get a choice of temperature and time and very few tips, so you’ll have to look elsewhere for cooking instructions and recipes.
While I’m a big fan of cooking foods to temperature, I found the probe somewhat tricky to remove from both the oven port and hot food. The probe inserts at an odd angle and the cord is short.
If you leave the kitchen and use the app, your phone will ding to let you know your food is done, which I found helpful.
Although having the inside of the oven displayed on the control panel means you don’t have to bend down to see inside, you don’t get as big or as clear a picture as through an oven door. If you open the oven to check on things, you have to remember to press the Start button again. It would be helpful to have a beep to remind you.
After your food is done and you remove it from the oven, a fan comes on for up to 15 minutes. It seems to diminish in volume so that you only hear it running for about 5 minutes. You also have to wait a few minutes after cooking one item before cooking another, which was annoying when I wanted to toast bagels to go with my over-easy eggs.
Brava recommends wiping the oven out after each use and, when necessary, cleaning it with Astonish Oven & Cookware Cleaner, a product I confess to never having heard of before. Brava confirmed via email that Bar Keepers Friend is a suitable alternative.
After a month of testing, I found most of the gunk inside the oven could be wiped out with a damp paper towel. A little application of a paste made with Bar Keepers Friend easily got rid of more stubborn stains. Brava suggests hand washing the trays, and I found them easy to clean.
The Brava oven comes with a limited one-year warranty. You can return it for a full refund within 100 days of purchase.
What owners say
On the Brava website, the only place the oven’s currently sold, the Brava has a 4.5-rating out 5, with 105 reviews. Among the few negative reviews, one user says it doesn’t brown anything but toast, and another says it burns everything. There’s a closed Brava Home Community on Facebook, which has over 2,500 members. Almost all of them love using the Brava and readily share recipes, advice, and photos, and the Brava team chimes in with tips and suggestions.
Surprisingly, several cooks say they make ghee or clarified butter in the oven. In a few posts, users note that it’s difficult to clean the top of the oven.
Is the Brava oven worth it?
I can’t imagine why anyone would need the Brava. Almost all of us have a full-size oven that’s easy to use and holds a lot more food at one time. Plus, most of us have either a toaster or a toaster oven for crisping bread. Those of us who have a toaster oven can also use it for some small-scale cooking. And you could buy a range and a toaster for more or less the cost of the Brava.
But, if you like high-tech toys and/or prefer a countertop oven to a full size-model, and you have the money to spare, you’ll find the Brava convenient and quick to use. It definitely takes a lot of the guesswork out of cooking and could be a boon to beginner cooks. Just don’t get rid of your full-size oven—you’ll want it for roasting a turkey and making lots of cookies.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.