You may have heard of the buzzworthy new Brava countertop oven, a new smart oven and meal kit delivery service that’s hoping to change the way we cook dinner at home. It’s like a toaster oven on steroids meets personal chef with a little bit of magic thrown in, and we were excited to borrow one for a bit, so we could get a better understanding of it.

Is it really worth the investment? (Because, it’s not cheap!) And if so, then just who exactly is the Brava oven best for?

I had my doubts that I’d get attached to this appliance, simply because I’m trying to be more minimalist in my kitchen, and adding a huge new countertop appliance doesn’t exactly help. But when it came time to return it, I admit I was a little bummed.

While its ability to cook healthy meals quickly is a real plus for busy parents, there are some downsides that are worth learning before you make a decision.

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Is Brava just a fancy toaster oven?

Brava oven review: A typical meal kit and the Brava oven | Photo (c) Kate Etue for Cool Mom Eats

Brava is a countertop oven that cooks your food super fast using something called “Pure Light Cooking technology.” Essentially it uses infrared light to heat food directly, rather than heating the air around the food or the tray it’s sitting on, like a conventional oven.

This means there’s no pre-heating, which can save you lots of time. And the cook times are faster too — my tray of root veggies cooked in 14 minutes flat and were perfectly done.

You can also cook meat in your Brava oven using a TempSensor which comes included. The TempSensor is designed to communicate the temperature of the meat back to the oven itself, which then adjusts the heat to ensure a perfect cook.

Pretty cool if you ask me.

Related: 6 must-have Instant Pot accessories. Because our favorite multi-cooker is here to stay.

 

The Brava is a dinner meal kit service too!

Brava Oven review: The smart oven that cooks your meals fast, thanks to its PureLight technology | Photo (c) Kate Etue for Cool Mom Eats

We’ve tried reviewed all the major meal kit delivery players here, and while Brava also provides pre-cut, pre-measured portions in small plastic bags, it’s different in that their meals are designed to be cooked exclusively in their own oven.

I’m not big on the eco-waste from all those bags, I will admit. But on the plus side, the portions are generous: check out those huge shrimp (below)  that put anything I’ve ever seen at my grocer’s fish counter to shame.

(That’s a 12-inch circle cutting board, for reference.)

Brava oven review: They don't skimp on their meal kits! A huge portion of shrimp. | Photo (c) Kate Etue for Cool Mom Eats

Each kit comes with a nice recipe card that you can keep for future use. The cards tell you exactly where to lay the ingredients out on the smart oven trays, and then after sliding it into the Brava oven, you select “California Turkey Burgers” or “Double R Ranch NY Strip Steak” on the smart screen, taking all the guesswork out of cooking.

Brava Oven review: Cooking times are pre-set. Just tap on the recipe you chose, and the oven will cook it for you.

As your meal cooks, a camera displays a real-time image of your food inside the oven so you can see how it’s progressing. At the same time, the TempSensor will be relaying the temperature of your meal — to the tenth of a degree — back to the oven, so the Brava will stop cooking at the exact right time for a perfect meal.

Wow.

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So, how’s the food in a Brava oven?

Brava Oven review: Our finished Roasted Vegetables and Couscous meal kit | Photo (c) Kate Etue for Cool Mom Eats

I tried preparing two of Brava’s meals — the Roasted Vegetables and Couscous and the Vietnamese Noodle Bowl. I also made eggs for breakfast on my own, with no meal kit involved.

I found that the meal kits are easy and delicious. That said, you still have to do a bit of work; this isn’t a glorified TV dinner.

I cooked the couscous and noodles over the stovetop and chopped all the ingredients for the salsa verde. It took about 30 minutes from start to finish, and the dishes looked like they could have come from an upscale restaurant. We devoured them.

Brava Oven review: Our eggs turned out plastic-y and well done. | Photo (c) Kate Etue for Cool Mom Eats

As for the eggs…well, they weren’t such a success story. I simply cracked eggs into the egg tray and let them cook according to my “medium” preference for fried eggs on the smart screen.

When they came out, they had a strange plastic-like texture on top. I ran my finger over them and they were smooth to the touch.

Other than the strange texture, they tasted perfectly fine and would actually be really great for breakfast sandwiches, although I’d call the yolks well-done, not medium.

Related: 4 of the best plastic bag alternatives for families

How pricey is the Brava oven?

Brava Oven review: Who we think this oven is best for. | Photo (c) Kate Etue for Cool Mom Eats

The Brava Oven isn’t cheap — it retails for nearly $1000, although it’s currently 20% off at their site and they also offer a monthly payment option.

The purchase price includes the oven, plus two trays and the TempSensor. You also get a dinner for two, up to $50, with the initial purchase. That will get you a meal like a whole Spatchcocked Chicken meal with Brussels sprouts and butternut squash, serving four.

Overall, I find their meals are on the fancy side for home-cooked food. I searched their “kid friendly” meals and found recipes like Moroccan-Spiced Chicken and Roasted Chicken Panzanella, which are not necessarily for all kids but still sound good to me.

That said, the Brava recipe selection is pretty limited at the moment — just 20 meals so far — and definitely pricey.

For example, a homemade pepperoni pizza for four will be added this month, for $32.95. (Eek.) Or you can get a whole chicken meal for around $50, which feeds four. So yeah, you’re paying for the convenience.

Keep in mind, the recipe cards are high-quality and include all the ingredients on their directions, so you can easily grab your own chicken at the market and make the same dish again for much less. And you can absolutely buy the oven and never purchase another meal from Brava again, which you might want to do, because it’s a pretty incredible time-saver, even if you’re using it for your own recipes.

Just note that it will just take some trial-and-error for you to learn how long to cook your ingredients without their pre-programmed recipes.

Related: Meal kit delivery services compared, with busy families (and their budgets) in mind.

So, who’s the Brava Oven for?

I think this oven could be fantastic for anyone who doesn’t really have room for a full oven and is open to a high-tech, non-traditional alternative. But keep in mind, you’ll still need ample counter space; the oven requires four inches of clearance on all sides, so it takes up a hefty amount of space on your counter.

For my family of six, it could be helpful to have a countertop oven that’s this effective when I’m planning a big family meal. I particularly think it would come in handy around the holidays, when I’m cooking a big Easter brunch or Thanksgiving dinner for extended family and always run out of oven space.

That said, it’s ultimately going to be best for families with a generous budget and working parents who enjoy cooking and want healthy meals, but don’t have a lot of time after work to get dinner on the table by planning from scratch.

The fast cook times and upscale meals will make you feel confident that you’re feeding your family great food, without spending all evening in the kitchen to do it. Even if you are spending a lot of money to do it.

Visit Brava’s website for all the info on the new Brava countertop oven. Thanks to the company for loaning us a unit for review consideration.

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