But the smart countertop cooker still has trouble with toast.
When people learn that I review cooking gadgets for a living, they usually ask when there'll be an appliance that can do all the cooking for us. We're not quite at the level where we can pop a pill into a device, press a few buttons and receive a whole meal, but the June Intelligent Oven attempts to put us closer to more automated cooking.
This countertop oven first came out in 2016 and boasted a bunch of features we hadn't seen on cooking appliances: a built-in camera that could livestream and record your meal as it cooks, a smartphone-like internal processor and software that could recognize foods that you put into the oven. When I first reviewed the June Intelligent Oven, I liked the food recognition feature and its overall cooking performance, but the $1,495 price and mediocre handling of simple foods like toast and Pop-Tarts kept me from giving this promising appliance a resounding recommendation.
Two years later, June's creators have released the second-generation oven. The latest June oven is nearly identical in appearance and is as easy to use as its predecessor. There are some notable differences in this new June: it's a lot cheaper at $499, software updates have enabled the June to take on more cooking tasks and recognize more foods, and the oven gives you more opportunities to customize the June's automated cooking programs. And June now has an Amazon Alexa app, so you can use voice commands to control the oven if you have an Alexa-enabled smart speaker.
Smart home innovation aside, the June cooks food well, whether it's reheating leftovers, following a recipe in the June app (available for iOS and Android) or following a cooking program. And it's just plain fun to use.
Some of June's pesky problems still persist with this new model, specifically its issues with toasting bread. And the oven often erred on the side of caution during its automated cook programs, which would leave foods slightly undercooked with an option to add more cooking time. And even though I enjoyed more room to customize how the June cooked dishes, it meant that I had to be more hands-on with a device that's biggest draw is automation.
The second-generation June is an improvement over the original, and its lower price makes it easier for me to recommend. The June could meet the needs of many types of cooks, from the novice who wants to press a few buttons and get a decent meal without much thought, to the eager home chef who's mastered meal prep but needs help with execution. And admit it: It would be cool to put time-lapse videos of your meals on Instagram.
The June Intelligent Oven is similar in looks to a toaster oven. It occupies about 1 cubic foot of space, which is large enough to hold a 13 by 9-inch baking pan. The touchscreen control panel is located on the oven door. The June contains six carbon-fiber heating elements and two convection fans built into the back wall. The oven and its included components, including a baking tray and crumb catcher, are easy to wipe clean.
You can use the June like you would a normal oven and cook foods in the following ways:
The June is Wi-Fi-enabled, so you can connect it to your home network. Once you've downloaded the June app, the oven can then send you push notifications when your food is almost done and when it's complete. You can also watch a livestream of your dish through the app and send that footage to whomever you want.
One of my favorite features of the app is the recipe selection. Each recipe, which is designed specifically for the June, features videos of each step and picture of the ingredients and tools you'll need.
The real draw of the June is its automated cooking programs. With these programs, you can select which food you want to cook, and the June will use information from the cloud to access how to cook the dish and then do so automatically. That means you don't have to pull out a recipe for baked chicken thighs -- you can just scroll through the control panel's menu, find the chicken thighs option, and June will set the temperature and cook time for you.
There are about 100 different programs to cook dishes from asparagus to waffles. Depending on what you're cooking, the oven might prompt you to insert an included food thermometer into your food, so it can track the internal temperature of your dish and know when to stop cooking.
Along with selecting the food you want to cook directly from the control panel on the oven's door, you can let June's camera recognize the food and pick the correct program based on what it sees. The June oven recognizes more than 50 common foods, and its creators are continuously updating June's software to identify more.
You place the food in the oven, and the control panel will give you two choices of what the June thinks the food is (for example, bread or raisin bread, bacon or sausage). You select the correct food, then press the screen to begin cooking.
The June is astute at identifying foods quickly, and it's also good at counting how many of an item you have in the oven, like slices of bread or pieces of bacon. And many of the cook programs allow you to customize the way the oven cooks your food, based on your personal preferences and the state of the food itself.
For example, I put several balls of chocolate chip cookie dough on the June's pan and put it in the oven. After I confirmed that they were cookies and not biscuits, I used the control panel to tell the June the dough was store-bought, not homemade, and that I put it into the oven at room temperature, not straight out of the fridge. With more information, the June can adjust how it cooks your dish. However, this personalization means more fiddling with the control panel, rather than a more hands-on cooking experience.
Overall, the June handled food well. As proof, let's examine how it handled bacon.
The June was pretty good at counting the number of slices of bacon I placed in the pan. And unlike the first time I used the June two years ago, the software takes all your bacon preferences into consideration: Thick or thin? Foil on the pan? And, most importantly, chewy or crisp?
The June was good at cooking bacon crisp and chewy, but it tended to slightly undercook it when I asked it to cook a large amount. You can solve this problem with a feature that's new to the second-gen June. At the end of a cook cycle, a prompt on the control panel asks if you want to keep cooking so that you can add varying amounts of time depending upon what you're cooking. But ideally, I wouldn't have to add more cook time -- I'd like the June to be able to get it right the first time.
Once you get over the need to add cook times to certain dishes, the food often came out of the oven in near perfect form. Chicken thighs had a crisp skin and juicy meat; chocolate chip cookies were chewy and golden brown; a half-eaten leftover burrito was almost better than it was the day before.
But there's still a dish that gives the June a hard time -- toast. Yep, getting slices of white bread to an even brownness on both sides was a challenge for the smart oven. Even when I selected dark toast, the side facing up was a medium brown, while the bottoms were barely touched.
Fortunately, you can use the app to send feedback about each of your cooking endeavors by selecting a smiley or frown emoji. Each sad emoji will automatically send a service request to June, and a customer service rep will reach out to you via email. (I'm currently in a conversation about a tray full of bacon that was undercooked during one of my tests.) I'm still disappointed in the June's treatment of toast, but this instant feedback to and quick response from the company shows that the June's creators take their product seriously and are committed to trying to improve it through software updates.
The second generation of the June Intelligent Oven isn't leaps and bounds ahead of the original, but it's made improvements in important ways. Though there are still some issues with some simple dishes, this countertop oven is a good cooker overall. And with a lower price than the first model, this June is worth checking out for people who enjoy cooking.