Cooking a good meal at home takes work. Or at least it used to. Meal kit delivery services are bringing quicker and more diverse dinners to homes around the world, and smart ovens are starting to play a role as well. Tovala introduced its first smart steam oven optimized for meal kits last year, and now there's a new and improved second generation.
The new $349 Tovala Smart Oven is still heavily optimized for cooking the brand's own meal kits, but its new design brings it closer to being a countertop appliance for all foods. However, if meal kits aren't what you're looking for, I can't recommend the Tovala as the best oven for cooking from scratch. Theis still your best bet, though it's nearly double the cost at $599.
How it works
When we reviewed the original Tovala oven, we were impressed by the taste of the meal kits, but disappointed with the way it cooked items out of our own pantry and with the sparseness of the app. This time around, Tovala made improvements to the oven's design and companion app that had me hopeful for a better experience.
The Tovala Smart Oven uses a combination of steam, convection baking and broiling to cook Tovala meal kits. Here's one example from the company's website of a salmon recipe:
The Miso-Glazed Salmon with Charred Citrus Broccoli steams at 400°F for 1:30, convection bakes at 400°F for 5:30, then broils at 500°F for 4:15.
The oven includes a bar code scanner and each Tovala meal kit has a bar code printed on the packaging. Simply scan your meal and hit start. Presets load from the cloud and tell the oven how to cook your dinner.
Cooking food on your own takes a bit more action on your part, but it's still simple. Either use a chef's recipe in the Tovala app or package directions from your own food to find the right cooking mode, time and temperature. Set those three modes with the oven's controls or through the app.
The Tovala oven can cook food at up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit and the oven's timer ticks all the way up to two hours and 45 minutes. That means there isn't much a full-size oven could cook that the Tovala couldn't, unless you're restricted by size. Tovala's interior cooking chamber is a cozy 0.84 cubic foot.
Tovala added two more sets of controls to the front of the oven. These control time and temperature. The original Tovala had just one dial for selecting toast or reheat mode and relied primarily on the app to set everything else. Being able to set times and temperatures through the app is a modern-feeling extra, but it's convenient to be able to punch in your settings on the oven itself.