Tovala Smart Oven Gen 2 review: Smarter styling and app improvements help this smart oven shine

The second generation is also smaller and lighter than the first Tovala oven without losing any cooking chamber capacity. It's easy to pick up and move around should you need to, and it doesn't take up any more counter space than a microwave. 

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New controls set time and temperature on the oven itself.

Chris Monroe/CNET

Tovala also adjusted the way steam vents out of the top of the oven, so you can now safely place it beneath your kitchen cabinets, something Tovala warned against in the first generation. 

Setup is simpler, too. Instead of the odd flashing light sequence required to share Wi-Fi information with the first-generation oven, the second generation uses a Bluetooth connection to share Wi-Fi credentials through the Tovala app on your mobile device.

Though I think the meal kits are expensive, you will get a price break on the oven compared with the original. When we reviewed the first-gen oven, it had a $400 price tag. The new Tovala will cost just $349, and there are introductory offers, too. If you commit to 100 meals, for example, the cost of the oven drops to $249. 

Meal kits

The Tovala oven is at its best when you're cooking with a Tovala meal kit. You'll need to be ready to throw down some cash for these delicious dishes, though. Each meal costs $12 and that meal serves one person. If you're enrolling in meal delivery, you can choose 3,4,6,8,9 or 12 meals per week.

Over the last year, Tovala has added more gluten-free and vegetarian options. When it comes to nutritional value, sodium was pretty high in most dishes. One week's menu features meals with sodium levels ranging from 360 to 980 mg. 

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Tovala's meal kits cost $12 and recipes include low-calorie, vegetarian and comfort food. 

Chris Monroe/CNET

While the kits each serve one person, the servings are large. If you're counting calories, Tovala says most kits fall between 400 and 800 per serving. If you're watching your weight, there are also low-calorie options. One dish called Mongolian Tofu came in at just 360 calories.

Nutritional numbers aside, I loved the meal kits. They tasted great, and I was able to try dishes I wouldn't have attempted to make myself. The garnishes Tovala includes make plating a beautiful dish easy, too. I was surprised at what a complete, full-flavored dish I created with each recipe.

Pantry problems 

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The Tovala baked store-brand, canned biscuits a bit unevenly, browning the right rear biscuit noticeably more than the others. 

Molly Price/CNET

Like the last Tovala oven, the new model struggled with items from my own pantry. I tried biscuits, bacon and chocolate chip cookies. I found that with the oven rack on the lowest position (what Tovala recommends in the oven manual), I burned these foods every time, despite following package directions. 

Results were much better when I adjusted the rack to the middle, but baking was still uneven. Every dish was much more well done in the back right corner of the oven. 

If you're aware of these quirks, it's easy enough to rotate a baking sheet or adjust time. You shouldn't have to, though, and that's why I felt a bit disappointed cooking my own food with Tovala.

Conclusion 

Tovala's oven is cheaper, prettier and more sensible in this second generation, but uneven baking means it still isn't the oven I'd recommend for home chefs preparing meals with their own ingredients.

Tovala meal kits are excellent, and require less effort than most other options out there (but more of your money). If you're looking for a smart and capable countertop oven sans meal kits, the June Intelligent Oven is still your best bet. 

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