My first experience with smart ovens was the $1,500 June Oven, a high-tech cooking machine powered by computer vision algorithms. And while I loved the ease its vast array of connected features added to the whole meal-making process, I could not get behind that price tag for what is essentially a glorified toaster oven. Thankfully, competition has caused prices to plummet, and you can now buy a June for “only” $600. But today, connected cooking competitor Tovala has come roaring in with a new option for just $99.
The new Tovala Smart Oven Air Fryer joins the company’s original oven, now called the Tovala Smart Oven Pro, and adds souped-up air frying capabilities thanks to a new dual-speed fan that can crispy fry your veggies and more alongside its standard countertop oven tricks.
The smart part is the company’s scan-to-cook tech that lets you scan the barcode on your packaging, and the oven will know exactly how to cook it for you using automated multi-mode cook cycles. A smartphone app adds more features, including downloadable recipes and pre-sets for the oven.
Compared to the June — which auto-recognizes food using a built-in camera, has Alexa voice control, super-fast heating elements, and an Android tablet built-in — the Tovala is the more basic oven. But it costs several hundred dollars less, and that scan-to-cook tech looks more reliable than June’s auto-recognition feature. (When I tested the June, admittedly a while ago, it did have the propensity to think most things were a toaster pastry.)
The main difference between the new Tovala oven and the existing Pro version is that the new one doesn’t offer a steam function but has a more advanced air fry mode. It also comes in a stone grey color; the Pro is charcoal black. The new model costs $50 less than the Pro, at $249. However, if you sign up for six weeks of Tovala’s meal delivery service, you get the $99 deal. The meals start at $9.99 per serving, and you have six months to use the credits. The Smart Oven Pro is $299, or $149, with the meal service.
The meal delivery service makes Tovala unique in the small, smart countertop oven space. It uses the oven’s scan-to-cook function to cook the fresh meals delivered to your home with tailored automated cook cycles. Most meals take under 25 minutes to cook with one minute or less of prep time, according to the company.
The scan function also works with over 1,000 scannable name-brand groceries, including Whole Foods’ 365 brand, Amy’s Kitchen, Kashi, Morning Star Farms, Pillsbury, Trader Joe’s, and Stouffer’s. With the new air fry function, the scan-to-cook feature takes care of the whole process, so you don’t have to preheat or adjust settings.
Using the Tovala app, you can also access pre-programmed cook cycles for making your own dishes, which you can download to the oven. These include crispy Brussels sprouts, cinnamon sugar donuts, coconut shrimp, and french fries.
Of course, you can use the oven like a regular countertop oven. It’s large enough for roasting a 4lb chicken or baking a 10-inch pizza. And if you have meals you make regularly, you can create and save your own cook cycles.
On its own, the Tovala, like most ovens in its category, seem best suited to single or two-person households. The meal kits are tailored for one to two people. For my family of four, I’ve found these types of ovens useful as an addition to my main oven, a sort of sous chef for cooking up side dishes. The speed and ease of use this oven promises could also be handy for those nights when everyone eats at different times. I’ll be testing one out and will have a full review soon.