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This appliance looks like a sleek microwave straight out of the Jetsons’ kitchen. But no TV dinners or freeze-dried foods need apply. The Brava cooks fresh food at high temps with high-powered lamps and requires minimal prep.
But does light-zapped food actually taste good? And is it worth the hefty price tag to add another major appliance to your countertop? We put on our chef hats and tested some of Brava’s popular recipes. Here’s what we found out.
Need a quick breakdown? Here are the basic pros and cons of the Brava oven.
OK, but how TF do you cook with light?
The oven has six high-powered lamps that can heat up super quickly, so there’s no need to set aside time for preheating. Similar to spotlights, the lamps point at different programmed “zones” to cook a specific ingredient in each zone using a combination of visible and infrared light. Because the lamps are so targeted, you can prepare a two- or three-part meal all at once using the oven’s three cook zones.
Yes, it sounds like magic, but it still has some limits and rules. The company says the technology is similar to the way the sun heats up items of different colors. If you’re basking in the sun in a black T-shirt, you get hot pretty quickly because the color absorbs light. If you’re wearing white, some light gets reflected and it takes longer to heat up.
The same idea applies to cooking with light in the Brava. Certain ingredients will reflect some light and require a little extra time to cook. So while you’d cook your broccoli and cauliflower together in a conventional oven, they’d need to be cooked in separate cook zones in the Brava because of the color difference.
Also, although the oven’s biggest selling point is that it cooks with light, the company says the oven still uses conduction (the type of heat transfer you see when pan-searing a steak) and convection (the type of heat transfer you see when baking in the oven) to cook food. Because these more familiar types of heat transfer are still present, some foods won’t cook well together — just like in a traditional pan or oven.
For example, cooking a heavier food that takes a lot of energy (like potatoes) with a more delicate, easy-to-overcook food (like shrimp) is a no-go. The company says that even if you didn’t direct one of the oven’s spotlights at the shrimp, the residual energy would still be enough to overcook it.
Where you place the food in the Brava also affects the cooking time. Brava says the bottom tray area acts more like cooking with gas and the top is like a broiler.
And depending on what you’re cooking, you’ll choose either the nonstick metal tray or the glass tray. The metal is better for roasting (think pizza, chicken, or veggies), and the glass is better for gentle heat to cook fish.
When you’re ready to actually cook with the Brava, there’s no need to memorize all these cooking tips. The oven does all the work for you with a built-in recipe database that gets updated every week via Wi-Fi. It’s pretty convenient if you need some ideas or are new to cooking. Lazy (or way-too-busy to cook) cooks, we see you 👀.
Simply jump on Brava’s website to peep recipes or explore the Brava interface to choose your meal. It’ll give you the recipe and instructions on which tray and zones to cook with. Plus, it’ll offer options for how “done” you want certain foods. The Brava will take care of the cooking from there.
Once it starts cooking, you can even watch your meal cook on the interface, thanks to a little video camera that displays the inside of the oven. NGL, it’s pretty fun to watch.
So, how do the meals actually taste? Pretty dang good. But not without a few hiccups. Here’s how some Brava recipes stacked up in our taste tests.
Eggs: Poached eggs
FYI: Eggs are a cult fave of online Brava lovers, but you do have to shell out an extra $50 for the egg tray, since it’s not included in the starter set.
You can get perfectly poached eggs and toast in 5 to 6 minutes without a pot of boiling water, gadgets, or (multiple) failed attempts. Just add 3 tablespoons of water and an egg to each spot in the tray and follow the instructions for poached eggs. You can even add the metal tray to the bottom part of the Brava to cook some toast for dipping.
Three-zone cooking: Filet mignon, broccolini, and baby potatoes
TBH, we were a little skeptical that the three cook zones would actually work. But a steak dinner was a pretty enticing way to test it out.
This recipe produced a decent meal for two with the metal tray included in the starter set. You’ll need to make sure you’re sticking to Brava’s recommended quantity for the veggies and thickness for the steak. (Opting for a thicker-than-recommended steak can eff up the cook time for the whole meal.)
To get all these ingredients to cook at the same time, you arrange the potatoes, steak, and broccolini in zones 1, 2, and 3, respectively. And you use the thermometer to monitor the steak’s doneness as it cooks.
Two-zone cooking: Salmon and asparagus
OK, you’re still gonna get that fishy smell in your kitchen. No one has solved that problem. But you can make a quick dinner with this two-zone recipe.
You’ll need to use the TempSensor again, which is even harder to get into a thinner piece of salmon. After selecting the recipe cook function, you can have a meal ready in about 15 minutes (or less if you don’t like your fish well-done).
The whole shebang: Pepperoni pizza
If you’re dying for a pizza, just get your hands on some premade crusts, cheese, sauce, pepperoni, and oil. The recipe calls for smaller crusts, but you *can* use a bigger size if that’s all that’s available. Even with the large crust, the pizza turned out great after some additional time, and the edges charred a bit since it was a little oversized.
Tech gurus will love trying new recipes and even creating their own with this gadget. And if you’re new to cooking or healthy eating, this appliance makes it incredibly easy to eat quality meals at home.
But if you love cooking with classic tools, you might feel restricted. Cast iron enthusiasts, you’ll long to sear a steak in some butter. And create-as-you-go cooks, you may not enjoy having to research the best settings and temperatures for all the ingredients you want to throw together. There is room for creative cooking with the Brava, but it comes with a lot of trial, error, and rules.
If you can afford the initial cost and want to commit to easy, healthy cooking, this is the appliance for you. Just be prepared to ditch some of your existing countertop appliances to make room. You can also invest in additional Brava accessories to fully commit to Brava chefdom.
Convinced you definitely need a grown-up version of an Easy-Bake Oven? Us too. Get shopping!