How do smart ovens work?
Smart ovens are high-tech, multi-function ovens — meaning they’re smart appliances that can cook in several different modes through simple navigation (usually a push of a button), helping take some of the guesswork out of cooking. Some are essentially enhanced versions of countertop convection ovens and toasters, though their size tends to outgrow those. The idea is that these countertop ovens can replace many of the devices you’re currently using — able to perform wide-ranging cooking tasks from broiling to air frying and baking — saving you money, time and counter space. That makes them ideal considerations for anyone with a smaller kitchen, tighter schedule or yearning for simplicity when cooking.
“You can cook all the same things you would in a regular oven, but a convection oven does it faster, generally cutting 25 percent off the cooking time,” cookbook author Robin Donovan told NBC News Shopping, adding that “these ovens are appealing because most people want to be able to cook in less time.”
They’re able to switch between modes by adjusting heating elements (e.g. by turning on different burners) and air circulation within, said Donovan, who recently wrote “The Complete Convection Oven Cookbook.” What’s more, they’re often quicker to preheat, she noted.
Many smart ovens also come equipped with smart home features, allowing you to control cooking from your smartphone or smart assistant and access their recipes (which are automatically programmed to the oven), thermometers, and sometimes cameras to watch the cooking.
What can you make in a smart oven?
The better question might be what can’t a smart oven cook? What your oven can cook depends on the specific model you buy (and where it falls in the numeric bucket: 5-in-1, 7-in-1, 12-in-1). Here are some of the things you can do across the gamut of smart ovens:
- Bake a whole pizza
- Rotisserie a whole chicken — or a small turkey
- Roast chicken breasts or thighs
- Air fry chicken wings
- Cook up jerky or bacon
- Dry fruit
- Bake cupcakes, pies and muffins
- Cook sheet pan meals
- Bake casseroles and frittatas
- Roast vegetables
- Toast bread and bagels
How to shop for a smart oven
Not all smart ovens are alike, and some have more bells and whistles than the others.
Smart oven sizes
What your countertop probably doesn’t need is another appliance taking up valuable space. While you may be using this as a replacement for various other appliances (possibly getting rid of an old toaster, for example), you may also need one that’s compact itself.
“The smaller the oven, the faster it heats up and the less electricity it uses,” Donovan added. “So, if you’re searching for something quick and efficient, go for something smaller.” On the other hand, if you’re using it to cook a turkey or that pizza, you’ll want one with a larger capacity.
Number of cooking modes
This refers to the number of cooking functions the machine offers. It’s often designated with a number, like “5-in-1” (there are five cooking modes), 7-in-1, or 12-in-1 — with numbers in between. What’s right for you depends on what your go-to cooking style is and what types of food you think you’ll be using the smart oven for most often.
There’s no rule about what standard settings are offered, but for perspective, Tovala’s Gen 2 Smart Steam Oven, a 5-in-1 model, offers steaming, baking, broiling, reheating, and toasting modes. Moving to a COSORI’s 12-in-1 Oven Air Fryer Combo adds other enhanced preset modes like roasting, air frying and pizza making. The number of presets the model offers doesn’t necessarily determine the price.
Automatic cooking processes
Some companies have their own recipes programmed into the smart oven itself. All you have to do is put the food together, pop it in the smart oven, and get it cooking. Similarly, these may also have specific cook programs, which let you designate that you’ve put in a rib-eye or a chicken breast, and then it will get to work to heat the food to perfection. The June Life Oven, for example, will automatically change its functions and temperatures depending on what food or meal you instruct it to cook. For instance, the company says, if you put the oven on steak mode, the oven will automatically switch between roast, broil, and bake for the perfect cook.
Internal thermometer and automation
There’s no wondering if your chicken will be cooked through with a built-in smart food thermometer that can detect the temperature of foods, as well as the internal temperature of the oven and make adjustments accordingly to cook time. Moreover, this sous vide-like capability might allow the smart oven to stop cooking altogether once a certain temperature is reached.
More kitchen shopping recommendations
- The pros and the cons of using an air fryer
- What to know about buying an instant pot
- Best coffee makers and grinders
Jessica Migala is a health and fitness writer based in the suburbs of Chicago. She’s also written for O, The Oprah Magazine, Women’s Health, Men’s Health, Men’s Journal, Real Simple, Everyday Health, and more. Migala spends her time with her husband and two young sons.