A peculiar countertop oven debuted with a splash in 2018, wooing cookery nerds like me with claims of “pure light” heating and using connected cooking to streamline dinner-making. The brand even had a flashy showroom in the California Bay Area. But as quickly as that showroom appeared, it disappeared, closing in May 2019, leaving many to wonder if the company, Brava, would follow suit. That fall, however, Brava was acquired, injecting life (and cash) into the manufacturer and helping to, um, keep the light alive.
Pure or impure, the pricey Brava oven—$1,095 plus pan sets that can add up to $400 to the tab—is unique. It’s a large, pleasantly solid silver box with no window in the door, and just a little video touchscreen on top so you can watch what’s happening inside. That’s next to the start button, and the rest of the top is a large silicone pad where you can safely set down hot trays.
“Cooking with light” is a novel approach, with sets of computer-controlled halogen lamps heating from above and below, allowing you to cook different kinds of food with different amounts of heat on the same cooking tray.
In the Brava, you can make bacon, burgers, and brussels sprouts, or ribs, rice, and roast veggies, the Brava sometimes blurring the line between what you’d usually do in an oven and in a skillet. You can also make “combos” like salmon and green beans, a more technically challenging feat, with each type of food getting slightly different treatment. It also allows you to cook more food. To make this work, the two trays that come with it, glass and metal, are divided into three zones each. That salmon goes in zone one, the green beans in zones two and three. Top and bottom, front and back, the elements light up independently depending on what you’re cooking, heating the salmon filets from below, for example, as a way to crisp the skin. Occasionally, as you cook, it takes on a slow-motion disco vibe in the relatively ample—6.5 inches high, 13 inches wide, and 12.5 inches deep—interior.
Like many smart kitchen appliances, Brava offers a guided cooking experience: You browse recipes on a phone or computer, zap them over to the oven (currently a phone-only feature), then cook.
Does it sound like I’m selling something when I say “Cook with the power of light in three zones?” Quell that sarcastic thought, friend, at least for a moment.
When deciding what to cook, I asked the Brava team for their most popular dishes, and they sent their 20 most-cooked recipes from the past two years. The list could be subtitled “Basics, with a side of fun,” with food like fried eggs, bacon, frozen pizza, grilled cheese, skin-on salmon, mini pancake muffins, chicken wings, that kind of thing. I’d round out the testing with a few classics.