And improved my meals tenfold.

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If I had to rate my cooking skills on a scale of one to 10, I’d give them a solid seven. My meals are edible but adequate at best, and until recently, I’d come to accept the fact that my chicken would always be slightly dry and my veggies slightly soggy. And while I’m no chef, I do try to cook a majority of my weeknight meals at home to save money, which can be a fairly time-consuming process. So when I was introduced to the Brava Smart Oven, a multi-use kitchen gadget designed to make cooking faster, easier, and foolproof for any skill level, I knew I had to give it a try. 

The oven uses infrared and visible light, instead of heat, to cook your meals. Unlike heat, the six high-powered lights in the device automatically adjust the temperature based on what food is inside, resulting in faster and more efficient cooking times. Plus, the eight temperature sensors, camera, and two particle detectors ensure that your meal is cooked to perfection. 

In addition to flawlessly searing, baking, and broiling meals, the light-powered technology means that you can combine foods that would normally need to be cooked separately. Once the food is added to the provided metal or glass tray pan, your work is essentially done—no flipping, checking, or stirring required. Even better? There’s no need to preheat the Brava, so your prep time is cut down, too. In fact, the device can go from 0 to 500 degrees in less than a second (yes, really).

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Credit: brava.com

To buy: $46/month or $1095; brava.com.

When my Brava oven arrived, I was pleased to find that it’s surprisingly compact and easy to store—a little larger than a toaster, it easily fit onto my small kitchen counter space. While I previously had to look up the cooking times for my protein of choice, the Brava comes with a helpful “Cook Tile” function on the touch-enabled smart screen that’s full of over 1,300 preset recipes (with new ones added weekly), all extensively tested by Brava chefs. Now I can click through the screen’s menu, choose my protein and veggie of choice, and receive a perfectly timed recipe that can be cooked in the Bravaon one tray. 

After my complimentary call with Brava to walk me through the oven’s functions and tools (the company really makes this foolproof), I chose to test something simple to start: chicken tenders. I simply chose “chicken” for my protein on the screen selection menu, then narrowed it down even more by selecting “chicken tenders.” The oven then walked me through which tray to use, whether to place my meat on zones one, two, or three of the tray (the included trays even come with labeled zones), and which rack within the oven to place my tray on. All I had to do was hit start. The chicken took less than 10 minutes to cook, and the result was tender on the inside and somehow deliciously seared on the outside. Thanks to the corresponding Brava app, I was able to leave the room and keep an eye on my food through the app’s video tool. I even received a notification when it was ready—no more standing by the oven and checking on my meal constantly.

Feeling a bit smug after my first success, I later decided to attempt another recipe I normally avoided: glazed salmon. Again, I used the convenient Cook Tile function to set up the oven, and before I could even finish prepping my side salad, I was notified my salmon was done. The result was flaky and perfectly cooked through. And while I’d never recommend reheating fish in the microwave, I even saved a filet for lunch and used Brava’s reheat function the next day. My meal was just as tasty as my dinner the night before and free of any lingering fishy odors. 

I then decided to put the Brava to the test with my favorite food: pizza. Forgoing my usual Friday night pizza delivery habit, I used a premade pizza crust, added my sauce and toppings, and popped it into the Brava. Because I prefer a crispier crust on my pizza, I selected the option to cook it a minute or two longer (the Brava allows you to increase and decrease cooking times along with its preset options). The pizza was so good, my boyfriend and I finished it in minutes and vowed to buy more dough that weekend to make another. 

In addition to streamlining your meal prep, the Brava makes a great eco-friendly alternative compared to other cooking methods. Fun fact: The Brava uses less energy to cook an entire meal than a conventional oven uses just to preheat. Whether you’re like me and want to improve your cooking skills without lessons or you’ve found yourself cooking at home more due to social distancing, the Brava Smart Oven is an easy way to achieve delicious home-cooked meals every time.