The Tovala claims to do the work and save you time but does this smart oven hold up to its promise? I tested this futuristic appliance to see if it was all it claimed to be.
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Tovala Smart Oven with a hand holding instructions
Credit: Tovala

I've always been somewhat suspect of kitchen items that tout themselves as made for super busy people or as "set it and forget it" appliances. Let's take the Instant Pot for instance. I love it for many reasons, but it requires more work and time than I initially expected. Same has been my response with meal plans. I do know how to cook, but even some of the meal services I have tried have been unnecessary complicated. So needless to say, I was skeptical of a futuristic "smart oven" that came with a meal service component that promised to "save me time and do the work for me."

The Tovala Smart Oven is a two-part product. The first is the smart oven which costs around $299. The oven is designed to cook Tovala's specially packaged meals (the second part is a meal delivery service) or anything you would normally cook in an oven. It's connected over Wi-fi (more on that later) and it can steam, bake, broil, and toast. Think of it as a supped-up toaster oven. It takes up a good chunk of your counter space—it's probably 20 percent bigger than a traditional toaster oven—but it looks sleek. Setup is simple, and the oven just requires a small amount of water for the steam component. It'll alert you when it's time to refill. It also makes cute robotic sounds adding to the overall futuristic Jetson's appeal.

The meal plan is the other component to Tovala. Although you can certainly cook your own food in the machine, the meal plan is designed to ensure minimal prep and has a "scan to cook" feature where all you do is put in the meal, scan the barcode, push start, and the oven does the rest.

We took the machine for a spin with their meals, a frozen Trader Joe's meal, and our own dishes to see if this machine was worth the price tag:

The Meal Plan

If you choose to do the Tovala meal plans, meals average out at $11.99 each, with one serving per container. Each week you are given a menu that includes a variety of dishes like salmon scampi, rosemary-rubbed chicken breasts, or mushroom Alfredo. You can choose based on a category like gluten free or calorie conscious and some of the meals also have customizable sides. We tried two chicken dishes—Tandoori and Mediterranean—and a Cuban pork bowl. As promised, the prep was super simple. It usually required only pouring a sauce or sprinkling a season before scanning the QR code and putting it in the oven to cook. One of the downfalls of the oven is that you can only cook two of their meals at a time, making it a little more difficult to cook for a whole family. The "trays" reminded me of an old school TV dinner which was funny for such a new school product, but as promised I could set it and forget it and deal with something else for the 15-20 minutes it was cooking.

All of our meals were cooked perfectly. Although the presentation wasn't the most beautiful, the chicken was super tender in both dishes, we were actually super impressed with how well it tasted. We didn't love the pork bowl but that was more of a personal taste preference instead of it cooking incorrectly. Even not being meal plan type people, it's worth it to have a few of these meals on hand for super busy nights.

Tovala Smart Oven on a white background
Credit: Amazon

Scan-to-Cook Meals

If you don't like ordering meals a week in advance, that's ok. This Tovala Smart Oven still has merit. One of the best features we found, that they don't emphasize enough, is that the oven actually has a database of cooking instructions for hundreds of frozen grocery store items. Truth be told, we don't cook frozen dinners that often, but with the start to a busy school year, it's always nice to have a few of them tucked away. My eight-year-old was able to take a frozen Trader Joe's meal, scan the barcode, put it in, and push start to have something ready for lunch. We helped him remove the hot food, but that alone is a huge time saver. They are constantly adding different brands and healthier ones too like Amy's, Dr. Praeger's, and Kodiak Cakes.

Buy it: Tovala Smart Oven, $299; amazon.com

Cooking From a Recipe

Buying a specific oven just for meal plans can be a costly venture so we wanted to make sure to try and use the Tovala Smart Oven for a few dishes we'd make on our own. We tried the toaster feature, and while it cooks very similar to a toaster oven, we personally prefer a standard toaster for toasting bread, waffles, etc. Since we had such luck with the proteins from Tovala's own meals we started our experiment with chicken breasts. You can pull up recipes on their app and it will send cook times straight to the oven (you just have to push start). It said in the recipe to make sure the chicken was only a certain thickness, but I didn't have control over what I had in the fridge, so it did take a little extra time beyond what was programmed, but the chicken still came out great.

The real winner was the salmon. We cooked four pieces of salmon (the oven only has room for two meals, four pieces of protein, or a pan full of veggies) and in less than 15 minutes they were all perfectly cooked. I was able to make a more complicated side while the salmon cooked and I didn't have to worry about checking on it. The Tovala Smart Oven also makes it nice on nights where not everyone is home at the same time. You can place in whatever you are planning to make and start it when your spouse, kids, or roommate are on the way home.

Bottom Line

So, is this appliance all that we imagined for a futuristic oven? Maybe, but the Tovala Smart Oven certainly has a valid place in the kitchen. I can see this replacing an oven and microwave for someone who lives alone, because it makes it super simple to cook meals for one or two people. It's a nice second oven for those with a larger family and it's also enjoyable to be able to truly set it and forget it, allowing for more time with loved ones or to cook up side dishes in the kitchen.

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