How the Brava Smart Oven can upgrade your holiday meals

REVIEW: We tested out the Brava Smart Oven over the past month to see how it changed the game for busy chefs at home.

Photo: Adobe Stock

Like many of us who can’t safely travel to see family this Thanksgiving, cooking holiday meals has fallen on our shoulders.

That home-cooked meal you were looking forward to, whether it’s Grandma’s candied yams or Daddy’s smothered pork chops, may not be sitting on your table this season, and we feel your pain.

For the food bosses who know their way around a kitchen, it’s no sweat (well, maybe a little) and you likely have a food plan ready to go. But managing multi-course cuisines while handling pandemic life is still a juggling act. Utilizing equipment such as the best stainless steel cookware would be a game-changer for you in the kitchen.

Although nothing may replace your Momma’s turkey or Auntie’s sweet potato casserole, you still deserve to eat a home-cooked meal made with love and little to no headaches.

No matter where you fall on the scale of “throwing down” to “ordering out daily,” if you’re on the market for new cooking appliances this Black Friday, consider the Brava, a futuristic smart oven that comes as close to a cooking sidekick as you’re going to get.

Now we know you have questions.  So our reviewing staff tested out the Brava over the past month to get a look at how this tech-savvy kitchen appliance is changing the cooking game, especially in pandemic life, and here’s what we found out:

Alright, what is a Brava Smart Oven exactly?

The Brava is a countertop oven that uses pure light (visible and infrared light) to cook your food. Sound… different? It is. There’s no “pre-heating” to worry about or microwave emissions. The lights pop on and cooks your food at exactly the intensity needed to complete it.

And how does Brava know what you need? Like a computer, you can type in whatever meal you’re cooking on the Brava or via the Brava app on your phone, and BOOM- Brava handles adjusting to all the right settings.

If no one else is following directions in your house right now (“Alexa, I did not tell you to play that song”), Brava’s got you.

Photo: Courtesy of Brava

So what are the advantages?

Cooking with light allows you to target different types of food with different levels of intensity and heat.  So rather than cooking one dish, resetting the oven, and moving on to the second dish, you can cook both at the same time. We love to see it.

Because it takes less time to heat up than traditional convection ovens, you can cook a chicken and veggies dish or baked potato in way less time.  For busy moms (or journalists managing a website), it’s a dream come true.

What Brava’s fancy screen looks like. (Photo courtesy of Brava)

Remember watching the oven, peeking in, and waiting around like you’re at the hair salon? Not with Brava. You can walk away and handle other business while it cooks because the oven’s indoor camera shows you the food being cooked on screen or on your phone. It’s like a baby monitor, but for your dinner (look at how cute that little plate is)!

There are also multiple automatic settings, so Brava can work as an air-fryer AND the perfect reheat oven for leftovers. Say goodbye to soggy pizza and day 2 veggies. We found that reheating was actually one of our favorite functions. It’s one million times better than any microwave or toaster.

The oven itself is also fairly compact. So for smaller kitchens and apartments, the counter space taken isn’t overwhelming.

Portrait of young afro couple cooking together and using mobile phone in the kitchen at home. Relationship, cook and lifestyle concept. (Adobe)

But can it cook… Black people’s food?

Look. Black people don’t play about their food. Whether it’s down home southern cuisine or Caribbean fare.  The concept of an “automatic” cooking machine almost seems like blasphemy. What about the process? The art of cooking? The seasoning?!

We asked those same hard questions.  And the answer is…

You should think of Brava as a sous chef appliance that expands your capabilities in the kitchen. Not a human chef.

So, perhaps you will still make your shrimp and grits stovetop, but you can trust that your egg frittatas can be handled without a care in the Brava while you do that.

Brava can perfectly cook your Brussel sprouts and bacon with a salmon dish, while you deep fry your chicken in a cast-iron skillet.

Basically, there are some dishes which only we want to make with our hands from start to finish. But there are a lot of really tasty dishes that can be made at the same time by the Brava.

That’s why in addition to hundreds of Brava recipes programmed into the oven, there are user-submitted settings and dishes that allow you to customize your experience. So get creative in the kitchen and share the love!

One note: Because of how pure light cooking works, you may need to add certain seasonings after the Brava finishes for certain dishes (particularly with some meats). But if you’re in a time crunch, the time saved on cooking is worth it.

What are some of your favorite Brava recipes/uses, especially for the holidays?

In the thirty-something days we had the Brava, we got to test out all sorts of meals on the ovens, with multiple pans of different sizes and functions.

Some of our favorites include:

Calabash soup dish combines the quick cooking of the Brava with your favorite veggies, to make the perfect butternut squash soup for Thanksgiving.

Put butternut squash, onion, garlic, and nutmeg in the Brava oven, select the soup setting, and it will quickly prime the veggies to be blended in your processor and poured into your bowls for slurping.

BBQ Baby Back Ribs

We’re not lying. You can actually make Baby Back Ribs in a Brava oven! Prep aside (make sure your marinate that meat for at least 4 hours to maximize flavor and juiciness), the active cooking time is about 10-15 minutes. And if you want crispier ribs, up to 30 minutes. That’s one streaming episode or quick workout away.

Baked Chicken Tenders

If you’re trying to move away from deep-fried meats, this panko-crusted chicken recipe is the perfect alternative. It’s flavorful and super easy to make with only 15 minutes of Brava baking time. Brava suggests squeezing lemon as an alternative to heavy sauces.

Scrambled Egg Bites

The Brava recipe we used the most. (Team Grio)

It only took one taste of the Brava scrambled egg bite recipe for us to fall in love. Pouring in eggs with your preferred seasoning and leaving them to fluff on their own, then come back, sprinkle some cheese and eat breakfast is our favorite flex. It’s a great meal for serving multiple family members.

If I’m sold… where can I find it?

If you’re looking to cop a Brava for your kitchen, Black Friday is probably the best time of the year. The professional oven is a luxury that normally goes for $1000, but with the holiday discount, you can get $300 off. Watch for the sale to go live and move quickly in the check out line before the kitchen drip sells out.

Most importantly, have fun cooking, experimenting in the kitchen and eating good- that’s part of the joy of the season!