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Buying a smart oven? One cookbook author shares her tips

Smart ovens include 5-in-1, 7-in-1, 9-in-1 and 12-in-1 options — and choosing the right one comes down to what you plan to cook.
Older Caucasian woman using digital tablet in kitchen
What is a smart oven and how should you shop for one? We asked a cookbook author who wrote about convection ovens.Lumina Images / Getty Images/Tetra images RF
By Jessica Migala

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Home cooks have been steadily increasing the popularity of both Instant Pots and air fryers, capable devices that make getting dinner on the table easier — and doing so in record time. Another multitasking machine that promises to do it all and worth considering is the smart oven — whether you're planning on making Valentine's Day pizza or hosting the next dinner party. These countertop convection oven lookalikes are deemed smart ovens for having been outfitted with multiple cooking modes: air fry, bake, broil and rotisserie cooking among them. They’re designed to handle the logistics of temperature changes and airflow for you so you can pop raw food in and sit back until it’s ready.

In this article

  1. How do smart ovens work?
  2. What can you make in a smart oven?
  3. How to shop for a smart oven
  4. Best smart ovens to shop in 2020 at every price point

You can cook all the same things you would in a regular oven, but a convection oven does it faster

Robin Donovan, author of The Complete Convection Oven Cookbook

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, 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:

  1. Bake a whole (Valentine's Day) pizza
  2. Rotisserie a whole chicken — or a small turkey
  3. Roast chicken breasts or thighs
  4. Air fry chicken wings
  5. Cook up jerky or bacon
  6. Dry fruit
  7. Bake cupcakes, pies and muffins
  8. Cook sheet pan meals
  9. Bake casseroles and frittatas
  10. Roast vegetables
  11. 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 Valentine 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.

Best smart ovens to shop in 2020 at every price point

The price of smart ovens is all over the place: Expect to spend around several hundred dollars. The more features you’re after — like food temperature sensors and automatic cooking — the greater the price, in general.

The good news is that high-quality, multi-function smart ovens are available in a variety of prices.

1. June Life Oven plus Gourmet Package

This smart oven is programmed with more than 200 automatic cook programs and is designed to recognize the food inside of it and detects its temperature. You can also control it from your phone using the June app. You can purchase the oven alone or grab the gourmet package, giving you a roasting rack, two pans, three air baskets, a wire shelf and crumb tray, as well as a three-year subscription to June's recipes. Size-wise, this smart oven can handle a 10-pound turkey or 12-inch (Valentine's Day) pizza.

2. COSORI 12-in-1 Oven Air Fryer Combo

COSORI's air fryer combo oven gives you a dozen cooking presets for pizza, roasting, air frying, toasting, broiling, baking cookies, rotisserie cooking, dehydrating, fermenting and keeping food warm. It’s large enough to fit a 13-inch pizza, a five-pound whole chicken, or a dozen cupcakes. A nonstick interior should mean easier cleanups.

3. Ninja Foodi 8-in-1 Countertop Convection Oven

An 8-in-1 oven means eight separate functions: air fry, roast, broil, bake, toast, bagel, dehydrate and warm. The flatter cooking area is wide enough to allow for a 13-inch pizza, a 13 inches by 13 inches sheet pan, or six chicken breasts. This oven is designed to preheat in 60 seconds its lower profile should allow for easier storage.

4. GoWISE USA Electric Air Fryer Oven

Air fry, bake, roast and rotisserie in this oven. Despite its smaller size, it actually boasts 12.7 quarts-worth of cooking space, along with three rack levels. Fifteen cooking presets are complemented by 10 included accessories: rotisserie clips, an oven rack, drip pan, mesh basket and mesh trays. It comes in black, silver, white and red.

5. Tovala Gen 2 Smart Steam Oven

This countertop oven can be set to five modes: steam, bake, broil, reheat and toast. But the best part is the extreme ease of cooking. Like the June smart oven, an app allows you to control the oven and set recipes to work. It also lets you scan groceries — like frozen foods, for example — and the oven will cook them according to package directions. Tovala also has their own line of mail-order meals (of course), which you can order separately.

6. Breville The Smart Oven Pro

The 10-in-1 oven lets you toast, bagel, bake, bake, broil, roast, slow cook, make pizza, and bake cookies. You can adjust its cooking to handle frozen food with a push of a button. It comes up to temp quickly, slashing preparation time.

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