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I’m not a big magic guy. I generally find magicians and their ‘tricks’ to be a bit of a...yawnfest. Call me a cynic, but I’ve spent most of my (limited) time around magicians watching like a hawk, trying to catch their slight-of-hand shenanigans. This cynicism permeates other aspects of my life, perhaps most acutely with my disdain for kitchen gadgetry.
No sir, I’m not interested in your sous vide machine slowly warming my $40 New York Strip in a zip lock baggie submerged in lukewarm water. Nor do I want your hand-me-down ice cream maker that you used precisely 2 times before throwing in the towel in favor of a pint of Häagen-Dazs Strawberry perfection.
Brava -- the smart countertop oven seemingly yanked from the Jetsons’ kitchen counter and plopped onto mine -- has made a superfan out of me. Gadget disdain be damned: this tool is the real deal even the most traditional of home chefs can find meaningful value in.
I’m what you could call a kitchen purist -- I put my apron on, I prep my mise-en-place with Sinatra blaring on the Sonos, and I cook dinner for my fiancé while she sips on a jammy Cab Sauv. I must admit, however, that the Brava -- the smart countertop oven seemingly yanked from the Jetsons’ kitchen counter and plopped onto mine -- has made a superfan out of me. Gadget disdain be damned: this tool is the real deal even the most traditional of home chefs can find meaningful value in.
Onboarding Fit for a King
First impressions from the unboxing were telling: The machine itself is beautiful, made from the same materials you’ll find in other high-end appliances (Brava was purchased last year by the parent company that owns Viking) including stainless steel, high-temperature polymers and anodized aircraft-grade aluminum similar to the cases on high-end laptops. The Brava's touch-panel and display are shielded by impact-resistant glass similar to the glass that covers smartphones, and the top-Brava mat is custom made from heat-resistant silicone and can serve as a temporary resting spot for your meal.
I set up our Brava on the kitchen counter -- it’s a bit wider and deeper than a traditional toaster oven, so you’ll need a decent amount of counter space to add Brava to your everyday rotation. Good news: the sleek design of Brava is additive to your kitchen motif and something you’ll proudly want to display. After connecting to my home Wifi and installing the latest software build, I was ready for my Brava onboarding call via Zoom. You read that right!
This onboarding blew me away. Provided to every customer to ensure you get the most out of your investment in the Brava, I was paired with Kate from the Customer Success Team. She spent an hour(!) walking through the best practices and tips and tricks with me, including some live demos from her WFH setup. I’ll be honest -- it’s a bit intimidating at first; the Brava has so much to offer (conventional oven, toaster, pizza oven, microwave, air fryer and dehydrator) with different steps and techniques to master each. But like all things -- with a little bit of time, experience and repetition, you can master the Brava and harness its full power.
The Brava Mindset
In my first month of using the Brava, the best way I can describe using the tool is by adopting the ‘Brava Mindset’. This isn’t your grandmother’s oven, and just as you need to learn how to interact with and use, say an iPad when you first bought it, you need to adopt the language and tips of the Brava. In your box is a handy starter guide, which welcomes you to #bravalife.
For example -- you’re instructed to pat down your marinated proteins to dry them before cooking to ensure a great sear (more on that below!), and cooking proteins straight from the fridge is generally a best practice for the Brava, compared to most conventional recipes encouraging you to bring your protein to room temperature before cooking.
These nuances are re-enforced throughout the product: the touch-screen on the device has step-by-step instructions complete with full recipes to make your experience as fool-proof as possible. Couple this with a vibrant Facebook and Instagram community constantly highlighting new use cases and recipes, and you’ll never run out of inspired ways to use the Brava.
The Magician at Work
What exactly is the Brava doing in that fancy silver box? Brava uses a combination of visible and infrared light to cook food faster and more efficiently than the hot air of convection ovens, or the conduction of stovetops. Unlike air or cast iron, light can be easily targeted and adjusted. This means you can create food that otherwise would have been separately sauteed, grilled, seared and baked.
Taking things a step further, a game changing feature of the Brava is its ability to cook a full meal (protein, veggie, starch) all at once on the same tray! That’s because the Brava has six heating elements, allowing them to separate the main cooking area into three separate zones, each of which cooks its respective food at a different temperature. Want to cook a couple salmon, some potatoes, and a few vegetables in one go? Not a problem. Just line them up in the proper position, let the machine know what you’re cooking, and you’re set.
There’s a resulting exactness to the Brava that I’ve never before experienced as a home chef. That perfection is hard to achieve even for those well versed in home cooking and was clearly on display when I took the Brava on multiple test drives.
Brava Test Kitchen
First up was a favorite in our house -- lamb chops. I tend to buy the frenched rack from Trader Joe’s, and then cut them myself into lollipops before grilling on a very hot barbeque for a few minutes each side. Brava had a program for a rack of lamb (program here means the Brava Culinary team at HQ has perfected the cook temperature and time such that you select it on the control panel and press a few buttons to get started).
An incredible feature that enables ‘set it and forget it’ cooking is the temperature probe, which you insert into your protein and connect to the machine, allowing the Brava to know the precise temperature throughout the cook. We like our lamb medium, so the Brava will cook to our desired temperature and automatically shut down when it’s completed. The result was divine. An incredible sear (hard to believe light can achieve such results but the photos are the proof), with perfectly cooked medium chops when we cut into them. My fiance and I sat at the dinner table, chowing down and marveling that the Brava made this. It tasted so good, I don’t think we’ll ever go back to our traditional way of cooking Lamb. We were hooked.
Next was an everyday staple: the bodega breakfast sandwich on an English Muffin. Brava comes with a few different cooking trays, including a handy one with 4 ‘wells’ that are used to prepare all types of eggs: fried, poached, frittata, benedict, etc. Following the on-screen instructions for the Breakfast sandwich, I buttered and toasted a perfect English Muffin first, and then followed with ‘frying’ a few eggs over medium.
The results again were magical -- the egg was cooked to perfection, piping hot with radiant heat that I continue to marvel at. The English Muffin browned up perfectly, crispy in all the right places. I top it with a ‘meatless’ breakfast sausage patty from Trader Joe’s to complete the Egg McMuffin experience. The breakfast sandwich was so good that I was giddy to get up and do it again the following morning. It’s become our default breakfast in quarantine, a delicious start to the day that we look forward to with childlike glee.
Kate (recall my lovely Customer Success contact) alluded to one of the most beloved use-cases of Brava -- cooking vegetables. Any home chef knows the drill: you line a sheet pan with aluminum foil, oil and season your veggies, and hope you don’t overcook (or undercook) them. Enter Brava, taking the guesswork out of the equation, allowing you to focus on other aspects of the meal. Take for example this salmon dinner I made last week.
I cooked the Soyaki Salmon in our Air Fryer (though I could have done it in the Brava as well), had some farro boiling on the stove, and cooked the broccolini in the Brava. Not only did it cook it to perfection (if you’re sensing a trend here, you’re correct!), but my trust and faith in what the Brava can do is strong, allowing me to turn my attention (and time) to the other aspects of the meal. In this use-case I like to think of Brava as a highly trained sous chef, executing side dishes at restaurant quality so I don’t have to!
Admittedly, I’m just getting started unleashing the full potential of the Brava. That’s incredibly exciting given how strong the first impression has been with this machine. I can see the Brava providing value to so many different types of customers:
- The avid home chef like me who will be blown away by the precise results and restaurant-grade dishes the Brava serves up.
- A culinary novice will also fall in love with this tool, helping to close-the-gap for someone’s lack of confidence in the kitchen.
- The team at Brava also pointed out there’s a growing customer segment of retirees and in some cases customers who have lost a partner and are now cooking for one (some even cooking for themselves for the first time in their lives!).
The gadget itself has far more perks than I can capture here -- for example, Brava cooks pizza exceptionally well without having to preheat your oven (and in our case our apartment unit in the middle of summer!) for an hour beforehand.
The Brava has earned a permanent spot on our kitchen counter: we find ourselves using the tool multiple times each day, and it’s far and away become the workhorse kitchen appliance in our home. That’s of course if I can keep from my parents convincing us into giving it to them; I just may have to get one for my Mom for her birthday this year!
More Reasons to love Brava
- Featured in Forbes, Buzzfeed, Popsugar and New York Times, who claims the Brava Oven is a new contender for “revolutionizing home cooking.”
- Near five star reviews from customers who exalt it’s the “Ultimate Sous Chef”, a “Gamechanger” and “Perfect for Busy Families.”
- Every growing library of recipes: the Culinary Team at Brava is constantly dreaming up built-for Brava recipes to make restaurant-quality food at home.
- Using its pure light technology, the Brava cooks meals in 1/3 of the time of conventional ovens: For example sweet potatoes that traditionally would take 45 mins in an oven take 14-17 in the Brava.
- Brava is an investment for sure, but you can finance the Brava with 0% APR and return it for a full refund within 100 days of purchase if you’re not in love with it.
- Eco Friendly: Brava cooks a complete meal with less energy than it takes to just preheat a conventional oven, and the infrared emitters are twice as efficient as standard nichrome or quartz heating emitters found in most home ovens and toaster ovens.