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I have wanted a toaster oven for years. It seems more convenient for my small-scale cooking needs than my full-size oven, and as someone who has been frustrated by every toaster I’ve owned (they’re SO annoying to clean), I knew a toaster oven would offer a better toasting experience — with the added benefit of being able to reheat pizza and make open face sandwich melts. However, as toaster ovens grew in their technological capabilities, I hesitated to get one because I wasn’t sure which was best for me.
Then, I had a chance to try a new kind of smart toaster oven — one that’s not only a toaster oven but also a steamer, air fryer, and broiler. It’s more accurate to simply call it a miniature oven, and an incredibly powerful one at that. This countertop device from Tovala made our list of best smart ovens, and as part of their Memorial Day promo, from May 25 to Jun. 4 you can get their Smart Oven for just $49 or get their Smart Oven Pro for $99 (with a six-week sign up to their meal service). That’s $200 off either model!
When my Smart Oven Pro arrived, it required very little in the way of assembly or preparation. After adding some water to the oven’s reservoir, doing the recommended 20-minute cook function (to get rid of the initial chemical smell from the heating unit), and downloading the Tovala app on my phone, I was ready to start cooking. The oven can handle a variety of cooking techniques, so whether you want to roast some chicken, steam some fish, crisp up some broccoli florets, or just make an easy toasted cheese sandwich, you’re only a few button pushes away from deliciousness.
Navigating its front panel can seem a little daunting at first, just because there are more buttons and options than a regular toaster oven would have. Thankfully, the interface is divided into three areas — one for time, one for temperature, and one for heating style — that are easy to make sense of once you start using them. I’m not a particularly tech-savvy person, and I found it easy to understand which settings I was programming into the oven and how to get things started. And, compared to my full-size oven, this countertop oven heats up way quicker and does a better job of actually reaching — and maintaining — the temperature you set it to.
I got some meal kits from Tovala, too, and each one impressed me with its freshness and quality. The food arrives chilled but not frozen and is good for about a week, so you don’t have to rush to make it all right away. Cooking these dishes is as easy as popping something into the microwave, but the taste is obviously magnitudes better.
Most of the dishes I got came in metal tins with plastic film on top and a few additional ingredients bagged on the site. Prep is straightforward — just peel off the film, mix the ingredients as directed, and put everything in the oven. Then, for the cool part: Each dish includes a postcard with a QR code that you scan via a tiny IR reader on the front of the oven. After scanning, the cooking settings that best suit that specific dish will be programmed into the oven. That means my penne alla vodka with mozzarella came out delightfully bubbly and crispy, and my southwestern chicken breast was perfectly done in 20 minutes.
I’ve tried other almost-ready meal kits before, and they weren’t nearly as easy to put together or as flavorful. I especially enjoyed the sweet potato, chickpea, and broccoli rice bowl, which had a zesty vinaigrette that tied all the ingredients together in an unexpected way. The meals are all designed by chefs and taste like homemade or even restaurant-quality cooking, only without you having to do any cooking. You get different dishes to choose from each week and can adjust how many you want (up to 16 meals a week at most), and each one costs around $13.
I’m excited to see what kind of recipes of my own I’ll make in my new smart oven. My go-to cooking style relies heavily on sheet-pan dinners, and I’m sure I’ll be enjoying some extra crispy Brussels sprouts and juicy chicken thighs. You don’t have to wait as long as I did to get a countertop oven. Try the Smart Oven or Smart Oven Pro now and you’ll save $200 no matter which one you pick. Definitely a smart choice.