Tovala’s Smart Oven is a wifi connected appliance, comparable in size to a large toaster oven or microwave. It sits on your countertop and has a QR code scanner, which it uses to read the codes on its prepackaged meals. The company delivers refrigerated meals through a subscription service, and the oven then prepares them based on the instructions it receives from the cloud when the code is scanned.
The means provided, which are called Tovala Meals, are fresh and taste good. This is where the Tovala oven really hits its stride. It’s nice to see the ingredients for the meals listed along with any allergens on the outside of the box. The meals are imaginative, and the oven really brought out the best of them. Using a combination of a convection fan, steam, broiler, and baking element enhanced the flavor of the food.
Tovala’s real strengths lie in scanning and preparing food that comes through its meal delivery subscription, however that doesn’t mean that’s all it’s good for. I’m not a big fan of reheated rice, as it dries out and hardens, so if we order Chinese, the rice is more than likely going to waste.
With its steamer capabilities, we were able to use the Tovala oven to reheat the rice (and the leftover Chinese) without it drying out. Maybe that’s not a big deal, but it shows that there is more to the oven than just scanning and cooking. I’m still learning more about what else the oven can do, but right now it’s nice to have the ability to steam my food without worrying too much about messing it up.
We’ll get more into that later. For now, let’s take a closer look at the Tovala oven, along with some of its key features. It does have a few drawbacks, but overall I had a good experience with my Tovala oven.
Looks Like a Large Microwave
The Tovala oven reminds me of a microwave on steroids. To be honest, it was a little bigger than I expected, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s 2.72 cubic feet interior has plenty of room for your food, and the entire device measures at 9.25 x 12.88 x 12.25 inches.
The control panel is a simple layout that is easy to use. It offers three buttons: heat, toast, and cancel. There is a knob on the panel which you use to adjust the toast settings, and the scanner is built into the panel, which allows you to hold the QR code under it for scanning simply.
When you open up the oven’s door, you’ll see a water reservoir on the right-hand side that can be removed and filled when needed. Using the water helps to create the steam that makes your food moist and tasty. The steam feature is a good way to help keep the baked good light and the meats juicy.
Also in the oven is a convection fan which is used to help circulate the air within while the Tovala bakes your food. Additionally, there is a tray and rack that come with the oven which allows you to cook your own food.
The Meals are Where It’s At
Tovala has designed its oven specifically around its meal subscription delivery service, and the meals are made to be prepared with the Tovala oven. Basically, you can’t have the oven without the food, and vice versa.
When you visit Tovala’s website, you’ll notice quickly how the delivery subscription service works. There are two options when it comes to choosing your meal plan. You can choose three one-person meals per work, or three two-person meals each week.
The website provides a menu you can rotate through that gives you a choice of five or six entrees. You select the ones you want, and Tovala ships right to your door. But don’t worry, they come in a cold pack, so your food is still fresh when it arrives.
There really isn’t a whole lot you need to do prior to cooking your meal. The prep time estimate is on the meal itself, as are the ingredients and any allergens the food contains. I did have a little trouble peeling the plastic off the top of the aluminum containers, but otherwise, it was really simple. I had my wife cook one as well, and she couldn’t believe how easy it was.
Also within the box are smaller containers that house additional ingredients you’ll need to finish preparing your meal. Some are items you’ll put on prior to cooking, and some you use as garnishments prior to eating. The instructions located on the cardboard packaging guide you through these types of preparations.
Testing Out Recipes
One example was the chicken jambalaya meal that included some lemon juice to put on the chicken prior to cooking to keep it moist and juicy. Place the containers in the oven, scan the QR code you’ll find on the packaging, and let Tovala do the rest. Typical cook time is between 15 and 20 minutes. You’ll see it show up on the control panel. Push the knob in and find something to do while your food cooks.
On each entree, you receive you’ll find a unique QR code that provides the oven instructions on how to cook each that specific meal. For example, you don’t cook chicken and fish the same way, so the Tovala oven downloads the instructions so that it knows exactly what meal it is cooking and exactly how to cook it.
The oven determines the appropriate temperature and uses its different functions based on the instructions it received. This is the primary reason why you can’t just throw a Tovala meal into a traditional oven or microwave and expect to have the same results.
I’m not a foodie or a food connoisseur by any means, so feel free to take my opinion with a grain of salt, but I thought the cooked meals were delicious. The fact that I had to do very little prep work made it even more so. Tovala does a fantastic job of introducing ingredients I wouldn’t otherwise be willing to try, which results in a meal that is both tasty and filling.
Tovala provides nice finishing touches to their meals, which makes you appreciate their efforts even more. For example, the jambalaya came with a nice hot sauce that really gave the chicken a little extra kick, and the barbecue chicken breast included some onions to sprinkle on after everything finished cooking.
Even though the meals are delicious, and the oven does a fantastic job of cooking them, you’re still shelling out quite a bit for them on a weekly basis. Over the course of a year, you’re looking at a hefty amount in costs, and that’s just meals for you. If you want entrees for your spouse, you can double that number.
Some Room for Improvement
It’s possible to use the Tovala oven without using their proprietary entrees; however, the Tovala app makes things a little challenging. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t experiment with the oven and find a way to make the oven work for you. For instance, we like to use it for reheating our rice after ordering Chinese, and my wife likes to warm up her leftover pizza in it as well.
Creating your own recipe in through the application can feel a little clunky at times, but you can follow the step-by-step guide to get one set up and then it’s available any time you need to use it. It would be nice to see a section that’s labeled specifically for manual cooking, which would be quicker for finding one-time dishes.
The mobile app does provide a notification that alerts you when your food is done cooking; however, it would be nice if there were a visible timer you could view as well. For instance, it would be handy to know just how much time I have left and whether or not I could perform a quick chore or if I should leave it until after my meal.
There are a fair amount of preloaded recipes which will cook some proteins and basic vegetables. Choose which recipe you want the oven to cook and prepare your dish by following the steps in the app. Then it will send the cooking instructions to the oven for that specific recipe.
For instance, my wife cooked some chicken and cauliflower by using the recipe in the app, and the food was fantastic. The chicken was juicy and moist, and the cauliflower was delicious. If anything, Tavola should continue to develop this section so that there are more recipes to make use of when waiting on the next week’s worth of food to be delivered.
The biggest draw for the Tovala oven is the delivery meal subscription, however that requires a commitment of a year for a price. The food is easy to prepare and delicious, and there is a wide variety when it comes to selecting which meals you want to be delivered.
There are some drawbacks to the oven, but with a little work, Tovala can make those disappear. If the company improves on a few areas and puts a little more development into its mobile application, the Tovala oven is definitely an oven worth having. It makes food preparation and reheating easy, simple, and quick.
If you want to add amazing, homegrown ingredients to your recipes, check out our Best Smart Hydroponic Systems for 2018 article. There you can get learn how to grow your own veggies!
You can also grow your own food with Farmbot: Learn more about Farmbot in my full Farmbot Review!