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Product Review: Tovala Steam Oven

I’m feeling pretty fancy today because over the last couple weeks I’ve been able to play with a new toy: the Tovala Steam Oven.

This is my first experience with a “smart” appliance. At first, the idea of it was a little intimidating. I always worry that a “smart” anything is going to have so much smart power that I won’t be able to understand and/or utilize it all. But I found this oven crazy easy to use without feeling like I wasn’t harnessing its full potential.

As it turns out, all of that smart is happening within the oven: With just the scan of a QR code or tap of a “Cook” button, the oven knows what sequence of steam, convection bake, and broil is needed to cook the meal inside. And not only does the oven adjust its own temperature along the way to cook the meal just right, but it automatically sets the cook time and shuts off when it’s done. My only job was to be smart enough to press “start.” Can do.

Tovala has a weekly meal delivery service with pre-packaged meals that I’d say are about 95% ready to go.

Image by Tavola

You might need to stir in a sauce or pour something on top when it comes out of the oven, but unlike the other meal delivery services out there, the meals are basically oven-ready. And they turn out perfect. Seriously. I gobbled each one down. One of the meals (see below) had roasted beets as a side dish that was amazing, and I don’t even like beets!

Tovala’s Pastrami-Spiced Salmon, Pre-Packaged Meal

Here’s one of the other meals. Looks pretty good, right?!

Tovala’s Chicken Tagine Pre-Packaged Meal

While the delivered meals are truly delicious, I initially didn’t consider this to be an appliance I would buy myself (this one was on loan) because I probably only utilize pre-packaged meals a few times a month. I couldn’t see myself investing in and dedicating counter space to something that would make dinner easier just a few times a month. But then I looked closer at the app and realized, Oh, they have recipes in here?! Wait, what?? So, if I make one of these recipes, does it automatically cook it to perfection like the boxed meals?? Spoiler alert: It does. I believe that’s what you’d call a game-changer.

Being such a planner—especially with cooking—I immediately started thinking about how I could prep meals for the week using the in-app recipes. The idea of doing all the prep on Sunday, and the rest of the week just pressing a button already felt like a relief. Such possibilities!

(BTW, I’ve also been using it for cooking random things—baked potatoes, jalapeno poppers, etc. It preheats so much faster than my big oven and I can only imagine it uses way less energy.)

So, just to walk you through one of the in-app recipes, here’s what you’ll see for the Chilaquiles recipe:

Each recipe includes all the basics like prep time, cook time, and an ingredient list, along with detailed nutrition information, tools you’ll need (I’ve always felt this has been a missing element in standard recipe formats), and clear, simple cooking directions.

And yes, I made it to see how it all worked. Of course I did! Here goes…

Just four ingredients for this recipe:

I gave everything a good stir to be sure all the chips were coated, leaving 1/4 cup of cheese to be sprinkled on top, as directed:

The tools section calls for using a disposable oven tin—I’m assuming this is because the bake times and temperatures are based on what it would take to cook dishes in a thin tin rather than a thicker baking dish.

I didn’t have disposable tins, so I used a thin springform cake tin layered with tin foil and it worked great. I’m really keeping my fingers crossed that Tovala develops reusable baking tins for purchase that work with the oven. I’d definitely buy those!

Once the meal is prepped, just tap “Cook” in the app, and you can see below in the background that the oven lights up, ready to cook for 13 minutes and 24 seconds. (And not a second more!) Slide the dish inside, press “Start” on the oven, and it fires up to the correct temperature. So slick.

And it baked up beautifully:

I dressed it up with some green onions, cilantro, extra salsa and cheese, and a dollop of spicy cashew cream I happened to have on-hand. (From a Skillshare video I just filmed—can’t wait to share that with you all soon!)

And oh, it was goooood. I’m saving the rest for dinner, which will be easy to heat up because the oven also has a reheat setting. Needless to say, I’m a fan. And while there isn’t a huge selection of in-app recipes just yet, I can see from their site that it’s something they’re working on. I’m really looking forward to seeing what they come up with.

I’m sure that because I’m a food writer, it seems like I’d be super into going all out for each meal when cooking at home. And while I do love cooking, I also like to say that I love cooking when I have the time to cook. Just like anyone else, I find it to be a pain often enough that I’m always looking for ways to make it easier, but while still maintaining delicousness. Because I’m just never going to be able to sacrifice quality for ease, and prioritizing both of those elements equally seems to be a driving force behind Tovala.

Thanks so much to the team at Tovala for letting me take this thing for a spin—I’m definitely on the road to being totally obsessed!

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