In Which I Revel in My Breville

Everyone has probably owned a toaster oven at one time or another.  It’s one of those things that you pick up – along with sheets, laundry baskets, and a mini-fridge – when you’re about to embark on your freshman year of college.  It’s cheap, it gets the job done and it very quickly becomes an indispensable part of your student budget dorm meal prep routine.  In fact, many of us remain allied with our toaster ovens long after graduation, first jobs, and first marriages have come to pass.

If you’ve moved on from your toaster oven to bigger and better things in the intervening years since your college days, you may be surprised to know that, much like Cylons, they have evolved.

For the past three months, I’ve been using a review sample of the new Smart Oven that was graciously provided to me by Breville.  To even compare the Smart Oven to a toaster oven immediately does it a disservice – even though the Smart Oven shares elements that are common to your old standby, such as heating elements and an adjustable rack, the similarities end there.

Featuring 1800 watts of cooking power, the Smart Oven comes equipped with a simple interface that offers three primary dials and a single on/off button.  A turn of the function knob brings the LCD display to life, backlit in a brilliant blue that makes for easier reading of your available options.  Just scroll through the available modes – Roast, Bake, Broil, and Toast, among them – then set the desired temperature on the second dial and the timer with the third.  Pressing the on/off button starts the cooking process.  I appreciated the ring of red light that outlines the button when the unit is in operation – providing me with the assurance that the Smart Oven is on, even if I’m standing  across the room.  Nothing throws your meal pacing off more than when you forget to, you know, turn ovens on and such.

By default, the Breville Smart Oven prepares your food using convection heating, which can be toggled on and off using a small button.  When it’s on, air is circulated around your food by a small fan, providing more even heating and reducing cooking times considerably.  If anything, experimenting with different cooking times is the one learning curve that one would face with the Smart Oven.  Preparing some frozen items, for example, according to the directions on the box may sometimes result in overcooking.

Since bringing the box in from my doorstep, I’ve spent weeks throwing everything that I could think of into the Smart Oven, and have been very impressed with the results.  Bone-in chicken breasts roasted to perfection in about a half hour.  One of my favorite sides, roasted brussels sprouts, cooked in half the time of the original recipe, with the added benefit of freeing up our oven for the preparation of the main course.  The ‘Reheat’ function works extraordinarily well for leftovers, and I never had to worry about overcooking since the Smart Oven shuts off when the timer runs out.  Of particular convenience is the ‘Warm’ function, which maintains a consistent minimum temperature of 160 degrees (or whatever temperature you wish) – this feature is very useful for parents of infants, where eating dinner in shifts is common.

From an economic perspective, I always felt a little wasteful whenever I would heat my large gas oven just to warm dinner rolls, and with the Breville Smart Oven, I no longer have to.  It’s the perfect size for small-batch cookery, such as the aforementioned rolls, a few cookies, or scones for breakfast.  Since it’s considerably smaller than a standard kitchen oven, it heats to temperature much more quickly, ultimately using less power but still delivering fantastic results.