Is This the Oven of the Future?

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When I hear "app-controlled cooking," my mind goes straight to ordering delivery through my iPad. That takes the cooking part out of the equation, though, and for residents with bigger-than-closet-sized kitchens, there are services like Plated and Blue Apron that send fresh ingredients directly to you so you can prepare food yourself.

Tovala Oven AppThere's no real app control in that process, though. Tovala plans to combine the two concepts with a new smart oven and subscription food service. They visited the PC Labs a few weeks ago to show off what they've developed.

The Tovala oven is a countertop electric oven that combines conventional, convection, and steam cooking in one device. That alone makes it an intriguing appliance, but Tovala goes a step further with an optical reader. The oven can scan bar codes on specially prepared, delivered meals to use the right amount and right kind of heat to properly cook your dinner.

In addition to the oven itself, Tovala plans to offer subscriptions for uncooked meals to be delievered to users. The meals use fresh ingredients just like Plated and Blue Apron, but they come completely pre-cut, seasoned, and mixed in foil packages with specially marked lids. The Tovala oven reads bar codes on these lids to cook the fresh meals precisely.

Tovala demoed the system with a serving of beef Wellington and a side of garlic butter roasted carrots. Preparation was incredibly simple: Scan the lids, remove them from the foil containers, and put the containers in the oven. The oven automatically did the rest. 

Tovala

The carrots came out perfectly cooked, heated throughout but retaining just enough of a crisp bite from their raw form. The garlic butter sauce complimented them exceptionally well. The beef Wellington was similarly impressive, with the sizeable chunk of fresh beef cooked just a bit past rare and the puff pastry shell baked flaky and chewy without any undercooked doughiness. For an "instant" meal, it was considerably higher quality than the frozen packages I've cooked in my microwave and conventional oven.

While the Tovala oven is made with these prefab meals in mind, it can also be controlled through a mobile app. Users will be able to set custom bake, broil, and steam cycles for their own dinners if they don't want to use Tovala's delivery options. 

The Tovala oven is currently available for pre-order as part of the company's Kickstarter campaign, but Tovala insists that the campaign is primarily being used to build interest and a user base, and that both the design process and organizing production lines has largely already been secured and completed. Based on the demo shown, Tovala definitely seems to be far past the concept stage at this point.

The Tovala oven will retail for approximately $400, with Kickstarter backers getting the appliance for less. The company plans for its delivery meals to be priced similarly to Plated and Blue Apron's options. 

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