Tovala Steam Oven Generation 2 review

Tovala cooks delicious, idiotproof meals healthier than takeout. For a price

The Tovala Steam oven might be the answer to your dinner-time dilemma
The Tovala Steam oven might be the answer to your dinner-time dilemma
The Tovala Steam oven might be the answer to your dinner-time dilemma


  • Meal kits are tasty and dead simple
  • Steam makes food taste good
  • You don’t need to use your phone to cook your meal


  • Meals are expensive
  • App lacks recipes and guidance on steam cooking

DT Editors' Rating

Steam ovens are pretty amazing, but most people don’t know how to use them. Maybe that’s why the Tovala Steam Oven doesn’t make a big deal of that feature. Sure, it’s in the name, but the steam takes a backseat to its big selling point: the no-prep meal kits designed specifically for the oven.

The second-generation Tovala ($349) makes some improvements over its predecessor, but some things — like the price of its meals — haven’t changed. After spending a few days with this elegant easy-bake oven, we’re still not sure who it’s for.

Not your momma’s toaster oven

You’ll probably need to move your microwave off your counter to fit your Tovala, as it’s 18.5 by 15 by 12 inches — roughly the same size. There’s some assembly required, meaning that you must place a metal piece over the steamer, insert a crumb tray, and put in the rack. The tray makes cleanup easier than the first-generation appliance, which had an exposed heating element.

The control panel is also an upgrade. Before, users needed the app to set specific temperatures and use the broil settings. That is obnoxious, because some people have husbands who refuse to download the app of any kitchen gadget they are testing. (“You shouldn’t need an app to microwave food” may or may not be a direct quote.)

This time, Tovala got it right, letting you choose between bake, broil, steam, and toast, set the temperature in 25-degree Fahrenheit increments, and select the time in one-minute intervals right on the appliance itself. There’s also a built-in scanner for its meal kits. Press the button, hold the package’s QR code under the red light, and the Tovala will set itself to follow all the instructions. Go ahead. Leave your phone across the room! Actually, the chime letting you know it’s done cooking is pretty quiet, so you still might have to rely on the app notification.

Why teach someone to prepare fish when you call sell them a piece of salmon ready to pop in the oven for $12 a pop?

The Tovala comes with a mini baking sheet, which you’re supposed to use for practically everything that isn’t a meal kit. The interior of the oven is by no means cavernous, though you can fit two meal kits at a time.

You could conceivably use the Tovala as a countertop steam oven sans the Wi-Fi connection, as the app does give some guidance for how to cook with it. Some, anyway. There’s no search function on the recipe portion of the app, because you don’t need it. There are only 54 recipes on the app, and 15 are for chicken. In addition, you can create your own multi-step recipes, having the oven switch from bake to broil to get a crispier finish on your meat, for example. There’s also a place to set the cook time and temperature, though you’ll still need to physically push start on the oven.

More than a microwave meal

As far as we can tell, the reason the Tovala only has 54 recipes on its app is that it doesn’t really want to teach you to cook. Why teach someone to prepare fish when you call sell them a piece of salmon ready to pop in the oven for $12 a pop? Tovala will send users between three and 12 oven-ready meals a week, each for $12. Unlike Blue Apron, you don’t get a discount for buying in bulk. The difference is that Tovala takes virtually no prep, but it’s still around $12 per meal. Depending on where you live, you could probably get an order of pad see ew for the same price and have more leftovers than your Tovala meal.

Tovala Steam Oven review
Jenny McGrath/Digital Trends

Though the oven has dropped in price by about $50 since generation one, it’s still clearly not trying to save users money. Its packaging clearly lists the fat, carbs, and calories in each meal, which is probably more than you can say for your local Thai restaurant. These meals seem to be meant for busy individuals who don’t typically cook and may want some more insight into exactly what they’re eating. The main draw is that not only are these meals easy to prepare, they taste really good.

The built-in scanner means you don’t have to pull out your phone to cook a meal.

Each prepackaged meal comes with a few containers of ingredients. Prep time is essentially zero. You just open the containers, perhaps drizzle a sauce on the meat or veggies, put the aluminum container in the oven, scan the code, and press start. Then you can walk way for roughly 20 minutes while the Tovala bakes and steams, creating juicy chicken and tender salmon. When people wring their hands about future generations not learning to cook because robots will do it for them, this is what they’re worried about.

And we have no doubt that some people with enough money to spend will see the appeal. They probably use Postmates several times a week, anyway. Some of the company’s customers are busy professionals, some are empty nesters, Tovala CEO David Rabie told Digital Trends.

“The thing they have in common that they told us is that cooking dinner during the week is a burden,” he said, and they were relying on takeout several times a week.

Steamed hams, but it’s not in the app

For a $349 countertop oven, it does many things very well. Our chicken didn’t dry out, our asparagus stayed crisp, and cheese got bubbly and brown. As with any new appliance, there was some trial and error. When we made a batch of cookies (we could only fit six on the included sheet), the recommended time on the package was 14 to 18 minutes. They weren’t quite done at 14 minutes and got a little too brown at 16.

Which brings us back to the 54 recipes in the app. There were even fewer when generation one launched, said Rabie, and now the company is releasing five new ones every couple of weeks. Most people are relying on the presets and meal kits, he said, but perhaps that’s because of the dearth of guidance in the app. There are just two baking recipes at the moment, so there’s not a lot of explanation for anyone unfamiliar with convection — just a mention that it’s faster.

When people wring their hands about future generations not learning to cook because robots will do it for them, this is what they’re worried about.

As we mentioned earlier, steam ovens are unfamiliar for most people. We would have loved to see Tovala take time to flesh out some explanations of how to apply the feature to familiar recipes. When you click on the upper-right hand corner of a recipe in the app, it lets you duplicate it, showing the different modes it goes through. It’s a bit clunky and doesn’t seem aimed at offering genuine instruction. If you want to figure out how to perfectly crisp bacon in your Tovala, you’ll have to practice trial and error or wait until the app gets more recipes.

Some users may never want to take the training wheels off and will stick to the rivers and lakes – that is, the prepped meals and app recipes – they’re used to. But for those who want to get adventurous with their steam oven, the lack of guidance and trickle of new recipes may prove frustrating.


The Tovala Steam Oven has a one-year, limited warranty, but you can try it for 180 days and get a refund if it you decide to return it.

Our Take

The Tovala seems perfect for a lot tech bros we know. They’re single, don’t really know how cook, and try to eat reasonably healthy. Oh, and they make a lot of money. Hopefully Tovala beefs up the app (like maybe with a few beef recipes?), so there’s more of a balance between quick weekday meals and the opportunity to get creative on the weekends.

What are the alternatives?

The Tovala is pretty unique. The $300 Cuisinart Combo Steam and Convection Oven lacks its smarts, while the $599 June Oven doesn’t steam. However, June recently paired with Whole Foods, so the grocery chain’s semi-prepped foods, like lemon-thyme-rubbed salmon, have preprogrammed settings on the oven. It doesn’t deliver ready-to-cook meal kits like Tovala – yet.

How long will it last?

One nice thing about the Tovala is that it’s interface means even if the company goes under, you can still use it like a regular countertop oven. Sure, you won’t have access to the tasty $12 meals anymore, but at least you can still toast bread and steam broccoli. On the other hand, the fact that it’s Wi-Fi connected means Tovala can keep pushing new recipes to the app for you to test out.

Should you buy it?

If you absolutely hate to cook but don’t want to eat takeout every day and can afford $12 a meal, go for it. If you’re just looking for a countertop steam oven, you might want to work at the slightly cheaper Cuisinart.

Product Review

The Brava Oven takes all the thinking out of cooking

Using bulbs to cook food at different light frequencies, the Brava Oven lets even the clueless cook a tasty meal. But your own smart chef doesn’t come cheap.
Smart Home

The best air fryers deliver fried food with a fraction of the calories

What is this magical mechanism? It's an air fryer, and when used correctly, it can mimic the effects of frying while using just a little bit of oil. You still get that crispy, golden exterior and the fluffy center.
Smart Home

These accessories take your already awesome Instant Pot to a whole new level

If you're familiar with the Instant Pot, you know that this bad boy acts as a pressure cooker, rice cooker, cake maker, egg boiler, and a lot more. Here are some must-have accessories to make Instant Pot cooking even better.
Product Review

Putting on the grits with the Instant Pot pressure cooker

If you want to dip your toe into the low-temperature waters of sous vide, the Anova precision cooker is a good way to start. It has a robust app and an easy-to-use interface that just may convert you to a whole new way of cooking.
Smart Home

Amazon shows off compact cashier-free store that could show up at airports

Amazon is testing its smallest Amazon Go store to date as it considers taking the grab-and-go technology to new venues such as airports and train stations. The compact store is a quarter the size of its current locations.
Smart Home

Cops go after porch pirates with dummy Amazon boxes and GPS trackers

Amazon is helping police in Jersey City to catch thieves who steal delivered packages from outside people's homes. Within just minutes of the operation's launch this week, cops nabbed their first porch pirate.
Smart Home

Amazon sent me a Christmas tree. Did it leave me pining for more?

Is driving to a Christmas tree lot or farm to get some fresh pine a daunting task that you dread every year? Good news: Amazon is now selling real Christmas trees with free shipping. We decided to order one to see how it went.
Smart Home

A couple’s recalled dishwasher caught on fire — and now they’re warning others

A Wisconsin couple has been using the dishwasher in their house for a year, unaware that it was recalled in 2009. Then the appliance caught fire. Now they are warning others to check appliances for risks when buying or renting a home.
Smart Home

Amazon has some killer deals on vacuums through the holidays

Whether you're buying for someone else or for yourself, Amazon has some great deals on vacuums running through the holidays. Score them while you can and keep your home cleaner than ever.
Smart Home

Got an Emerson thermostat? 135,000 of them are being recalled due to fire risk

Most recalls are relatively benign but if you own an Emerson-branded thermostat, we encourage you to check your model number because the company has alerted consumers to the potential of the device starting a fire.

You don't want to sleep on these red-hot bedding deals

We've rounded up some of the best discounts and sales happening right now, so you can buy yourself (or your loved ones) new bedding without breaking your budget. Trust us when we say these are deals worth losing sleep over.

Best deals for smart home plugs that control your lights and appliances

Smart hubs and speakers play central communication and management roles in your home, but smart plugs let you add lights and appliances to your system. Any smart plug you buy must support one feature or anything you plug in stays dumb.

G’day, Google: U.S. users can now give Assistant a British or Australian accent

U.S. Google Assistant users can give their Assistant a different voice. Google has updated Assistant with the ability for users to give it either a British or Australian accent, which could make it a little more personal for some.
Smart Home

Knock, knock. Who's there? With a video doorbell, you'll never have to guess

When it comes to knowing who's at your door before you actually open it, there's nothing better than a video doorbell. Plus, you can "answer" the door even if you're not home. Here are some of our favorites.