The Brava Oven uses light – and seemingly magic – to cook. It changes everything.

Brava Oven

Forget building a better mousetrap: Thomas Cheng and John Pleasants built a better oven, reimagined from the ground up to be smarter, faster, and better, just like the Six Million Dollar Man. And to prove it, they just served me a mouthwatering dinner of seared salmon, asparagus, and roasted tomatoes — cooked to absolute perfection in about six minutes at the press of a single button. The Brava Pure Light Oven cooks not with magic (though it sure seemed like it at first) but with infrared light, a technology Cheng spent years dreaming up and perfecting in his garage.

Well, maybe not Thomas himself.

“It’s actually kind of [co-founder Dan Yue’s] mom that’s the originator of the idea,” Pleasants told me. Six years ago, around Christmas time, Yue and his family were sitting around the kitchen table watching his mom prep dinner and wondering why cooking was so time consuming. Did she really have to run back and forth into the kitchen? Is cooking really that cumbersome? (Answer: yes.)

“We cook the food much faster, without heating the air as much, and without heating the oven as much.”

“After debating things like android robots and stuff like that, they said, if the oven itself was simply smart enough to know when to turn off and on and to know what was in it, that would be update enough. And so there’s the smart oven idea,” Pleasants told Digital Trends.

But the Brava is more than just a smart oven, and the tech is more than just a sensor or two, he explained.

“It’s really just [Cheng] in the garage for nine or 10 months, tearing apart toaster ovens, playing with these different heating elements,” he said. The inspiration: the industrial segment, where giant commercial ovens that cost millions burn silicon onto solar panels. Those machines take vast amounts of power, and they’re capable of melting down metal pots in seconds.

“He sees this and thinks, wow, light can be actually that powerful,” Pleasants said. “How do I tailor and build these bulbs so that they’re conducive to [the kitchen]?”

How indeed.


Behind the Bulbs

Cheng honed that commercial technology, harnessing infrared light for the six highly specialized lightbulbs in the top and bottom of the Brava; each can be controlled thousands of times per second, and the Brava can fine-tune the wavelength of light its bulbs emit. Longer wavelengths penetrate deeper into foods, and shorter ones hit the edges or only heat trays or racks.

By aiming the light at a specific spot in a piece of food, it can be cooked much faster than with a regular oven. Put in a glass cooking tray and the bulbs can turn it into a fry pan, creating the perfect sear on salmon or steak. Switch the bulbs back and forth between these modes countless times per second and you’ve got a brand new way of cooking.

Cooking with light means transferring energy directly to the food itself, rather than the space around it or the pan it’s sitting in, which translates into vastly more efficient and faster cooking. I’ll let Brava’s website explain it: “We adjust the frequency of light waves in real time to cook the interior and exterior of foods independently, allowing intense sears on the outside while preserving inner doneness and delicate flavors.”

Brava can cook your food in less time, without your attention, and here’s the kicker: it should do it perfectly every time.

Mark it down as the magic of physics (although “it’s hardly black magic,” Cheng told me) and concentrate on the food. Ever seared food in an oven? It usually takes place in a skillet or griddle on the top of the stove, with much spattering of grease and oil, and it takes 10 to 15 minutes to heat a cast-iron skillet to a good temperature for cooking. Brava can cook your food in less time, without your attention, and here’s the kicker: it should do it perfectly every time.

It’ll also monitor the cooking temperature precisely, thanks to an incredibly fancy custom thermometer the company built. Called the TempSensor, it has five detection points to measure how food is cooking throughout, not just at any one given point. You really only need it for thicker proteins like steaks and fish.

Put all that together and you’ve got a fascinating product. But that’s not even the crazy part.

The Great Toast Conundrum

Everything about the Brava is mind blowing – but nothing more so than the challenges presented by toast. Let me tell you a little about power, which is far from consistent across power sources. Hydro electric power, solar power, nuclear power, all supply energy to your house at different levels. These differences are small enough that they won’t make a difference to your hair dryer or electric range, but those infinitesimal characteristics mess up the Brava’s lightbulbs. This oven needs to very precisely control the wavelength of light, remember? And light that’s a shade darker in one spot means, for example, that toast won’t toast the same way depending on your power source.

And that’s no good, because obviously.

“You can’t have toast cooked in Queens come out differently than toast in Brooklyn, right?”

“You can’t have toast cooked in Queens come out differently than toast in Brooklyn, right?” Pleasants asked. To prevent that, the company found a way to measure the power coming into the unit to ascertain what sort of power it is receiving and fine tune the light waves created for it. Crazy, right?

The custom TempSensor is crazy too: It’s probably the most sensitive food thermometer ever built, made in Switzerland from insanely costly materials, including gold and platinum. All of this means the Brava isn’t going to be cheap. When available this November, it will cost $995, and a “Chef’s Choice” edition with a special set of cookware and extra accessories will go for $1,295.

Pleasants wants to get the cost down to $500 at some point, but for now, he’s confident there will be a market. He wants you to forget about costly tech cooking gadgets that have struggled or even flopped in recent years, such as the widely ridiculed $700 Juicero juicemaker,  an obviously wrongheaded take on countertop appliances.

And forget the June smart oven, which Fast Company called “everything that’s wrong with Silicon Valley.” Brava is really more akin to Peloton, the in-home workout apparatus that’s taken the cycling world by storm. Essentially SoulCycle in the comfort of your own home, Peloton bikes are pricey and arguably a niche product. The company is nevertheless incredibly successful, and it shows no signs of slowing down – Peloton just unveiled a new treadmill, after all.

Could the Brava Pure Light Oven command a similar premium price and gain such fame? I know I’m a fan – and I’ve just eaten one meal. And the value proposition is clear: “We cook the food much faster, without heating the air as much, and without heating the oven as much,” explained Cheng. “A meal for two – protein, carbs, and veggies, all on one tray – and it uses less energy than it takes to pre-heat an oven.”

Shut up and take my money — and pass the salmon.

Product Review

Philips Hue’s Color Ambience makes smart home lighting simple and stylish

It’s not the cheapest smart lighting available, but for those seeking style and sophistication, it’s certainly the best.
Smart Home

We’re lovin’ these toaster ovens that do way more than brown bread

Are you looking for a toaster oven that can make jerky or steam vegetables? Do you need a dedicated countertop appliance for making pizza? Fortunately, these toaster ovens provide a wide array of functionality.
Smart Home

The best dorm gadgets of 2018

Want to outfit your dorm or college apartment with only the best (and coolest) tech? Take a look at the best dorm gadgets for 2018, from excellent cooking gadgets to the latest phone tech - and everything in between.
Product Review

Traeger’s Timberline smoker starts to get smart, but isn't ready to graduate

Renowned for its line of wood pellet grills, Traeger has taken its game to the next level with the Timberline 850 Wi-Fi-controlled grill. Just how smart is this smoker? Read our review.
Smart Home

Ward off porch pirates with these best outdoor security cameras

Worried about porch pirates stealing your packages, or intruders entering your home? Always be in the know about who or what is on your property by installing one of these outdoor security cameras.
Product Review

“World’s Smartest Camera” is let down by not-so-smart omissions

Ooma Butterfleye’s high quality, auto-adaptive imaging, wire-free operation and free cloud storage delights, but there are some flaws to be aware of, including a lack of proper night vision.
Smart Home

Hands-on with the Glas, the most beautiful thermostat you’ve ever seen

Johnson Controls today opened the doors for consumers to buy Glas, the company's answer to Nest and Ecobee, the Honeywell Lyric, and basically every other company that thought it would turn that simple round dial on the wall on its ear.
Smart Home

Cortana and Alexa can now call each other as new relationship begins

Microsoft and Amazon announced a public preview of Cortana and Alexa integration. U.S. customers can now open Cortana with Alexa and vice versa. Basic functions such as calendars and shopping lists are available with the preview.
Smart Home

The Glas thermostat is now available and works with Cortana, Alexa, and Google

Microsoft just debuted its very own smart thermostat (the first that it's created), and of course, it can be controlled via voice with Microsoft's virtual assistant Cortana. It also works with Alexa and Google Assistant.
Smart Home

How to set up your Lenovo Smart Display

Here's how to set up your Lenovo Smart Display, including what information you need to provide to the Home app and how to choose the right Google Assistant settings for your new smart screen.
Emerging Tech

Buying on a budget? Here’s all the best tech you can snag for $25 or less

We live in a world where you can get a cheeseburger for $1, a functioning computer for $5, and thousands of HD movies for $10 -- so it stands to reason that you should be able to pick up some pretty sweet gear for $25.
Smart Home

Fraudulent sales of home alarm systems are on the rise nationwide

According to a new consumer survey from the Consumer Federation of America, there are increasing reports of bad actors using scare tactics and manipulation to sell fraudulent alarm systems.
Smart Home

A school district subsidizes a tiny home community for teachers

The lack of affordable housing in Arizona's Vail school district prompted the plan for a community of tiny homes reserved for educators. Other cities in the U.S. use the tiny abodes for homeless and economically disadvantaged people.
Smart Home

Kroger supermarket chain tests driverless grocery deliveries in Arizona

Kroger and autonomous delivery innovator Nuro began a pilot program in Scottdale, Arizona, for grocery home deliveries with Prius cars to test the self-driving concept. The first tests do not use the purpose-built Nuro vehicle.