From baking to air-frying, Breville’s Smart Oven Air does it all

When you think of a toaster oven, you might recall images of that cheap countertop appliance you used during college. It featured a couple knobs on the front, an electric heating element, and that perpetually filthy, flimsy crumb-catching tray. But that was college. We’re happy to tell you that the toaster oven has graduated, and is now doing pretty well for itself. Case in point, the Breville Smart Oven Air BOV900BSS ($400). This feature-packed, do-it-all appliance is really more oven than toaster.

Good looks

First off, the Smart Oven Air is huge inside. It’s a larger version of Breville’s Smart Oven and Smart Oven Pro, and could easily take the place of your conventional oven for many day-to-day uses. With a one-cubic-foot capacity, it can simultaneously toast up to nine pieces of bread or cook a 13-inch pizza. Feel like roasting a 14-pound turkey? It’ll handle that. There are eight different rack positions to choose from, with clear labels on the window showing you what each slot should be used for.

The Smart Oven Air is huge inside. It’s a larger version of Breville’s Smart Oven and Smart Oven Pro, and could easily take the place of your conventional oven for many day-to-day uses.

Breville’s Smart Oven Air will look right at home in any kitchen, with sharp details and a fingerprint-resistant, high-quality stainless steel exterior. The large handle gives the appliance a somewhat industrial look. It’s certainly on the large size for a toaster oven, taking up a roughly 21 by 18-inch plot of space and standing nearly 13 inches tall. As with all toaster ovens, you’ll want to leave ample space for the heat to dissipate. Breville recommends four inches on the sides that are six inches or above, but we were able to get away with a bit less than that.

The display and controls are very well laid out and have a solid feel to them. The dials remind us of a volume knob on a high-end stereo amplifier. Listed on the display are 13 pre-programmed cooking modes, including the usual suspects: toast, bagel, and bake.  What makes the Smart Oven Air unique, though, is its ability to air fry, proof, slow cook, and dehydrate. The six-element, 1800-watt oven features a new two-speed fan that allows for super convection, thus the air fry and dehydrate capabilities. Obviously we had to test those out first.

Testing, testing

With a bag of frozen chicken wings at the ready, we filled up the included air-fry basket roasting pan, turned the dial to air fry, and hit start. After 18 minutes on each side, we were rewarded with a batch of golden wings that were crispy on the outside and moist inside.

Next up, dehydrating. After cleaning up the air fry basket, we filled it with slices of banana and tangerine and embarked on the dehydration test. Both the air fry and dehydrate presets make use of the super convection feature, which makes the oven very effective, but also very loud. The sound wasn’t too much of a nuisance for the half hour of air frying, but four hours of dehydrating is a different story.

We kicked it down to the regular convection setting, which is much quieter, and the Breville automatically adjusted the temperature up to compensate. Unfortunately, taking the less noisy route yielded us fruit that was not completely dry. On a second attempt, using super convection, the dehydrator worked as expected. While this probably wouldn’t replace a conventional dehydrator, it’s a nice feature to have.

The Smart Oven Air for performed flawlessly for other routine testing.

The Smart Oven Air for performed flawlessly for other routine testing. Pizzas emerged perfectly cooked and the convection fan shaved a few minutes off the cooking time. Leftovers heated up as we expected, toasting was even and consistent, and hash brown patties baked perfectly. Best of all, the cookies setting baked our favorite chocolate chip cookies with no need to adjust anything.

It’s really the combination of all the little things that make Breville’s Smart Oven Air so great, including the quality, fit, and finish, and a magnetic slide-out rack that works well. The inside of the door is smooth and the crumb tray is sturdy, making cleaning easy. The appliance comes with a solid accompaniment of accessories and the optional bamboo cutting board. You can also purchase other accessories such as air fry baskets.

The Smart Oven Air takes the already versatile toaster oven, refines it, teaches it new tricks, and dresses it up to blend comfortably into any modern kitchen.At $400, you get what you pay for: a summa cum laude that’s left those crumb-tray college days behind.

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