In July 2019, high-end kitchen appliance brand Breville acquired ChefSteps, the company behind the popular sous vide shaker Joule. Breville has now released the first Joule product under its own name, the Breville Joule Oven Air Fryer Pro, adding IoT capabilities and app control to the existing Breville Smart Oven range.
We’ve spent several weeks with the Joule Oven and feel it can benefit home cooks who want a very simplified experience and are looking for automation features to guide and assist them as they try new recipes or learn new cooking techniques. Seasoned chefs looking for fine-grained control and customization to reproduce restaurant-quality results or prepare meals at a very high “Food Geek” level will likely find the “intelligence” too limited or simply unnecessary.
A smart oven with an app that guides beginners through the recipe steps, from prep to cooking
The Breville Joule Oven Air Fryer Pro adds app control to Breville’s Smart Oven design, with features that help novice cooks navigate new recipes but may be too limiting for those with more kitchen experience.
Out of the box, the Breville Joule Oven closely resembles the Smart Oven Air Fryer Pro – available in brushed steel or black, the unit is, as you’d expect, well built and beautifully designed. At 21.5 x 17.3 x 12.8 inches and weighing 23 lbs, it’s quite large for a countertop oven.
Viewed purely as an oven, the Joule shares many of the same pros and cons as its less expensive sibling. It’s larger and has a higher capacity than the standard sized Smart Ovens (14″ x 18.5″ x 11″), allowing you to cook larger items in the oven cavity; it offers more rack space (total 8 rack positions). Works as a small convection oven so he very well.
The front panel features simple rotary controls for temperature, timing, and mode selection with a backlit LCD for visual feedback. In addition to a “Start” button, there are also a couple of special little knob buttons for Super Convection/Convection On-Off, Defrost, “Favorite” and “A Little Bit More” which we’ll get to later.
But if you relied solely on the physical controls, you would be missing the core of the product – connectivity and programmability. The Joule Oven is connected (via WiFi or Bluetooth) and the Joule Oven app for Android and iOS gives you access to a variety of automated cooking and baking modes, including guided recipes that walk you through food prep tasks.
Curated by Breville’s ChefSteps staff, the app gives you access to recipes from many categories. You can search by key ingredients (chicken, seafood, vegetables, etc.) or dietary requirements (gluten-free, vegetarian, healthy), meal type (breakfast, dinner, snack, etc.), or other terms. When a recipe is selected, such as For example, “set-it-and-forget-it rotisserie-style chicken,” the app will show you the list of ingredients and the equipment required (in this case, the cooking grate and skillet that came with the oven).
Rather than simply setting the oven itself, the Joule Oven app walks you through all the steps needed to get the result you want, then prompts you to interact with the oven itself to start any required cooking stages. In the case of the rotisserie chicken, the app instructs you to broil and season the chicken in two consecutive steps, then prompts you to start the roasting phase. The app’s smarts then take over, simulating the browning effect of a rotisserie using an “autopilot flight plan” that uses the convection feature to circulate air while the unit turns the main heating element and top grill on and off.
This programmed cooking approach caters more to the beginner learning recipes and techniques than the experienced cook trying to achieve exact protein temperatures.
The oven can bake with these automatic programs with variable heat profiles, from as low as 80°F (for rising dough) up to 480°F. For other recipes, autopilot flight schedules will vary the oven temperature and convection (the oven’s PID control will match these parameters based on the app settings) and switch between heating element and grill settings depending on the needs of the dish.
We tried several app recipes, such as the Classic Beef Lasagna, and they worked out well. However, it’s hard to say if it would have worked any better than if we put the lasagna in the oven, manually set it to 350F, bake mode and came back in 40 minutes to check it out.
As it turns out, the lasagna was slightly short on the first run — in this case, Breville has a special button that says “A Little Bit More” on the oven and in the app that proportionally adjusts the cook time at the end of each recipe. This feature may be used to teach learning algorithms (or the human recipe writers at ChefSteps) how to refine the recipes in the app – the company wasn’t fully transparent on how the system “learns” from use, but they told me that Recipes in the app are constantly updated and refined from cooking activity.
ChefSteps tests the recipes to ensure results. A six-month subscription to ChefSteps Studio Pass premium content (which is not required to use the app and oven, but adds many more recipes and covers a wider range of cooking techniques) is included with the Joule Oven after it’s 5, $75 per month billed annually.
The intelligence of the Joule oven is quite limited. Most importantly, you can’t create your own recipes using the companion app – you can create favorites within the app, but you can’t share them directly or on social media (something the Anova Precision Smart Oven allows). ). While we understand that Breville and ChefSteps are trying to provide a tested experience for novice cooks, we found the app’s lack of basic functionality frustrating, lack of recipe creation and customization, recipe sharing, and cooking history.
You can connect your device to Alexa or Google Assistant, but functionality is minimal, e.g. B. querying for status updates and basic manual control, e.g. B. “Set the oven to bake at 350 degrees for thirty minutes.”
Given all of this, as seasoned chefs, we skipped the app entirely and reached for the manual controls instead — meaning seasoned buyers might want to save some cash and opt for the $350 Smart Air Fryer Pro instead.
We felt that the additional functions were not user-friendly enough. The air fryer, in particular, wasn’t nearly as effective as a dedicated air fryer in our testing (perhaps because of the Joule’s larger chamber; the more compact dedicated air fryer did a better job of heating and convecting air around the food.
As a toaster, the Joule is nowhere near as good as a smaller toaster (like one of the smaller Smart Ovens) or a dedicated toaster. In order to get browning on your toast, we had to set the toast level to level 7 (meant for four slices), even if you’re toasting just one slice of homemade sourdough. And even then, sometimes we needed “a little more” to finish the job.
The Joule Oven is Breville’s first attempt at creating a truly connected smart oven, with features geared more towards the home cook who wants to learn to prepare more challenging dishes but needs the extra guidance that recipe testing and app control bring . And it delivers for this type of cook.
We think it might disappoint those looking for advanced features or customizability. The Joule Oven lacks the steam and sous vide combo oven capabilities and temperature probe-based features that some of its smart oven competitors (like the Anova Precision Oven) offer, limiting its usefulness for true precision cooking, which was surprising given the Joule’s brand history Sous vide precision cooking.
However, we are confident that Breville will repeat the idea and add features in later Joule stoves. But for now, we would mainly recommend this device to beginners looking for a tool that’s on par with a built-in cooking teacher.