Amazon Smart Oven review: Alexa lends a hand in the kitchen – CNET

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Amazon Smart Oven review: Alexa lends a hand in the kitchen


Amid a whirlwind of product announcements last year, Amazon released the AmazonBasics Microwave. We gave it a test drive and found that the $60 price, 700-watt capability and Alexa integration made it a solid option for one or two people in a small living space.

Like

  • For $250, you get a 4-in-1 microwave, oven, air fryer and food warmer, plus a third-gen Echo Dot
  • Voice commands and app monitoring actually add convenience
  • Auto roast mode makes large dishes simple

Don’t Like

  • The oven’s size and rotating action limits you to smaller dishes
  • Parts of the oven’s exterior get very hot to the touch
  • The oven can’t be hung over a stovetop or other heating element

Not to be outdone by its own brand, Amazon announced the Amazon Smart Oven this fall. For $250, you’ll get a 4-in-1 device that’s a microwave, a convection oven, an air fryer and a food warmer. There’s scan-to-cook technology for sending cooking instructions straight from a bar code on packaged food. You’ll also get a Echo Dot to control the oven with Alexa voice commands.

Is all that worth it? In short, yes. The Amazon Smart Oven is the most affordable smart oven we’ve seen, and it does everything most people would need. Here’s what it’s like cooking with Alexa as your sous chef. 

The Amazon Smart Oven costs $249 and comes with a third-gen Echo Dot. 


Chris Monroe/CNET

Design

The Amazon Smart Oven will fit on most countertops. It measures 21.8 inches wide, 21.4 inches deep and 13 inches tall. Weighing in at 45 pounds, it’s not something you’ll move about your kitchen on a regular basis. The 1.5 cubic foot interior is large enough to cook up to a five pound chicken. It’s not intended to be installed over a range cooktop or other heating appliance, but there is an optional trim kit for a built-in look if you want to install it among your cabinets. 

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A digital display shows cooking time, temperature and custom mode options. 


Chris Monroe/CNET

The oven is rated for 1,000-watt microwaving, 1,400-watt convection cooking, 1,300-watt food warming. It comes with the standard 10-level adjustment and buttons on the front for each cooking mode. There’s a number pad for setting times, as well as stop and start buttons. 

Alexa smarts

The whole point of the Amazon Smart Oven is that it’s, well, smart. It comes with Amazon’s Wi-Fi Simple Setup, marketed as a “Certified for Humans” device. That means once an Alexa smart speaker is set up on your Wi-Fi network, the oven will automatically join the network and be discovered by your Alex app when you plug it in. 

You can ask Alexa to do things like preheat the oven from any speaker on your network. For control when you’re not home, a remote start button turn on preheating and cooking from anywhere, but it shuts off after 24 hours.

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The tall wire rack that comes with the oven is for convection cooking and air frying. 


Chris Monroe/CNET

Like last year’s AmazonBasics Microwave, the Alexa button enables simple phrases like “reheat a cup of coffee” or “1 minute” for a minute of microwaving. You’ll need to be within earshot of a connected Alexa speaker. 

Announcements for when you oven is preheated or food is ready are disabled by default. You’ll need to toggle that button on in the oven’s settings sections of the Alexa app. Once they’re enabled, those announcements broadcast to every Alexa device in your home. That’s either useful or annoying, depending on your household’s habits and preferences. 

Functions

The Amazon Smart Oven comes with the accessories you’ll need for making the most of each cooking mode. There are two wire racks, a nonstick cooking pan and a temperature probe. No matter which mode you use, you’ll leave the microwave turntable installed at the bottom of the oven. Each mode worked well in my testing, but there are a few things to note. 

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The low wire rack and baking pan rotate for even cooking. 


Chris Monroe/CNET

Convection

There’s no slide-in oven rack for convection mode. Instead, you place your dish on top of the tall, wire rack provided. The microwave turntable rotates for even cooking, and while the 1.5 cubic-foot interior is big enough to fit most dishes, that rotating means larger ones may hit the wall as they turn. My 8 x 8-inch square baking dish fit fine, but you’re not going to fit a 9 x 13-inch casserole dish or standard baking sheet in here. You’ll have to use the circular baking pan included with the oven. 

Voice commands work well for preheating. I asked Alexa to “preheat the oven to 425” with no problem. That’s the highest temperature you can set it to, so if you cook a lot of things at higher temps this oven might not be for you. We baked two casseroles and a batch of chocolate chip cookies in convection mode with nice, even results. It felt as predictable and intuitive as baking with my own full size oven. 

My hang up with convection mode is with voice commands. If you ask Alexa to “bake for 30 minutes at 400 degrees” the oven doesn’t preheat first. The 30 minute timer will begin immediately, while the oven is still at room temperature. By the time the oven gets to 400 degrees F, there may be only a few minutes left on the 30 minute timer, and the food hasn’t spent enough time at the right temperature. I’d recommend asking Alexa to preheat first before asking her to bake for the desired amount of time. 

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Our test cookies came out with a crispy outside and gooey inside. Just right! 


Molly Price/CNET

While the oven is cooking, the digital display will alternate between a timer and a real-time display of the temperature. In my testing, the temp range two or three degrees from the set temperature during cooking, but that’s not surprising with a real-time reading. What did surprise me is how hot the front door of the oven became. The handle stayed a safe temperature, but the door’s heated surface was definitely something I wouldn’t want anyone in my home to accidentally touch. 

There’s a handy food warming function on this oven. Amazon touts it as one of the four main modes, but I was more impressed by the auto roast feature (more on that later). Regardless, the food warmer tops out at 200 degrees F and is good for keeping side dishes warm while you work on other things. 

When it comes to how well it cooked, the Amazon Smart Oven proved to be totally capable of baking evenly and accurately. 

Microwaving

Amazon added scan-to-cook technology to this microwave. What’s interesting here is the brand catalog. You’ll be able to scan foods available from Amazon-owned Whole Foods Market. Right now, that includes Gardein, Marie Callender’s and Whole Foods Market 365. You can get Marie Callender’s at other stores, but that’s still a relatively small catalog. 

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Scan-to-cook recognizes packaged foods and cooks them accordingly. 


Chris Monroe/CNET

While the microwave scanned, recognized and cooked all the packaged foods I tried without a problem, don’t expect it to be exactly the same as your packages instructions. Because the Amazon Smart Oven is rated for 1,000 watts in microwave mode, it adjusts cooking times based on the dish. Usually that meant the oven added a minute or two to the package instructions.

The Alexa app tells you Alexa will notify you when there are extra steps, but in all three of my tests the microwave didn’t pause for stirring, even when instructions recommended it. It didn’t ruin the dish; they all came out without cold spots, but it took some time to trust what the microwave was doing.  

Air frying

Everyone loves an air fryer, or at least that’s what the industry thinks. We’ve seen dozens come to market recently, as standalone devices, additions to toaster ovens and even full-size ovens. So it’s no surprise the Amazon Smart Oven can air fry. We tested it out with crinkle cut fries and mozzarella sticks. 

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Mozzarella sticks air fried in the Amazon Smart Oven came out golden and melty. 


Chris Monroe/CNET

Air frying mode has the same preheating quirk as convection. It’s hard to tell a difference between the two modes, and that’s because they’re very, very similar ways of cooking. The Amazon Smart Oven didn’t wow me in air frying mode. It definitely cooked our crunchy snacks, but the results were good at best. I think an air fryer with a basket or a tumbling mechanism produces better results. 

Auto roast

This was my favorite cooking mode on the Amazon Smart Oven. I roasted a 5-pound chicken, and it came out great. Like, surprisingly good. 

Auto roast is as simple as saying, “Alexa, roast a whole chicken.” She’ll follow up by asking for the weight of the bird, and once you answer the oven gets to work. You can also begin auto roast without voice commands by pressing the auto roast button on the oven and selecting a type of food. 

In auto roast mode, the temperature probe is required. It plugs into the right side of the oven wall and has a cord long enough to reach to the other side of the turntable (which remains stationary in this mode). In the Alexa app, you can watch the oven’s goal temperature, current temperature and the probe temperature of the meat. You can also see time remaining and probe temperature as they alternate on the oven’s digital display. 

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Auto roast uses an internal temperature probe to cook your food to a specific degree. 


Chris Monroe/CNET

Once the probe reached 175 degrees F, Alexa announced that my food was ready and turned off the oven. The chicken had crispy skin and juicy meat and was cooked evenly.

Honestly, if you’ve ever been timid about roasting a whole bird, the Amazon Smart Oven takes the guesswork out of it. Of course, the 5-pound limit is on the small side, but that’s not unusual for a countertop oven and it’s possible to find smaller birds in your local grocery. 

More than another smart oven

Amazon isn’t first to the smart oven party. It’s not even the most feature-filled. The $299 Tovala Smart Oven can recognize more than 650 grocery items from dozens of brands across multiple stores. That oven also heats up to 450 degrees F, 25 degrees higher than Amazon. 

Then there’s the $499 June Intelligent Oven. It doesn’t scan barcodes, but it does use AI to recognize foods (including fresh foods) and cook them accordingly. It doesn’t require preheating and offers a dehydrate mode. 

But the Amazon Smart Oven is more than just another smart countertop appliance; it’s a statement. The oven is hitting the market just as Amazon announces plans to expand its grocery holdings with a new grocery store brand. The scan-to-cook brands the oven can recognize are brands carried by Amazon-owned Whole Foods. No surprise there.

With AmazonFresh, free two-hour grocery delivery for Prime members in some cities, and discounts for Prime members across the country, Amazon is taking a clear swing at partnerships between traditional grocery chains and delivery startups like Instacart. The Amazon Smart Oven is just one more piece of that puzzle.

Bottom line, if you’re willing to spend more or need fancier functions, June or Tovala may have the smart oven for you. If not, the Amazon Smart Oven is a good value for reliable countertop, voice controlled cooking. 



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