In July 2019, the high-end kitchen appliance brand acquired Breville ChefSteps, the company behind the popular Joule sous vide circulation pump† Breville has now released the first Joule product under its own name, the Breville Joule Oven Airfryer Proadding IoT features and app control to the existing Breville Smart Oven range.
We’ve been using the Joule Oven for several weeks and think it could be useful for home cooks who want a very simplified experience and are looking for automation features to guide them and help them try new recipes or learn new cooking techniques. Experienced chefs seeking fine-grained control and customization in a quest to reproduce restaurant-quality results or prepare meals at a very high “food geek” level will likely find the “smarts” 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 restrictive for those with more kitchen experience.
Unpacked, the Breville Joule Oven is very similar to the Smart Oven Airfryer Pro – Available in brushed steel or black, the unit is, as you would expect, well built and beautifully designed. It’s on the large side for a 21.5″ x 17.3″ x 12.8″ countertop oven and weighing 23 lbs.
Considered like an oven, the Joule has many of the same pros and cons as its cheaper sibling. It’s larger and has a higher capacity than their standard-sized Smart Ovens (14” x 18.5” x 11”), allowing you to cook larger items in the oven cavity; it has more rack space (8 rack positions in total). So as a small convection oven it works very well.
The front panel features simple buttons for temperature, timing and mode selection with a backlit LCD display for visual feedback. In addition to a “Start” button, there are also a few special little button buttons for super convection/convection on-off, cook-from-frozen, “Favorite” and “A Bit More”, which we’ll cover later.
But relying solely on the physical controls would miss the point of the product: connectivity and programmability. The Joule Oven is connected (via WiFi and Bluetooth) and the Joule Oven App for Android and iOS gives you access to several automated cooking and baking modes, including guided recipes that walk you through meal prep tasks.
The app, curated by the ChefSteps of Breville staff, gives you access to recipes in many categories. You can search based on ingredients (Chicken, Seafood, Vegetables, etc.) or dietary requirements (Gluten-Free, Vegetarian, Healthy), type of meal (Breakfast, Dinner, Snack, etc.), or other terms. When a recipe is selected, such as “Rospit Chicken,” the app will show you the ingredients list and equipment needed (in this case, the roasting rack and roasting pan that comes with the oven).
Rather than just adjusting the oven itself, the Joule Oven app walks you through all the steps needed to get the result you want, then asks you to interact with the oven itself to initiate the necessary cooking stages. In the case of the Rotisserie Chicken, the app instructs you to bunch 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” in which air is circulated using the convection function while the unit alternates between the main heating element and the top grill.
This approach to programmed cooking is aimed at the novice learning recipes and techniques, rather than the experienced cook trying to achieve the exact protein temperatures.
The oven can cook with variable heat profiles using these automatic programs, from as low as 80°F (for dough proofing) to as high as 480°F. For other recipes, Autopilot flight plans vary the oven temperature and convection (the oven’s PID control adjusts these parameters based on app settings) and alternates between the heating element and grill settings depending on the requirements of the dish.
We tried several app recipes, such as the Classic Beef Lasagna, and they turned out great. It’s hard to say, though, whether it would have turned out better than if we’d put the lasagna in the oven, manually set it to 350°F, put it on bake mode, and come back in 40 minutes to check it out.
It turned out that the lasagna was slightly undercooked on the first pass. So we pressed Breville’s specialized button labeled “A little more” (there’s one on the oven and it’s available in the app), which adds cooking time at the end, adjusted proportionally to each recipe. In this case, we got the right amount of extra cooking time and our lasagna was ready. This feature may be used to teach learning algorithms (or the human recipe authors at ChefSteps) to fine-tune the recipes in the app – the company wasn’t completely transparent about how the system “learns” from use, but they did tell me that the recipes in the app are constantly updated and refined of cooking activities.
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 which it is $5.75 per month billed annually.
The Joule Oven’s smarts are quite limited. Most importantly, the companion app doesn’t allow you to create your own recipes – you can create favorites in the app, but you can’t share them directly or on social media with others (something the Anova Precision Smart Oven‘s smart app makes it possible). While we understand that Breville and ChefSteps are trying to provide a time-tested experience for aspiring chefs, we found the app’s lack of basic functionality, lack of recipe creation and customization, recipe sharing, and cooking histories frustrating.
You can connect your device to Alexa or Google Assistant, but the functionality is minimal, such as prompting for status updates and simple manual controls, e.g. “Set the oven to bake at 350 degrees for thirty minutes.”
Given all of this, we found ourselves as seasoned cooks to skip the app altogether and resort to the manual controls instead — meaning experienced buyers may want to save some cash and just opt for the $350 Smart Air Fryer Pro instead.
We felt the extra features didn’t offer enough usability. The air fryer, in particular, wasn’t nearly as effective in our tests as a dedicated hot air fryer (perhaps because of the Joule’s larger chamber; the more compact dedicated hot air fryer did a better job of heating and convecting air around the food.
As a toaster, the Joule isn’t nearly as good as a smaller toaster oven (like one of the smaller Smart Ovens) or a dedicated toaster. To get your toast brown, we had to set the toast setting to setting 7 (meant for four slices), even if you’re only toasting one slice of homemade sourdough. And even then, sometimes we needed “A Bit More” to get the job done.
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 sophisticated meals, but needs the extra guidance that recipe testing and app testing. -bring control to the table. And it delivers for this type of cook.
We think it may disappoint those looking for more advanced features or customizability. The Joule oven lacks the steam and sous vide combi oven functions and temperature probe-based features that some of its smart oven rivals (such as the Anova Precision Oven) offer, limiting its usefulness for really precise cooking, which was surprising , given the Joule brand’s history in sous-vide precision cooking.
Still, we hope Breville will repeat the idea and add functionality to subsequent Joule ovens. But for now, we’d mostly recommend this one to beginners who want a tool that amounts to a built-in cooking instructor.