Breville Smart Oven Air Review
Pros: Excellent temperature accuracy, great all-around cooking performance, bevy of cooking modes, user-friendly
Cons: Very expensive, may be too large for smaller kitchens
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Breville Smart Oven Air is a top-notch performer that combines the functionality of an oven, slow cooker, and dehydrator all in one.
Thanks to field-leading performance in almost all of our tests and a number of extra cooking modes you won't find on most ovens, the Breville Smart Oven Air earned the top overall score in our testing.
The Smart Oven Air easily took home the top score in our baking tests. Everything we threw into it came out as close to perfect as one could expect.
Perhaps the most impressive item the Air served up in our testing was its chicken drumsticks. Time after time it managed to get the outsides delightfully crispy while keeping the meat delectably moist. This is a feat we've found that only the Breville models can really accomplish, all of the other models we've tested make at least some sacrifice in exterior crispiness and/or interior moistness.
Cookies came out similarly well balanced, with the outsides presenting a slight crunch and the insides staying nice and chewy. If we're really splitting hairs we think the KitchenAid KCO275SS did a slightly better job in retaining moisture for thicker, chewier cookies, but the difference is very minor.
We were also impressed with the cake the Air was able to produce in our testing. It achieved an even level or browning that was unparalleled in our tests, and kept the cake itself feeling very fluffy and moist.
Extra Cooking Modes
The biggest selling point for getting the Smart Oven Air over any of Breville's other ovens are the extra cooking modes it offers, namely slow cook, dehydrate, and air fry. In general, we found these extra features to work quite well. The slow cook function was able to make pot roast just as well as a dedicated slow cooker (provided you use a covered baking dish), the dehydrate function made dried mangoes that tasted nearly identical to those made in a standalone slow cooker, and the air fry function made sweet potato fries that were almost as good as their oil-laden counterparts.
Bottom line, if you were already considering buying a slow cooker or dehydrator, or like the idea of getting the crispiness of frying without the oil, these extra features are likely worth the Smart Oven Air's additional cost.
Ease of Use
Breville has made a name for themselves by creating seamless user experiences for all of their products, and the Smart Oven Air is no exception, as it picked up one of the best scores in this metric.
Perhaps the nicest part of the Air's user experience is its control panel. The large LCD screen clearly indicates the temperature of the oven, which cooking mode you're in, and how much time is left on the timer. The panel also has 3 different dials, each dedicated to one of those three settings. This makes navigating the Air's various cooking modes and their associated temperatures and cooking times incredibly easy. It may seem odd to gush this much about a control panel, but after you've used a few toaster ovens with tiny screens and arcane buttons, this kind of experience is truly a breath of fresh air (pardon the pun).
On top of a great control panel, the Air has a few other user-friendly touches. The most salient is a set of magnets on the inside of the door that pulls the top rack out a few inches when you open the door. This makes getting a potholder around a hot dish on the top rack a much easier and simpler task. There is also a very deep and easily removable crumb tray, which makes disposing of all the crumbs that flake off of your food fast work.
Like all of the other Breville ovens we tested, the Air's temperature accuracy is top-notch.
In our testing, which involved using two calibrated thermometers, the Air never wandered more than 10˚ from the set temperature, and more often than not sat within a tight 3˚ window. This is a performance that was only matched by the other Breville models we tested, as well as the KitchenAid KCO275SS. This oven is more than up to the task of baking even incredibly temperature sensitive dishes. Impressively, it also consistently got up to temperature within 7 minutes of turning it on, even when we set it to 450˚.
As with all of our other tests, the Air was a field leader in our frozen food testing.
We never thought we would call a frozen tater tot delectable, but the Air's near perfect tots provided us with a nearly transcendent experience. Somehow they instantly brought back all of the anticipation and excitement that came with childhood times standing in the cafeteria line on tater tot day, while also providing a delightful level of crunchiness giving way to an exquisite fluffiness that was never present on those styrofoam lunch trays.
Frozen pizza is an incredibly difficult thing to cook evenly, but in our testing the Air was consistently able to get frozen pies about as close to perfect as possible. This performance is even better than that of the original Smart Oven.
Despite being such a high-performing machine, the Air does not turn it's nose up at the more pedestrian task of making toast. It turned in one of the best performances in this metric.
Toast made in the center of the Air comes out about as close to perfect as one could expect. Both sides come out with very similar levels of browning and only minor marks from the cooking rack. When toast is made on the extreme edges of the oven there are noticeable cold spots, but not to the degree we've seen in many other ovens.
Bagels likewise come out near perfect. If you use the toast mode the bagels brown very evenly all around. In bagel mode the cut sides come out perfectly toasted while the backsides get warm but remain fluffy and doughy.
The Breville Smart Oven Air is one of the most expensive toaster ovens out there. If you want a high-performing model and think you'll utilize the special slow cooking, dehydrating, and air frying functions, we think this extra cost is worth it. If you won't use those extra functions and just want a high-performing model with great temperature accuracy, you might as well save some money and get the original Smart Oven.
The Breville Smart Oven Air is a fantastic countertop oven that can also function as a dehydrator, slow cooker, and air fryer, but you do have to pay extra for all that performance and versatility.
— Max Mutter and Steven Tata