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Food & Drink: The Joule Oven Is Way More Than Just a Toaster Oven Air Fryer Combo

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I’ve been a fan of the nerds from Chefsteps for more than half a decade. Their Joule sous vide circulator is one of the most reliable and effective pieces of kitchen electronics I’ve ever used. And the cheeky app that controls the immersion circulator is actually a delight to tap and scroll through (something I’m not sure I’ve ever written about any other app). So I was excited to give the Joule Oven, Chefsteps’ first new piece of hardware since being acquired by Breville in 2019, a try. It didn’t disappoint.

  The Joule Oven Is Way More Than Just a Toaster Oven Air Fryer Combo © Provided by Epicurious

Breville Joule Oven Air Fryer Pro

$500.00, Williams Sonoma

The Joule Oven is part of a growing segment of kitchen appliances about the size of 2010s laser printers that often go by the name multi-oven—but I like to call them Big Ol’ Boxes (BOBs!). Their makers claim they can take the place of almost every heat producing appliance in the kitchen. Need a toaster? BOB. Oven to bake cake and cookies? BOB. Air fryer? Slow cooker? Dehydrator? BOB. And while the Joule Oven is very much in that mold (physically it’s a dead ringer for Breville’s Smart Oven Pro), it does more than most BOBs—and does it better.

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The Joule Oven executed the simple tasks—making golden toasted bagels, crispy tater tots, or well-baked cookies—that should be givens in order to even consider giving up this amount of counter space. But the thing that really sets the Joule apart from other countertop ovens I've tried is its autopilot feature. This function manages not only how much heat is blasted at whatever you're cooking, but also where that heat comes from. My two favorite autopilot features were the “rotisserie” chicken, and the special oven settings for a cheater croissant recipe that ChefSteps refers to as “croissant-style” pastry. In the former, the oven stayed at a mid-level roasting temperature, while the top heating element cycled on and off in bursts of high heat designed to mimic the spinning of a rotisserie; the result was the kind of super-crisp skin I have a hard time achieving in my range oven. In the latter, the temperature stays low during proofing, then jumps up to baking temperature for 10 minutes, before switching to activate only the lower heating element, which ensures that the undersides of the rolls are baked just right. If you bake a lot of bread, the proof-to-bake function alone might make this your new favorite kitchen BOB.

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The Joule Oven app, like the Joule Sous Vide app before it, is a joy to use. It’s actually improved on the original in a very important way. In each step, ingredients and their quantities are listed in a clearer, easier-to-read way. That means no more toggling back and forth between ingredients and recipe steps. That’s particularly important in, say, a baking recipe that involves a lot of separate ingredient additions.

The only thing that didn’t work for was the smart home integration. No matter how times I called out “Hey Google” I couldn’t get my Google Home to connect to the oven at all. But honestly, I find perks like voice-activated control to be more a distraction than a help—and would probably never use it even if it worked.

Like most Breville products, this one isn’t cheap—it's $500 at the time of writing. But the actually- smart features like proof-and-bake, autopilot, and more basic ones like a preheat that takes less than five minutes to hit 400°F, make the new Joule one of the only appliances I’ve tried recently that actually made my cooking easier (not perfect, mind you—my brioche, while tasty, had a cracked top, and my attempt at air frying French fries had quite a few droopy potatoes). It’s enough to make all the other BOBs jealous.

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