I’ve Cooked With the Future – June Oven Review

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Yeah, yeah, I know – clickbait title; but I actually mean it. If I had the June Oven in my kitchen all the time, I would rarely, if ever, see a need to fire up my old oven again.

Back in, appropriately enough, June I told you about the June Oven –  A countertop oven (don’t call it a toaster) with carbon fiber heating elements, a built-in scale, and an internal camera that can identify foods. Why do you need a camera? Because the June is smart enough to match foods it identifies with its camera to foods in its internal database, set itself to the proper temperature (in 10 minutes or less), and create a timer or monitor internal temperature so that your food is perfectly done.

It’s a tall order, almost too tall. After all, there are so many things that can go wrong with cooking. Your dough might be colder than usual, your steaks might be too thick – asking people to put their faith in an oven to set temperatures and measure doneness is an enormous leap of faith.

Waffles, Waffles, Waffles
Because there’s nothing better in the morning than a perfectly cooked waffle (Image Credit: Anthony Karcz)

After unpacking the ultra-dense June, plugging it in on the counter where my trusty 17-year-old toaster oven usually lives (since the June’s exterior stays cool while cooking I didn’t need to worry about it being in a corner), and downloading the app, I was ready to go. For the first couple of days, all I had time for was the regular morning routine. Toast a couple of waffles for the kids, rush out the door, throw some pasta together in the evening when everyone was back together for 30 minutes, rinse and repeat.

But even for meager tasks like these, the June stepped up. Pop in a couple of toaster waffles in the June and the HD camera recognizes the food, sends instructions to the NVIDIA quad-core CPU, and then displays the Waffle icon on the 5-inch LCD touchscreen on the June’s front panel. Presss the icon, and a little over two minutes later, my daughter was yanking out perfect waffles and asking if she could have more just so that she could use the June again. The fact that the June keeps running after it’s done, cooling itself down, saved my son from charring his breakfast to a crisp, something he does more mornings than not.

Once I had a chance to breathe, I wanted to give the June a challenge, so I grabbed four steaks, enough for the whole family, salted them heavily, and inserted the included oven-safe thermometer into the thickest part of the thickest steak. Putting the steaks into the oven, the June instantly recognized them, asked me how I wanted my steak done, and set its own temperature and timer accordingly.

The June Oven and companion app kept me updated throughout the cooking process, having me flip the steaks occassionally so that they cooked evenly, and letting me know how much longer I had before they reached an internal temperature of 150. Then I just had to take them out to rest when it told me the steak was done. They were the perfect temperature inside, with a nice sear on the outside (though next time I’ll use something a little more robust than salt to season them, the broiling process left them needing a little more flavor).

June App
Use the app to keep an eye on how much longer you have, what’s going on in the oven, and how your food is looking. (Image Credit: Anthony Karcz)

My only wish was that there was an option to rest the steaks in the oven itself, since I’d be able to see right when they reached the proper internal temperature while resting. In fact, talking with co-founders Matt Van Horn and Nikhil Bhogal, it’s something that they’d like to introduce in future updates – being able to take a meal from the refrigerator, cook it to a certain temperature, then hold it at a resting temp until you’re ready. Perfect for those days when all I have is about fifteen minutes in-between coming home and heading right back out to pick up the kids.

How they’re going to get those updates to future June Oven owners is interesting as well. The hardware is rock solid and versatile, there’s really nothing else that needs to be done to make it the best counter-top oven on the market. The software, though, is constantly getting better. Even while I had my “beta” loaner I received an over-the-air update that removed some dessert presets that didn’t work out, but added new options for baking cookies.

And you know I had to try that out.

One giant batch of oatmeal raisin cookie dough later and I discovered two things – 1) June is a master baker and 2) it needs to come with more racks and baking sheets to cook more cookies at once! In my regular oven, there are hot spots and the temperature can be finicky, so the first batch of cookies will turn out a little underdone, the last batch a little overdone, and it’s only the middle dozen that turn out perfect. In the June – I told it I wanted to make cookies with fresh dough, put six blobs of cookie dough on the baking sheet, stuck them in the oven (no preheating nescessary), and walked away. The June modulated the temperature in its carbon fiber heating elements accordingly, using its convection fans to circulate the warm air to keep the temperature in the oven consistent and setting itself to a temp way lower than I would in my normal oven. The result? The most perfectly baked, chewiest oatmeal raisin cookies I’ve ever had, with none of the frustration and second-guessing that usually accompanies my baking. And this was for every single batch – if June thought it was getting too hot, it would cool itself down, adjusting the cook time accordingly so that nothing was overdone.

Baking is another area where Van Horn and Bhogal think they can go even further – they would eventually like to use the weight sensors built into the feet of the June to detect how much water weight baked goods have lost while cooking, thereby estimating doneness.

June Oven Neural Processing
Want an oven that can estimate when your food will be done or identify your food all by itself? Get June. (Image Credit: Anthony Karcz)

But since that’s a feature for a future update, I resigned myself to the “old fashioned way” and checked out how my cookies were coming along on the live internal video feed on the June app while I read with my daughter before bed. Being able to see how much longer they had left to bake and being able to assuage my fears that they were not burning to a crisp without me watching them, led to one of the most chill baking experiences I’ve ever had.

That’s not to say that there isn’t room for improvement. I’d love to be able to adjust the temperature of meats on the fly – right now, if you select a doneness when you start a cook, it’s locked in and you can’t change it. I’d also like to be able to use multiple thermometers so that I can accomodate individual doneness preferences for steaks and other meats. Being able to have the oven actually use the camera to monitor doneness would be nice too, just in case things start to cook faster than intended. The great thing about having a Wi-Fi connected oven is that all of these things can easily be added in future updates (and, in fact, are on the software road map for 2017).

The only real road block for me is the cost. At $1,495, the June Oven is as expensive as a very nice mid-tier electric convection range. That’s going to be a show stopper for a lot of people. But considering how much more consisistent the June was when cooking my food, how it helped me keep track of cooking wherever I was in the house, how it took a lot of the guesswork out of getting things to the right temperature and doneness, and did it all in a box that takes up less space and uses less power than a conventional oven…if I had to choose to keep only one device in my kitchen, I’d pick the June (and take my holiday hams and batches of homemade Chex Mix to my mother-in-law’s pace when I need the extra room in December). If the cost doesn’t scare you off, but you’d prefer to stretch out the payments, June will also begin offering an option for 0% interest financing at $125 per month.

Current pre-orders for the June Oven will start shipping out in December, with the next round of pre-orders shipping out the month after that. If I get a hold of a production model of the June Oven, I’ll post updates. In the meantime, let me know if you take the plunge. For families with frantic schedules or just those who want to cook at home more but just don’t know where to begin, the June Oven is the intelligent oven every kitchen should have. You can get yours on the June website.

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