With a retail price of $249, the Breville Smart Oven sits among the most expensive toaster ovens in our test group, second only to the $299 Cuisinart CSO-300 Combo Steam + Convection Oven. Breville's oven performs well and handled nearly every food we tested with ease. I particularly liked its easy-to-use control panel and preset cook functions. If you’re in the market for a luxury, large-capacity toaster oven, the Breville Smart Oven is recommendable, even if its "smart" features aren't immediately obvious. If you don’t need a lot of space, however, it’s hard to justify its price when you can purchase the smaller, equally effective Panasonic Flash Xpress for $100 less.
Usability and design
The Breville Smart Oven is a sturdily built, well-designed toaster oven. Its stainless steel construction gives it a modern appearance, and it will look attractive on your countertop. In addition to the appliance itself, the Smart Oven comes with a broil rack, baking pan, and pizza pan. These are fairly standard accessories for toaster ovens, but Breville also offers accessories like pizza stones on its Web site. The Smart Oven is large, with a width of 18.5 inches and a depth of 12.5 inches, though it is not the largest toaster oven we reviewed. If your counter space is not limited, this size is a good thing, as it enables the Smart Oven to cook a 13-inch pizza or handle a roast or chicken pieces. Even though it does not have the largest exterior, the Smart Oven has a 0.8-cubic-foot interior, the largest of any other toaster oven we’ve tested so far.
In addition to its sturdy construction, the Smart Oven boasts a few design conveniences, though not all are perfect. You don't need to open the oven door to remove the crumb tray. Its top, which heats up during cooking, doubles as a plate warmer. That's useful if you have a plate to warm, but the surface can get warm enough that you'll want to avoid setting anything on it that might melt or combust. The sides, at least, stay relatively cool during cooking.
The Smart Oven also has three rack height options, which you'll use differently depending on what you're cooking. You'll see a guide for correct rack placement clearly on the outside of the window. It would be easier to read if Breville located the guide on the other side of the door, on the oven itself, but the window markers are easy enough to check. Regardless, it effectively saves you from having to pull the manual out every time you change from toasting to roasting to check for appropriate rack height. When a rack is in the middle position, a magnet on the door will partially pull the rack out of the oven, making it easier for you to remove. This feature works so well, I wished it extended to the other rack positions.
Overall, though, my favorite part about the Smart Oven’s design is its control panel, which is incredibly intuitive. You will find three dials: a function dial, which includes the oven’s presets, and both a temperature and a time dial.
The Smart Oven also features four buttons, the functions of which are: start/cancel, convection on/off, frozen food, and Fahrenheit/Celsius conversion. This panel makes programming simple. You can also adjust its presets on the fly, and the oven will remember your adjustments for the next time you cook that same item.
While the preset memory is welcome, they seem to be the limit of the Breville's overt smart functionality. A video on Breville's Web site describes how it also employs different heating elements depending on which preset you choose, but you don't really interact with that function at all. The Breville is a fine toaster oven and, within its price category, a reasonable buy. But its "smart" functions don't really map to more contemporary expectations, where "smart" means "connected." That's not necessarily a ding against Breville or this oven. Just know that, for better or for worse, you won't be using this oven in conjunction with your phone.
Similar to the Cuisinart, the Breville Smart Oven has an optional convection cooking function. Convection cooking uses a fan to circulate hot air evenly throughout the interior of the oven, ideally cooking food more evenly and quickly than with static element heating. It is a faster, more energy efficient way to cook, and, generally, produces great results. You have the option to turn the convection function off if you don't want to use it. For functions like broiling and toasting, the oven's presets disable convection cooking automatically, as it wouldn't add anything.
The Smart Oven has a maximum cook time of two hours, and a baking/roasting temperature range of 120 to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. It will also broil food at 500 degrees. All of that is in keeping with the other ovens we tested. What I also liked here is that the Breville's convection settings activate automatically for the bake, roast, pizza, cookies, and reheat functions. That makes getting the most out of this oven easy.
The Smart Oven's interior is the largest of any toaster oven we've tested so far. You could roast something as small as a chicken drumstick or as large as a whole chicken, though I wouldn't try to roast a chicken larger than six pounds or so due to space and heat circulation constraints. The Frigidaire and the Cuisinart have similar internal capacities and can handle the same amount of food. The Panasonic is much smaller.
In our toast tests, the Breville performed well thanks to its toast preset. Once you select toast, you simply dial in how many pieces you want to make, and then turn the temperature dial to select your darkness setting, from a scale of one to seven. Toast in the middle of the Smart Oven will come out darker than the toast toward the sides, but even on the darkest setting, none of the pieces burnt. With the exception of the Frigidaire, which completely charred the toast on the darkest setting, all of the toaster ovens we've tested so far made excellent toast.