“This alone is worth the money.”
That was my wife sitting on our couch eating day old pizza she had reheated in our recently purchased (and now sold out) second-generation June Oven. Looking at the slice in her hand, she remarked “I can’t believe they have engineers working full time to algorithmically figure this out — but it is [expletive] amazing.”
She’s right. If there is a killer, groundbreaking feature of the June Oven, it’s reheating leftover pizza. This may sound like a small reason to pay a big price ($599) for what is essentially a second oven that takes up a lot of countertop space in your kitchen, but it is actually quite [expletive] amazing.
But let’s back up.
Since I write about food technology for a living, people often assume that I love to cook. I do not. It intimidates me, I’m not good at it, and the process gives me no cathartic joy. The June seems to be custom built for someone like me. It’s a connected countertop smart oven that recognizes your food and can cook it automatically using a variety of pre-set programs (or just be used as a regular oven, or air fryer, or toaster, or dehydrator, or slow cooker…).
After spending a week with my new June, I can say that now I actually like cooking! (Though to be fair, using June may not be considered “cooking” at all.) All I have to do is insert the meat thermometer, make a few taps on the touchscreen and June does the rest. I can check in on the dish via the live video feed on the June mobile app if I want, or just wait for the notification that everything is done.
In my first week using June, I made:
- Flank steak
- A whole chicken
- Re-heated pizza
- Chicken breast
The June immediately recognized almost all the above items, displaying a small picture and caption of the food you placed in it (it only missed the flank steak). I used the automatic pre-set cooking program that popped up for each food, and because of improvements made to the June, there was never any pre-heating necessary. This means that I cooked a salmon filet in 10 minutes and it was done to perfection.
When we first wrote about the new June, company CEO Matt Van Horn told us there were 64 pre-sets for bacon. While I didn’t put that full number to the test, the bacon I made was also cooked just right; as a bonus, I did not have to stand over a griddle, getting splattered in grease.
But it was the pizza re-heating that captured the hearts and minds of the Albrecht house. The problem with re-heating pizza is that if you do it in the microwave, the crust turns weird and there are still hot and cold spots. Putting it in a pan with a splash of water works a bit better, but requires more work and the results still aren’t that good. By contrast, the June, using whatever combination of underneath, overhead and convection heating magic it has crafted, creates a hot slice with just the right amount of crisp to the crust. It really is a revelation.
The Not So Good
Not everything went smoothly with the June, however. The directions are so sparse that it can actually make cooking with it harder in some instances.
In the case of the flank steak, June said the cooking was done, but gave me no indication as to whether or not the cooked meat needed to rest and for how long (something the Meater thermometer does expertly). There was no pre-set for flank steak, so I’m not sure if I should have used the generic “steak” cooking program or just tried it manually (I used the steak pre-set). Also, though it does have a broiling feature, steaks should be finished on a hot grill or pan for a nice sear on the outside to truly finish it. Honestly? For something like flank steak, I would just grill it, given how little time it takes to cook.
The idea of expanded instructions would have also come in handy when cooking the whole chicken. I thought I stuck the thermometer in properly, but the June said the cooking was done and the internal temperature of the chicken was still only 158 degrees. Safe cooking temp for chicken is 165. There was no indication as to whether thermal inertia would bring the chicken up to the right temp, how long I should wait for that to happen, or how to make it work best (wrapping in foil? Leaving it in the June? etc.).
Also, I naively assumed that since there was a broccoli setting, if I just put broccoli in the machine it would turn out as good as everything else I cooked. I was wrong (again, I’m not a great cook). I threw a bunch of raw broccoli florets on the pan threw some salt on there and hit the cook broccoli button. The result was severely burned and bitter broccoli that was inedible.
I tweeted out about these issues and Van Horn actually replied to me saying that the company is aware of the undercommunication issues and has an over-the-air update in the works that will address them. So there’s that to look forward to.
My seven year old actually loves cooking with the June. Though, if we’re being honest, it’s because it has a touch screen. Regardless! He can read and after a couple tutorials will be able to make a decent chicken breast on his own without my worrying about his burning either himself or the house down.
I recognize that $599 is not cheap for many people. For my personal situation as someone who doesn’t enjoy cooking, it’s worth every penny. Using it has a sense of practical permanence, it’s not fad-ish like the sous vide wands I rarely break out any more. Soon enough, June’s cooking smarts will be built directly into more traditional ovens eliminating any space issues. But until then, I’ll be to make some [expletive] amazing pizza, and pretty much anything else I want.