The June Intelligent Oven ($599.00) seems straight out of a sci-fi blockbuster. This pricey countertop appliance recognizes the food you put in it and promises to cook that food to perfection. With “the world’s only intelligent convection oven” in your kitchen, fretting over time and temperature and constantly monitoring cooking progress are supposedly relics of the past. The first version of this oven cost an astronomical $1,495.00; now a new “second-generation” June has arrived to take its place at a fraction of the original price. Is it worth buying?
Designed by a former Apple engineer, June is compatible with Amazon Alexa and comes with an app that can be used to control it and its unique range of features, including “Food ID,” which uses artificial intelligence to identify foods and carry out the appropriate cooking once you confirm its choice. You can use it like you would a regular oven, manually setting temperature and cooking time on the display’s 5-inch touch screen. But it also offers a wide variety of preset cooking programs and app-guided recipes (an optional subscription adds many more guided recipes for $4.99 per month or $49.00 per year). In addition to baking, toasting, roasting, and broiling, the June promises slow cooking, air frying, dehydrating, warming/reheating, and even self-cleaning. A set of three air-frying/dehydrating baskets costs an extra $49.99.
The oven cooks with six carbon fiber elements (carbon fiber is highly responsive, heating and cooling rapidly) plus two small convection fans to circulate hot air. It comes with a food-temperature probe that plugs into the oven wall, a sturdy nonstick baking sheet, and a wire rack.
But does the June Intelligent Oven really work or, like many “smart” gadgets, is it all hype? We bought the original June and tested it; but before we published that testing, the second-generation oven arrived, so we purchased that and went back to work. In both, we cooked a full range of foods: thin and thick bacon strips, baked potatoes, crispy roasted potatoes, whole roast chicken with vegetables, slow-cooked pulled pork, slices of toast, bagels, Pop-Tarts, ramekins of baked eggs, asparagus, shrimp, salmon, slice-and-bake lemon cookies, Southern-style biscuits, gingerbread cake, and strawberry cream cake. We air-fried chicken thighs and dehydrated apple slices. We also asked additional testers to cook bacon and rate the June on its user-friendliness and performance.
Good Recipes, Easy Control
The good news: We really like this little oven. Sturdy, appealing, and intuitive to operate, June operated seamlessly with its app (which works with iOS and Android) and never made us pull out our hair in confusion or frustration. Nearly every recipe we tried from the app came out perfectly cooked, exactly as described, as did the trays of cookies and biscuits we baked using our own recipes. Our sole semifailure was likely our fault: When making “slow-cooked” pulled pork, we used a baking dish covered with foil instead of the lidded casserole dish called for in the recipe, and the pork wasn’t quite fall-apart tender all the way through when the oven proclaimed it done. We tried again using the required equipment and got meltingly tender, moist meat—proving that the June system, including its recipes, has been thoughtfully engineered.
In every case, prepping food as instructed by the app was simple and quick, directions were clear, and cleanup afterward was swift. One key to the June’s success is its temperature probe that you insert into food while the other end plugs into a socket inside the oven; this was handy to let us know how the interiors of foods such as roast chicken, salmon, and shrimp were cooking. You choose your desired doneness, and the oven and app display the appropriate target temperature as well as the current internal temperature of the food, so you can monitor doneness at a glance and from afar. Everything we cooked with the probe came out evenly browned, tender, and juicy.
We also liked that we could choose to operate the oven with or without the app and either by using the preset programs or by manually setting the time and temperature as you would with an ordinary oven. Detailed cleaning instructions and cycles are built into the controls as well—including a setting where the oven can “blow-dry” itself to remove any excess water after you wipe it clean. In the second-generation oven, the company eliminated a built-in scale on top (we thought that was a good call, as it was an unnecessary feature); they cut a second port for the thermometer inside the oven (we didn’t need it) and a dial on the front of the oven (now it’s just a touch screen, which works fine). Otherwise, both machines’ operations and dimensions proved to be identical, and we welcome the improvements, not to mention the lower price.
Food Recognition Technology Is Useful
June’s much-touted “Food ID” function, which the oven uses to recognize food and suggest a cooking program, worked surprisingly well and saved effort. We put in a variety of foods, one after another—one and two Pop-Tarts, a whole potato and a sweet potato, a tray of asparagus, another of bacon, and four salmon fillets—and it recognized them all, though it failed to identify a tray of medium shrimp, an apple, and a zucchini. When it tries to identify food, two choices with pictures pop up on the display within seconds: “Pop-Tart or Strudel?” or “Potato or Sweet Potato?” You select the correct one, and it launches a cooking program, providing step-by-step instructions on the display for where to set the rack, when to insert the food, and whether to use the temperature probe. No looking up cooking times or temperatures, setting a timer, or worrying about doneness: The display tells you what is going on during cooking and tracks the time. Our asparagus and salmon fillets emerged perfectly roasted, moist, and tender; the Pop-Tarts were toasted to an even golden brown and warmed through. We cooked the medium-size shrimp using a “Jumbo Prawns” preset program, and because the oven had us insert the temperature probe into a shrimp, it adjusted timing accordingly and cooked the seafood to moist, snappy perfection in minutes.
Cooking Progress Is Easy to Monitor
During cooking, a built-in camera in the center of the oven roof lets you check progress from wherever you are via the app—and we noticed that the second-generation June has better lighting, making it easier to judge browning. You can also watch time-lapse videos afterward in the app’s saved cooking “history” (it keeps your 20 most recent cooking projects). It’s also easy to let the oven do the monitoring by setting the desired target temperature and using the food probe.
A countdown timer and description of what’s happening (such as “Toasting medium toast”) can be viewed on both the oven’s touch screen and the app. The oven plays a little tune and sends text alerts, both when cooking is nearly finished and when it’s done. You can also see diagrams and charts showing which heating elements are on and at which power level and a graph of the oven temperature, both during and after cooking. (This data seems overly geeky, but it came in handy when we wanted to cook the first batch of pulled pork a bit more at the same temperature; since the app had automatically set the temperature, we had no idea which temperature to use until we checked the graph.)
Oven Is Bigger Than It Looks
While the June looks about the size of a big toaster oven, it has a surprisingly generous capacity. We cooked a whole 4-pound chicken with vegetables, and the space easily accommodated a 13 by 9-inch casserole or a 12-inch pizza. Since the manufacturer claimed you could fit a 12-pound turkey in the June, we gave it a try, but that was an exaggeration. The turkey barely squeezed in, with its breast touching the oven roof. However, June is big enough for smaller households, where it could take the place of a toaster oven and probably even a full-size oven. The slow-cook, air-fry, and dehydrate functions also worked as promised, adding to its versatility.
Is the June Oven Worth It?
Too often “smart” kitchen products, billed as the future of cooking, are pretty half-baked; they can be annoyingly inefficient and laden with gimmicky features, and sometimes it feels as if the actual food is an afterthought. Not in this case. Yes, even at a third of its original price, the June Oven is expensive at $599. But it’s simple for a novice to use and get good results. Even for experienced cooks, the June Oven made preparing foods easier, and it was enjoyable to use, as it performed nearly flawlessly and operated seamlessly, with a satisfyingly clear, intuitive display and controls. This is one smart product that lives up to its promise, and we’d be excited to have it in our kitchen.