Sous vide (literally, under vacuum) is a popular method of slow cooking for professional chefs and serious home cooks alike, though its use has mostly been limited to epicureans with a budget for spending on the necessary gadgetry. Anova is among those who have sought to lower the bar of entry in recent years, releasing its affordable sous vide Precision Cooker in 2013. With its latest precision cooker, the company has added Wi-Fi to enable meals to be ready and waiting when you return home. We recently had the chance to try it out for ourselves.
What's gotten cooks so excited about sous vide is the precise control it allows for cooking any type of meat or vegetable. After sealing my seasoned filet mignon in an airtight baggie, I dropped it in water heated and maintained by the device to an exact and ideal temperature. I set the device to 135° F (57° C) for my cut to cook exactly the way I prefer, which came out with the same pinkish red throughout, not just in the center. I kept it in for two hours, but adding time doesn't overcook the food, only changes the texture. The steak and asparagus I cooked came out moist and full of flavor; it's virtually impossible to dry anything out with the sous vide cooker.
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The addition of Wi-Fi to the device ups its convenience, especially since sous vide requires longer cooking times than conventional methods. The target audience for this would seem to be time-crunched cooks who want to enjoy the benefits of sous vide but may not have the time to wait around for the results. Thus, you can bag your food and set up the device before heading off to work, and start cooking from the office via the smartphone app. As long as the pot is set on the right surface, such as a trivet or potholder, safety shouldn't be a major concern, especially since the device won't engage if the water is below the minimum level (4.25 in / 11 cm).
The Anova device is ready to go out of the box, with two parts – a clamp that attaches to the side of a pot and the sous vide device which slips into the clamp's ring. It's exactly like the previous model – solid, sleek and modern – except for the addition of a Wi-Fi signal light on the interface. The user guide is found online, but setting up and operating the device only requires a few instructions.
After downloading the app on my phone, the device connected automatically to my home Wi-Fi without the need for a password. To operate it manually, there's a wheel below the interface that allows the user to set the temperature and timer. Hit the start/stop button, and that's it. If the water level is too low, you'll get a beeping sound. The same beep alerts you when the set temperature is reached, and when the timer is done. And you can change everything in mid-course.
The app is just as simple, controlling three functions: temperature, time and start/stop. It also gives you finer control of the temperature to a tenth of a degree, as well as a half-minute of time, though it's detail probably only a true food chemist might appreciate. You can also access sous vide recipes and other relevant information. Just like the interface on the device, the app tells you the current temperature of the water, and how much time is remaining. I actually preferred using the phone app, even from the couch at home.
One minor annoyance I found was a continuous beeping sound after setting the time and temp. I corrected this by pressing the start/stop button twice to shut off the device and turn it back on, stopping the noise and picking up the cooking process where it left off.
All in all, adding Wi-Fi is a nice touch for a sous vide cooker. Given how it works (slowly and safely), there are some real benefits to being connected. A sous vide device is high on the list of gadgets the dedicated home cook should consider adding to their arsenal, and Anova is offering its latest precision cooker at the relatively reasonable price of US$199.
Product page: Anova
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