February 5, 2015 Leave a comment
In the latest episode of Bad Voltage, I review the Anova Precision Cooker Sous Vide. While you should listen to the show (which includes discussion of the review), here’s the review text.
Anova Precision Cooker
As I mentioned in my Soylent review, viewing gastronomy as merely about sustenance is anathema to me. To say I enjoy food, food culture and eating is a prodigious understatement. It may come as no surprise then that I also enjoy cooking. While I’ve wanted a sous vide for some time now, there simply hasn’t been an affordable model I liked until a recent round of product launches. The Anova Precision Cooker seemed like a nice confluence of quality, price and technology and was the device that finally convinced me to plunge into the world of sous vide. For those unfamiliar with sous vide, it’s a method of cooking food sealed in an airtight bag in a water bath for longer than normal cooking times at an accurately regulated temperature much lower than normally used for cooking. The intention is to cook the item evenly, ensuring that the inside is properly cooked without overcooking the outside, while retaining moisture.
The Anova Precision Cooker is an immersion circulator sous vide, that has a temperature range of 77-210 degrees Fahrenheit, is accurate to a tenth of a degree and can heat up to a 5 gallon tank for a maximum of 99 hours. The unit is Bluetooth enabled and can be controlled from a smartphone, although at the time of this review neither the iOS or Android official apps have been released.
With the technical specifications out of the way, it’s time to move on to using the device. You may be wondering how easy it is to cook sous vide and more importantly, how does the food actually taste. Operating the Anova is extremely simple. You fill a suitable container with water, plug the device in, scroll the large wheel to your desired temp and hit the start button. Once the water has reached the desired temperature, you place the vacuumed sealed food in and wait. One great thing about sous vide is experimenting with the time and temperature to create an end result that’s ideal for you. Once you have the two variables dialed in to your tastes, you can perfectly replicate the outcome over and over again. To give you an example, a steak cooked for 90 minutes at 136 degrees Fahrenheit results in a Jeremy approved medium rare . As for the taste; well, it’s delicious. But there’s science behind it all. At these lower temperatures, cell walls in the food do not burst. In the case of meat cooking, tough collagen in connective tissue can be hydrolysed into gelatin, without heating the meat’s proteins high enough that they denature to a degree that the texture toughens and moisture is wrung out of the meat. Because of this, it’s not uncommon to cook some cuts, such as pork belly or spare ribs, for 48-72 hours. Additionally, enclosed spices or ingredients added to the sealed bag transmit their flavor more intensely than during normal cooking. The end product truly is amazing. One downside of that process, however, is that the low temperatures used means no Maillard reaction.. and that means no char. That has a negative impact on both texture and taste. Enter the Searzall. Invented at Booker and Dax, the food science lab arm of the Momofuku empire, the Searzall is an attachment secured to the top of a blowtorch to create the perfect searing temperature without the noxious aromas that typically result when cooking with a blowtorch. By forcing the thin flame of the blowtorch through two layers of fine, high-temperature-resistant wire mesh, it produces a consistent, evenly spread flame that provides a professional quality sear. The end result of a piece of steak cooked in the sous vide and then finished with the searzall is one that will rival the finest steak you’ve ever had.
So, what’s the bad voltage verdict? At $179, the Anova Precision Cooker isn’t outrageously priced but do keep in mind you will also need a vacuum sealer, suitable container and optionally a searzall (although a cast iron pan also works quite well). The total all in cost can be significant, especially if you opt for a chamber vacuum. That said, if you consider yourself an epicurean who enjoys cooking and eating, I think you’ll be highly impressed with what this combination puts on your dinner table.