People are going nuts over these things.
I gave this bad boy a try to find out why. There are some pros and cons to consider before you buy.
The Anova Precision Cooker helps you cook sous vide style at home and with very little extra equipment. This style of cooking allows you to cook anything to the perfect temperature. When you cook a steak, it will be perfectly cooked to your liking every time, without fail.
The first thing to know is that you need a vessel big enough to fit what you are cooking. Without buying extra equipment, you’ll probably use a pot. If you want to cook a roast, you’ll probably need a 20 qt stock pot.
You also need good quality zipper seal bags or a vacuum sealer. If you have a vacuum sealer, you’re golden. If you put your food into a zipper seal bag, then into a pot filled with cool water, the water pressure will push most of the air out before sealing the bag. This doesn’t give you a perfect vacuum seal, but it does the trick.
I learned that it’s hard to take a nice picture of raw chicken in a bag.
Anyway, I started with chicken because I know it’s difficult to get chicken cooked through while having it still be tender and juicy. This is just some simple lemon, garlic, salt and pepper chicken. No added fat… yet.
I used a sous vide cooking times chart from ChefSteps. I liked this because it tells you what temperature to set the precision cooker to, and ideal cooking time.
I filled a pot with water, clipped the Anova to the side of the pot (using its provided clip) and set the temperature.
It took almost 45 minutes for the water to reach 75 degrees Celsius/167 degrees Fahrenheit. Let’s call this the first con. This way of cooking takes time — a lot more time than using, say, the oven.
It also takes up counter space. This could be a good thing, if you are using your stove and oven for other parts of the meal.
But let’s talk about the machine’s cord. The instructions say to not use an extension cord. The cord on the machine is only about two feet long so you need an outlet near some free counter space. In this case, enough counter space for a 20 qt stock pot.
Back to the cooking. I clipped the bag to the side of my pot and walked away. (I think I watched cat videos on YouTube, but let’s pretend I did something productive like read a book.)
After the chicken had cooked, I took the bag out and placed it in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process. Then I preheated a pan, while the bag of chicken cooled.
When I took the mostly cooked chicken out of the bag, it was gross. I’ll admit it. There was some gelatinous goop and the chicken was greyish-beige. But I kept on trucking. I added some fat to the pan, and seared them chickens until the skin was crispy.
Let’s do an inventory of dishes to cook the chicken:
- A pot
- A pot clip (I used a small C-clamp, but most people use a bulldog clip)
- A cutting board
- A knife
- A large bowl
- A frying pan
- A spatula
Anyway, you get the point. It takes more dishes to cook this way than using a traditional cooking method.
But let’s look at the results:
It was perfect. Tender, juicy, fall-off-the-bone chicken. But don’t take my word for it:
My cat, August, learned how to use a fork just to eat this chicken.
But enough goofing around. Let’s talk eggs. People have a tough time poaching eggs, so I thought I’d test the Anova’s egg poaching skills.
The recipe for poaching eggs sous vide style says to cook them in the shell. Then peel them, then finish them off by actually poaching them (in a pot of simmering water).
This was a pain in the eggs. Seriously. Peeling under-cooked eggs was really tedious.
I put the peeled eggs into a pot of simmering water and cooked them until the whites had set fully. Here’s the result:
These eggs were much prettier than when I poach them the traditional way.
Once again, the Anova provided perfect results.
Now for my favourite. Carrots. Yes, CARROTS. I know people go nuts over cooking meat with a machine like this but, in my opinion, the carrots were the star.
I put carrots, butter, sugar, salt and pepper into a bag:
I cooked them in the water bath and then finished them off in a pan. I poured the entire contents of the bag into the pan and cooked them until the sauce reduced. Super easy.
I’ve never had carrots cooked to this texture. They were evenly cooked throughout. They were firm and soft at the same time. They were creamy and crunchy.
The best way to describe them is that they were like crispy butter.
I know this sounds ridiculous, but I was shocked at how amazingly perfect these carrots were.
(Disclaimer: I used a brown sugar glazed carrots recipe I found online. The flavour of the recipe wasn’t great, but the texture of the carrots was enough to write home about.)
If you buy a sous vide style cooker, don’t limit yourself to meat. The veggies are amazing.
Still wondering if you should buy one?
- Get chef-like results without knowing how to cook. Using this product yields a perfectly cooked product every time. There isn’t really any way to muck it up.
- New kitchen toys are always fun. This one scores some serious “wow that’s neat” points.
- It takes more time than traditional cooking methods.
- It takes more steps and dishes than traditional methods (you have to cook it after you cook it).
- The cord on this particular machine is annoyingly short.
If you are having a dinner party and you really want to “wow” someone, or if you always over- or under-cook your food, this is a great tool.
If you already know how to perfectly cook something like steak, congratulations and you probably won’t need a tool like this with all of the extra steps.