Imagine enjoying the most savory cut of steak from Chef Thomas Keller’s famed French Laundry menu. Thanks to Anova’s connected smart sous-vide cooker, you can recreate the juiciest meats, poultries, seafood and even desserts from restaurant-inspired menus in your kitchen at a fraction of the cost and with minimal preparation.
Unlike cooking on a stovetop or an oven, both of which require higher temperatures, the sous-vide cooking method will cook your food in a water bath at a precise temperature for a set time, similar to slow cooking. Lower temperatures and longer cook times produce flavorful results, with meats that are tender and juicy.
Like the Bluetooth-only model that it replaces, Anova’s new Wi-Fi and Bluetooth model is a large cylindrical 15-inch black and silver wand fashioned from plastic and stainless steel. Build quality is sturdy, and the black plastic is coated with a nice matte soft-touch material, making it pleasant to hold and touch. The stainless steel skirt at the bottom is removable for washing.
The sous-vide cooking instrument comes with a plug for power, a sturdy cylindrical mounting bracket, allowing the device to be clipped onto a variety of pots, pans and tubs, and a touchscreen interface up top with a scroll wheel mounted on the side.
The on-device controls allows you to operate the sous-vide locally, while WiFi adds the flexibility of starting your cook remotely. The latter option means you can have a hot meal ready for you by the time you get home from work — we’ll get into the benefits of adding smart connectivity to a kitchen appliance later in this review.
As a non-chef, I was initially intimidated by anything in the kitchen, but the sous-vide method requires minimal preparations and simple ingredients. Unlike eating out, you have more control over the quality of your meals — if you buy more premium meats, for example, your results will be on the higher side. Anova Culinary provides a number of curated recipes that work with the Anova Precision WiFi Cooker collected from chefs and its avid user base.
Setting up the Anova was extremely easy. You’ll need to clamp the Anova with its adjustable mounting bracket, which looks like a vice with a circular ring to pop the sous-vide into place, to a large pot or receptacle of water. If you’re using the Anova as a standard cooking tool, you can use the controls on the device to set the time and temperature of your cook right on the device itself, but if you want to be able to start or stop the cooking process remotely, you’ll want to download the Anova WiFi app on your iOS or Android device and go through the steps to pair the Precision Cooker with your phone.
In order to connect the Anova to your home’s WiFi network, you’ll need to pair the Precision Cooker to your phone via Bluetooth. The app will then transfer your WiFi credentials to the Precision Cooker over Bluetooth. I found the process to be easy, but it did take several tries to connect my iPhone to the Precision Cooker using Bluetooth — I used a friend’s iPhone and it worked on the first try, so I am not sure if it’s an iOS issue or just Bluetooth acting up.
From the app, you can browse Anova’s recipes, view portions, preparation time, cook time and ingredients. For the time being, Anova is over-complicating its IoT kitchenware with dueling apps — one for the Bluetooth model and another for WiFi. The Bluetooth app lets you browse recipes and comes with features, while the WiFi app is more simple, displaying cooking controls. Anova told me that the company will merge the two apps over time to integrate the features. If you want to browse recipes, you’ll need to download the basic app, and then you’ll use the Anova WiFi app to start your cook.
If you’d rather not deal with the apps, Anova also posts its recipes on its website, so you can start there to get your inspiration.
To test Anova’s claims of delivering perfectly cooked foods, I tried the Precision Cooker using some more difficult ingredients that are harder to control when cooking on the stove. I opted to try cooking London broil, which is a leaner cut of meat that’s often tough, and scallops to create a surf and turf plate.
On Anova’s app, I found recipes for both the scallops and London broil, both with a cooking temperature of 130 degrees Fahrenheit, but the scallops had a shorter cooking time. I figured if I can set the temperature the same, I can cook both items at the same time and just remove the scallops from the sous-vide earlier, as it will be done sooner.
Curiously, cooking time for the steak came with a big range. The recipe stated that cooking for time medium rare steaks is between 45 minutes and three hours. On my first try, I opted to do two hours, just to be safe.
Preparation was extremely simple. The steak required a simple salt and pepper rub, while the scallops required salt and some lemon slices. I put the steak into one ZipLoc bag and the scallops into another bag. To seal the bag, you’ll want to slowly submerge the bag into water to push out the air, and then zip the bag once just the top of the bag is above water. Alternatively, you can also vacuum seal your ingredients if you have a vacuum sealer handy.
To cook, you’ll need to clip the bags to the side of the pot, ensuring that your ingredients are adequately submerged in water. You can start the cook from the device or on your app.
The benefit of Wi-Fi connectivity is that the preparation time is under ten minutes for both dishes. This means that I can prep my ingredients in the morning before heading out to work, and then instead of filling my pot with water, I can set it in an ice bath. Then, I can time it so that two hours before my ETA at home, I can begin my cook, and then I can come home to freshly cooked steaks. This allows me to have a healthy, natural meal with minimal effort right when I get home, instead of arriving home and waiting another two hours for my food to be ready.
Even though you can start the cooking remotely, thanks to the inclusion of WiFi on Anova’s latest sous-vide model, you can’t remotely stop the cooking on the app. This might be a good thing, for food safety reasons, as you don’t want to partially cook meats and poultries, stop the cooking, and then resume it hours later when harmful bacterias could be present.
The way that the Anova works is that the Precision Cooker heats and circulates the water to a precise temperature. The cooker takes about five to ten minutes to fully heat up to your set temperature, and a small motor helps circulate the water so that the temperature is even throughout the cooking process.
When the Anova is on, you can hear the fans going, kind of like a laptop under a taxing workload. It’s not a loud sound, and I didn’t mind the noise, but it’s definitely noticeable, especially in a smaller kitchen.
After the sous-vide process is done, you can grill your meats and seafood to add sear marks, add your desired sauces and flavors and plate your dish with garnishes for a gourmet presentation. I opted for a light whiskey butter sauce on the scallops, and enjoyed my pan-seared steak plain, and they were both delicious.
Fans of the sous-vide method swear by it, and even though sous-vide is starting to slowly gain traction in homes, it’s been a staple inside restaurants. The reasoning, explained Anova CEO Stephen Svajian at the company’s San Francisco headquarters, is that you’ll get a more even cook. If you’re cooking a thicker slab of meat and want the center of the cut cooked medium, for example, the traditional way of cooking means that the edges are over-cooked.
“People hear about food safety precautions, and they tend to overcompensate by overcooking ingredients, making meats dry and rubbery,” Svajian said. With sous-vide, you’re cooking at a precise temperature, resulting in juicy, tender meats that are cooked just right from the outside to the center of the cut.
To test Svajian’s theory, I decided to repeat the steak recipes. Given its wide range of 45 minutes to three hours of sous-vide cooking time, I decided to try cooking the steaks again, once at 45 minutes and once more at three hours. The results, amazingly, were about the same, and there was no noticeable difference, at least to my palate, between a 45-minute, two-hour or three-hour cook time. I also tried the Precision Cooker with cuts of filet mignon and top loin, and the result was steak that melted in your mouth.
The only downside to sous-vide is the longer cooking times, given the lower temperatures used to cook. If you’re cooking a lot of meat for a big dinner party, it could take a whole day or two of cooking.
In addition to meats, poultries and seafood, Anova also lists desserts and sweets that can be made the sous-vide way. I am not sure how much vegetarians will benefit from sous-vide cooking — steaming vegetables is already a simple enough affair.
Just as Anova is trying to popularize sous-vide cooking, more competitors will likely enter this space. Mellow is another sous-vide cooker, now on pre-order, that comes with a refrigeration system to keep foods safe, allowing you to eliminate the ice bath. Nomiku is also looking to add WiFi connectivity to its device, but the design lacks Anova’s flexible ring clamp to allow the cooker to be used with different size pots.
Anova is one of the first to deliver a useful connected kitchen appliance. The ability to come home to a nice, cooked meal with minimum preparation and the freshest ingredients makes the Precision Cooker a great investment for the beginner cook or a seasoned chef. If you fancy Keller’s steaks at French Laundry, the Precision Cooker will pay for itself in just one meal.