Sous vide, the process of submerging foods in a temperature-controlled water bath to yield everything from fall-off-the-bone chicken breasts to perfectly poached eggs, has always been something best left to the pros, or the most intrepid (and well off) home cooks. It’s not difficult per se, just pricey (setups often range into the hundreds and, sometimes, thousands) and a bit intimidating. The immersion circulator, the crux of the setup, is typically a space-consuming oven that, to many casual cooks, isn’t worth the investment. In the last few years, however, companies have released slimmed down, cost-sensitive circulators, most of which are wands you affix to a stockpot that precisely create and control the temperature via internal heaters.
The most promising of the new breed is the Precision Cooker from Anova. It bears resemblance to a Brookstone back massager and claims to offer the convenience of a circulation wand with an app-controlled interface that connects to your phone via Bluetooth, allowing you to search recipes and set temperature from your phone. Intrepid, indeed. But does it live up to its lofty claims? We took it for a test drive.
Whoa, baby. I never thought I’d be stoked about an immersion circulator, but this wand is magic indeed. It’s sturdy and sophisticated, with a large screw clamp that easily latches to the side of a pot; a clean, digital interface brightly displays temperature, while two buttons and a scrolling wheel let you dial in your exact preferences. It displays the temperature you’ve set along with the current one so you know when they’re synced up and in line with your recipe. The water came to a consistent, rolling boil each time. I’m no lab tech, but I did use a professional-quality digital thermometer to compare the accuracy of the temperature and it matched.
But let’s get to that Bluetooth interface. As I said earlier, the Precision Cooker syncs with iPhones, and it provides a bounty of benefits. The partner app has clear, concise, well-designed recipes for everything from short ribs to poached eggs and therefore serves as a way to educate and inform home cooks about the rather intimidating art of sous vide. The bigger deal, however, is the fact that you can pull up a recipe, select it, and the circulator is set to the temperature that the recipe requires. It’s complete with clear instructions and lets you eye the process even when you’re in the other room. I ziplock-bagged a few seasoned chicken breasts and set the temperature to 140 degrees. Once they were finished, I gave the breasts a quick sear (my personal preference) and cut in; they were some of the most tender I’ve ever prepared — but that’s a mark of sous vide, not the circulator itself.
Not much in terms of downsides here. The biggest complaint I can muster is that the temperature can only be set to whole numbers — no decimal points. So if you’re looking for a neurotic level of control over your baths, it won’t satisfy you.
This is a masterful fusion of two forms of modern technology. The Bluetooth connection adds a wonderful layer to an already worthy piece of kitchen equipment. I felt more confident using the Precision Cooker than I have with many other devices of its kind and that was a direct result of the app and overall design. If you’re looking to step into the world of sous vide, the wand is an excellent weapon. $179, anova.com
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