Nobody’s ever accused me of being a great chef. Nobody. Competent? Sure. Capable of the occasional surprisingly-good-for-an-at-home-dinner? Why not, I’ll go there. But great? No.
Great chefs have technique. They have panache. They have catchphrases. They know what "Sous Vide" means. I do not have these things, and I’ve only ever eaten Sous Vide-prepared food in swanky restaurants and at my annoyingly-together friend Gene’s house. I've never ventured to prepare and consume my own concoctions. Which is why I naturally jumped at the chance to give Anova’s Precision cooker a go, because I’m that guy. That guy who gets in way over his head with things he has no business going near.
Quickly, for the uninitiated, Sous Vide machines, or Precision Cookers, consist of heated blankets immersed in a pot full of water. The machines keep them at a perfectly even temperature by delicately stirring and heating water automatically. In this pot of water is placed vacuum-sealed food. Sous Vide works by removing the air and leaving nothing but the juices, and the meat, or whatever else it is you’re cooking.
The object of Sous Vide is something akin to bullet time in the Matrix. It essentially allows you to take what is typically a 6-10 minute process (Grilling a steak, let’s say) and slow it down well beyond 90 minutes, depending how you want your meat cooked.
Think of every time you’ve ventured to cook a steak—even if you nail it on the nose for that perfect medium-rare, there are still parts of that steak that are probably rare, and parts that are charred or well-done. Not with Sous Vide. It’s like you’ve hacked the raw meat and rearranged its code, reengineering it into the most succulent thing you’ve ever tasted.
The technique has been around since 1799 when a guy named Sir Benjamin Thompson started fooling around in the kitchen, so it’s not exactly unexplored territory, but to me the art always seemed to have a high barrier to entry. Most automated machines cost north of $400, with professional-grade ones launching as high as $1000. Which is where Anova stepped in, with what is now one of the world’s most successful kickstarter campaigns, and certainly one of the highest grossing (and most reasonably-sized) precision cooking machines on the market today.
It’s no bigger than that thing your mom used to make mashed potatoes with when you were a kid, and it has freaking bluetooth to connect to your iPhone, allowing you to be master of your slow cooking domain upwards of 30 feet away. All for $179, or approximately the amount of money your significant other expects you to spend to get this kinda meal at a restaurant.
Ted Gushue is the Executive Editor of Supercompressor. He now has gout in his right toe because he's been doing nothing but mainlining sweet juicy filet mignon for a week now. Hear his King Henry The 8th plight in real time on Twitter @TedGushue.