Sous vide cooking with Anova
Sous vide isn’t a common way to cook — but it’s getting more popular every day. Sous vide is a French term meaning “under vacuum,” and it’s pretty simple despite looking like an advanced cooking method.
Sous vide involves sealing food — usually meat — in plastic and submerging it in high-temperature water for a specific amount of time. A tool called an immersion circulator or sous vide cooker sits in the water, pumping it past a heating element that maintains a precise temperature.
Although this isn’t the most intuitive way to cook, sous vide cooking doesn’t have to be difficult. And once you start using it, you’ll immediately notice that the resulting meals are packed with the moisture and flavor that makes for a great culinary experience.
What are wet and dry heat?
Put simply, wet heat involves cooking methods that introduce water, and dry heat represents methods that draw water out or evaporate it. For example, boiling and steaming use wet heat, while frying and grilling use dry heat.
Foods such as packaged pasta require wet heat just to reconstitute and make them edible. Using wet heat to cook foods such as meat, though, draws valuable flavor from the meat and wastes it (unless you’re making stock or broth).
But dry heat leads to at least some degree of overcooking, even when you’re careful. It also causes evaporation. Both of these can damage or eliminate the chemicals responsible for delicious flavors and aromas.
Why sous vide cooking is special
Sous vide cooking technically uses wet heat because it doesn’t cause the meat to dry out. Unlike boiling or steaming, though, sous vide cooking doesn’t draw out flavor, because the sealed plastic layer means it’s a closed system.
Since sous vide cooking doesn’t dry food out or pull out important flavors, it can deliver the most succulent meat possible, with the perfect balance of juiciness and flavor. In fact, many professionals and cooking enthusiasts argue that nothing makes a better steak than sous vide.
Where Anova comes in
Anova makes a highly specialized line of products. Aside from sous vide cookers, it only manufactures what are called combination, or “combi,” ovens. Like Anova’s immersion circulators, its combi ovens are essentially consumer-focused versions of powerful machines found in professional kitchens. In that light, it’s no surprise that Anova sous vide circulators consistently get high marks from experts and rave reviews from owners.
Not only are Anova sous vide cookers efficient and reliable, they also offer wireless connectivity that lets you set the temperature and keep track of progress without repeatedly visiting the kitchen.
How sous vide cooking works
- Set up the sous vide bath. To save time, start by mixing hot and cold water from the tap until the sous vide cooker reads close to the desired temperature. You probably already have a stock pot that will work great, although square plastic containers save counter space and insulate slightly better for a more efficient process.
- Prepare the food. Pat the food dry, salt it and season it. Keep in mind that the salt will go a little farther than normal, since you won’t lose any during the grilling or pan-frying process. Despite what some sous vide fans claim, it’s best to salt meat before dropping it in the sous vide bath. Doing so helps it penetrate a millimeter or two deeper into the meat and has zero negative effects.
- Seal the sous vide bag. Place the food in the bag — standard zip-close food storage bags work well if you don’t have access to anything more heavy-duty. You can use a vacuum sealer and special bags that come with pumps and valves for extracting air, but you don’t have to. You can simply leave a small bit of the bag unzipped. Then lower it slowly into the water, keeping the open part dry until the water bath has forced out most of the air.
- Drop the food in the sous vide bath. Once the circulator reads the correct temperature, set the timer and drop the bag in gently. Connect the Anova app to your smartphone or tablet to monitor progress just in case.
- Stop cooking. When the timer’s up, remove the food from the water and let it rest. Smaller foods such as thin steaks and poached eggs can rest at room temperature, but anything thicker will need a quick bath in cold water. This stops the cooking process exactly when you want.
- If you’re cooking meat, sear it. Meat doesn’t look appetizing the moment you remove it from a sous vide bath. That’s because the dry heat of grilling and baking creates a browned layer that’s missing with sous vide. To get this layer, many people sear in a hot cast-iron skillet, but that can lead to accidental overcooking. A high-powered propane torch is better — small kitchen torches aren’t powerful enough to give steaks the perfect sear. Consider a specialized searing attachment, which spreads out the flame for more consistent results.
- Enjoy your meal. Once the sear’s been applied, plate your food and enjoy a succulent culinary delight.
Best Anova sous vide cookers
This one’s the most popular because it’s compact, relatively affordable and serves most people’s needs just fine. It connects to your smartphone or tablet via Bluetooth and has a 750-watt heating element.
Its more powerful element makes it a little more consistent than the Nano. It also offers slightly more reliable Wi-Fi connectivity in addition to removable clips instead of the fixed ones found on the less costly model.
Driven by 1,200 watts and a pump flow of 12 liters per minute, this is the best choice if you frequently make large batches of sous vide dishes at home. Its only drawback is that it’s somewhat costly.
Other tools that help with sous vide cooking
These durable bags are perfect for sous vide cooking a wide variety of foods. They’re washable and reusable and come with an optional pump that makes extracting air easy.
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This rugged stainless steel pot comes with a lid and handles and can help with a lot of kitchen tasks, including sous vide cooking.
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Cambro containers are exactly what pros use for a huge range of storage and food prep tasks in high-end restaurants. This 8-quart size is the right one for most home kitchens.
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This blowtorch attachment helps create the perfect sear after you pull a steak out of the sous vide water bath.
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This is one of the best handheld blowtorches in existence, no matter what you need it for. It’s the better of the two torch nozzles that work with the Searzall attachment. Use it with a short 1-pound propane cylinder for safe and effective searing.
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Chris Thomas writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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