Once you’ve tried sous vide food, you may never want to cook another way again.
It’s hard cooking the perfect steak. Not many people enjoy eating an overdone slab of meat that needs to be slathered with ketchup, but getting your steak exactly right is difficult.
Enter the Anova Precision Cooker. If you’re a fan of shows like MasterChef, you may have seen a commercial version of this. It works using the “sous vide” method, where food is placed in a vacuum-sealed bag and immersed in hot water at an exact temperature so cooks from all sides simultaneously.
Essentially, a sous vide machine is a spa bath for food.
Sealing the food in a bag means it cooks in its own juices alongside whatever you add. To create a vacuum-sealed bag, place the food inside a ziplock sandwich bag, partially seal the bag, dip it in water until all the air has been pushed out, then close the seal.
Some cook times are quite long. For example, I cooked a pork belly that took 10 hours at 70°C. There are lots of recipes and guides online for sous vide beginners. I recommend SeriousEats.com, which has an excellent guide, including cooking steak.
A problem with the sous vide method is that meat comes out of the bag looking grey and unappetising, so you need to briefly put it on a very hot pan or skillet to give it a seared look and caramelised flavour. As an aside, this is almost the reverse of how most restaurants cook steak, as they quickly sear the meat first, then put the whole pan in an oven to cook through.
The table below is a good starting point for sous vide. The time range depends on the cut and size of the steak. I cooked two 200g scotch fillet steaks for an hour at 62°C, which made them perfectly medium.
It’s a long cylindrical device that clamps to the side of any large pot, heating and circulating the water, to create the sous vide effect. It’s different from the large machine you see on cooking shows, which takes up loads of valuable bench space.
The Precision Cooker comes in three different models: Nano - smaller model with Bluetooth only; standard - has WiFi and Bluetooth with higher power output; and, Pro - has WiFi and Bluetooth with highest power output.
I got the Bluetooth version of the Anova Precision Cooker in 2017 and still use it often. The cooker connects to your phone and you control it via the Anova app. The app has built-in recipes and tips, but its best use is setting the temperature and timer. It’s a useful feature, but not an essential one as you can set the time and temperature manually too.
The Precision Cooker is only available through specialty cooking supplies stores and online through Anova’s website. If you go for the latter option, ensure you’re getting one with the correct power plug (220V) to work in New Zealand, this is often listed at "AU-plug").
We’ve cooked pork belly, steaks, pork loin, spare ribs, vegetables, and soft poached eggs in the shell. All came out perfectly cooked. Even the eggs were cooked so that the insides were still runny (they were fantastic in our ramen alongside the sous vide pork belly). It’s hard to describe exactly how good sous vide food is, but you may never want to cook another way again.