Is The Nomiku Portable Sous-Vide Cooker The Solution We're Looking For?
Sous-vide cooking—that is cooking foods in vacuum-sealed pouches in temperature controlled water baths—has already won the battle for high-end restaurant kitchens.* Indeed, we're already well into the realm of second-generation precise-temperature cooking with high tech gear like C-Vap ovens, which perform largely the same way as a sous-vide water bath, but without the need for those pesky plastic bags.
On the home front, however, things are moving a bit slower. A couple years ago, the Sous-Vide Supreme was introduced as a relatively inexpensive (around $400) alternative to the $1500+ restaurant models. We put it through its paces, and it performed well, though it was not without its problems.
After having used it for a couple years now, Its two major shortcomings have become even more apparent to me.
Firstly, it doesn't circulate the water. With no pump or turbine inside, it relies entirely on convection currents to keep the water inside moving around. This means that by definition, there are variations in temperature within the machine—variations that are exaggerated when you have many items in it at once.
Secondly, it's a pain in the butt to fill and empty. Getting water in and out of the machine requires you to unplug it and haul it over to the sink. Oftentimes I find myself thinking of cooking something in it, only to say "fuck it," when I remember that I have to drag it across the kitchen.
Enter the Nomiku. The idea is simple: a clip-on water heater with a built-in pump that heats and circulates water inside any pot, pan, or other vessel you'd like. With this nifty little guy, you can turn any pot in your kitchen into a sous-vide water bath. Heck, you could cook a steak in a flower pot or poach fish in a fish tank if you'd like.
It works on the same principle as the pricier Polyscience models that most restaurants use these days, but is priced at about 1/5th the price of the standard restaurant model (they are predicting a retail price of between $299 and $349).*
*Alex Talbot over at Ideas in Food just informed me that there's a $799 Polyscience model at Williams-Sonoma. I have not tested this one either, but given the compan's pedigree, I don't doubt it works as advertised
For now, only a single prototype of the product exists, so I wasn't able to get my hands on one to run it through its paces. According to the makers, however, it's been running successfully, able to maintain temperatures to within .1°C—more than precise enough for any cooking application.
I really dig the styling of the prototype, the seemingly easy-to-use controls, the large control face, and its versatility. Hopefully all of these features will hold up when they go into production.
Another immediate advantage I can think of: portability. This thing easily fits in a bag or backpack. I can imagine hauling it along on a weekend trip, or over to a friend's place for a dinner party.
The team that designed it is based out of California and is currently trying to get funding through a Kickstarter campaign to build the first home-ready models. Go check out their video and make a donation if you'd like to see this thing enter production (I sure would). I'll make sure to report back with more results if and when I actually get to test it out myself.
Meanwhile, you can always just use our beer-cooler sous-vide hack.
What do you think? Will making sous-vide cookery more convenient help bring it into home kitchens?
About the author: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is the Chief Creative Officer of Serious Eats where he likes to explore the science of home cooking in his weekly column The Food Lab. You can follow him at @thefoodlab on Twitter, or at The Food Lab on Facebook.