Exciting news in the world of home sous-vide cooking: Anova Culinary has just announced the launch of the Anova Precision Cooker, the first major upgrade to the sous-vide circulator they introduced last year. I visited their studio in San Francisco last week to get an exclusive look at the product, whose Kickstarter fundraising phase is starting today. I played around with it and chatted with its designer Jeff Wu for a few hours, and man, was I impressed.
I can confidently say that when it comes out in September, this will be the best, most cost-effective consumer-grade sous-vide solution on the market.
You may remember when I tested the original model against its closest competitors back in December. It was a favorite even then, with the sturdiest build, the tightest clamp, the best impeller features, the easiest-to-clean components, and perfectly accurate temperature controllers, all built by the company with the longest track record for building precision, long-lasting tools (Anova was well known as one of the two biggest suppliers of lab-grade equipment before launching their consumer-level culinary division).
The new Precision Cooker* puts all of that performance into a smaller, sleeker package, addresses the few issues I had with the first model, and adds some awesome new features (hello Bluetooth control and open-source software!), all at a lower price point.
The first 1,000 will get theirs for $99 ($99 UNITS SOLD OUT), the following 1,000 Kickstarter backers will get it for $129, and the remaining backers will get it for $159 (the final retail price will be $169).
UPDATE: Anova has added 500 units each at $135, $139, $145, and $149 price points. They are also offering a "Hacker Special" at $229 which includes a prototype unit shipped in August along with a software development kick, in addition to a finalized unit shipped upon completion (that's two complete units).
The final retail price is a full $30 below their original model's (and the closest comparable competitor) pricing. And as a Serious Eats reader, you've got the story and access here before anywhere else!
*As the new model has been dubbed—I like it, it's a much more consumer-friendly nomenclature than "sous vide cooker" or "water bath controller" or "isothermal circulator.
There was a time when sous-vide cooking was limited to fancy restaurants and large food service operations. That time is past, as precision cooking has moved well into the realm of the home cook, both in terms of pricing, and in terms of increased understanding of how it works, along with plenty of recipes freely available online. With this new Anova cooker, there are really no excuses. It's cheaper than an all-clad skillet, and built to last.
For the record: I'm a strong proponent of modular circulators. That is, the type that you clip to the side of a pot or a cooler. They're smaller, easier to clean and fill, more cost effective, and far more versatile than fixed volume all-in-one units.
Here's a quick look at some of the upgrades on the new Anova precision cooker.
The old Anova model featured a touchscreen interface that required a few button presses to turn on and off, and frankly, was more complicated than it needed to be. The new model takes the iPhone approach with streamlined, intuitive controls. It now features two buttons—a power button and a timer button—along with a mouse-style scroll wheel for making adjustments.
The LED display is bright and large, and—a key improvement over the previous model—stays lit all the time, allowing you to quickly glance at the unit from across the room to see what temperature you've set it at, and the current water temperature.
Programmable Bluetooth Control
While the streamlined physical interface is great, you may be wondering why they decided to remove the touchscreen and the programming potential it offered. Well, they very wisely realized that practically everybody has a fully functional, networked touchscreen controller in their pockets at all times: their smart phone.
That's right, the new cooker will be fully controllable from your smart phone.
One of the big issues with bringing sous-vide cooking to the general public has been one of education: people simply aren't used to cooking at sous-vide temperatures and times, and thus have no intuitive sense of the process. You wouldn't believe the number of emails and tweets I get asking what temperature and time guidelines to follow for cooking a chicken breast or a fish filet.
By building apps for your phone with all of these temperature and time settings already in place, those worries will be a thing of the past.
It's going to come bundled with an app that has presets for dozens of common foods—chicken breasts, salmon filets, or short ribs, for instance. All you have to do is bag the food you're cooking, drop it into the cooker, hit go on your phone, and the temperature and time will be automatically set for optimal end results.
Of course, this programmability also means that you'll be able to hold cooked food automatically. Say you drop in those chicken breasts to cook at 145°F for one hour. You can then program your Anova to drop the temperature down to 130°F and hold them there; It's a temperature that is hot enough to eat (and to prevent any bacterial spoilage), but cool enough to prevent further cooking. That chicken is ready to serve when you're ready to eat.
Anova is very wisely making the source code open source, which means that where this connectivity is really going to shine is with the custom apps that will undoubtedly be built for it, allowing you to share and follow recipes.
Imagine this: You see me rave and post a photo about a fantastic pork chop that I cooked in my precision cooker last night? Well now you'll be able to cook that exact same pork chop at home at the push of a button.
Is this the future yet? I think this is the future.
New Adjustable Clamp = No Minimum Water Height
Anyone who's tried cooking sous vide at home knows that one of the most annoying issues is that you have to use a fairly large pot with a fairly large volume of water, even if you're just cooking for one or two. The issue is that circulators have a minimum pot height and a minimum water height that is usually pretty high. In the case of the previous Anova model, your pot had to be at least 7 inches high, and the water had to be filled to at least three inches. This was pretty great by industry standards.
The new model does it one better with a clamp that not only tightens as securely as the previous one (you can flip your pot entirely upside down and the Anova will stay clamped in place), but is now fully adjustable in height, allowing you to use your precision cooker in any pot you have.
Not only that, but because the water intake and output has been redesigned, it will now work with just 2 1/2 inches of water (with the potential to be lowered before the release in September).
The all-metal base of the unit has also been replaced with a transparent polycarbonate cover which you can twist to adjust the direction of the water flow, making it easier to see just where your water is going. As with the previous model, this one operates nearly silently.
The Tech Specs
Wanna get real nerdy? Here are some of the other vital stats. The older model used a 1,000W heater to heat water, while this one has been downsized to an 800W heater. But better programming in its fuzzy logic means that it heats almost as quickly to a set temp as the older model. I timed it heating 1.5 gallons (5.5 liters) of water from a 77°F (25°C) tap to ready-to-cook 140°F (60°C) in just over 16 minutes. That ain't bad!
Its smaller heater also means that its maximum capacity has been reduced slightly from 22 liters to 19 liters (this can be improved with insulated containers like a cooler), while the pump pushes around 8 liters per minute for up to 99 hours at a go.
It's got total dimensions of 2.75- by 2.75- by 14.75-inches, weighing in at 2 1/2 pounds, making it a truly portable device (yeah, this is gonna go in my travel bag for weekend trips when it comes out).
It's been a curious and exciting journey watching home sous-vide cookers come out and evolve over the past few years, and frankly, it's all happened far faster than I ever anticipated. For a while, it wasn't obvious to me who would be the first to crack the home cooking code, but with this new model, with all its features and low price, Anova is pretty squarely in the lead. I predict a lot of these units under the tree this holiday season.
How to Order
Like I said, we managed to score an exclusive first look at this thing, which means that you, as Serious East readers, get first crack at nabbing one of the early pricing units. That's $99 for the first 1,000 orders, and $129 for the next 1,000 after that before it bumps up to the final retail price of $169! Orders are being taken through their Kickstarter campaign (free shipping is included with all orders) and shipping is expected some time in September.