Cooking with an Anova sous-vide immersion circulator


It took me a few tries to get the hang of cooking with an Anova sous-vide immersion circulator, but now I love it.


Here's how you cook something sous vide (under vacuum) style - put meat or vegetables (along with spices and fat) into a plastic bag with the air removed, and submerse it in a controlled temperature water bath for a couple of hours of more. Remove the food and sear it in a pan or with a torch. Sous vide cooks food gently and evenly all the way through. I made pork tenderloin using this Nom Nom Paleo recipe and it was incredibly tender.

My 12-year-old enjoys searing meat with a brème brûlée torch

My 12-year-old enjoys searing meat with a crème brûlée torch

The Anova has a Bluetooth radio. You can sync it to an iPhone, call up a recipe, and press a button on the app to start a temperature cycle. But I usually just use the buttons on the Anova device itself to set the temperature. When I make the pork tenderloin, I set the temperature to 135F and let it run for about 5 or 6 hours (the Nom Nom recipe calls for a minimum of 2 hours). I have learned that it's better to cook something for at least 3 or 4 hours. That way, the food is completely cooked, yet it is still tender.

I'd love to hear your favorite sous vide recipes and tips in the comments.

Learn more about Anova's precision cookers at their website.

Notable Replies

  1. I absolutely love mine. I often find searing with a torch to be slow, difficult, and lead to burned spots so I tend to stick to a ripping hot cast iron pan or charcoal grill.

    Part of the issue is I don't really have a decent torch. Mine doesn't like to burn properly when inverted. And those little creme brulee torches are even worse. They're difficult to keep burning, don't burn hot enough, and crazy crazy directional. And you have to get them REALLY close to have any effect They're basically cigar lighters with a slightly different form factor. And don't work particularly well for creme brulee in particular. These: are the 2 standard models used by most people amatuer and professional.

    I intend to pick one up at some point, when they turn up on sale. And maybe a Searzall but that thing is pretty pricey, especially when you combine it with a proper torch.

  2. Another tip for Sous-vide, it's the best way to reheat meat. Yes, a lot slower than a microwave, but if you've ever had re-heated meat via microwave, we all know how "great" that is. Sous vide is the way to go, you'll get it back to the actual temp perfectly.

  3. Provided you get your pan hot enough there should be little difference in practice. But there's more chance of over cooking, and you can get a wider band of overcooked/seared meat at the surface. But things cooked with a torch tend to get what they call "torch taste", its a chemically odor and faint taste that results from cooking with a high temperature blast of burning propane. So its kind of a wash. Also searing large dishes with a torch can take so long that the meat actually gets cold. The heat doesn't penetrate very far (a benefit if you want to avoid over cooking the center)

    I find when searing in a pan I need at most 5 degrees of space to fudge it. So you'd cook to 130f to end at 135f. But when you do that you can end up losing that edge to edge no temperature gradient thing. Mostly its unnecessary if you get your pan hot enough, I mean you want that thing dangerously hot. This is especially true if you cool the meat before searing, it should just reheat through the center while you sear. Provided you don't take too long.

  4. I've been cooking with an Anova since I got one for Xmas, and I've had some mixed results; sometimes the food ends up a little on the rubbery side, sometimes it's the best I've ever had. Pork seems to be one that I have had the most problems with, partly I think because most of the guides cook at a higher temperature than I would suggest. I've found the Modernist cookbook the best so far in terms of recipes and temps, though I still go a little lower than they do.

    I think the biggest revaluation for me has been how sous vide and grilling work together; chicken drumsticks and thighs, burgers, and even brats are best sous vide first, then grilled. Burgers have a much softer texture and better flavor, and with chicken there is no danger of having undercooked meat while overcharring the outside. Especially for larger BBQ parties, it's an amazing time-saver that guarantees good results.

    Just make sure you follow safe practices when it comes to preventing bacteria;

    Oh and I agree with @Ryuthrowsstuff about using it to defrost - I hate defrosting in a microwave because it inevitably pre-cooks some of the meat. I tend to set the temp at around 110 for defrosting. Of course, if you prepare your meat before freezing, then you don't really even need to defrost, just add defrost time to cooking time and it's freezer-to-plate!

  5. My point was that if you get the pan hot enough there's little difference between the torch and the pan, you only have to fudge on temperatures if your searing surface is cold enough that the meat has to stay in contact for a significant amount of time. But:

    If your cook time is less than a few hours you don't have to worry about time frames for pasteurization. Bacteria won't have time to multiply enough to harm you. And IIRC correctly below 130ish you won't practically be able to pasteurize anyway. I accidentally did 12 hours at 125f once, forgot to reset my temp, at that setting your basically producing chemical weapons. A big inflated bag of stank ass botulism.

    There are charts available online, and I tend to check them for longer cooks. Otherwise its pretty intuitive. Stay above 130 for long cooks, keep low temp cooks below 4 hours. Chill food in an ice bath if you plan to store it for more than 12 hours. But for something like a steak at 125, it takes an hour or less so you're well within the realm of safe time frames.

    In terms of texture once you hit a temperature, say 135f you get the texture/doneness associated with that temperature, regardless of how short the stay is. A lower temperature needs to be held at a longer time frame if your going to pasteurize it. Which you need to do if you plan to cool the item, and store it for longer than a few hours to maybe a day. Or if your cooking for a long time (to avoid bag of death situations). Holding things at temp to tenderize them is something else entirely. Its the same process that happens with brazing and stewing. Connective tissue breaks down into gelatin, lubricating the meat and tenderizing it. But at lower temperatures it takes exponentially longer. So its not going to have much effect on the steaks your cooking in an hour or so, there isn't nearly enough time for it to have an effect. You're talking about 8+ hours to get noticeable results. I tend to stick to 12-24. Those 72 hour recipes tend to wind up mushy and dog food like. The longer time frames are unsafe (bag of death) at temps as low as 125.

    When searing it takes time for that heat to get from the surface to the interior of the meat. So if you did cook to 125 and sear to 135, you'd have 135 texture at the center of the steak, same as if you cooked to 135. If you long cooked for tenderization, then that break down of collagen already happened and you can't really un-do it by searing longer. But you'd have a gradient from seared through well done, medium and eventually 135 at the center. Just like if you'd cooked it the regular way, defeating the whole purpose. Though the gradient may be tighter, and the properly cooked bit bigger. Sous vide with short cook times is about accurately cooking without over cooking, and edge to edge consistency. 5 degrees of space can be helpful if you have a week stove, or you're searing over a propane grill, 10 is too much. Otherwise if you get whatever your searing with hot enough, and don't leave the meat on it too long, you should get the same exact results as the torch. If not better. And often times its a lot quicker. Same with tossing larger roasts and longer cooked meats into a 500f oven to sear after cooking. So long as you do it fast enough, the results are the same no matter how you sear, but 5 degrees gives you a slight cushion.

    @waetherman I've never had issue with rubbery meats from sous vide. But some people complain that if you season your meat before bagging it it comes out kind of cured, not noticed this myself. But also a lot of pork and chicken these days is "enhanced" its basically pre-brined/cured with salt solution to keep it moist. That stuff is always kind of rubbery.

    I tend to pre-bag and cook my steaks from frozen, it makes it such a convenient thing to cook. I don't know why more people don't stress the convenience factor. A good portion of what I use mine for has nothing to do with getting result only sous vide can provide. Its just a much more convenient, low effort way to get the same results you'd get otherwise. I've been doing chicken wings a lot. Season with salt pepper and MSG (TASTY!) and cook at ~145 for a few hours or so. Chill, then reheat/roast at 500f in the oven till crispy. Closest I've come to properly fried wings, and much easier than double frying multiple batches of wings.

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