If you’ve watched an episode of Iron Chef or Chopped, you’ve seen someone using a sous vide immersion machine. Many times it’s a large rectangle-like device that holds water, and chefs vacuum seal a cut of meat and then place the meat in the water, usually at the beginning of the cooking time. This is called sous vide cooking, and I took on the challenge with the ANOVA Sous Vide Immersion Circulator.
What is sous vide cooking?
Sous vide cooking, according to ANOVA, is “a technique of cooking food at precisely controlled low temperatures inside a water bath while sealing the ingredients in an airtight bag. This process creates uniquely textured foods that are tender, moist, and unlike anything ever created in conventional kitchens. The low temperatures used in sous vide cooking help the ingredients retain full flavor with exceptional succulence.”
A few tips on cooking meat with this method:
- Sous vide cooking is a great way to prepare cheap cuts of meat, ones that have little fat and are not the most tender or desirable cuts. This method allows you to cook meat to a certain temperature without risk of overcooking the meat which would dry it out.
- Fat doesn’t have anywhere to go in the vacuum sealed bags, so eliminate extra fat (and don’t add butter) before you vacuum seal the meat.
- Sous vide cooking can help tenderize tough cuts of meat, especially gamey foods like deer and elk (soon on my list to sous vide!)
- Meat is best cooked to medium rare, but anywhere between 130 F and 160 F will cook your meat and will take at least 45 minutes to one hour to cook through completely, but with sous vide cooking the meat can stay in the water bath for hours as there is no risk of overcooking it.
- I referred to this great article from Serious Eats on Sous Vide 101: Prime Steak Primer, which references temperatures, times and other tips.
There is not a lot of information on the web about sous vide cooking in your own home. Machines can be expensive, bulky and intimidating to those who don’t know what the purpose of it is. That’s where ANOVA comes in.
How ANOVA works
ANOVA sent me their sous vide immersion circulator to try out so I could blog about my experience. For this brand, you need three pieces of equipment:
- The ANOVA sous vide immersion circulator
- A large stock pot for the circulator to sit on
- A Food Saver or similar vacuum seal machine (including plastic bags to seal)
I agree with the statement on their website that says “The Anova sous vide circulator is the first immersion circulator cooker designed for personal use, bringing the technique used by many high-end gourmet restaurants to one’s own home. Not only is the Anova sous vide circulator compatible with existing kitchen accessories, the small, vertical shape saves space, and can be stored effortlessly. This appliance can easily clamp on to any pot in the house, and is a necessary addition to any true foodie’s kitchen.”
There are five steps to cooking a steak with the ANOVA sous vide immersion circulator. I’m going to break down those five steps to help you see how easy it is to cook with ANOVA’s Sous Vide Immersion Circulator. I used two boneless angus eye round cuts, which are not very fatty and fairly cheap. They aren’t cuts I would normally pick up at the store – which makes them perfect for ANOVA.
Cooking Sous Vide
Step One – Preparing the meat for the vacuum sealer
If there is any fat that can easily be removed, do it. Season your meat with salt, pepper or your favorite steak seasonings. You can place aromatics in with the meat if you want, such as sage leaves, thyme or other dried herbs. I only used seasoning salt and pepper on these steaks.
Step Two – Vacuum seal the meat
Using your Food Saver or similar vacuum sealer, place the meat in the bag and seal it according to the machine’s directions. At first I attempted to put both steaks in one bag, but the sealer wasn’t sealing the meat properly. I then decided to use two bags, one for each steak, and they sealed perfectly.
Step Three – Set up the circulator
The ANOVA system is so simple. All you need to do is place the sous vide immersion circulator on the rim of your stock pot and screw it on until completely secured. Fill the pot with water just a little over the minimum line. Set the pot on a metal hot pad (or something you put hot pans on) and plug the machine in. You do not want to place it on your stove or any place where heat could destroy the surface.
Plug the circulator in. It will automatically turn on. Set the temperature, which is in Celcius, to the desired cooking temperature. For 130 degrees Fahrenheit, I cooked the steaks at 54.5 degrees Celcius (medium rare) for one hour.
Step Four – Cook the meat
Once the water has reached the desired temperature, place the sealed meat into the water and set the timer for one hour. Place aluminum foil over the top of the pot to reduce evaporation and reduction in temperature.
Set it and… never mind. I won’t go there.
Step Five – Sear or grill the meat
Remove the meat from the water bath and cut open the bag. SMELL the awesomeness. Heat an iron skillet or grill and sear the meat on high, only for a few minutes. Since the meat is already cooked, you don’t want to overcook it by leaving it in the pan or grill for too long. Once seared, place the meat on a plate and you are ready to eat!
These steaks were the most tender that I’ve ever had them, even more tender than better cuts of meat cooked traditionally in the oven or on the stove. I couldn’t believe it. In the long run, ANOVA can save you lots of money if you invest in the machine and buy cheap cuts of meat to use in it, knowing that you’re getting your money back on the final dinner plate.
All in all, the set-up of the machine was very easy to put together and use. It can be stored in the box it comes in and won’t take up as much counter space as the bulky all-in-one machines you can find at Williams-Sonoma. While I wasn’t sure what to expect, there was very little noise emitting from the machine (much much less than my ice cream maker) so I had no problem in letting it run for such a long time in my kitchen.