Sous Vide Mode
The Anova Precision™ Oven allows you to cook in Sous Vide Mode. If the term “sous vide” is new for you, that’s okay — you’ve come to the right place.
What is Sous Vide? (#FoodNerds: Skip Ahead)
Most traditional cooking uses a very hot environment, such as an oven, a grill, or a skillet, to heat your food. It’s your responsibility, as the cook, to remove your food from the heat at exactly the right moment so the inside reaches the perfect doneness. Sous vide, on the other hand, is a cooking technique that uses precise temperature control to produce edge-to-edge-perfect results.
This technique has been around for decades, and it is used in the best kitchens all around the globe. Traditionally, sous vide cooking uses a water bath, with temperature controlled by devices such as the The Anova Precision® Cooker, as the cooking environment. The Precision® Cooker maintains the precise cooking temperature you set, and you seal your food in a bag before cooking so it doesn’t get waterlogged. You can read more here.
But there’s another way!
What is Sous Vide Mode in the Anova Precision™ Oven?
Sous Vide Mode lets you to cook in the style of sous vide in the Anova Precision™ Oven. You can use the same cooking times and temperatures as you would when cooking sous vide, except you no longer need to seal your food in a bag or heat up a water bath. Yeah, you read that right — bagless sous vide!
The Oven will maintain the cooking temperature you set very precisely. But unlike cooking in a water bath, you’ve got some new options for your sous vide strategy.
How to Use Sous Vide Mode
From the Oven handle, you can activate or deactivate Sous Vide Mode by touching the Temperature Mode button. When Sous Vide Mode is active, you’ll see the corresponding label light up beside it.
Using the Anova Oven App, you can toggle Sous Vide Mode on or off when setting a cooking stage.
When Sous Vide Mode is on, the maximum temperature you may set is 212°F (100°C). When Sous Vide Mode is off, you can set a temperature up to 482°F (250°C).
Sous Vide Mode also changes the behind-the-scenes behavior of steam generation, as explained here.
What Makes Sous Vide Mode Different?
Traditional ovens aren’t capable of sous vide cooking for two reasons. First is temperature stability. Very precise temperature control is the cornerstone of sous vide cooking. And, as you may already know, your traditional oven is not great at maintaining a stable cooking temperature. Moreover, the temperatures used in sous vide cooking are low: typically 122°F (50°C) to 212°F (100°C). Most home ovens aren’t designed to run at such low temperatures.
Second, even if your oven allowed you to set a low temperature, in the sous vide range, you’d still have a problem. Traditional ovens only measure dry bulb temperature — the temperature of the air — but your food cooks according to the wet bulb temperature. Wet bulb refers to the temperature that foods actually experience in the oven, though it’s new terminology to almost all cooks. Here’s why it matters so much.
Food contains a large amount of water. As food heats up in an oven, some of that water evaporates off the surface, carrying heat away with it. This evaporative cooling effect means that the surface temperature of wet foods will be cooler than the dry bulb temperature of the air around the food.
Wet Bulb = Dry Bulb minus Evaporative Cooling
So, if you set your traditional oven to a sous vide cooking temperature, the actual temperature that your food experiences would always be lower. And that’s why you can’t cook sous vide in a typical home oven.
So how is the Anova Precision™ Oven different? It measures the wet bulb temperature directly. In the back-right corner of the Oven, there’s a very small water reservoir with a temperature sensor suspended within it. This is the Oven’s wet bulb sensor, and it’s the key to Sous Vide Mode. As the Oven heats up, water evaporates from that reservoir just as it evaporates from the surface of your food. The corresponding temperature that the sensor measures is the exact same temperature your food experiences! (Of course, the Oven automatically replenishes the water in the wet bulb reservoir so it doesn’t run dry.)
The amount of evaporative cooling that happens during cooking depends on the dry bulb temperature and the amount of humidity in the oven. But the Anova Precision Oven’s wet bulb sensor accounts for both of those factors, which opens up a world of possibilities not available in traditional water bath sous vide.
Wet vs. Dry Sous Vide
Traditional sous vide cooking always takes place at 100% relative humidity. In the sealed environment of a sous vide bag (or a silicone bag or glass jar), the water from your food begins to evaporate as it starts heating. Before long, the tiny amount of air in the bag is saturated with moisture — it reaches 100% relative humidity. It’s not the water in the water bath that makes sous vide cooking “wet,” it’s the water vapor inside the bag with your food.
In the Anova Precision™ Oven, you can replicate that environment by turning on Sous Vide Mode and setting the steam to 100%. The Oven will maintain whatever cooking temperature you set and raise the relative humidity inside the oven to 100%.
For plenty of food, cooking in a wet sous vide environment is just fine. Meats and vegetables turn out great, and if you want to sear them after cooking, you can pat them dry before finishing over high heat. But for some foods, particularly foods with skin, the wet sous vide environment is not ideal. Perhaps you’ve experienced the rubbery skin produced by cooking poultry in a sous vide bag, for instance. Once waterlogged, it’s an uphill battle to get that skin crispy.
In the Anova Precision™ Oven you can cook sous vide without adding humidity. That’s right — you can use Sous Vide Mode with 0% steam. The food will still experience the correct cooking temperature, but the oven won’t generate any steam to saturate the air. This means that the surface of your food will stay dry during the cooking process, allowing for better crisping in a subsequent, high-heat cooking stage.
Sous Vide Express
Sous vide produces great results, but sometimes you want to trade absolute perfection for an increase in cooking speed. Using the Anova Precision™ Oven’s Sous Vide Mode, combined with the included Food Probe, you’ve got options.
In sous vide land, your steak is fully cooked when the middle of the thickest part reaches your desired doneness temperature, say 131°F (55°C). But when your food is sealed in a bag, it’s impractical to measure the core temperature of your foods directly — poking a hole through the bag to insert a probe thermometer requires fancy foam tape and is hardly worth the hassle. Instead, sous vide cooking tends to happen via the equilibrium method, where you set the water bath to the desired doneness temperature and wait out the cooking time prescribed by reference tables. This guarantees your food won’t overcook, but it does require waiting a long time for its core temperature to equilibrate.
But in the Anova Precision™ Oven, where you no longer need to bag your food, that all changes. With the included Food Probe, you can directly monitor your food’s core temperature. That means that you’re free to adjust the ambient cooking temperature higher to speed up cooking, but without adding guesswork to the equation.
As you might imagine, there’s a bit of a tradeoff here. The closer your cooking temperature is to your doneness temperature, the more gently your food cooks and the more uniform the temperature will be from edge to edge. Envision an extreme case: a thick roast cooked under a hot broiler. It will cook quickly. But if you were to cut into that roast, you’d notice a gradient of doneness from rare in the center to gray and overcooked at the edge.
So if you want to speed up cooking, consider setting a cooking temperature just slightly above the target doneness you’re after. For example, if you’re cooking a 1-thick steak to 131°F (55°C) with an oven temperature of 133°F (56°C), it’ll take about an hour to cook. But, if you bump the oven temperature to 150°F (66°C), the cooking time drops by half! And, that’s still a very gentle cooking temperature compared to traditional methods like a grill, skillet, or broiler.
The exact time savings will depend on the thickness of the food, the target doneness you’re after, and by how much you bump up the cooking temperature. However, since you are able to monitor the core temperature of the food live, thanks to the probe, you’ll always know where you’re at relative to your target.