Why Cook in Stages?
Why do most traditional recipes call for cooking at a single temperature for a set amount of time? This is a question that few of us stop to consider. Although it may be perfectly fine to bake brownies at 350F for 20 minutes, most foods benefit from dividing the cooking into stages.
If you’re already familiar with sous vide cooking, this strategy will be familiar: first cook your food to the core doneness you’re after using low heat; then sear the outside of the food using high heat. This avoids the inevitable compromise of single-stage cooking: telltale bands of gray surrounding the inside of a steak, dried out white meat poultry, or vegetables that are singed on the outside but still woody and undercooked on the inside.
The Anova Precision Oven makes staged cooking even more seamless as you can define cooking stages – and the transitions between them – when you build a recipe in the app. For each cooking stage you can define:
- Sous Vide Mode (on or off)
- Target Temperature
- Heating Element(s)
- Steam %
- Fan speed
- Timer or Probe Target temperature.
Multi-Stage Example: Prime Rib
Here’s an example of a staged cooking strategy for Prime Rib.
In the first cooking stage (Step 4 in this recipe), we cook with Sous Vide Mode on, low-and-slow, until the probe reaches the target temperature. This ensures that the meat is perfectly, evenly cooked from edge-to-edge. In this cooking stage, we’re using 100% steam to ensure even heat transfer, and to make sure the moisture and water-soluble flavor molecules in the meat stay put.
Then, once the prime rib is fully cooked on the inside, we transition to the second cooking stage (Step 8 in this recipe) to focus just on searing the outside. In this stage, Sous Vide Mode is off, as we’re cooking at very high temperature. Steam is also off, since adding steam to this cooking stage won’t help our goal of browning the meat. And, this stage uses a timer to let you know when searing is complete.
When creating your own multi-stage cook, you can define how one stage will transition to the next. Automatic transitions are useful when one cooking stage leads right into another without requiring intervention. For instance, in the Sourdough Boule recipe, we transition from a full-steam first stage automatically to a no-steam second stage based on a timer.
In other cases, a manual stage transition may be the best choice. For instance, when switching from a low-temperature cooking stage to a high-temperature searing stage, as in the prime rib example above, it’s best to remove your food from the oven until the second stage has preheated fully. The faster searing happens, the less time the heat has to encroach on the interior doneness of your food. So, waiting until the oven is rocket hot before searing will produce a better result than if the food gradually heated along with the oven.
Also, when switching from a high-humidity stage to a dry stage, it’s good practice to ask the user to open the door to vent out residual steam. Although the oven does use a controllable vent valve to modulate humidity, it is slow to vent excess moisture compared to opening the oven door for a moment.