Can be controlled manually
App has recipes from top chefs
Reliable and effective
Easy to clean
Large and bulky
Slow to heat water
App can be buggy
Popularized by French chefs in the 1960s, sous vide, or “under vacuum” cooking, has been used in professional kitchens for decades. But the immersion circulation method is now increasingly accessible to home cooks thanks to less expensive, less bulky, stick-like models that can be inserted into stockpots and other large vessels. One such device is the Anova Culinary Sous Vide Precision Cooker.
As with all sous vide cookers, the Anova is meant to prepare meat and other foods sealed in bags or jars in a temperature-controlled water bath. And it’s certainly very popular, with over 60 million sold and partnerships with beloved chefs including J. Kenji López-Alt, author of the James Beard award-winning cookbook The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science.
We wanted to test out the San Francisco-based company’s product to see just how precisely it cooks proteins—and how user-friendly the technology is. Read on to see how we rated it on performance, design, and more.
Design: Big and bulky but easy to read
The appliance itself is a stainless steel and polycarbonate wand containing a heating element. Nearly 15 inches tall by 3 inches wide and weighing 2.5 pounds, the Anova isn’t huge, but it’s not small enough to stash in your average kitchen drawer, either. Competitors boasting smaller footprints include the Joule Sous Vide by ChefSteps or Anova’s own Nano model.
The Anova isn’t huge, but it’s not small enough to stash in your average kitchen drawer, either.
However, we like that the temperature displays clearly on an LED readout at the top of the appliance, a handy and comforting feature that sets it apart from the sleeker Joule. On that device, such information is only visible on the app.
If you prefer to not involve your smartphone in your food prep, you can even set the temperature via a dial on top of the machine and bypass using the app altogether.
We like that the temperature displays clearly on an LED readout at the top of the appliance.
Setup Process: Simple but sometimes buggy
To start cooking with our new sous vide machine, we first needed to download a free app, which can be found on the Apple App Store or Google Play Store. We then hooked up a smartphone to the cooker using Bluetooth. It’s fairly simple, but, as with most Bluetooth devices, we found the connection a bit buggy at times. There might be a learning curve for those who are less familiar with Bluetooth.
Once we were connected, we fired up the app and looked up the best way to cook our boneless ribeye steaks. For medium-rare steaks, the app recommends one hour at 129 degrees.
Using the built-in, adjustable clamp, we secured the Anova to the side of a pot filled with cool tap water, and then, via the app, instructed the gadget to start heating up the water for our steaks. After nearly 20 minutes, the water reached 129 degrees. We put each of our two steaks in a food-safe plastic storage bag and zipped the bags almost all the way closed, leaving about an inch open; we submerged the bag just below the seal line so that the water pushed the air out of the bag and then fully closed it.
Alternatively, you can use a vacuum sealer, but we found this water-sealing method pretty simple and easy to master. Those concerned with plastic waste or the idea of cooking food in plastic, even at low temperatures, can opt for reusable silicone bags. Anova sells one from the company Stasher on its website for $19.99.
Performance: A bit slow and clunky
Even though it’s a step up from the first-generation Anova’s 800 watts, this 900-watt second-generation device warms up water fairly slowly. It took nearly 20 minutes to heat a partially filled 8.5-quart stockpot to 130 degrees. By comparison, the 1,100-watt Joule we tested was able to accomplish the same task in less than 12 minutes. The company claims this device can cook meals for as many as 12 people in vessels as large as 32 liters (33.8 quarts), but if you’re making such a meal, just be aware that preheating will take a fair amount of time—and you’ll need a vessel far larger than your typical stockpot.
Our success with the app was mixed. We were initially able to hook up via Bluetooth, but on subsequent tests, we couldn’t get the cooker to connect with our phone and had to delete and reinstall the app to fix the issue—annoying. The app is supposed to send you push notifications throughout the preheating and cooking process, but that was sometimes unreliable.
The 900-watt device warms up water fairly slowly. It took nearly 20 minutes to heat a partially filled 8.5-quart stockpot to 130 degrees.
However, once we had connected to Bluetooth successfully and the water was hot, the Anova did well, maintaining the temperature and cooking a steak to medium-rare perfection. We had similar success on another night cooking pork chops. This is likely due to the 360-degree directional pump, which circulates 8 liters per minute, guaranteeing that consistent temperature is maintained.
With both dinners, just before serving we removed the proteins from the plastic bags and then seared them on the stovetop in a cast-iron pan over high heat. Such a final sear is typically recommended with sous vide cooking. If not, the texture tends to be a bit mushy and too uniform, in an unpleasant way.
We couldn’t get the cooker to connect with our phone and had to delete and reinstall the app to fix the issue—annoying.
Given how long and somewhat complicated the process is—there’s the preheating, the vacuum-sealing, the long cook time, and the need for a final sear—it’s unlikely that we’ll reach for the Anova for quick weeknight meals. But for dinner parties and special meals, we’d opt for this to impress our guests with perfectly cooked meats. And, with summer on the horizon, we look forward to upping our barbecue game by cooking meats sous vide style inside and then finishing them on the grill.
Features: Bluetooth- and Wi-Fi-enabled
The top-of-the-line model comes with both Bluetooth (for controlling the machine via smartphone or tablet in or quite near the kitchen) and Wi-Fi (for controlling the device from afar, wherever you have a Wi-Fi connection). This enables users to delay-cook, or leave a raw protein in a vacuum-sealed bag in an ice bath with the Anova and select “ice bath” on the app.
Once we had connected to Bluetooth successfully and the water was hot, the Anova did well.
When the temperature of the bath goes above 40 degrees, you get a push notification and can then instruct the Anova to start heating the water to melt the ice and cook dinner. Some users might find this feature useful, but figuring out the timing with ice melting, etc., made us just want to limit our sous vide cooking to times when we are actually home for the start of the cooking process.
The Wi-Fi did allow us to remain connected to the gadget when we were home and in a room other than the kitchen. We could also connect the Anova with Alexa.
The App: Packed with information
While connecting with the app was slightly challenging, once that was accomplished, we were pleased to find a lot of useful information on it. Nearly two dozen recipes are featured, from both culinary professionals like J. Kenji López-Alt and Emily Farris, as well as amateur cooks who are passionate about the appliance.
There’s also a great “Guides” section that includes instructions for cooking various cuts of meat, poultry, pork, fish, and lamb, as well as eggs. We loved the “My Recipes” section, which allowed us to save our own recipes and notes. And, while we had the technical issue with our Bluetooth connection, we noticed the app has been updated regularly for bug fixes; its version history in the Apple App Store suggests it is continually being developed.
Cleaning: Simple, partly dishwasher-friendly
Since the cooker is only immersed in water, it’s easy to clean. When needed, the stainless steel skirt and pump cover can be removed and washed in the dishwasher or sink. To clean the heating element and sensors, Anova recommends using a soft brush and mild dish soap. The top part of the appliance, including the display, should not be immersed or rinsed in water.
Price: Not cheap, but not the most expensive
With an MSRP of $159 for the Bluetooth+Wi-Fi model, Anova’s classic offering is one of the more expensive machines in its category. Still, it’s cheaper than the Joule, which goes for $179 or $199, depending on the finish.
If having Wi-Fi isn’t essential to you (and it may well not be for many home chefs), consider the Bluetooth-only model, which goes for $129 or Anova’s smaller version, the Nano, which is just $99 and also lacks Wi-Fi.
Competition: Other options are cheaper, smaller, or more powerful
Anova Precision Cooker Nano: In 2018, Anova started offering a slightly smaller version of its popular cooker. Weighing 1.6 pounds, the Nano is 12.8 inches tall and 2.2 inches in diameter, compared to the original, which measures 14.75 x 2.75 inches. It is, however, also less powerful—750 watts instead of 900—than the already slow-to-heat, full-size Anova.
Joule Sous Vide by ChefSteps: While the Joule Sous Vide by ChefSteps is more expensive than the Anova, it’s worth the extra spend in our opinion. We tested both cookers and can confirm that the Joule is more powerful—1,100 watts instead of 900—and heats up water significantly faster.
Another advantage is the compact size of the Joule; it packs all that power into a gadget that weighs just over a pound and measures 11 x 1.85 inches. Still, the fact that the Anova can be controlled manually on the appliance itself might be a big bonus for those who don’t want to always be bothered with an app and connecting to Bluetooth or Wi-Fi.
Instant Pot Accu SV800 Immersion Circulator: Instant Pot, the Canadian company that makes the electronic pressure cookers with a cult following, also sells a sous vide machine. The Accu SV800 Immersion Circulator typically retails for $79.99 and has a similar design to Anova’s offerings. At 800 watts, its slightly less powerful than the full-size Anova, and its dimensions and weight—12.9 x 4.6 inches and 1.65 pounds—are closer to Anova’s nano model.
- Product Name Sous Vide Precision Cooker
- Product Brand Anova Culinary
- Price $159.00
- Weight 2.5 lbs.
- Product Dimensions 14.8 x 2.8 x 2.8 in.
- Material Polycarbonate electronics encasement; stainless steel skirt; polycarbonate bottom cap
- Power 900 watts
- Warranty 2 years