A few years ago, I was fortunate to build a strong culinary foundation in some pretty amazing kitchens from Chez Panisse in Berkeley to the Rome Sustainable Food Project in Rome, Italy. I learned the skills and techniques needed to become the passionate cook that I am today; things like how to blanch vegetables, roast meats, make fresh pastas and compose a beautiful salad. These and many other techniques became so deeply ingrained that recalling one at the sight of an ingredient became second nature: bright crisp snap peas, blanched, starchy and earthy potatoes, roasted low and slow, lean short ribs with big fat caps, braised for hours. Meals are like puzzles made up of ingredients and techniques and I love assembling them.
Feeling relatively comfortable with classic cooking, I wanted to explore new frontiers in food. That’s when I found out about the Anova Precision Cooker. The sous vide technique has been around for a few decades but to me, it was a foreign tool with a less than positive reputation and the equipment required was out of my price range. At about 180 bucks, the Anova is a steal compared to home built and commercial sous vide kits. So, I decided to try it out for myself.
My initial impression as a designer was, wow, awesome packaging. It comes in something that looks like a poster tube, black and yellow with the simple ANOVA text logo down the side. The tube slides open to reveal the top of the device which is a quite stunning angled display, shiny and dark.
Setting it up is as easy as attaching it the side of a container filled with water using the supplied clamp, plugging it in, setting a temp and pressing play. I first marveled at the sleek designed housing which encloses the complicated pumps and heating element that keep the water bath circulating at a constant temperature. It feels sturdy and safe, unlike other hacked together home sous vide kits. The whole set up took about 45 seconds. The assistant app is not available yet but it purports to help with cooking times and temperatures. I found a guide online and decided to try making chicken breasts because I had heard that they are one of the best protein examples that really shine when prepared using the sous vide method.
I set the temperature to 64.5 degrees celsius and pressed play. The pump whirred to life and a current of water began to swirl in the container. It took about 40 minutes to temp-up and in the meantime I took out my brined chicken breasts, drained them and allowed them to come up to room temperature. While the water was heating I used the bath to vacuum seal my chicken in a ziplock bag using a method I read about online. All the while the ANOVA was clicking up a few degrees each minute.
It notified me it had hit 64.5 degrees with a beep and I dropped in my sealed chicken. I set a timer for an hour and a half and walked away. Something in the design of the device imbued me with a sense of trust and confidence to believe that in just 90 minutes my chicken would be safely and perfectly cooked.
I busied myself preparing sides and some chicken sauce and when the timer went off, I removed the chicken and quickly seared it in a super hot cast iron pan. And it was the best chicken breast I have ever tasted. The texture was perfect, it was incredibly juicy and succulent.
I’ve since used the Anova Precision Cooker to make eggs and fresh tuna and both were amazing (pics below). For the price, I think the Anova is going to make a big splash in the home-cooking appliance market. In a group of products that normally cost 800 to 1000 dollars, this serves the same purpose for less than a quarter the price. It also enables amateur home cooks and people with almost no culinary experience to produce perfectly cooked dishes. I recently used the Anova to prepare 20 chicken breasts for a dinner party. I increased the cooking time slightly to about 110 minutes. It came out so well that all I could hear for about 5 minutes was the sound of people chewing and saying they had never tasted chicken like it before.
I have recently become very interested in food education. I’d love to spread my love for food and cooking to the masses. I believe Anova is the future of simplified home cooking and that it enables busy young professionals and parents to create delicious and healthy meals almost effortlessly. From physical construction to the interface it’s a fantastic device.
I’ve been inspired by many chairs over the last week or so and spent far too much time in my head and on paper sketching ideas. Last night I cut and assembled the chair I designed in six hours using 2 2x4x8’s and a 4 foot by 4 foot piece of 1/2″ plywood. Here is some process documentation and some photos of the final project. I was pleased with amount of time it took to cut and assemble but not so happy with the bulkiness and lack of personal expression in the piece. It was a great exercise in making a functional and comfortable chair, which I have never attempted or done before and I’m excited for the next 7 weeks to fully design and explore my next chair.