After a month of researching sous vide appliances I purchased the Anova Sous Vide Immersion Circulator. I have been cooking with the Anova for three months now and have been very pleased. I have used the Anova to cook everything from poached eggs, steaks, and for Christmas, 25lbs of tri-tip. Each time the food came out perfectly as is the nature with sous vide.
For a brief background, sous vide (French for “under vacuum”) cooking is essentially cooking in a warm water bath for an extended period of time. Much like smoking or traditional barbecue the lower temperatures and longer cook times can produce delicious tender food. Foods do not need to be under vacuum; a re-sealable freezer bag with the air removed (air is a poor heat conductor) works quite well. Since the foods are contained inside the bag, no moisture is lost and all flavors remain in contact with the food. Additionally, some chefs will directly poach in fat, oil, or butter with their immersion circulator. When cooking sous vide the chef will set the final desired temperature while the device will hold the water at that point indefinitely. Over time the food will be cooked to that exact temperature throughout without ever going over. Unlike traditional methods where high heat is used for faster cooking times, the temperature is low and the foods can never over-cook. For more detailed information about sous vide I would recommend visiting this site or anything written by Dave Arnold.
The Anova is a circulating heating element combined with a PID (proportional-integral-derivative) controller. The PID constantly compares the set desired temperature compared to actual measured temperature and adjusts the heating element to account for any discrepancies. This allows the Anova to accurately hold a desired temperature to within ± 0.01°C in a range of 25°C to 99°C. The 1KW heating element is powered through 115-120 & 220-240 VAC. The impeller pump is capable of moving 12L per minute. The device measures 2.5″ wide by 15.5″ tall. It attaches to any vessel using a study rubber-tipped screw.
The device is controlled through a color touch-screen liquid crystal display, LCD. The user interface is simple and intuitive. The user need only set the desired temperature, set an optional timer for shutdown, and select “Start.” The screen will show the current temp, set temp, and run time. Like a crockpot or slow cooker the device is “set and forget.” The Anova has a low water sensor and will shut off automatically. Occasionally on longer and hotter cooks water may need to be added to the vessel to maintain adequate levels.
What separates the Anova from other similar devices is 1) its price, at $200 it is less expensive for the same specifications of its rivals. 2) the heating element guard is stainless steel and easily removable for very easy cleaning. 3) it features a directional nozzle for the impeller. 4) it is made by a medial laboratory device manufacturer with experience in the field.
Unlike the previously reviewed Sous Vide Supreme, an immersion circulator can be used an a variety of vessel sizes. For larger cooks I use a Cambro full-size gastronorm food pan which holds 27 qt. For smaller cooks I use my stock pot. It is also half the price and a fraction of the size. Similar devices are available, most notably from a rival medical equipment company PolyScience. The PolySci circulators are $300 more expensive than the Anova and have plastic heating element guards which must be removed using a screwdriver.
In summary, the Anova is a professional grade device which is simple to use, easy to clean, easy to store, powerful enough for even your largest cooks and reasonable priced (in the world of sous vide).