I love to cook when I’ve got the time, and few things are more trendy in the world of home cooking right now than sous vide. Sous vide cooking uses precisely controlled temperature as well as exclusion from air and water (for the most part) to ensure even and precise cooking at set temperatures for meats and vegetables, or sealed and controlled environments for infusions, extractions, etc. There’s a lot of great resources out there on sous vide in general; Serious Eats is my favorite—the writing is frequently science-driven as well as stomach-driven.
I’ve been wanting to start cooking sous vide for a while, but could never find
the patience to use the cooler method (pour hot water into a vessel designed to
retain heat, monitor with thermometer, cook proteins), and sous vide machines
like the Sous Vide Supreme are bulky and expensive. When a coworker pointed
me at Anova Culinary’s Precision Cooker (I had been looking at another of
Anova’s products), I was immediately sold. The Precision Cooker has a really
nice industrial design, and is priced to fly at $179 with free FedEx Ground
shipping (Anova also had a $25 off
SPRING25 coupon when I bought, but that
seems to have ended). I bought one Friday, March 27th, and had it in my hands on
Wednesday, April 1st.
So far, I’ve made two things: steaks (I’m an obligate carnivore), and limoncello (a lemon liqueuer, typically used as a digestif in Italy). For both uses, the Precision Cooker has served perfectly. I’ve used the water immersion method to seal my regular Ziploc double-seal freezer bags so far—I haven’t seen any issues with water leakage, and it’s a lot cheaper than a Foodsaver or similar hardware.
First, the steaks: some strip steak that I had bought, intending to pan sear it, then was too busy to cook and had to freeze. Even from frozen, the strips came out a lovely medium rare after ~1:30 of cooking at 134°F (the Precision Cooker set temp, my IR thermometer agreed) and retained most of that texture after a sear (even though I seared them a bit too long).
The limoncello however was where the method really shined. After about 30 minutes peeling lemons (you would not believe how much harder this is than it sounds—limoncello requires that the peeled zests not contain any of the white pith, which is bitter on extraction), I popped the zests and a quart of Tito’s vodka into the bath, which was set at 135°F and let them sit for two hours.
Now, I’ve made limoncello before the traditional way, and it took about a week sitting in a 4L carboy. The end result from the 2h infusion in the water bath smelled and tasted exactly the same. Combining with 1 quart simple syrup (made with caster sugar instead of table sugar) has produced a perfect drink, slightly cloudy with just the right amount of lemony sweetness.
Cutting the production time of something like limoncello from 1 week to 3 hours is just incredible, and probably the best advertisement for the Precision Cooker (and sous vide in general) for me. In the meantime, my friends can expect homemade limoncello (or perhaps other infusions) as a gift, as soon as I can buy some more appropriate bottles. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to make some lemon curd.