Thursday, June 25, 2015

Review: Anova Precision Immersion Circulator

When Amazon offered the older version of the Anova Immersion Circulator for $100, I jumped on it. The latest version (which is not the one I'm reviewing) cost $180, and has bluetooth and app integration. As someone who's been doing sous vide for a while, I consider those apps superfluous and was happy to save the money.

The first thing I noticed was how huge the circulator was. You definitely need a fairly tall pot (at least 6" deep, and probably not much more than 12" deep), and it's substantial in weight, though obviously takes up much less room than my Sous Vide Supreme Demi.

Using it is fairly easy: you fill a pot with water (keeping it between the min and max line), clip in the clamp, touch the screen to turn on (not at all obvious at first), set the temperature, push the start button, and go! It's noisy enough if you've got nothing else in the kitchen turned on, but if you're doing even a little stir fry or the dish washer is on, you're not going to hear it. That said, it is quite a bit noiser than the Sous Vide Supreme Demi.

It heats up very quickly (much faster than the Demi, not surprising given the 1000W spec), but is also much less power efficient: there's a motor turned on all the time circulating the water, and because no pot you have is going to have a lid that's compatible with the immersion circulator, heat escapes from the top (as well as the sides, since most pots are conductive), and so the machine has to work quite a bit harder than the Demi.

That last bit is important, because it also means that it's not quite unattended operation the way the Demi is. Because water will evaporate from the pot, you have to drop by every so often to top off the water if you have a long running recipe (e.g, 72 hour short ribs, or 24 hour duck confit).  And because there's a motor running, if you stick creme brulee in bowls and dump it into the pot, the bowls will move around and clink clink all the time, which is actually quite noisy.

Because we live in a hard water area, I find myself being obsessive about scaling on the device. Since there's a motor in the device, you don't want scaling to get so bad that it impacts the performance of the motor. I do my darnedest to wipe off all the water before putting it away, and never let it air dry.

The advantages are: it scales much better than the Demi (you can always buy a bigger pot, or a huge laboratory tank if you're going to make food for 20-30 people), and it's significantly more portable, even in its factory packaging with foam and everything. Furthermore, the temperature is significantly better than the Demi's since the circulator maintains a nice even temperature while the Demi depends on convection. In practice, however, you're unlikely to notice the difference in food produced by either!

Regardless, I found it great having 2 sous vide devices available in the kitchen: you can now prep Duck Confit one day and have steak for dinner still, or prepare both chicken and steak for one meal. I'm also much more likely to bring the device along on trips (though unfortunately it's only rated for US voltages!).

If price is a non-issue, and you can only have one device, I'd still recommend the Sous Vide Supreme Demi as the one to get. But given the price difference between the two, I'd recommend the Anova Circulator (at almost 50% the price even at full Amazon pricing) unless you have a severe objection to noise in the kitchen for long recipes. And compared to the DIY devices I've tried, it's no contest: the time savings are well worth the price, especially if you're able to (as I did) find it at a discount to the retail price.

 Please see my Modernist Cuisine post for recommendations for other essential tools to accompany the immersion circulator.
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