Sizzle and Sear's Overall Rating for the Anova Precision Oven
Is the Anova Precision Oven worth it? It’s much more than a steam oven. This first-to-market countertop combi oven for home cooks is not perfect, but it’s far better than any of the alternatives—making it the best countertop oven I’ve ever used.
Last month, Anova, popular for manufacturing sous vide immersion circulators, released its precision oven. Anova describes their oven as “the first combi-oven with pro-level features for the home cook.” Anyone who is familiar with combi-ovens know that if this claim is true, the oven is well worth the $599 USD Anova is asking for it; in fact, it may well be the best countertop oven on the market.
I ordered an Anova Precision Oven in order to test the manufacturer’s claims. I’ve been using the precision oven for about a month now; I’ve cooked a variety of foods in it, and I’m ready to share my experience with it.
What is a Combi Oven?
A combi-oven is a versatile oven that can do everything a conventional or convection oven can do; plus it can steam, control the relative humidity of the cooking chamber, sous vide, and maintain temperatures accurately and precisely. These ovens are mostly found in professional kitchens and cost thousands of dollars.
Combi ovens inject and precisely control moisture in their cooking chambers through steam. They allow you to set the relative humidity of the cooking chamber, which helps controls the wet-bulb temperature (the actual temperature your food is experiencing in the oven). As a result, combi-ovens allow for incredible temperature control, which lets you do cool things, like “sous vide without a bag”. If you prefer to use a bag to trap in volatile aromatics (e.g. fresh oregano or thyme), there is nothing stopping you from using vacuum sealed bag and sous viding the “traditional” way in this oven.
Comparing the Anova Precision Oven to other Steam and Non-Steam Counter Top Ovens
Several years ago, after reading Modernist Cuisine at Home, which dedicates two pages to combi-ovens, I wanted to experiment with this method of cooking and baking. However, there were no countertop combi ovens on the market, and if I wanted to replace my conventional oven with a combi-oven, it would end up costing me tens of thousands of dollars. When Cuisinart released its combo steam and convection oven , I purchased it as a way to experiment with steam cooking. For just a few hundred dollars, I didn’t think I had much to lose; plus, I didn’t own a countertop oven at the time, and I knew I could put it to use even if it wasn’t a true combi-oven.
The Cuisinart is fine for foods where you want to cook with a little bit of steam, but it has some serious limitations. First of all, the size of the water reservoir is significantly smaller than the Anova Precision Oven’s water reservoir. For most everyday tasks, the Cuisinart’s water tank is enough, but if you want to slow cook ribs for 8 hours, you’ll find yourself wanting to replenish the water in the tank often. Furthermore, you have to remove the Cuisinart’s water tank if you want to add more water, while the Anova Precision Oven allows you to add water from the top without removing the tank during a long cook.
Another downside of the Cuisinart combo steam and convection oven is that it can only be controlled in increments of 10 degrees Fahrenheit, and like most other ovens, the user interface will read out the set temperature instead of the actual temperature. This contrasts with the Anova Precision Oven, which allows you to control the temperature to a fraction of a degree using its app (1 degree increments using the physical interface) and the oven will read out the actual temperature inside, not just the set temperature.
Anova promises an accuracy of +/- 0.5°F when in sous vide mode (+/- 6°F at high temperatures outside of sous vide mode); my testing has shown that this is achieved after the oven stabilizes at its set temperature, with very little overshoot before stabilizing. This gives you the confidence to sous vide at lower temperatures without worrying about entering the danger zone, where microbes multiply and grow, or overcooking your meal due to frequent and significant temperature swings and overshooting. And I haven’t even mentioned the food temperature probe that comes with the Anova that allows you to monitor the temperature of your foods and to program cook stages that change when certain temperatures are reached.
Lastly, the Cuisinart steam oven is much smaller than the Anova Precision Oven; while this may be a benefit for small kitchens, you are seriously limited in the types of foods you can cook in the Cuisinart steam oven where you have a lot of freedom with the Anova Precision Oven.
I’d like to also compare the Anova Precision Oven to one more popular counter top oven. A few years ago, I was living in a basement suite when I had to relocate to a new province in my first year of teaching. The basement suite had a small kitchenette. My Cuisinart steam oven did an okay job, but I wanted to upgrade to a bigger oven in order to have a more versatility for my cooking. I settled on the Breville Smart Oven Air with super convection , which is an all around great oven, but it of course is missing the ability to inject steam into the oven chamber and to precisely control and monitor its temperature. I thought the Breville Smart Oven Air was a huge oven, but then I got the Anova Precision Oven, and it ain’t no toaster oven. The cavity of the two ovens have roughly the same width and depth (the Breville has a small grove in the back to fit a 13-inch pizza pan; while the Anova does not) , but the Anova Precision Oven has significantly more height. When I first purchased the Breville, I had to get a new knob for my 7 1/4 Quart Le Creuset Dutch (French) Oven, in order to squeeze it in the oven. As you can see from the picture below, I can easily fit the Le Creuset into the oven with the original knob with lots of space to spare! With the precise low temperature control of the Anova, I essentially have a precision slow cooker!
Cooking with the Anova Precision Oven
So far I’ve cooked lots in the Anova oven and have been pleasantly surprised with the results. I’ve roasted chicken and potatoes, steamed Brussels sprouts and salmon, and steam broiled a whole head of cauliflower in the oven.
I made a whole chicken by following the recipe contained in the Anova iPhone app (also available on Android). The recipe calls for a spatchcocked chicken to be dry cooked (0% humidity) on a perforated pan for 2 hours at 149°F until the core of the chicken is 145°F . The chicken is then removed from the oven, while the oven is heated at its highest setting and fans are set to their highest speeds. The chicken is quickly crisped and then rested before serving.
I was disappointed that the oven did not come with a perforated pan, despite it being featured heavily in many of the videos that were used to promote the oven; however, I found my 12-inch x 17-inch cooling rack slid perfectly into the slots of the oven. The chicken was cooked directly on the cooling rack, with a pan on the bottom of the oven to catch any dripping grease.
A chicken cooked for 2 hours at 149°F until the core of the chicken is precisely 145°F; finished in the Anova Precision Oven at high heat and high fan speed
I was a bit alarmed when I saw the low temperature; I had never cooked a chicken at such a low temperature in an oven! But I knew from my experience sous viding that this was well within the pasteurization zone; the only question was whether or not the final high-heat stage would be enough to make the chicken palatable.
I’ve got to say I’ve never seen a chicken hold onto so many of its juices! When I first removed the chicken from the oven, I noticed the skin was crispy and bulging in areas, and I could literally squish around the liquids underneath the bubbles in the skin. Lots came pouring out as I carved the bird, and they were all running clear.
The chicken was cooked perfectly, and it was the juiciest i’ve ever had. I’m not 100% sure if I prefer this roasted chicken over a traditional roasted chicken, but I don’t think it’s fair to compare. They really are two completely different dishes, and I can see myself wanting either one depending on my cravings.
Quick Steamed and Buttered Brussels Sprouts
As a side to the chicken, I steamed some Brussels sprouts from the garden for 10 minutes at 212°F with 100% humidity. Before placing the Brussels sprouts into the oven, I threw in two knobs of butter, salt, and pepper inside the pan. This was an easy to prepare side dish that cooked while the chicken was resting.
This recipe also came from the Anova app. Following the directions in the app, the recipe took a long time to get up to temperature; in fact, it never got up to temperature. However, this is because of an error in the recipe. The recipe had the oven set at 130°F (100% humidity) and a probe inside the salmon that was set at 130°F. The final steps of reaching true equilibrium in an oven environment is always going to take a long time. I ended up pulling the salmon from the oven when it was around 127°F, but I will experiment in the future with an oven temperature of around 133-135°F in order to achieve a core temperature of 130°F. Luckily the salmon was still salvageable, as later stages in the recipe required quick 1 minute cooks in a 400°F oven in order to caramelize and bake on a glaze; which brought the core temperature of the salmon up to the 130°F target.
The salmon was perfectly cooked, and the glaze was very tasty! I had some left overs and was able to reheat them the next day at 135°F (100% humidity). The salmon was even more tasty the next day!
Whole Roasted (and Steamed) Cauliflower
This is a recipe by Scott Heimendinger that can be found in the Anova app. It is simple but delicious! Simply coat a whole cauliflower (core and leaves removed) with olive oil, and season it with your choice of spices. Steam at 100% humidity in a 356°F for 25 minutes; remove from oven and heat oven to 482°F ; return cauliflower to dry oven (0% humidity) for 10 minutes to get a nice spotty brown surface. Slice and serve like a cake! Some people might say it looks like a burnt sponge, but it’s truly delicious! The simplicity of the dish has guaranteed a spot in my regular side-dish rotation.
One Pan Steamed Rice and Chicken
Included in the app is a steamed chicken and rice dish where you plop all the ingredients, except for the frozen veggies, in one pan and let it steam all at once! Frozen veggies are then added at the very end so that you don’t overcook them.
I really like the idea of cooking a chicken and rice dish in a steam oven all in one pan. It reminds of the Juane, a Peruvian chicken rice dish steamed inside a banana leaf. The recipe provided in the Anova Precision Oven app was a little underwhelming in taste, so I will be adding my own spices and ingredients the next time around. This recipe has a lot of potential and makes chicken and rice an even easier dish than ever!
Where the Anova Precision Oven Truly Shines: Breakfast!
By far my favourite thing to do in the Anova Precision Oven is too cook up some breakfast! You can easily steam up a gourmet omelet in 5 minutes! Or cook up some home fries that are perfectly crisp on the outside but still soft and chewy on the inside!
Bacon cooked in the Anova Precision Oven has a level of chew that I’ve never been able to achieve on the stovetop. Still, I prefer mine a little bit more crispy than the app’s recipe, so I ensure add a couple more minutes on the dry heat stage of the cook.
Lastly, there’s a recipe for “steamed toast”. Yes, you heard that right, “steamed toast”. I was very sceptical of this recipe at first, but I gave it a whirl. This odd sounding recipe resulted in toast that was deliciously crispy on the outside but fluffy and chewy on the inside. It takes several more minutes than a dedicated toaster, but it’s well worth the wait.
Steam Oven vs. Sous Vide
Anova markets its oven as being capable of sous viding without a bag. My experience with chicken and salmon prove that this is the case. What is especially useful Is being able to track the internal core temperature of your food with the included probe. This allows you to set the oven temperature slightly above the target temperature, dramatically decreasing the amount of time it takes to cook. The difference between using this technique and traditional sous vide is indiscernible. I also cooked a rib eye steak using the same technique and got amazing results.
Room for Improvement
With it’s ability to precisely control the temperature and relative humidity of the cooking environment, the Anova Precision Oven is the best countertop oven for home cooks! It comes at a very affordable price compared to other combi ovens and is large enough to fit a large dutch oven; transforming the oven into a precision slow cooker!
Being the first-to-market countertop combi-oven for home cooks has its challenges though. From a design perspective there are several things that I’m left wanting. First of all, the drip tray at the front that catches excess water is very difficult to remove. You need to place your thumb into a notch on the right side of the oven in order to get a grip; however, that notch is exactly where there is a steam vent, so you’ve got to be extra careful! I’ve yet to remove the drip tray without spilling some water on the counter.
Second, some of the components feel rather flimsy. The water tank’s plastic seems really thin and fragile. I am worried about the weight of the water swooshing around, so I do not recommend moving the oven with a full water tank. The metal rack and pan that comes with oven feel equally flimsy; I wish Anova would have spent a little more effort in sourcing quality accessories. Speaking of accessories, the perforated pan that was featured heavily in promotional videos does not come with the oven. Anova tells me that they expect to sell one separately soon—I will have to keep an out for that.
The light inside the oven seems to persistently flicker; a minor nuisance. A bigger problem though is that I’ve had trouble running a new cook immediately after a recipe is finished. The oven has difficulty maintaining a new temperature so soon after a cook has been completed. I find if I wait for the oven to cool down, then the oven has no problem maintaining the new temperature. Hopefully this is something that a future firmware upgrade could fix.
Finally, the app needs some better curation of recipes. Some of the recipes that I tried needed some tinkering with in order for them to work (e.g. the Glazed Salmon Recipe). While this isn’t a flaw of the hardware, the recipes contained in the app are definitely a selling feature and should be perfected.
Overall, I highly recommend this oven as it is the best countertop oven I’ve ever tried, and it will surely change the way I cook. It has earned a spot next to my prized Breville PolyScience Control Freak induction cooker when it comes to precision cooking.
Sizzle and Sear's Overall Rating
I hope you enjoyed my review of the Anova combi oven. Please feel free to ask any questions in the comments below.
Interested in a high quality commercial immersion circulator for sous vide cooking? Check out the Breville Polyscience Hydro Pro plus.
Get cooking with the Anova Precision Oven today!
Best Alternative to Perforated PanWhile you are waiting for Anova to release a perforated pan, this slides right into the slots of the oven and food can be cooked right on top of it.
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