As mentioned, the Precision Oven is no ordinary counter-top cooking device. It’s actually a combination convection-steam oven, otherwise known as a “combi.” It’s the kind of equipment that’s been in restaurant kitchens for years and usually costs thousands of dollars — a quick search on Webrestaurant.com shows commercial combi ovens that start at $5,000. There are some consumer versions available, but they’re usually in the form of designer-brand range and wall ovens that cost nearly as much.
The idea behind a combi oven is that it lets you control temperature and humidity via a steam boiler. The Precision Oven has a water tank for this purpose. In an interview with Food & Wine Magazine, Modernist Cuisine’s director of applied research Scott Heimendinger, said that humidity is an important element in cooking. “Water molecules conduct heat much faster than air,” he told the outlet. “In the heat of a traditional oven, you dry out the exterior of your food before the interior.” But in a combi oven, the humid air will transfer heat more efficiently to the food.
Cooking with steam is akin to cooking via sous vide, where you prevent water content from evaporating so as to keep foods moist. In fact, the Precision Oven even has a “Sous vide mode” that’ll let you cook foods via “sous vide” but without the bags or the water bath. With this one machine, you could roast chicken on high dry-heat, but also steam rice without the risk of scorching it as you might on a stovetop. You can also cook cheesecakes and custards without the accompanying water bath. It’s also potentially great for baking bread, as you could proof the dough at a low temperature and then bake it with a steam injection for homemade artisan-style loaves.
Other features of the Precision Oven include WiFi connectivity and a companion app that enables multi-stage cooking, so you could move from wet heat to dry heat or vice versa. There’s a probe thermometer to monitor food temperature and three different types of temperature sensors to ensure perfectly cooked food. The aforementioned water tank can hold enough liquid for more than 24 hours of continuous steam cooking. As far as knowing what to cook, the companion app will come with several guided recipes to help get you started.
Still, the Anova Precision Oven isn’t the first consumer-grade countertop combi oven. Cuisinart came out with its own version called the CSO-300 in 2012, though it’s since been discontinued. That might indicate that there isn’t much of a market for combi ovens among consumers, but the CSO-300 also lacked a lot of the connected smarts that the Anova has, and it doesn’t have quite the same ardent fanbase either. It’s still unclear if combi ovens will take off the same way that sous vide cookers have, but Anova is well-placed to take that risk.
The Anova Precision Oven will start shipping on September 28th.