Food enthusiasts have a hard time not trying new things. Everything from new recipes to funny-looking vegetables at the market are fair game to the curious. And of course, the same thing can be said about cooking techniques. Given the opportunity to try out the AquaChef Professional Water Oven by Kitchen Advance, I dove right in.
The first thing one notices about the AquaChef is its remarkable similarity in appearance to a deep fryer. Of course, since sous vide cooking uses water as the cooking medium (as opposed to oil or hot air as in an oven) that is where the similarities stop. The idea is to place food in a bag, close it up with the included vacuum sealer, and then give it a good soak in water hot enough to cook.
I started off with basic chicken (not only boneless and skinless, but also cut into small pieces) and soon discovered how easy the unit is to use. Since the temperature never gets above what you set the machine at, the water never gets above that temperature and hence, neither does the food. This is the major point to take away from this exercise: food cooks exactly to the point of doneness desired. For this example, the chicken turned out juicy and not overdone, despite it having been left to cook for hours.
I went on to try my hand at some red meats: burgers and steaks. In both cases the meat cooked to a consistent doneness from edge to edge on the inside. If you want your steak medium, it will be medium all the way through. Since cooking in a water bath doesn't produce any browning, I gave these meats a quick sear in a frying pan to finish; just a few seconds in a ripping-hot pan will do.
There is a wealth of information out there regarding this relatively new cooking technique. (Think: the '70s.) What is exciting for the novice sous vide chef-to-be is the ability to try new things with a minimum of risk and hassle. Indeed, that is one of the benefits inherent in this method.
Despite the presence of the word "Professional" in the name, do not be intimidated by this machine. This is an entry-level appliance designed for the average consumer. It's a good bet that the results from a thermal immersion circulator with a pump will provide much more-precise results -- at a much higher price. This particular model of sous vide cooker encourages experimentation. With an MSRP of under $160 (including the vacuum sealer and bags), the AquaChef Professional Water Oven by Kitchen Advance is an affordable and easy way to dive into something new.