The secret is out on sous vide, a precision cooking technique that suspends vacuum-sealed ingredients in an evenly heated water bath for consistently well-cooked results. High-end restaurants have been using it for decades, but a recent generation of consumer-oriented devices wants to bring the technique to your kitchen, too -- and at a fraction of the cost.
Nomiku was one of the first, making a splash on Kickstarter back in 2012 and helping to spawn a small bumper crop of competitors eager to claim territory in an exciting new cooking category. An immersion device, Nomiku clamps onto the side of your stock pot and extends into the water within, heating and circulating it to maintain a precise temperature of your choosing.
After testing it out alongside a few of those competitors, it's clear to me that sous vide can help even casual cooks achieve truly excellent mealtime results, which helps to justify Nomiku's $300 price tag. (A 240V version ships internationally from Nomiku's website at the same price, which is roughly £186 in the UK, or about AU$340 in Australia.) What doesn't help, however, is the fact that much of the competition. Also costing less: , which will boast an improved design and built-in Wi-Fi. As much as Nomiku impressed me (and my taste testers), I think it'd be wise to shop around a bit -- or to hold off for the next generation.
Nomiku sports a fun, white and green design with a small OLED touchscreen front and center. To turn the thing on, you'll just plug it in and then tap on its face to wake it up. Using it is as easy as clamping it to the side of your stock pot, then turning the ring around its neck to set the desired temperature.
That ring is one of Nomiku's best features. Like an old-school iPod click wheel, it features dynamic sensitivity. Spin quickly, and you'll jump 10 or 15 degrees at a time. Spin slowly, and you can easily dial in to a tenth of a degree -- an advantage overand , which operate in whole degrees.
Like Anova, Nomiku takes about 15 to 30 minutes to get up to temperature, depending on how high you set it. Once the water is heated, you'll drop in your food. Ideally, it'll be vacuum sealed (sous vide translates to "under vacuum"), but you can also use food-safe Ziplock freezer bags. To get the majority of the air out, just dip the open bag into the water with just the seal exposed. The water pressure will force most of the air out -- seal it up, and you'll be good to go.
That level of precision translated into cooking performance. For my tests, I started with an obvious sous vide staple: eggs. In an evenly heated water bath held to a precise temperature, cooking eggs to your preferred level of doneness shouldn't be a problem.
There are a lot of recipes for sous vide-cooked eggs on the Web, and most of them call for cook times of 45 minutes or even an hour. That felt like a long time to wait for breakfast, so I found a recipe that cooks the eggs at a hotter temperature for just 15 minutes. If I wanted a runnier egg, 13 minutes would do it. For something firmer, I'd need to wait 18 minutes.
Nomiku nailed all three cook times. The 15-minute egg was my favorite, with a soft, buttery yolk that still ran when I cut into it. Other taste testers preferred something a little firmer on their toast. Whatever egg you desire, Nomiku can get you there.
Next up was salmon, which I don't cook very often because I always seem to screw it up. I was especially eager to see if these sous vide cookers would be able to come to my rescue.
As it turns out, that's exactly what happened. After a fifteen-minute cook time, all three salmon filets came out tender, flaky and delicious. One taste tester who doesn't enjoy salmon all that much liked my Nomiku salmon enough to eat the whole filet for lunch. As much as I want to take that as a compliment, the credit goes to the cooker, not the cook.
Next up was London broil, cooked to medium rare over 4 hours. With the consistency of sous vide, we expected each steak to come out evenly cooked, with perfect, edge-to-edge doneness. With the vacuum sealer locking in the moisture, we expected each one to be juicy, tender, and flavorful. Basically, we expected exceptional steak -- anything less would fall short of sous vide's promise.