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Anova One Sous Vide Circulator review: Treat your taste buds to Anova's sous vide solution

15 minutes later, I cracked my first test egg into a bowl, and found it to be pleasingly poached and perfectly situated in the yolky promised land between runny and firm. Each subsequent batch yielded the same results. If I took my eggs out at 13 minutes, they'd be good and runny -- if I pushed the cook time to 18 minutes, they'd come out mostly firm.

Next up was salmon, which also called for a 15-minute cook. After preparing three test filets, I vacuum sealed each one with some salt, some pepper, and a slice of lemon. With each cooker set to 140 degrees F (60 degrees C), I set the clock and started cooking.

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Sous vide salmon is delicious and easy to make. Ry Crist/CNET

The results here were also quite good. My taste testers found each filet to be tender, flaky, flavorful, and evenly cooked. The Dorkfood filet was a touch less done, probably because we lost a few degrees worth of heat when we lifted the Crock-Pot lid to drop the fish in. No lids to worry about with Anova and Nomiku.

That concluded the quick cooks -- now, it was time to push things a little longer. First up was London broil, which we vacuum sealed and cooked at 131 degrees F (55 degrees C) for 4 hours. At that temperature, our recipe promised meat that was perfectly medium rare, with juicy, edge-to-edge pinkness.

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Taste testing sous vide cookers is awfully hard work. Ry Crist/CNET

As it turns out, that's exactly what we got. Again, much to the delight of my taste testers, all three of the cookers nailed the test. For even better results, you can give the steaks a quick sear in a hot pan after the 4 hours are up.

Our final test was our longest by far: a 3-day recipe for pork spare ribs. For this test, I ran thermocouples into each cooker, allowing me to track the minute-by-minute temperature of the water. With results so close between the three cookers, I wanted to get a closer look at what, if anything, separated their performance.

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The Anova One was the most accurate and consistent cooker we tested, staying right at the 135-degree target for the entire cook. Ry Crist/CNET

The results were illuminating. The graph above shows day 2 of the 3-day cook, with the three lines representing the temperature in each cooker over time. The target was 135 degrees F (57 degrees C), and as you can see, the green squiggle representing Anova stayed right on target, only dipping at the end of day when I added some additional water to the pot before leaving for the night, temporarily lowering the temperature. Even after that, Anova got right back on target and stayed there.

That result was notably better than the other two. Dorkfood, while impressive in its consistency, ran about a degree hot, which makes sense since Crock-Pots are built to retain heat, making it easier for the controller to raise the temperature than to lower it.

With Nomiku, the less forgiving minimum water level came into play. Since both Nomiku and Anova are designed to shut off automatically if the water level drops below that minimum threshold, you'll need to add more water if things get too low. With Nomiku, I had to do that a lot more often, just barely making it through the first night without a shutoff (hence the temperature drop at 7 a.m., when Nomiku's pot needed a refill).

On the second evening, I tried covering the Nomiku's pot with foil to give me a better chance of making it through the night without a shutoff. That worked -- the water level barely fell at all -- but as you can see, the red line jumped up a degree or so, and also saw a slight increase in turbulence. That tells us that Nomiku wasn't cooking quite as consistently or accurately when covered. Clearly, for long cooks, the Anova is the cooker you want.

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Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Conclusion

The Anova One delivers on sous vide's promise, and has certainly helped enamor me to the technique. After several days spent snacking on perfectly poached eggs and succulent cuts of steak, I've come away convinced that a sous vide cooker might be one of the best kitchen upgrades money can buy. At $200, the Anova One looks like a terrific value, especially compared with the $300 Nomiku (A 240V version ships internationally for about £186 in the UK, or about AU$340 in Australia) and with all-in-one water ovens that cost even more.

Still, the Anova One has a successor due out in the coming weeks which features an improved design, Bluetooth-powered smarts, and an even more attractive price point of $180 (converted, that's about £110 or AU$210). That sounds like a cooker worth considering before spending too much, as does the new $200, Wi-Fi-enabled Nomiku , due out in March (although it isn't offered overseas for the time being, the original can be shipped internationally). If you're on a budget and have an old slow cooker lying around, the $100 Dorkfood DSV definitely merits consideration, too (if you're in North America). Those alternatives aside, if your stomach demands you buy something right now, the Anova One looks to be a sous vide sure thing.

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