Nomiku Sous Vide Cooker review: Don't dive in with Nomiku's sous vide cooker just yet

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Hungry yet? Ry Crist/CNET

Fortunately, Nomiku delivered again, as did the other cookers I tested. All three steaks came out looking and tasting more like fine prime rib than middle-of-the-road London broil. I didn't even get around to polling my taste testers -- we were all too busy eating.

Clearly, there's quite a bit to like about Nomiku, but it isn't perfect. The rubbery clamp isn't quite as tight as I'd like, for instance. With the stock pot I used, Nomiku would always slip down to the lowest position possible.

Typically, this isn't a problem unless you need to fill the pot with a lot of water to accommodate what you're cooking. Nomiku has its minimum and maximum water level marked right on the device, and it's a fairly tight window between the two. As the clamp slips down, so do those levels. If you need the water level up fairly high in the pot, Nomiku might not be able to handle it without a bit of MacGyvering.

The range between minimum and maximum water levels is too small. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

The real point of concern is that Nomiku will automatically shut off if the water level falls below that minimum level. You can't put a lid on the pot with Nomiku clamped on the side, so if you live in a particularly dry home and you're slow cooking a recipe over a few days, the water level is going to fall. With such a tight window between the Nomiku's minimum and maximum water levels, you'll need to keep a close eye on it and add additional water as needed, which sacrifices a fair deal of the set-and-forget simplicity.

This gets tricky if you're slow cooking through the night, like I was during my final test: three-day pork spare ribs. Before leaving the office around 6:00 the first night, I made sure to fill the Nomiku's pot back up to the maximum level. The next morning, I arrived to a sad sight. Sometime during the night, the Nomiku's water level had dropped below minimum, and the thing had shut off. My meat had been sitting at an unsafe temperature for who knows how long, and I was forced to throw it out and start over.

If I were cooking at home, I'd obviously be able to fill that water back up a lot later in the evening. Still, Anova has a much bigger range between maximum and minimum water levels, and you're able to keep the lid on your cooker with Dorkfood. Neither of those gave me any comparable difficulties during the same series of tests.

At any rate, I started the Nomiku's test over. This time, I stayed a few hours extra at the end of day one before filling the water up to the top, then I made sure to get in a few hours early the next morning. To my relief, the Nomiku was still going strong. The water level, however, was dangerously close to that minimum level -- too close for me to risk it again on night two. After all, good pork ain't cheap.

Here's day two of the spare ribs cook. The first red dip is where I had to add water to the Nomiku's pot in the morning. At the end of the day, I added water to all three and covered the Nomiku's pot with foil. Overnight, the temperature consistency clearly suffered. Ry Crist/CNET

I decided to take a different approach this time and cover the pot with a makeshift lid made out of aluminum foil. On morning number three, this proved successful -- the water level had barely dropped overnight. It wasn't a perfect solution, though. Throughout the test, we recorded the minute-by-minute temperature in each pot using carefully calibrated thermocouples, and upon examining the graph of the data, it was clear that Nomiku's consistency got noticeably worse with the pot covered.

Specifically, the Nomiku ran about a full degree hot (it claims it can stay within 0.2 degrees Farenheit of the target temperature), and saw slightly more dramatic temperature swings throughout the night. This might not sound like much of a difference, but for long cooks like this one, consistency is especially important. In this case, the ribs came out fine, but if I'd covered the pot with foil each night, I'm not so sure they wouldn't have been a little overdone.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

The bottom line

In spite of its attractive-yet-imperfect design, Nomiku does a very good job of bringing a high-end cooking technique into mainstream kitchens. Even at a fairly steep price of $300, it might make for an especially good secret weapon in the toolkit of an enthusiastic home chef. I know as I used it, I felt like a better cook than I actually am, and had fun, too.

Still, the sous vide category is young, and it's evolving quickly. If you shop around right now, you'll find legitimate competitors like Dorkfood and Anova that cost less and probably make more sense as immediate purchases. If you're willing to wait, FNV Labs has an impressive looking all-in-one smart sous vide cooker due out in 2015, along with a less expensive, app-enabled upgrade from Anova and Nomiku's own smartened up second generation . Despite how much I enjoyed that London broil, I want to see what these new cookers bring to the table before spending too much.

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