Anova Precision Oven review: A smarter way to play with your foodMarch 10, 2021
Anova made its name with sous vide cooking with the launch of thein 2014. After , Anova returned in 2020 with a countertop oven inspired by the sous vide method.
At $600, the Anova Precision Oven is a fun and fancy tool for home chefs who really want to geek out, but it isn’t a food-recognizing smart oven like the . If you’re unfamiliar with sous vide or accustomed to cooking your meals with a single button press, you’ll likely hit a learning curve. It’s too expensive and too niche for me to recommend it for most folks, but for those of you with a penchant for kitchen science, there’s plenty about the Anova Precision Oven that will impress.
- Steam and sous vide modes work well
- Highly customizable programming
- A great app for recipes and oven control
- Steam can get messy
- Steep learning curve
How it works
Anova markets this oven as a “combi oven.” That’s industry speak for an oven that allows you to control not only temperature, but humidity, as well. The two things that separate the Anova Precision Oven from other countertop models are its steam and sous vide capability, and both rely on water.
A 1.3-gallon water tank on the side of the oven provides water for up to 24 hours of steam cooking. Anova recommends using distilled water to cut back on the number of times you’ll need to do descaling maintenance. Luckily, you canat home. The water tank easily detaches for filling and cleaning. That’s a good thing, because this oven is bulky.
Sous vide is the method that put Anova on the map with its original ovens don’t achieve. Traditionally, a sous vide device like Anova’s Precision Cooker would get you there by having you immerse vacuum-sealed ingredients in a circulated bath of carefully heated water., and it relies on precise temperature control, something standard
Classic sous vide cooking like that makes use of 100% relative humidity inside the vacuum-sealed cooking bag. The Anova Precision Oven replicates this type of environment inside of the oven cavity with options for wet and dry sous vide. With wet sous vide, you set steam to 100%, but the dry sous vide mode holds a low, precise temperature without adding steam at all. Anova suggests using dry sous vide mode for skin-on meats, while steaming at 100% is more suited for things like vegetables. With sous vide mode off, you can bake at up to 482°F. With sous vide on, you’re limited to 212°F.
The Anova Precision Oven is large at 22.4 inches wide by 17.7 inches deep by 14.1 inches high. That gives you a generous interior capacity of 1.2 cubic feet, but I found that it also took up a lot of space in my average-size kitchen. The oven comes with two wire racks, a sheet pan and a temperature probe.
The oven itself is a sleek-looking countertop model with a tempered glass door and a touchscreen display built into the handle. That’s where you’ll set temperature, time, steam level, heating elements and cooking mode if you’re not controlling the oven through the Anova Oven app. There are top, bottom and rear heating elements that can all be used independently or in a top and bottom combo.
There aren’t any one-touch, preset modes on the oven’s display. You won’t find a “bake” or “roast” option, for instance. If you’re starting your cooking at the physical control panel, you’d be setting all these things yourself. You would need to know that standard convection baking would equate to 350 degrees, with steam at 0%, sous vide off and the rear burner in play.
Fortunately, there are preset functions in the Anova Oven app, and those are really helpful for getting a look at what Anova considers standard settings for things like air frying or convection baking. From that Quick Start menu, you can choose Convection Bake, Dehydrate, Broil, Air Fry, Bake, Proof or Steam. Once you select your mode, you can fine tune settings like temperature probe, timer, heating element or steam level.
How smart is it?
You can connect Anova to Google Assistant for commands like “Google, preheat the oven to 350 degrees,” but you can’t ask to tweak steam, sous vide or heating element settings. I used the voice integration one morning to preheat the oven for muffins while I got ready upstairs, and I didn’t notice that it defaulted to the top burner instead of the rear. The muffins ended up burned on top and not quite done inside.
Anova also works with an Anova Alexa skill for preheating voice commands. Those are a bit more expansive and include options like, “Alexa, set my oven to sous vide at 125 degrees” or “Alexa bake in my oven at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.” Even so, for remote control, I think you’ll be much better served by the Anova Oven app, or by selecting your settings on the handle display.
Perhaps fittingly, Anova doesn’t make much fuss about its voice assistant compatibility. The smart power here is really in the app experience and the oven’s sensors. In the app, you can browse a large library of recipes. See one you like? Scroll to the first step in the recipe and hit play. This is usually a preheat, but once that’s finished the oven will alert you to put your food in. If there are multiple phases of cooking, the oven will automatically move to the next phase until cooking is complete.
Not keeping one eye on an oven at all times does take some getting used to, but after a few rounds of cooking with the app, I began to trust the notifications and real-time oven status.
Cooking with Anova
I cooked several different foods with different modes in the Anova Precision Oven. Four of these came from the Anova Oven app’s helpful “First Cooks” series. I tried Bacon 101, Chicken Breast 101, Pasta 101 and Steak 101. Results were mixed.
Chicken breast was a good test of using the included temperature probe. The recipe cooked the chicken in sous vide mode at a temperature of 163°F until the chicken reached 142°F, as Anova suggested. That’s lower than most recommendations for chicken internal temperatures, but an additional 20 minutes after reaching temperature ensures pasteurization. My results were perfect, yielding a chicken breast that was juicy and ready to eat or shred into a recipe. I used mine to make chicken pot pie.
Next up was bacon. I’ll always prefer bacon in my heirloom cast-iron skillet, but I’ve had decent oven-baked slices before. Following the temperature and time recommendations in the Anova Oven app gave me a two-stage approach with sous vide and then convection baking. The result was less-than-crispy bacon. This could depend on the thickness of your strips, but I definitely could’ve added a few more minutes to get crispier results. I also found that the sheet pan warped during most of my testing, leaving a very tilted pan in the oven with splattering bacon grease. Not ideal.
I also followed the Anova app’s “Steak 101” recipe for a sous vide style steak. This process still requires browning in a skillet, so don’t expect the steak to look anything other than gray and watery when removed from the oven. However, after three or four minutes on each side in the skillet, I had a crispy exterior and juicy interior steak. Using the probe to set the target temperature, you can adjust for the level of doneness you prefer.
With 100% steam and a few minutes more than the packaging suggests, you can also make pasta in the Anova Precision Oven. I tried some spaghetti, and it came out al dente after 15 minutes. The pasta goes on a sheet pan in a single layer, covered with hot water a quarter inch above the noodles. From there, you cook at 212°F with 100% steam using the rear heating element.
My pasta box suggested 11 minutes, and the Anova app notes that it might take a bit more time. After 15 minutes, my noodles were done. Having a sheet pan full of water was hard to handle, but cooking pasta this way is faster than waiting for water to boil on a cooktop.
I tried a few other recipes that didn’t go so well. Suggested settings for a whole roast chicken yielded results too low and raw for my comfort. If I attempted that recipe again, I’d up the probe temperature. The Anova Oven app’s suggestions for frozen food wasn’t quite right for my mozzarella sticks, either, as they busted open less than halfway through the cooking time.
Recipes like these from the app are easy enough to follow, but you’ll likely need a fair amount of trial and error (and probably a few inedible dishes) before you really get the hang of it. If you love experimenting in the kitchen, that won’t be a problem. If you need a good dinner and fast, you might end up frustrated.
Who needs it?
Well, no one really. This isn’t a place-and-bake smart oven like the June, and at $600 it isn’t cheap. Then again, neither is the June Oven, but the June feels much more intuitive. I’m not saying you need the June, either. These are kitchen playthings that do neat stuff, but they aren’t essential.
The Anova Precision Oven isn’t designed to recognize your food or offer standard cooking methods at the touch of a button. It’s big, but it can’t replace a larger oven if you need the interior cooking space. I don’t recommend it for folks who want their oven to be a one-touch, smartly-cooked-without-your-input experience.
However, for home chefs with a bit of know-how who really want to experiment with their recipes, this oven will provide hours of culinary fun. The settings can be so detailed that dinner might feel more like a science project. If that’s your thing, the Anova Precision Oven is a worthy splurge. If you’re looking for a quick meal with one-touch ease, a traditional countertop oven or full-size oven is still the best bet.