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Meet my $600 toaster oven

Kaido

Elite Member & Kitchen Overlord
Feb 14, 2004
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TL,DR: This is a cool new oven that (1) automates cooking to (2) give you perfect results. It's expensive, but 100% worth it if you want to save money by cooking at home & eat delicious food all the time without really trying. This is an Easy Bake Oven for Adults lol. This is basically Sous Vide 2.0, but on steroids.

As the official Kitchen Overlord of ATOT, it's my sworn duty to introduce all of you to all of the latest & greatest cool techno-cooking gadgets on the market. As most of you know, I'm a huge fan of the Instant Pot, which is a magic cooking vessel for making delicious food with minimal effort. However, there's a new Sheriff in town, and the Instant Pot is now the Deputy. Behold the Anova Precision Oven:


Like all good main characters, this one requires some backstory. This is what's called a Combi Oven, also known as a Steam Oven (which doesn't sound too exciting, but we'll get to why that's awesome later!), which is a type of oven that combines two things:

1. Heat
2. Humidity

Typically, a regular oven has a top & a bottom heating element, and you can turn off the bottom one to broil stuff using the top element. Spiffier ovens have a fan to blow air around, which makes it a convection oven. Newer ovens have a high-speed version of that fan, which allows you do to "air frying" or "turbo convection". A Combi Oven takes the turbo convection mode & combines it steam. Now, steam doesn't sound terrible exciting, except that when you can control the humidity level, you can do a lot of neat things, such as:

1. Steam food
2. Do steam-injected baking, like a real baker's oven
3. Do sous-vide (no bath required, and no bag required - just stick the food in!)

The problem is that Combi ovens are typically very large (between the size of a mini fridge or a full-sized fridge) and typically cost between $10k to $25k. The really high-end ones feature things like probes for temperature monitoring, low-temp support (for proofing bread, dehydrating, acting as a warming drawer, etc.), computer control via a touchscreen interface for doing things like multiple stages, etc. So a good one can run $17,000 easily. Thanks to modern technology & some really smart, talented people, Anova was able to create a Mini Combi for home use...for $600. Yes, it's horrifically expensive for the average end-user at home, but if you want a home Combi & don't have the budget for it, just set up what I call a Turtle Saver account (step 1, setup an online savings account, like Capital One or Affirm, step 2, setup auto-withdrawl for $10 a week, step 3, wait about a year, because the next year will pass whether you save up for it or not, and $10 a week is a pretty low-budget way to save up for kitchen gadgets like this!).

One of the reasons I get so excited about good kitchen gear is that when you start to look at the big picture, you can see why finding efficiencies in your workflow really adds up. Not to get morbid, you're going to be alive until you die. Assuming you eat 3 meals a day, that's 21 meals a week, or over 1,000 meals per year. That's an awful lot of work to manage in order to feed your body, each year, every year, for the rest of your life! Assuming you want high energy, and tasty food, and fit your budget, it pays to invest in nice gear to help you do the job required.

Anyway, so in contrast with a restaurant-size Combi & what having one in your life can do for you, the price is not so bad. Government statistics say that the average family of 4 spends over $7,000 per year on food, over $3,000 of which is fast-food, and of which over $1,500 goes to waste. So having a tool that makes cooking easier & gets you really amazing results for EVERY meal is, in my book, definitely worth investing in! I love to cook, but the work of cooking is also one of my biggest barriers, so even though I can just make an amazing burger at home for basically free, I'll still stop at Burger King and get a Whopper on my way home simply because I don't want to deal with the mental chore of having to cook.

So name-wise, the product is called the Anova Precision Oven, which I'll call the APO for short. Initially, I wrote this off as just another fancy oven, like the June smart oven or the Brava hi-speed oven. However, as I dug into it & learned what a Combi oven was & what it could do, I really started to realize what this had the potential to do. It's kind of like the difference between a smartphone & a computer...a smartphone is really good at running apps, but with a computer, you can do anything...do gaming, have an optical disk reader, a backup drive, a giant screen, etc. So you get a zillion possibilities thanks to the power of the machine. Likewise, the APO functions in a similar way - there are just tons & tons & tons of possibilities that become instantly accessibly AND easy! So you have 4 primary control options:

1. Precision turbo convection heat: 77F to 482F with an accuracy of +/- 6F. Preheat time is typically under 5 minutes, very quick. There are 3 heating elements: bottom, top, and rear. It has a fan that can be off, low, medium, or high.

2. Precision steam control: This allows you to control the humidity from 0% to 100% in 1-degree increments. You can do steam control up to 482F, and you can also do precision steam control with an accuracy of +/- 0.5F between 77 to 212F, known as Sous Vide mode. This acts like a wet sauna, where your sweat doesn't evaporate because the room is fully humidified. What this means is that you can do sous vide without needing a preheated water bath & without needing to vacuum-seal the food, because the food isn't underwater! This is SUPER convenient, and also opens up the door to doing both large items, like a pork shoulder, and weird-shaped items, like a whole pie. No more bags, no more weights, no more sealed jars!

3. Plug-in probe: This is a heat-proof probe that plugs into the oven on the inside, then into your meat or other food item. This enables you to accurately hit a temperature or maintain a temperature. As pasteurization & food safety is a function of heat over time, access to accurate data allows you to do a lot more neat stuff. One of the neat tricks is that you can use the Sous Video Express model, which is basically turbo sous vide, which means you can enable sous-vide mode in the oven, stick the probe in the meat, say chicken, set the probe to 140F for internal meat temperature, but then set the oven temperature 20F higher, which enables your food to cook faster, but then alert you that your meat has hit 140F.. So you can do a sous-vide steak or chicken breast in about 30 minutes!

4. Wifi app control: The oven can be controlled by the front touchscreen controls manually, or via Wifi using the app, which is available both in your home network & away from home. The key feature with the app is something called Stage, which is where you can program in multiple cooking stages. So you can sous-vide chicken for 30 minutes, then take it out, pat it dry, roll it in beaten eggs, panko, and parm, and put it back in to bake as Parmesan-crusted chicken! Super super super convenient. Word on the street is that an upcoming app update will let you save your recipes & also share them online as a community type of thing. Currently, Anova has over 150 recipes, which include good explanations about the processes, and also let you launch the settings to your oven simply by clicking on them, which is SUPER convenient.

So those are the 4 basic controls, which doesn't sound like much, but if you rewind to high school, you'll remember that permutations lets you mix & combine numbers to create a huge flowchart or mindmap of options. Likewise, this is a single oven that can do so, so many things! And it's not like an "as seen on TV" multi-function device - it's a legitimate, hardcore cooking tool for people who want convenience but also who want perfect results, and also want an automated babysitter to cook for them. So some features include:

1. Baking
2. Roasting
3. Convection baking
4. Steam-injected baking for flour products (ex. no-knead bread)
5. Sous Vide (bagless, bathless)
6. Sous Vide Express (turbo mode)
7. Dehydrating
8. Air-frying
9. Plus a bunch of other stuff I can't think of off the top of my head

It's an odd assortment of being super convenient while also being super powerful, so it's an oven both for people who don't like to & don't want to cook, but want to save money by cooking at home while also getting restaurant-quality results & doing so in an automated, mostly hands-off fashion, and also an oven for people who really like to cook & get creative in the kitchen. In my opinion, this is the future of cooking. Steam cooking is already huge in Asia the same way bidets are - Americans are slowly adopting them. This is the first fully-featured Mini Combi for home use I've ever seen. There have been other countertop steam ovens, but nothing with the precision controls or features that the APO has. Most in-wall units that are available start at $4,000 & some require plumbing for the water line, so they're not super accessible for most people.

I call this an 80/20 oven, because while it doesn't do everything, it does do a LOT of things, and it does them VERY well, with precision, so that you get perfect results & repeatable results! That means that once you lock in your chicken breast procedure, it will come out exactly the same every single time! You will still need a searing setup, whether it's a grill, a cast-iron pan, a weed torch, or something else. You can smoke food in a smoker (I use an inexpensive plug-in Oster smoker with pellets) in conjunction with sous vide, so that you get tender meat plus smokey flavor. You can pan-fry. You can deep-fry (sous-vide chicken then a quick fry is AMAZING for doing chicken sandwiches, nuggets, wings, etc.). I've been using it in conjunction with my Instant Pot to make some really great meals! This oven is so good that I plan on getting a second one (come on already, second stimulus check!) so that I can cook in parallel (ex. SV chicken & bake bread) & also to do long projects (ex. 18-hour SV pulled pork, 24-hour dehydrator jobs, 24-hour yogurt, etc.).

Size-wize, this is a VERY large countertop oven. It's roughly the size of a 2.2cf microwave. You can do up to 5 racks in it.. They include two wire racks plus a baking tray. You can use the two included racks at various heights, depending on what you're cooking. You can fit a pretty large piece of meat in there (I want to say it maxes out at a 14-pound bird; I've done an 8-pound pork shoulder successfully already!). I ended up picking up a dedicated microwave cart, because my kitchen is kinda small & I ran out of room for my other toys lol. Here's a link to the one I got:




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I'll share a few pictures of projects I've done over the last week (just got my APO in this month!) in the posts below.

Pork tenderloin:

Cooked sous-vide for 3 hours, then pan-seared in brown butter, oil, and spices. It was so good that I didn't even bother making a sauce! Supposedly with SVE (Sous-Vide Express mode aka Turbo SV), it can be ready in just 70 minutes, so I'll try that on my next tenderloin!

Sliced finished project:

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To prep it, I bought some pork tenderloin, unwrapped the plastic from it, put it on a tray, stuck it in the oven, pushed the probe into the center, and pushed the button on the app. No pre-heated Sous-Vide bath required. No vac-seal bag required. Just stick it right in!

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I did a really simple mix of oil & butter with various spices in a cast-iron pan. Used the browned butter as the sauce. Really good!

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Kaido

Elite Member & Kitchen Overlord
Feb 14, 2004
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Pulled pork:

18-hour sous-vided pulled pork which was then baked for 30 minutes in the APO. No bag or bath required. I would finish it by smoking next time (to get a smokey, crispy crust, but it was really good! This was one of the stock recipes:


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Kaido

Elite Member & Kitchen Overlord
Feb 14, 2004
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Hardboiled eggs:

I have a spiffy silicone tray to put them on so they don't rollover. You can do hardboiled, soft-boiled, poached, pasteurized, etc.

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Air-fried wings:

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Kaido

Elite Member & Kitchen Overlord
Feb 14, 2004
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Air-fried frozen chicken nuggets:

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Fancy eggs:

Because you can sous-vide right in the oven without a water bath, and because you don't need a bag, it opens the doors to a lot of creative possibilities! I grabbed some of my Jello molds & made some spirals & honeycomb squares. Just whisk the eggs or throw them in a blender! You can optionally add water, milk, flour, or cornstarch to get the texture you want. So far I've used a square 5" pan to make breakfast sandwiches, a honeycomb silicone mold, and a mini spiral bundt silicone mold. The texture is super nice & makes for really delicious eggs!

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ultimatebob

Lifer
Jul 1, 2001
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I used to work at a company that made touch screen computer controls for high-end commercial ovens, so I know how awesome a combi oven can be.

It's nice to see that we finally have a model cheap enough for normal people to buy one. Before now, they were the "secret weapon" used by 4 and 5-star gourmet restaurants for pumping out quality food in volume.
 
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Kaido

Elite Member & Kitchen Overlord
Feb 14, 2004
46,024
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I used to work at a company that made touch screen computer controls for high-end commercial ovens, so I know how awesome a combi oven can be.

It's nice to see that we finally have a model cheap enough for normal people to buy one. Before now, they were the "secret weapon" used by 4 and 5-star gourmet restaurants for pumping out quality food in volume.
I was not at ALL aware of how awesome Combis were! I was only familiar with them from a distance & thought they were just bulk automated cookers. Had no idea that bag-free, bath-free sous-viding was even possible! Let alone all of the other stuff it could do! I think I've gained 15 pounds in the last week of using this beast, lol.
 
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Kaido

Elite Member & Kitchen Overlord
Feb 14, 2004
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That is pretty sweet. I sort of want one now!
The opportunities this thing presents are not readily apparently:

1. Perfect results
2. No-hassle sous-vide
3. Faster sous-vide
4. Really great baked breads
5. Automatic babysitting of the cooking processes

Like...it just takes all of the hassle out of cooking. It really is next-generation stuff! I made some SV scrambled egg rectangles using a silicone ice mold & put it together with the SV pulled pork to grill up a breakfast burrito for dinner:

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Kaido

Elite Member & Kitchen Overlord
Feb 14, 2004
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18h SV pulled pork on a bun. Shredded the meat with savory BBQ sauce, MSG, salt, black pepper, jalapeno garlic powder, and some of the juice drippings from the meat.

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ponyo

Lifer
Feb 14, 2002
19,221
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Very interesting device. First time seeing it so thank you for introducing it to me. I'm about 90% sold. I don't need it but I can think of couple of applications I can use this for. My wife enjoys baking so this would allow her to easily make baguettes and other crunchy crust bread that needs steam. And this would make great holding container for smoked brisket and pastrami I smoke. The ability to precisely set and hold temperature while injecting steam is what's needed to hold finished smoked brisket for hours at a time until it's ready to serve. I use ice cooler and towels to wrap smoked brisket to hold and while that works ok, Anova Precision Oven would be magnitudes better. Resting and holding is key to great smoked brisket and pastrami. This would solve my problem.

So this can work as dehydrator, Sous Vide device, regular oven, steam oven, and air fryer? I do like the size of this thing. How good is this as a toaster oven to toast bread and things? Can this replace toaster oven?
 

ponyo

Lifer
Feb 14, 2002
19,221
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Ok. I watched video on this thing. Too bad this thing doesn't take 1/2 sheet pan. Who designed the size of this thing? About an inch bigger and 1/2 sheet pan would've fit. That would've been perfect. Missed opportunity. I still want this though.
 
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Kaido

Elite Member & Kitchen Overlord
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Ok. I watched video on this thing. Too bad this thing doesn't take 1/2 sheet pan. Who designed the size of this thing? About an inch bigger and 1/2 sheet pan would've fit. That would've been perfect. Missed opportunity. I still want this though.
tbh I understand the design decisions. It works off a universal 15A 120V plug, so you don't need a 20A breaker or a 220V outlet. The Brava oven, for example, pulls 1800 watts & requires a 20A dedicated outlet. Plus if the size was TOO big it would have trouble fitting on a counter, although I wonder if in the future they could make the interior space more efficient & thus be able to fit in a standard 18x13" half-sheet pan. For my past week's worth of usage, I would be willing to free up the extra space & also run a 20A circuit to accommodate the larger size to heat up, if needed, but I think they were trying to make the device as approachable as possible, which is understandable because outside of the Cuisinart CSO-300, this is the only (true) mini Combi on the American market afaik.

For reference, I purchased this set of 16 x 12" pans & they fit perfectly: (2 pans + 2 grids + 2 silpats)


I use these pre-cut parchment sheets as well: (pre-cut parchment is literally life-changing in the kitchen, lol)


Regarding cost...yeah, it's "yikes!" high, however, in perspective, it's worth saving up for, based on our ongoing food needs, the convenience & repeatability factors, and the price compared to a real Combi. I mean the good ones are like $25,000, the ones that have stuff like low-temp support, multi-stage app support, etc. and this does all of that in an easier way than even the commercial versions do. Plus I believe there's an upcoming app update to let you save your own recipes & also share them via the app. I'd love to see a Spotify-style method where you can "follow" people, make "playlists" of stuff like main dishes, sides, desserts, etc. that all go together or can be meal-prepped, etc.

It's a whole new world. I consider this what I call third-wave cooking:

1. First wave was making fire & BBQ'ing

2. Second stage was in the 1920's, when refrigeration became standard, and then appliances like mixers & blenders became accessible

3. Third stage is Home Combi cooking, where you get multiple functions, precision, and multi-stage sequencing via app control. This is as close to a Star Trek replicator & home cooking robot as I've ever come across in my vast history of nerdy kitchen appliances, lol

I honestly think everyone on the planet should own one of these. I love to cook...when I'm in the mood. The rest of the time, it's just a chore, and I treat it as such. The Anova Precision Oven is like going from hand-washing your clothes to using a washing machine...all you have to do is load it up & push a button, and it takes care of getting perfect results for you! It really lowers that mental barrier to cooking because you're not the one on the hook to get perfect results & because you don't have to babysit it...the computer does it for you, so all you have to do is lock down a recipe the way you want it, and then use that recipe whenever you want a certain dish, whether it's a pork tenderloin or an eggy breakfast sandwich or creme brulee or whatever it may be! It really takes the hassle out of having to cook, haha!
 

Kaido

Elite Member & Kitchen Overlord
Feb 14, 2004
46,024
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Really cool .... I suspect I would use it more then I do my Instant-Pot too. Of course @ $600 it better be!

On a slightly different topic ... are you on Anova's pay-roll these days?

:p
I wish I was, because then I wouldn't have had to shell out $600 for it LOL. I think for me this is like the food equivalent of getting excited about a major system change, like say Ryzen or the Threadripper. It's exciting stuff!

My wife is not at all into using my whiz-bang appliances...it took me 5 full years to get her to use the Instapot, and while she appreciates my sous-vide cooking, she thinks it looks like a giant science experiment, but she's found the APO to be very approachable...put food on tray, stick probe in food, press button in app = perfect results! My own brother kept the Instant Pot I gave him for Christmas a few years back in the box for a full year until I came back to visit & showed him how to use it lol. So, there are barriers in the cooking world for people...this thing reduces the barriers, both to using it as a high-tech device, and for actually getting super-good results really easily!
 

Kaido

Elite Member & Kitchen Overlord
Feb 14, 2004
46,024
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Very interesting device. First time seeing it so thank you for introducing it to me. I'm about 90% sold. I don't need it but I can think of couple of applications I can use this for. My wife enjoys baking so this would allow her to easily make baguettes and other crunchy crust bread that needs steam. And this would make great holding container for smoked brisket and pastrami I smoke. The ability to precisely set and hold temperature while injecting steam is what's needed to hold finished smoked brisket for hours at a time until it's ready to serve. I use ice cooler and towels to wrap smoked brisket to hold and while that works ok, Anova Precision Oven would be magnitudes better. Resting and holding is key to great smoked brisket and pastrami. This would solve my problem.

So this can work as dehydrator, Sous Vide device, regular oven, steam oven, and air fryer? I do like the size of this thing. How good is this as a toaster oven to toast bread and things? Can this replace toaster oven?
If you were to ONLY buy it as a steam-injected baking oven, it would 100% be worth it. Same deal for sous-vide...I would literally buy it for the no-bag, no-bath feature alone. Just so convenient! Plus I like to do Sous-Vide + Smoking (you can Smoke-SV, Smoke-SV-Smoke, or SV-Smoke). It would definitely work VERY well for holding your meat (+/- 6F in dry mode & +/- 0.5F precision in SV mode, which is 100% steam at under 212F). Also with SV, you never have to do a Texas crutch because it's stall-proof:


Using it as a warming drawer, with or without steam, is something I've been playing with, which is also one of the reasons why I'd love a second APO. As far as the features you've mentioned goes:

1. Dehydrator: Yes, I just tested this with onion slices, which I ground into a powder, made into a mix, and seared up with my other tenderloin that I SV'd a few days ago. Was epic.

2. Sous Vide device: Yes, the very first thing I tested was chicken using turbo SV mode. Plopped it on a tray, stuck the needle in, was done in 30 MINUTES and came out EXACTLY the same as doing a vac-sealed bag in a bath!

3. Regular oven: Yes, although if you've ever used a countertop toaster oven to cook, then you'll know that (1) the internal space is smaller (largest sheet I can put in there is a 16x12, which just fits perfectly), and (2) you have to adjust your recipe's time & temperature to get proper results in the smaller space (not sure if it's due to a smaller volume of hot air, or because the radiant heat from the sides of the oven are closer, or what). Like, my 17-minute Mister Chocolate cookies are baked at 350F, and the APO is 20 minutes at 250F. But then it's become my personal cookie machine...I can just grab a frozen cookie dough ball (or two) & toss them into the oven to bake up just right. So specifically for cooking cookies in batches for the holidays, I'll still be using my regular el-cheapo non-convection oven that can fit a standard half-sheet pan.

4. Steam oven: Yes, for doing things like steamed fish, or steam-injected baked bread. I was impressed with both the crisp & color of my dinner rolls. I have a bunch of bread items lined up for this weekend & for next week (various no-knead items like baguettes & boulles, on various surfaces like the sheet pan, baking steel, etc. to see how steam affects the baking, as I've only ever done either a baine maire type of setup using a pan of water in the oven, or else a spray bottle of water, or else a Dutch oven to trap the steam). I'll wait to comment further until I've personally tested it, but I believe this will be a game-changer for serious home bakers. I upgraded to a Challenger bread pan in the last year, which is the most amazing personal cooking vessel available, and the APO has the potential to beat that out & not even need a vessel thanks to the controllable steam injection.

5. Air fryer: Yes, tested several things air-fried. Works exactly the same as my Breville Smart Oven Air (BSOA) for air-frying, which is better & bigger than my old Oyama & Philips XL models were. My family actually liked the APO's air-fried nuggets slightly better than the BSOA (we did them side-by-side), I believe because the APO is a couple racks taller than the BSOA, so it didn't dry out quite as much as normal.

6. Toaster oven: Can this replace a toaster oven? Yes and no. It does make toast, and the toast is good! But there's a 5-minute preheat time, then it takes 8 minutes to toast. So if you're cooking other stuff & don't mind waiting like 13 minutes total for the first batch, it's functional. I've done toast with 10% steam & it came out really nice actually! However, my family likes instant toast, bagels, croissants, etc., so we use a special mini infrared toaster oven, the Panasonic FlashXpress, which only takes 3 minutes start to finish (no preheat time required) to do dark-toasted English muffins, bread, whatever. So can it replace a toaster oven? Yes, definitely - the catch is that it's 13 minutes for the first batch vs. 3 minutes. The flip side is that if you need to make a mega-amount of toast for like a family gathering, you can just toss a crapload of bread on the racks & go to town. So quantity is also a factor!

Honestly if I could just have like a countertop with 4 of these bad boys, I'd be in business lol. You can steam veggies & then roast them. You can throw rice in a rimmed baking sheet with water & have it sous-vide your rice to perfection. In combination with the Instant Pot & with my $60 Oster pellet smoker, you kind of have all of the power of the cooking world at your fingertips!

I currently have enough stuff to test out every night to run into January 2021, no joke. This machine is ridiculous. I love it! Note that this is a first-gen machine, with the first batch shipping out this quarter. A few bugs I've had include: app crashes, flickering interior light, one overflow incident, the wire racks not being easy to pull out once the machine is heated, the included pan warping (I just got that 16x12" pan set & solved the problem, I wanted extra pans & cooling racks & the silpats anyway). So as a first-gen, high-tech device, it does have a few warts, but so far, nothing that directly affects the full functionality of using it!
 

Kaido

Elite Member & Kitchen Overlord
Feb 14, 2004
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Dehydrated some sweet onions to powderize:

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I split half the batch into chunky & half into fine powder. Base mix was Kosher salt & MSG and it was SUPER good on my tenderloin! I've got some garlic to dehydrate & powderize tonight, and then some jalapenos, and then combine those to make a custom, fresh, and more potent spice rub mix:

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herm0016

Diamond Member
Feb 26, 2005
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but I want it to go to 550 like my real oven so you can make great bread.
 

Kaido

Elite Member & Kitchen Overlord
Feb 14, 2004
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but I want it to go to 550 like my real oven so you can make great bread.
That's what I'll be testing over the next two weeks. I'm curious to see how 482F compares to 500F & 550F for bread-baking, especially with 1F-increment controllable steam injection. I'll also be testing my baking steel to see how that fares. I have had really good success with my buddy's Blackstone rotating pizza oven at floor temps of 400/450/475F, so I think it can be done successfully for things like bread & pizza!
 
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Kaido

Elite Member & Kitchen Overlord
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This. x1000...
Seriously, it blew my mind! I'm starting my pie-making projects tonight. Going to start out with an apple crisp, then a puff-pastry apple pie, then my signature sous-vide deconstructed pumpkin pies in a jar dessert (coupled with a Starbucks copycat ginger-molasses cookie as the "crust") but in full-sized pie format, since you don't have to bag it in the APO!
 
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