Even though the sous vide cooking technique has been around for more than 50 years (since it was re-discovered by American and French engineers in the mid-1960s and developed into an industrial food preservation method), it’s still completely new to most home cooks.
Joule vs Anova
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The technique involves cooking food sealed in a plastic pouch placed in a water bath or steam environment at a precisely controlled temperature. Meats cooked using the sous vide technique are never under- or over-cooked, fruits and vegetables are tastier and don’t lose any vitamins or minerals, and most meals can be prepared in under 30 minutes and left to cook slowly while you go about your day.
Currently, the two most popular sous vide precision cookers for home cooks are the ChefSteps Joule. The Anova is available in two versions: a more powerful 900-watt version with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity ($199), and a less powerful 800-watt version with Bluetooth connectivity only ($149). We’ve tested the 900-watt version. The Joule is also available in two versions: stainless and plastic. The stainless version of the Joule costs $199, and the plastic version costs $179.
Both the Anova and the Joule are designed to work with a companion smartphone application, and they both offer the same basic functionality and deliver very similar results. But there can be only one winner, and you’re about to find out which of the two entry-level sous vide precision cookers it is.
Anova Precision Cooker
The Anova is 14.75 inches long and weighs 2.5 pounds. It features an adjustable clip that works with any pot or plastic food container and keeps the cooker upright during cooking. The Anova has a large digital display that informs the user about the current and target temperature, the set and current cooking time, and other things. Near the display are several control buttons that make it possible to control the cooker even without a smartphone.
Both the 800-watt and the 900-watt versions of the Anova cooker have the maximum temperature of 210 Fahrenheit (99 Celsius), and they can heat up to 5 gallons (19 liters) of water.
Even though the Anova has physical control buttons, it really only comes to life with the Anova smartphone app (available for free for iOS and Android). Anova partnered with Serious Eats to create guides for the app, which explain everything you need to know to prepare your food and set the correct temperature and cooking time. The recipe selection is fairly large, but some are text-only.
The Joule is 11 inches long and weighs 1.3 pounds, considerably less than the Anova. Just like the Anova, the Joule has a clip that keeps it upright during cooking, but it also features a strong magnet that can keep it in the center of any steel or induction-ready pot. Unlike the Anova, the Joule doesn’t have any display nor control buttons (except for a power on/off button) because the precision cooker is designed to be controlled entirely from the smartphone app.
At 1100 watts, the Joule is more powerful than the Anova, which results in faster water heating, although the cooking capacity is similar to Anova’s. Bringing a gallon of water (roughly 4 liters) from room temperature to 132 Fahrenheit (55 Celsius) takes the Joule about 10 minutes and the Anova twice as long.
Because the Joule is designed to be operated entirely from the app, the app has received a lot of polish. You can set temperature and time based on images of how the food is going to look like after you take it out and serve it. Each part of the sous vide cooking process is illustrated with detailed explanations and professional videos.
Regardless of whether we cooked a juicy ribeye, eggs, fish, seafood, or veggies, the food always came out perfect using both the Anova and the Joule. When cooking a steak using the same temperature and time settings, the two precision cookers gave very similar results, and any deviation between the two could be attributed to the differences between the two cuts of meat.
We measured the temperature difference between the Anova and the Joule using a digital thermometer and discovered that the maximum variance is around 0.5 Fahrenheit, which is inconsequential in the real world.
If all you care about is how good your food tastes, it doesn’t matter which of these two precision cookers you get. They both produce the same great results. But if you also care about the cooking experience itself, the chances are that you would like the ChefSteps Joule more. Being a newer cooker, the Joule is sleeker and more polished than the Anova, and it doesn’t cost much more.