Monthly Archives: December 2016

Sous Vide circulator setups

The last post about making lemon curd shows my two immersion circulators, an original, no-longer available at US voltage, Classic Nomiku and an Anova Precision Cooker (bluetooth only). I’ve had the Nomiku a since Thanksgiving 2013, while I got the Anova about a year later as part of their Kickstarter release (I went in with a colleague on the discount for 2 deal).

Since then the market for circulators has moved on. With two units that are both doing fine (knock wood), I’m not in that market for us these days, but I like to see what’s new. Even though I’m not looking for myself, these are nice potential gifts. Sweethome.com has a recently updated roundup of several of the units that are currently available. The newer wifi version of the Anova (their pick) continues to be one of the most popular, but the model that seems to be very trendy right now is the ChefSteps Joule (which I have not seen in person yet). If I was shopping for a new setup or looking to give one as a present, I think I would seriously look at the Joule.

Kenji Alt-Lopez at Serious Eats reviewed the Joule in October, and came up with a conclusion that is similar to what I’m hearing elsewhere. The Joule is awesome except… It’s smaller and more powerful than the Anova, is waterproof, and has a cool magnetic base in addition to a clip. If I had a Joule and was looking to use it in a nonmagnetic container, I’d probably just put something like our enameled cast iron heat diffuser in the bottom.

The “except” is that part of what allows it to be awesome is that it can only be controlled via wifi or bluetooth. This means an iOS or Android phone or tablet via an app, or an Amazon Alexa (Echo or Dot) voice recognition system.

This is a view of my two circulators in my 12 quart Cambro box. Neither touches bottom and the Anova rides higher.

The Joule has a lower minimum water depth than other circulators at 1.5″.  By contrast, it’s 2.5″ on the Anova and 3.5″ on my Nomiku classic.  The new Nomiku wifi is also 1.5″. But that number is more meaningful with the Joule, because it can actually sit on the bottom of the container, while the others are really the distance from the bottom of the circulator to the minimum line.

Why would you want to use less water? The obvious reason would be if you’re in a drought area like California, and it seems silly to heat 6 quarts of water to cook a couple of sous vide eggs. But it’s also sometimes nice to be able to have a precisely controlled double boiler, and for that application it helps if the mixing bowl you’re using can actually sit on the bottom so it doesn’t float or capsize. I’ve also done sous vide cooking in Mason jars that are not fully submerged.


The photo above point out a couple of interesting differences between my Anova and my Nomiku. One of the things people didn’t like about the Nom is the external power brick. It’s one of my least favorite parts about it too. But what you can see from the photo part of why the Anova and Nom aren’t waterproof: there are cooling vents on both of them. On the Nom they’re on the power brick, but on the Anova they’re right above the clamp and on the top.

I find myself wondering if some of the complaints about failing units from Anova are related to users getting water in those vents. I’d also note that since the Anova is available on Amazon and is the most popular circulator, it’s going to have more complaints just by mass action.

The setup you use can affect minor issues with how you use your circulator. I like to put my setup next to the sink to simplify filling the box and dumping the water afterward. In our kitchen the distance from the countertop is about 17″, which is a bit less than the current standard of 18″. From what I can tell from looking at various websites, there is a lot of variation from this distance, especially in older kitchens. There’s an under-counter light fixture to the left of the sink that makes the clearance even shorter. The extra bit of space when mounting in the 12 quart Cambro means that the top of the cooker runs into the light fixture. This will be worse with any pot taller than the 8.25″ height of the Cambro. Depending on your countertop material, it’s recommended to put a trivet under the container, so that will add some additional height. The Joule is much smaller than the other circulators out there.


Sweethome loves the clamp on the Anova, because it allows you to do things like this. The Nomiku is too long to clamp to most of our pots, except for the larger stock pots. But I find that the Anova’s screw based clamp makes it harder to move between containers, and to detach when filling or dumping water. I find that I leave the clamp attached and remove the Anova body instead of unclamping the whole thing.

 

Meanwhile…

Although I’d seriously consider the Joule if I was just starting with Sous Vide, I’m still very happy with my two circulators. Because the Cambro is my main container, I’m going to keep using the Nomiku as my main machine even though it does have some drawbacks compared to the Anova, such as humming when not running (I can leave the Anova plugged in, but the Nomiku is kind of annoying in standby mode due to the hum; I just unplug it). In addition to the clearance advantage, the Nomiku is a bit more powerful.

Last night I finally got around to stealing an idea from this hack to make the external power brick less annoying. A $3 package of adhesive backed Velcro had 2X what I needed to give the brick a removable mounting point on the Cambro. I also got a folding silicon trivet that matches the Nomiku’s color scheme.

 

Sous vide lemon curd again

About a year ago, I posted a mistake where I made lemon curd without butter. Since then, I made some with butter, but forgot to blog about it. Since I’m procrastinating some paper grading, I thought I’d try it again today. We also have some lemons that need to be used. Here’s what I did last time

  • 4 egg yolks
  • 0.5 c sugar
  • juice from 2 lemons
  • Some lemon rind scraped off with a microplane
  • There should have been 0.5 sticks of melted butter. Next time.

In my non-blogged version, I did this, melting the butter in a measuring cup hung off the rim of the Cambro box I use with my Nomiku. 


After blending stuff with my stick blender, I poured it into a couple of old jelly jars we had, where I ran into a drawback of the original Nomiku – the depth of water needed. I ended up using a small loaf pan to prop up the jars.

Today, Debby has the loaf pans at the annual cookie baking party. But I also have an Anova circulator that can work with less water.

Recipe review

I also thought that I might as well look at the ratios used by various lemon curd recipes. The non-sous-vide ones tend to use a much higher volume because most people don’t have really tiny saucepans. But as much as I like lemon curd, I’m not sure its good to keep it for long periods of time, so recipes calling for 8 eggs seem like overkill to me.

SourceREMcooksAlton BrownMartha StewartIna Garten
Eggs4 yolks5 yolks6 yolks4 whole
Butter0.5 stick1 stick1 stick1 stick
Sugar0.5 c1 c1 c1.5 c
Lemons0.33 c4 lemons0.5 c0.5 c (3-4 lemons)
yield1.25 c2 c1.5 c3 c

It seems that the REMcooks recipe I used has more eggs than the others. There also seems to be some variation in the order of addition of the ingredients. Most, but not all, add the melted butter last.

The plan

  • juice of 2 lemons + some zest
  • 0.5 stick butter, melted
  • 0.5 c sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 whole eggs

I’m going to try the whole eggs because they seem to be OK in the Ina Garten recipe, and because that’s all we have in the house after Debby took the rest of them to the baking party (yes, I could go to the store, but this is a lazy procrastination exercise, not an attempt to optimize). I’m melting the butter in the container that came with my stick blender so it will get mixed with the eggs first, not last.

I transferred the mix to a jar from some preserves and I put this in at 165 F, but a problem occurred pretty quickly. Not using a properly sealing lid, some thermal expansion pushed some of the mix over the top leading to a cloudy water bath, which is perfuming the setup to smell like lemon curd. I don’t think this should affect the final result though.

The Anova Culinary App

Since I’ve been using my Nomiku most of the time, I hadn’t gotten around to installing the Anova Culinary app on my phone. Pairing with the Anova was straightforward. I’m not sure how useful the app actually is, though, other than being able to set a cook time. As far as I can tell, it doesn’t display a countdown after the timer is set.

Because it’s Bluetooth class 4, it doesn’t seem to hold the pairing when I leave the kitchen with my phone, or remember the cooker when I get back in range if I’ve used another app.

Playing with the Anova and the app, it seems that if you set the time after a run has been set manually, the settings from the phone don’t really do anything unless you pause or stop what is already running.

Result

Either the lower egg content, the order of mixing, or the something about the configuration meant that the cook was incomplete at the top of the jar after an hour, but the curd was set at the bottom. Returned to heat for another 30 minutes. The final result came out fine.