The Anova Precision Oven is a marvel of modern cooking appliances and its app is even more maddeningly awful than all of the other cooking apps I’ve used which are universally terrible.

Adam Fields
11 min readMar 3, 2024

A little about me: I cook a lot, mostly dinner at home for my family and friends but sometimes for massive parties of upwards of 200 people. I’ve been doing sous vide cooking since 2010. I run a food blog called Unselling Convenience (also @unsellingconvenience on Instagram if you’d rather follow along there), which is mostly an inspiration board and memory database of things I’ve enjoyed cooking and probably want to cook again. I believe that shortcuts are great, but not at the expense of quality. I administer the Everyday Sous Vide and Instant Pot Love groups on Facebook. I’ve been writing about food for a few decades and have started collecting the good stuff at https://counter.kitchen. If you buy something from one of the links, I probably get a small commission which won’t even come close to defraying the amount of money I’ve spent on these things over the years but which will make me happy anyway.

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Overview

The Anova Precision Oven (APO) is a countertop-sized steam injection convection oven. Like sous vide, this comes out of technology that’s been used in commercial kitchens for decades. Its primary features are a wet bulb sensor for “bagless sous vide” at various levels of humidity, a precise cooking probe for measuring the interior temperature of your food, several selectable heating elements of differing strengths and positions, and a powerful convection fan for fast and even heating.

I’ve long been of the opinion that even where heat is involved, one of the primary mechanisms of cooking is controlling hydration levels of your food. Sometimes you want to pull out moisture, and sometimes you want to add it. The difference between perfectly cooked juicy meat and an overcooked dry rubbery slab is that in the latter, the protein fibers have constricted and pushed out too much water. Preservation and flavor concentration can be accomplished by removing water (dehydration), but you can’t turn raisins back into grapes — the act of removing the water also changes the structure of the food.

Sous Vide

I’ve been cooking sous vide for almost 15 years now. I don’t even really consider it a special thing — it’s just another tool in the toolbox that gets used when I need it, so another way to do this is interesting to me. My main sous vide appliance is the Sous Vide Supreme (SVS), though I also sometimes use a Joule.

I did a side-by-side comparison of a chicken breast cooked using the sous vide mode of the APO vs one in a bag in the sous vide supreme, and they were essentially indistinguishable, except that the APO one held its shape better because it wasn’t compressed by the bag. The sous vide mode works, and it’s pretty convenient if you’re cooking fresh food. I often vac seal meat in advance and drop it into the bath straight out of the freezer, so this doesn’t fit as well into that workflow, but I’ll still find uses for it.

a chicken breast cooked sous vide in the APO is indistinguishable from one cooked “regular” sous vide
both of these chicken breasts were great

One interesting data point is that the energy draw is substantially different. I did a kill-a-watt test on side by side APO and SVS, cooking a chicken breast in each at 142F, which took about 1 hour and 20 minutes. The APO used .26KWh during this time, and the SVS used only .12KWh. I checked it again around 20 minutes later, and the APO was at .3KWh and the SVS was still at .12KWh, so this is going to be a substantial advantage to the SVS for long cooks. I “cheated” a little bit, because I normally keep the SVS at 132F and adjust it to whatever temp I need from there, but I did go back and measured that it took 0.12KWh to heat the water in the SVS from 72F to 132F, so overall even starting from scratch still more efficient than the APO. My Joule, by comparison, used 0.6 KWh to go from 72F to 150F. There’s more precise measuring to do here around exact amounts of water, time to heat up, and insulation of the container — it’s possible to juice these numbers, but this gives a decent baseline for comparison. The salient point is that the APO requires a good deal more energy to keep the oven at temp because it doesn’t have all that water to act as a store. These numbers are actually relatively low in terms of absolute power consumption and low enough that I’m not going to worry about it for occasional use, but this may be a factor if you’re doing long cooks (24–50 hours), where the SVS will use a shockingly small amount of power.

I made a steamed omelet that was pretty delightful, but I haven’t quite nailed the timing or texture.

also it worked much better when I used a small springform for a single serving

Roasting

At temperatures higher than boiling, food loses moisture quickly. This can result in making it crispy, but it can also result in it drying out too fast, before it’s properly cooked. In a traditional oven, you might partially accommodate this by covering the food until the end, but the oven can’t put back any moisture that’s been lost from the food, or prevent any from being lost without cooking it in a more enclosed environment that may prevent good control over the temperature. The APO can do this, across the full range of temperatures, and it’s amazing. It’s a revelation that injected steam at temperatures higher than 300F does not inhibit the Maillard reactions that cause food to brown and develop flavor, but it can prevent food from drying out.

There are a few common patterns:

  • cook at low temperature with high steam levels for traditional sous vide results, the temperature can be raised afterwards for searing, or you can move it to a pan
  • cook at low temperature with low or no steam for traditional sous vide with foods that would absorb water if they could, then raise the temperature to crisp (e.g.: chicken skin)
  • cook at high temperature with low steam (similar to air frying)
  • cook at high temperature with high steam, then optionally turn off the steam to crisp (great for reheating food without drying it out, and world-changing for bread)

Baking

And oh, the bread. The APO makes the best bread crust I’ve ever accomplished, with no real competition at all. In order to develop a good oven spring and thick crunchy artisan crust, you want the bread to keep as much moisture as possible during the early stage of in-oven rising, if it’s too dry the surface of the dough will resist the rise and brown too soon. In a conventional oven, you can get part of the way there by cooking the bread inside a preheated dutch oven, or toss some ice cubes into the bottom of the oven, but those techniques pale in comparison to what you get with direct steam injection. If you bake bread, you’ll love this.

the crust is unreal

In addition to bread, I used it to make chocolate chip cookies, and they were also delightful — perfectly tender all the way through but with a tender crispy exterior. More experimentation is warranted here.

Other

I’ve found a few other interesting uses that don’t fit into any other category.

  • We normally keep butter in the fridge because when I tried a butter bell it developed mold pretty quickly (I only use unsalted butter). The APO is great for pretty quickly bringing a chunk of butter to room temperature for spreading on bread or creaming, with no risk of melting it.
77F at 100% steam works really well.
  • It’s also good for quickly warming up vinaigrettes, sauces, and tortillas kept in the fridge to more or less room temperature. I keep tubes of colored cake frosting in the freezer and I’ll probably use this for that as well.
  • You can’t turn raisins back into grapes, but you can use the APO to pretty quickly rehydrate/soften dried out raisins and brown sugar that have been sitting in your cabinet too long. Still experimenting with this, but 80–100F with 25–50% humidity for about 20 minutes seems to be a decent starting point.
  • I tried steaming whole eggs in the shell, and found the timing a bit fussy. I don’t know that this is any more compelling that just steaming them on the stove, but it might be easier to do a lot of them that way.
  • I cannot for the life of me understand why they did not make the thing an inch or so wider to accommodate a standard half sheet pan.
this is a whole bag of why
  • There are a number of reports in the popular community forums of people having hardware issues after some period of time, sometimes right after the warranty has expired. Sometimes these get resolved and sometimes they don’t. I haven’t experienced this, but I’ve only had my APO for a few months and I’ll take my standard approach of hoping that all consumer electronics companies do better at customer service than they do.

And now, the app

Cooking apps are bad. I love the idea behind them, and they shouldn’t be as bad as they are.

  • They should offer great new capabilities!
  • They should connect instantly and flawlessly every time!
  • They should allow you to easily store and replay commonly used actions!
  • They should enable advanced multi-step programs!
  • They should acknowledge and accommodate that more than one person exists and uses the appliance!
  • They should make your life easier and less stressful!

But no, they’re all bad instead.

Let’s talk about how the Anova Precision Oven app, specifically, is bad.

It hits some of the above bullet points — it has presets and lets you store and edit programs, and bookmark recipes, and share with family members.

IF (and this is a big if) all you want to do with the app is follow pre-set recipes and program your own simple programs without sharing them with anyone, the app works actually pretty well, though I’ve heard many reports of people without graduate computer science degrees finding it difficult to configure and connect to their network.

Steam cooking is a new thing for many people, and it’s complicated! The recipes included are an essential jumping-off point to make it usable at all for many people. Unfortunately, these functions are also hobbled by incredibly poor design choices sprinkled throughout, and I find it painful to use on a regular basis.

  • First, we have the control for setting the temperature, which is a free-input text box with an insertion point that is frustratingly difficult to position and requires you to manually somehow get the insertion point to the end of the previous temperature by tapping and holding on an extremely small target or sometimes luck out and accidentally select the whole thing, and then delete the previously set temperature every time before typing the new temperature. The steam percentage setting works the exact same way. This is not the absolute worst UI I’ve ever encountered for setting numbers, but it’s pretty close.
omg so much why
  • In the programming settings, there is no way to turn the oven off as a step. This can be simulated with turning the temperature all the way down, but that really isn’t the same thing. I have some recipes where I’d like to be able to have them be totally unattended and just run while I’m doing other things, e.g.: toasting nuts which takes ten minutes and then it’s totally fine for them to sit in the oven for a few hours until I get to them. Every other oven I’ve had for decades has had the capability to turn off after a set period of time, and it’s frustrating that this one does not.
  • There’s a library of recipes in the app, which is actually pretty helpful since there’s a steep learning curve to using the oven. You can even bookmark frequently used recipes, and the fun ends there. If you have a minor modification to make to a published recipe, there’s no way to make a copy and then edit your copy, you have to recreate the entire recipe from scratch. There’s no apparent way to share recipes back to the public, I don’t know where the public recipes they have in the app came from or how they got submitted (they have usernames attached to them). There is family sharing of accounts, and it’s actually pretty easy to get new users set up, but there’s no way to share custom recipes or bookmarks with family members — everyone’s on their own to find recipes and store their own. Why. As the main cook in the family, I’d love to be able to do a bunch of experimentation and give people finely tuned programs for the things they want to do, but the app won’t let me do that.
  • But the actual biggest problem with family sharing. Is the way notifications work with multiple users. Once additional users are signed up, every single registered user gets every notification whenever anyone is cooking with the oven. There is no way to adjust the granularity of notifications, no way for people to only get notifications for actions they initiated, and no way to specify who gets notified when. So every time I use the oven in the middle of the day, my teenagers at school are bombarded with notifications that the oven has finished preheating or stages are done.
  • On top of all of this cake, the icing is that there’s a lamp in the oven, and there’s no control over the lamp on the oven itself. The only way to turn the oven light on or off is by using the app.
  • Even with how bad the app is, it’s still faster than using the up/down arrow toggles on the front control panel, which I don’t love either.
  • Yeah.

I feel like I’ve only just begun to scratch the surface here, and I’m excited to keep exploring the potential. The oven itself gets an A+ even though the app/ux is more like a D+ (it does a lot but that stuff is grossly overshadowed by the glaring flaws most of which could be relatively easily fixed).

If you work for Anova and you’re reading this — I’m trying not to be negative about this! I’d love to see these problems fixed, and I’d be happy to discuss it with you.

Feedback is welcomed! Leave a comment here, or find me @fields@hachyderm.io on mastodon or @unsellingconvenience on instagram or @spoilersinthread on bluesky or threads.

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