It is an oven that can steam vegetables at a lower temperature, so there is no risk of overcooking. It can also blow steam at a high temperature so that the bread dough can feel the “spring of the oven” and expand. In addition, the oven has a “Sous Vide Mode” which allows you to cook food at the ideal temperature, but without the need for plastic bags. On top of that, the Precision also works like a regular convection oven, allowing you to roast, bake, broil, and fry foods.
This idea of a convection-steam oven is actually nothing new. So-called “combi ovens” have been around for several years now, but are usually only found in high-end designer restaurants or kitchens (at least in the United States). This is because commercial “combi” ovens are usually outrageous – they start at around $ 5,000 and can go up to $ 30,000 or more. In comparison, precision costs a reasonable $ 600. It might sound like a lot compared to a regular toaster oven, but it also does a lot more.
Material and design
Precision will be an important part of your kitchen counter. Measuring 22.4 inches wide, 17.7 inches deep, and 14.1 inches high, it’s massive; it’s probably bigger than your standard microwave or toaster. Additionally, Anova recommends that you keep a 4 inch clearance all around for safety reasons, so it ends up taking up even more room than you might think. Anova also doesn’t recommend storing anything directly on top of the oven as it can get hot, which can be a storage problem in a small kitchen. The advantage of such a large oven, however, is that it has a very spacious interior. I was able to fit a whole five-pound chicken without any difficulty, and even a 7.25-liter Dutch oven.
The design of the oven is largely harmless. I tend to prefer the look of stainless steel appliances, but Anova has gone for an all-black aesthetic that matches their sous vide cookers. On the right side is the water tank, which you will need to put in place when you unpack the appliance for the first time. It’s large enough to hold over a gallon of water, so a one-time fill will likely last you weeks, if not months, if you don’t use the oven regularly. There’s also a drip tray that you store under the front of the oven so that extra condensation water doesn’t leak all over your countertop.
Anova recommends that you fill the tank with distilled water instead of tap water to minimize the risk of mineral deposits. It might sound like a pain, but like I said, you probably won’t have to fill the tank as often, so I think it’s worth it. Although I have not had any negative experiences with the tank, I should note that there have been some online reports tiny cracks forming around the plastic tank housing. The company appears to be responsive in replacing faulty parts, but this comeback is nonetheless baffling, especially given the high price of the oven.
Inside the oven are heating elements at the top, bottom and back. Up front is a touchscreen, which houses many of the device’s controls. You can select one of four different heating settings, set the temperature and time, turn the steam function on and off, etc. I recommend using the app instead for these settings because it’s just easier, but I appreciate that Anova provided you with an alternative if you don’t have your phone handy.
In addition to the oven itself, you get a probe thermometer that plugs directly into the oven; two oven racks; and a baking sheet. This saucepan is a little too fragile for my taste; it deforms and bends when hot, and therefore sometimes deforms in the oven.
One of my main concerns with the oven was just learning how to use it. How would I cook with an appliance that I have never used before and that is not mentioned in any of my cookbooks? Luckily, Anova has a companion oven app preloaded with over 150 recipes that walks you through step-by-step instructions on how to cook with it. Plus, since it’s connected to the oven via WiFi, the app can make all the temperature and humidity settings for you with just one tap.
Some recipes are even pre-programmed with multi-stage cooking that will switch from one stage to another. In Roast Chicken Recipe 101, for example, I cooked a sous vide spoon chicken with the probe thermometer in the first step. Then when the chicken reached the target temperature, the app alerted me to take it out of the oven, in which case I pressed another button to have the oven preheat to a very high temperature of 482 degrees Farenheit. After drizzling with a little oil, I put the chicken back and the skin is beautifully crispy in just under 10 minutes. While using pre-programmed recipes like this one made cooking more fun, I’ve always enjoyed them because they helped me learn how to use the oven.
Over the past couple of weeks I have tried a lot more recipes, marveling at what the device can do while finding a few tips along the way. For example, I learned that the aforementioned roast chicken is cooked via a “dry” sous vide method without any steam so that the skin does not become rubbery. On the other hand, the app instructed me to cook the steak and salmon in a “wet” sous vide method with 100% steam, as soggy skin is less of a concern. Also, using the oven to cook sous vide allowed me to set the cooking temperature above the target temperature so the food cooks faster.
With the steak, for example, I set the oven temperature to 140 degrees and the target probe temperature to 124 degrees for medium rare. In normal vacuum it could have taken an hour. But in the Precision, it took about half the time. Yes, I needed to take the steak out and sear it in a cast iron pan afterward (radiant heat from the oven is not as efficient as the conductive heat from a pan), but it is still a victory. No messing vacuum cooking with plastic bags, wasting a bunch of water and it’s faster? That might be reason enough to get this done.
But where the oven really shines is with bread. When making the bagels, I used the oven to raise the dough at a low temperature. I then shaped the dough into their round bagel shapes and steamed them in the oven which is much easier than boiling them in a pot of water. After the bagels were steamed and risen, I took them out, brushed them with egg porridge, and sprinkled a good dose of Trader Joe’s Bagel Seasoning all over. I then baked the bagels in a 392 degree oven with 30% steam. The result was wonderfully fluffy bagels that I could hardly believe I made on my own.
Then there was the baguette, which I was actually quite nervous to make as I’m hardly an experienced baker. In fact, while I was making it, I thought I had messed up somehow because the dough felt more moist than I thought it would. I also didn’t have the specialty baguette pan that the recipe called for, so after shaping the dough according to the directions, I simply placed it on a baking pan lined with parchment paper.
I then put it in a 475 degree oven with 100% steam for the spring stage of the oven. After five minutes, the oven automatically switched to the dry browning phase without steam. Another 10 minutes or so and I was rewarded with three chopsticks which turned out surprisingly well given my experience in the process. They didn’t exactly look like traditional baguettes (maybe more like fancy breadsticks), but they tasted fantastic, with a nice moist crumb and crispy exterior. I was dazzled. If an inexperienced baker like me could make great bagels and baguettes with this oven, imagine what a professional could do.
At one point, I became so comfortable with the oven that I was able to use it without needing a full-fledged recipe. During Thanksgiving, I used it to cook a turchetta following a method similar to roast chicken. I cooked it sous vide with a probe thermometer at a target temperature of 145 degrees, took it out, then put it back in an oven at 482 degrees to crisp the skin. The result was a great Thanksgiving dinner that I might not have been able to organize otherwise
As amazing as I think the oven is, it might not suit everyone’s tastes. For one thing, I don’t think it’s very beginner-friendly. Those who are wary of new cooking technology may not want to try this; if the Instant Pot is too intimidating for you, I would stay away from that. Also, I think he could have used more presets for frequently cooked foods. I really missed having a dedicated button for toast, for example. (There is a “Toast 101” recipe in the app, which I think is a bit too much; you shouldn’t need to follow a recipe to make toast.) Basically, if all you want is a toaster oven, the Precision Oven is probably overkill.
I would also prefer that you could program the oven to automatically turn off once the timer is over. Also, I found the oven difficult to clean. After only a few weeks of cooking, the inside is already streaked with grease spots that are difficult to remove.
As the only convection-steam combo oven on the market for under $ 1,000, the Precision doesn’t really have a rival. Of course, there are other smart ovens like the June, Tovala, or the one from Amazon, but none of them have the same precise temperature and humidity controls. Of course, if you don’t care much about that and just want a countertop oven, any of these other options will work; most of them are certainly much more affordable. They also tend to be much more forgiving of novice cooks. But if you want a professional grade steam oven that lets you make baguettes, bagels, and sous vide food without the bags, there’s really nothing quite like it.