This countertop gadget has replaced my oven—and I'm obsessed
The Anova Precision Oven can bake, sous vide, air fry, and more.
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When I worked in the restaurant industry, I often heard my chef friends raving about how the sous-vide machines they brought from Switzerland had totally changed their cooking game. Sous vide, a slow cooking technique, has shown its potential at revolutionizing precision cooking as we know it. When the first sous vide cookers made their debut in the home cooking world, they soon became a hit—home cooks no longer need to worry about the under- or over-doneness of a dish.
However, I find it difficult to remember to prep the food, seal it in a bag, and run the immersion circulator for hours on a busy weeknight. But I don’t want to settle for dry chicken breasts and overcooked salmon. Enter: the bluetooth-enabled Anova Precision Oven, which can sous vide, steam, air fry, and convection bake. The best part? You can micro-manage every step of the way from your smartphone.
About the Anova Precision Oven
Many home appliances—from robotic chefs to refrigerators—have integrated smart technology to make our lives easier, and this countertop oven is no exception. Users can control the oven through the Anova Oven app to start preheating, set the temperature, adjust humidity level and time, and change the cooking mode. For multi-stage recipes, you can even set each step ahead of time (the machine won’t forget anything, unlike a home cook might when multitasking).
Inside the oven, there are five rack positions. It’s a convection oven with top and rear fans, which speeds up the cooking time. The fan speed is also adjustable via its app. It’s equipped with true combi cooking that injects continuous steam to change and maintain the humidity level inside the oven using ambient and wet bulb temperature sensors. A food probe sensor plug is located on the top left corner of the interior, letting you attach the probe, which sends temperature readings directly to your phone.
There’s a water tank on the right side of the oven for two purposes: steaming and sous vide. The steam mode can run for 24 hours on a full tank. When you run low on water, there’s a piece of plastic you can flip open so you can pour more distilled water into the tank to get it running again.
The touchscreen menu is located on the top of the oven door and is quite responsive. Unlike the ear-piercing alert noise used by traditional ovens, the Anova alert sound was pleasant.
The Avonca Precision Oven comes with two wire racks, one sheet pan, and an attachable food probe.
What is a combi oven?
As traditional ovens let you control the temperature, a combi oven gives you control over the temperature and humidity, which is more precise because foods tend to release moisture into the dry air when being cooked. The evaporation process consumes energy, which leads to fluctuations in temperature.
Traditional ovens only measure what is referred to as the “dry bulb” temperature, as they read the temperature of the air (the ambient air temperature). Since traditional ovens can’t indicate how the moisture in the air affects the temperature, dry bulb temperature can be off as much as 60°F.
Combi ovens, on the other hand, can read what is referred to as the “wet bulb” temperature, which reflects the effects of evaporation. Wet bulb temperature is always lower than the dry bulb reading, with the exception of relative humidity level being 100% (in this case, think of it as the water vapor being unable to use its energy because it’s surrounded by other water vapor).
What is relative humidity level?
That evaporation alters the temperature inside the food, which is why your chicken breast may end up overdone. However, your oven simply can’t tell the difference. I used to stab a food probe into a piece of meat and let the readings guide me, but that required me to crack the oven door slightly, which is an inefficient use of energy.
A combi oven, mostly seen in restaurants, solves the problem by monitoring the web bulb temperature from inside the oven so your food doesn’t dry out from repeatedly opening the oven door.
So how does it sous vide? Well, when you crank up the relative humidity level to 100%, the oven becomes full of water vapor and no air, technically “sealing” the food, just like a plastic bag.
What I like
Though its size is claiming much of my countertop real estate, I have no complaints because of its sleek design and functionality as a second oven. I also like the fact that I can monitor the food remotely, which can be a huge convenience for working-from-home parents during a pandemic—imagine never having to walk over to your oven and just telling it what to do from the app!
There's a robust cooking community
The Anova Oven app introduced me to a community of professionals that helped me ease into using a combi oven. Before the oven arrived, I was nervous about how to use it and what to do with it, as its features are relatively new to even the most experienced home chefs.
Not only are the recipes well-designed, easy-to-read, and delicious on their own (I still dream about the prosciutto sage galette to this day), but the app was also able to fully integrate the written recipes into a set of instructions that are maneuverable by clicking a few buttons. If I were a busy mom trying to whip up a family meal, I’d go straight to browsing the recipes on this app.
The sous vide feature is a game-changer
I was skeptical when I first heard about the sous vide feature. To find out how it performs, I cooked half of a spatchcocked chicken using Bon Appetit’s roast chicken recipe in my traditional oven, and threw the other half in the Anova oven and followed the steps for roasted chicken 101 (on sous vide mode) on their cooking app. After the meat was cooked and rested, I gave a piece of each half to my husband for a taste test. He was immediately able to tell that the sous-vide cooked chicken was more tender and juicer than the traditionally roasted one.
We also did A/B tests on steak and salmon following the recipes from the cooking app. Though the last step for both dishes asked me to finish cooking in a skillet, adding a bit of uncertainty to the final result, I was impressed with the detail-oriented instructions and how both dishes turned out.
The smart probe helps me manage the cooking process
Another thing I learned from roasting the chicken is that the probe thermometer greatly increases the success rate. As every data point—the oven temperature, humidity level, and cooking time—is all built in the app so I can read the numbers right away, I was able to manage the cooking process with ease, instead of separately checking the oven control panel, an external probe thermometer, and time.
The steaming feature lets me cook all the things
I like steamed foods for breakfast, not only because they’re healthy but also because of their convenience. My old routine was to turn on my stove, fill my Dutch oven with water, throw the compatible steamer insert on top, and add some root vegetables. It’s time-consuming and less efficient than having an oven that can inject steam. Thanks to the Anova’s large capacity (1.2 cu. ft.), I was able to steam a whole fish.
I like the external water tank as opposed to my parents’ steam oven, which has the water chamber inside their oven, requiring them to open the door each time they need a refill.
It bakes perfect loaves of bread
I use my Dutch oven to bake breads because artificially creating the steam bath was too tedious for me. For that reason, my two-stage bread making requires me to remove the hot Dutch oven lid about 20 minutes into baking, which can be dangerous if not done carefully. With Anova, I don’t need a Dutch oven (though it can perfectly fit a 5-quart Staub Dutch oven with extra space around) to make bread—just a cast iron skillet is sufficient for a boule with a shiny, crispy crust and you can adjust humidity level without touching the oven door.
It can air fry, too!
When we talk about the goldilocks of countertop ovens, this is as close as we’re likely to get. Because air fryers are basically re-branded convection ovens, we were able to air fry crispy, juicy chicken wings in the Anova using the convection setting.
What I don’t like
Though I like to cook in this oven, it isn’t without flaws. The sheet pan it came with warped significantly when I was air frying chicken wings. As Anova is aware of this and has been working on a solution, we believe that the future batches (we got ours in late October) will not have this issue.
If you’re serious about taking advantage of the steam feature for bread making or the air frying for faster cook time for pizzas, you may need to buy additional accessories. These extra accessories will add to the total cost of your already pricey oven. I was a bit disappointed that my existing 14-inch pizza stone didn’t fit (so other non-Anova accessories might have the same issue).
One minor detail that’s worth mentioning is that there’s no way of turning the oven light off during cooking.
Should you get an Anova precision oven?
I’m not married to the idea that everyone needs a second oven—but if you’re on the hunt for one that can deliver results on par with restaurant food, in that every bite is perfectly seasoned and tender enough to melt in your mouth, you should at least give combi ovens some serious consideration.
With wall combi ovens being out of most people’s budget, a countertop version isn’t unreasonable considering how many appliances it can replace: an air fryer, a toaster oven, a steamer, and an immersion circulator. Furthermore, its smartphone connectivity lets you remotely monitor cooking, frees up your hands, and provides the precise knowledge of when your food is ready.
If dry chicken breast drives you crazy, you’d benefit from an oven that’ll let it happen again. As a home cook who swears by sous vide cooking, I like the convenience it offers compared to the traditional roasting method.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.