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In the world's serious kitchens, a lot of meat is cooked like this: sealed in plastic and placed in a temperature-controlled water bath (a process called sous vide), then unwrapped and finished under a powerful broiler (to give it a seared exterior). The result is superior to conventionally cooked meat—more precisely-cooked on the inside, more deliciously charred on the outside. Restaurants perform this operation with expensive commercial equipment, and while consumer-grade alternatives have been available for some time, they haven't been all that attractive because of high prices and limited functionality. This year, that's changing with the introduction of some fantastically effective and relatively affordable gadgets. Here's what to buy for your favorite ambitious home cook:
Anova Sous Vide Circulator ($199). This device isn't the first of its kind, but it is the first home sous vide gadget to receive glowing reviews and cost less than $200. It clamps to the side of any pot and, unlike other consumer sous-vide products, does a formidable job of keeping the whole mass of water very close to the goal temperature—which is essential for, say, getting a steak to exactly medium-rare (and not a degree over). The Kickstarter-funded Sansaire also looks excellent, but it's not yet available.
Searzall ($65). Culinary innovator Dave Arnold developed this product specifically to allow home cooks to mimic the firey action of a commercial broiler. It attaches to the end of a propane torch, spreading out its flame and preventing the development of fuel-y flavors. F&W recently watched Arnold demonstrate his creation, and we were more than a bit impressed.
Bernzomatic TS8000 Torch Head ($55) and 16.4 oz Propane Tank ($7 for 2). You'll need this torch for the Searzall.
Add some Ziploc bags (for sealing up the meat), and you have a complete sous-vide-and-sear system for around $330. Sounds great, right? There's a catch: The Searzall doesn't ship until June. That's a bummer, but few of us would complain about receiving an I.O.U. for this game-changing device, especially when there's plenty of fun to be had immediately with the circulator.