Sous vide is a remarkable way to cook proteins. Using an immersion circulator, you set a tub of water to the exact temperature you want to cook your meat. And over several hours (even days), it warms to the perfect amount of doneness. Its modern methodology was created in the 1960s to reheat tastier cuisine in Swedish hospitals and space, before it was perfected as a cooking device that served its first meal at a Holiday Inn. Eventually, it was adopted by Michelin-caliber French chefs as a means to preserve the fat and moisture in pricey foie gras. Today, it’s actually the large-scale cooking method behind the juicy chicken at Chipotle (the grill just finishes the job).
So why isn’t every home cooking sous vide? As ubiquitous as it’s become in professional kitchens, the tools have never been polished enough for home use. The best domestic option is the Sous Vide Supreme, a bulky, crockpot of a device that looks straight out of science class.
"Lab equipment manufacturers made the first foray into this field. However, they tended to focus purely on technical specifications. They were manufacturing a rebranded lab tool," explains designer Bam Suppipat. "This is especially true with earlier models of immersion circulators that paid little attention to water condensation (i.e. exposed control boards) and clunky user interface. There was no design dialogue on how to handle these machines correctly."
Now, Bam Suppipat is the lead designer behind Nomiku, the world’s smallest immersion circulator, and also the first that looks truly at home in a home kitchen. It clips on any pot up to 4 gallons to turn it into a sous vide machine.
You’ll note that nothing is exposed—not the heating element nor wiring—and it has the comfortable, storable form of a stick blender. But the design concerns stem beyond a better coat of plastic. All controls have been simplified to just one button to turn it on/off and a knob to adjust the temperature. It’s all low-hanging design fruit to be sure, but these are the kind of first steps that need to be taken if immersion circulators really are to become the new microwave, as many have predicted.
"The microwave makes heating very convenient, but it is by no means accurate heating. You still have people standing around the front of the microwave staring inside making sure their leftovers aren’t burning," Suppipat says. "Sous vide cooking frees you to cook food perfectly—you don’t have to pay constant attention. The cook can focus on making flavor components really delicious instead of worrying about overcooking. There will be a learning curve as home cooks get accustomed to sous vide cooking practices at first. Safety is a big concern, and we will take big steps to make sure our customers use best practices."
The best practices are still sous vide’s biggest oppressor, as its low-heat potential for bacteria growth is perfect 5 o’clock news fodder. But the team has no interest in slowing down to wait for cultural sensibilities to catch up. Nomiku is just the first of many changes they hope to make to design-deprived domestic kitchens.
"Home kitchens are overdue for a design update," Suppipat says. "We ask questions like ‘why does the oven door open into you?’ and "why does the refrigerator make noise?’ The Nomiku solves the issue of consistency. The sous vide cooking method minimizes error and maximizes taste and texture."
So, wait, you’re telling me we all bought all this stainless steel and granite for nothing?