Once something you only saw on ‘Top Chef,’ sous vide hits shelves at Target, Best Buy

Anova Precision Cooker

Target is pushing hard to help consumers figure out their smart-home situation. In addition to the Target Open House in San Francisco, it recently opened a location in Minnesota to demo Internet of Things products. And back in March, it began selling Anova sous vide machines, with plans to have the device in up to 1,800 stores by October.

Best Buy will also begin selling the Anova, which is an immersion circulator that lets you sous vide in your own kitchen. Once the purview of only high-end restaurants, sous vide is a cooking technique that involves slowly cooking food in a temperature-regulated water bath. Instead of using a stove, you clip an immersion circulator onto your pot; it heats the water and keeps it moving around your sealed plastic bag of chicken, steak, or what have you, keeping the food at just the right temperature to cook, as well as juicy.

Anova AppAnova — like a glut of other similarly priced devices on the market — wants to make sous vide more mainstream. Despite its French name and unfamiliar equipment, these appliances actually amount to a technique that’s more foolproof than making something on your stove or oven. “It enables you to produce results that are impossible to achieve through any other cooking method,” Anova’s Jordan Houston Ramsdell told Digital Trends. While many aspiring amateur chefs might not think anything of picking up a $30 slow cooker they’ll occasionally use to make chili, the Anova’s $199 price tag might make some balk at buying a device they aren’t sure they’ll use frequently.

If you learned to cook knowing that your chicken should be 165 degrees Fahrenheit (about 73.9 degree Celsius) to ensure it’s safe to consume, then putting raw thighs in a bath of 140-degree Fahrenheit (60 degrees Celsius) water for an hour might make you squirm. “I think that’s the biggest hurdle we have to overcome,” Taylor Dawson, product evangelist at GE’s FirstBuild, told me when I was reviewing the company’s Paragon induction cooktop, which can be used to do sous vide.

But the Anova, the Paragon, the Nomiku, and other sous vide devices all come with apps that walk you through recipes or steps for making a variety of food via the sous vide method. Many people say you don’t need a vacuum sealer to make your meal, just heavy-duty ziplock bags, but there is some concern about the safety of using plastic bags in heated water, especially if they’re not BPA-free.

And while we love a sous vide steak, vegetarians can actually find plenty of recipes that will keep them satisfied, from corn on the cob to scrambled eggs. “We have customers using the Precision Cooker for home brewing, baking, tempering chocolate, and even ice cream,” says Houston Ramsdell. You can find recipes for mulled wine, chocolate chip cookies, and Greek yogurt done in the sous vide method.

I did an informal poll of my friends, family, and co-workers about sous vide. Some had never heard of it; others were already posting pictures of their creations on Facebook, and one adventurous soul had already purchased an immersion circulator for his smartphone-illiterate mother. Now that consumers can pick up an Anova at Target when you’re on a paper towel-and-box-of-wine run (they go hand-in-hand), you could find yourself sampling a sous vide pork chop the next time you head to your parents’ for dinner.

Update 6/13/2016: Updated to reflect Anova began selling its device in Target in March.