Hands on: Nomiku Immersion Cooker

In order to cook sous vide, it used to be that you needed to be the owner of a restaurant, or at least be a tech-obsessed gastrophile with some money to burn. Just a few short years ago, the pieces of equipment needed to cook this way – immersion circulators – were bulky, complicated, and usually prohibitively expensive for the average home chef.

But thanks to the magic of technology and design, immersion circulators have shrunken down and become drastically more affordable, thereby bringing sous vide to the masses. Nomiku is one of these devices. Like most innovative ideas these days, it got its start a couple years ago back on Kickstarter, but is now a living, breathing, water-heating product.

It looks something like a space-age pirate pistol that stands on its end.

Which brings me to how sous vide actually works. If you’re unfamiliar, here’s a quick rundown: Sous vide is a cooking technique that involves placing food in an airtight, vacuum-sealed bag and cooking it in a controlled low-temperature water bath. This way, you’re able to keep the temperature of the water at the exact temperature that you want your food to reach. After a certain amount of time, any food you’ve placed in the bath will eventually reach your desired temp without any risk of overcooking. 

What’s the benefit? Cooking at lower temperatures generally prevents the food’s cell walls from bursting, which helps make it more succulent and retain nutrients. Sous vide also makes it possible for tough collagens in the meat’s connective tissue to be hydrolized into gelatin without overheating the proteins, which is generally what causes meat to lose moisture and develop a tougher texture.

So, now that you know what this thing is all about, we can get into the review. Here’s what we thought of this crazy contraption.

Design and setup

There aren’t many other compact immersion ciruclators out there at this point, but in comparison to the existing competition (namely Anova, Sansaire, and PolyScience) Nomiku is definitely the most compact of the bunch. In terms of aesthetics, it looks something like a space-age pirate pistol that stands on its end. On top it’s got a small touch-sensitive screen, and a large green knob for turning the temperature up or down.

The setup process couldn’t be more basic. To start using Nomiku, you just fill up a container (usually a large pot) with water, attach Nomiku to the side with its silicon-padded clamp, and plug it into the wall. Oddly enough, there’s no power button on the device – it turns on when you plug it in, and off when you pull it out of the socket. 

The only real gripe we have with the design is how picky it can be about water levels. The Nomiku will only turn on if the water level is above a minimum level, but also below a maximum level. If it’s not inside this sweet spot, the device will power down, ask you to adjust the water level and try again. This is a common feature in immersion circulators, but Nomiku’s sweet spot is tiny, so getting the water level right can be difficult at times. After a few uses we found the best way to avoid frustration was to put the vacuum-sealed food inside the water bath before you add the water, not after. This way the displacement isn’t an issue.

Features and use

Unlike some of the bulkier all-in-one sous vide machines that come with built-in vacuum sealers, Nomiku requires you to do all sealing yourself. This can be done with a dedicated vacuum sealer, or old fashioned way by submerging your bag in water to work all the air out manually. Both methods work just fine, and the food will come out the same either way, but using a vacuum sealer is definitely a bit easier.

Nomiku is an excellent, well-designed product with very few flaws.

Once your food is all sealed up and submerged, the next step is to set the temperature. This is done by twisting the large green knob until you reach the desired temp. Tapping the screen will toggle the display between Celsius and Farenheit. Once you’ve chosen a temp, Nomiku will automatically hold the water steady at that temp. To do this, it draws water in over a small ceramic heating element via an impeller located at the base. This helps the water circulate and the temperature to stay even throughout the entire bath, and generally speaking it’s extremely accurate. If unobstructed, we found that Nomiku kept the temperature almost exactly at the temperature we set, and in the few times we caught it wavering, it only changed by a tenth of a degree. That being said, however, we also found that  if the intake port ever gets blocked by a submerged bag of food, the temperature can sometimes drop more significantly, which we had issues with when cooking large quantities of food. Even in these cases, though, the device was never more than a full degree off of its target temperature.

Once the temp is set and the food is immersed, all you’ve got to do is sit back and wait. Unfortunately, Nomiku isn’t equipped with a built-in timer function, but we could hardly call that a drawback, since setting a timer on a smartphone is easier and more convenient anyway. The lack of this functionality could almost be considered a plus, as the addition would likely add a layer of complexity to an otherwise breathtakingly simple machine.

Nomiku Cooker set1

After your food has been in the hot water bath for a sufficient amount of time (this will vary depending on what you’re cooking and the results you’re hoping to achieve), it’s ready to come out of the bag. But you’re not quite done yet – sous vide is great for cooking food evenly, but typically doesn’t get you that nice crusting on the outside of the food. In the case of most proteins (beef, pork, chicken, fish, etc), you’ll probably want to give your food a quick sear before eating. This can be done in a frying pan set to high, or with a blowtorch if you’ve got one handy.

All things considered

Nomiku is an excellent, well-designed product with very few flaws. Despite the fact that it’s the smallest immersion circulator in the game, it can cook sous vide just as well as any other device on the market. The only question is whether or not it’s worth the $299 pricetag. That price makes Nomiku about 100 bucks more expensive than its two closest competitors, Anova and Sansaire — but for that extra C-note, you get arguably the most simple and intuitive user interface in the biz. Nomiku also claims that its circulator’s ceramic heating element lasts longer than than the competition, but we didn’t have enough time to give it a proper endurance test, so we can’t validate these assertions. Regardless, we give Nomiku our seal of approval, and recommend it to anyone interested in experimenting with sous vide cooking. You will not be disappointed.

Highs

  • Easy to use
  • Compact design
  • Long-lasting heating element
  • Comes with extremely insightful handbook

Lows

  • No timer
  • Control knob is a bit touchy
  • Weak impeller struggles if obstructed
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