Air fryers have been a top wellness design trend for more than a year, and are likely to inspire new countertop appliance sales for Mother’s Day soon. Air frying capability has also been built into ranges, ovens and microwaves. One manufacturer even sent the capability as an upgrade to existing owners. Other companies followed suit, as seen at the recent Kitchen & Bath Industry Show. So, what is the next wellness-focused cooking trend?
Sous Vide Defined
Might it be air sous vide? Air what? What is this new twist on the cooking show favorite — and might it be something to consider for your home?
It’s helpful to know what sous vide is first. From the French words for “under vacuum,” sous vide is the process of cooking food in a vacuum-sealed bag to preserve its nutrients and avoid overcooking it. Sous vide has traditionally used a circulating water bath for its cooking medium.
Air sous vide keeps the constant temperature and vacuum sealed bag, but substitutes air for water. Controlled heat and airflow provide the consistent temperature required for the perfectly-cooked, flavorful dishes associated with sous vide. Just as with water, air sous vide can perfectly prepare meats, vegetables, poultry and fish, eggs and other favorite dishes.
Adding air sous vide to a cooking appliance means that the oven cavity needs to be adapted for this purpose, with a lower temperature setting and more consistent heat delivery than typically provided, and it must be capable and safe for longer cooking times than the standard model. The home chef also needs to be able to monitor the food without opening the oven cavity door, something that new apps and lighting strategies help accomplish.
Air sous vide technology was introduced in 2021, but appliances equipped with the new feature have been subject to some of the same issues as other pandemic-afflicted home products, observes Jason Horst, marketing director at Tampa area appliance chain Famous Tate. “The supply chain delays have been tough,” he notes, adding, “Unfortunately, we have not really seen the air sous vide products hit our showrooms yet. I know LG’s new ranges have them and Electrolux ovens as well.” A more normal sales cycle would likely have seen both show up and get attention.
“We are mentioning air sous vide,” says CEO Debbie Schaeffer of Princeton, New Jersey area appliance retailer Mrs. G Appliances. “Right now, customers need to see more videos online to drive business.” For both Famous Tate and Mrs. G appliance buyers, air frying capability is still king.
The same is true for co-owner Matt Hillebrand of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-based Don’s Appliances. “The ranges with air fry are selling at a much higher rate. I don’t feel in the near future sous vide will take over,” he predicts. His company chef is more bullish on the feature.
Air Sous Vide Benefits
“I see air sous vide becoming a staple in homes in the future,” predicts Anthony Marino. “Just like the air fry movement, I feel this is the next step in culinary breakthroughs for the home chef. Air sous vide gives the consumer a chance to expand their cookbook and make restaurant quality food in the comfort of their own home,” the retail chef comments.
In addition to preserving nutrients, Marino points out that cooking with an air sous vide-equipped oven or range is easy. “The technology gives you accurate cooking times and temperatures right on the home screen. In addition, following the cooking process on the app makes monitoring the dish a breeze.” Customers he’s instructed are generally sold on the process, he shares.
“Since the technology is relatively new, it piques their interests and expands their cooking abilities. I feel introducing new techniques such as air sous vide gives the homeowner great added value.”
Pros And Cons
Marino also likes the convenience of air sous vide-equipped appliances, he says. “The benefits are huge to have it in your range as opposed to having it on the countertop.” First, it takes up less space than a countertop model. Second, it’s easier for some home chefs who may have a hard time carrying water from the sink to the stove area. It’s also less messy, he concludes.
Health-focused private chef James Barry, CEO of seasonings brand Pluck, is ambivalent about air sous vide-equipped cooking appliances: “Food that isn’t overcooked and is highly flavorful would be the pros. The cons, food cooks slower and requires extra steps.” He loves sous vide cooking and would definitely use the feature if it came as part of his oven and didn’t require extra ‘contraptions,’ he says, but wouldn’t search for the technology. “Nor would this option sway my decision to purchase this type of oven,” he notes, “mostly because sous vide takes more time and planning.”
Maybe future ranges and ovens will have air sous vide as a standard feature, just as convection and air frying are becoming. It will likely take a more normal appliance sales cycle and, as Schaeffer and Horst noted, more customer familiarity with sous vide’s many benefits.