You’ll cook to perfection every time.

I’m not big on cooking gadgets. Actually, I’m not big on kitchen appliances in general. Yes, I believe in a blender and a food processor, and a toaster obviously, but that’s about it. Upon the end of days—plague, zombie apocalypse, giant asteroid approach or what have you—all you really need to know is how to light a fire and cook in a cast-iron pan (and build shelter and find water, but that’s another tale). In the meantime, it’s fun to play around with the new machines on the market. I was recently sent a Joule, one of a new breed of home-cook friendly sous vide machines.

Sue who? Sous vide (say: soo-veed). Literally translated it means “under vacuum” and refers to a method of cooking in which ingredients are placed in a heat-safe bag, vacuum-sealed, and submerged in a pot of simmering water set to a precise temperature. The machine keeps the water in the pot at an exact temperature over a long period over time, say 129°F for a perfectly cooked medium steak. Ingredients are placed inside a plastic bag (we like these), seasoned, and sealed. The bags get lowered into the water and hang out there for a specific amount of time (an hour, give or take) during which they reach—and more importantly, stay at—a desired temperature. That means a perfectly tender, juicy steak, cooked exactly to your liking every time, and you didn’t have to babysit it or dig out the instant-read thermometer.

Finish your steak (but the method works for chicken and eggs and vegetables too!) in a hot cast iron skillet for a crispy golden exterior. When you cut into the beef you’ll find a perfect medium doneness all the way from edge to edge, not just running down a thin strip in the middle.

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Sous vide cooking buys you inactive time. Your steak will hold at a perfect medium or medium-rare until you’re ready to sear and serve it. During the down time you can fuss over 2-hour polenta, relax with a glass of wine, or enjoy the cheese platter with your guests. You’ll decrease your margin of error, especially important when you’ve invested in a thick-cut ribeye or porterhouse, without sacrificing flavor, texture, or your precious time. The Joule links to a handy app that syncs up with your phone, sets the time and temperature of your cooking water, and offers recipe tips and suggestions: It’s set-it-and-forget-it for the 21st century.

For more about sous vide cooking, the Joule, and recipe inspiration check out ChefSteps.