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Sous vide is a cooking method that restaurants have employed behind the scenes for a long time, but it wasn’t until recently that the technology became affordable for home use. Essentially, food is vacuum-sealed in a food-safe plastic bag and immersed in a large container of water. Unlike... “boil-in-bag” cooking, the temperature of the water in the sous vide is carefully controlled and uses much lower temperatures for cooking foods, often for a long time. The sous vide device heats the water while gently circulating it so there are no hot or cold spots.
The results from sous vide cooking are unlike other methods, particularly when it comes to tough meats like short ribs that can be cooked until succulently tender, but still pink inside. Store-quality rib roasts become as tender as expensive prime rib. Chicken breasts remain tender and juicy.
There are two basic types of sous vide appliances on the market today that are sold for home use. The stick-type devices can be used in any pot or other heat-safe container that’s deep enough. The self-contained units include a tank, so there’s no need to dig out a stockpot. However, they’re much larger, so they’re not as easy to store. Here are the best options available now.
Appliances these days are getting smarter and more connected, and this sous vide cooker is a prime example. It connects to your smart phone via Bluetooth and wifi, so you can set, change, and monitor your cooking from afar, which is great when you’re cooking a sous vide meal that might take several days.
But that’s not the end of the smart cooking. You can delay the start of the cooking time and use ice in the water bath to keep the food cold until it’s time to start heating. If the water temperature rises above 40 degrees Fahrenheit, the Anova sous vide will start cooking so the food is never held at an unsafe temperature.
You can set push notifications on your smart phone so you always know what’s going on with the cooker, and you can control the time and temperature from your phone without having to push buttons on the cooker.
The app comes with recipes and suggested cooking times, or you can set your own time and temperature.
A no-frills approach to sous vide, this Sansaire stick model doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles, but it does exactly what you need it to do. It heats the water to the precise temperature you set, and circulates it for even heating, It holds the temperature where you set it until you turn the device off, whether it’s an hour or a day later.
The digital readout is bright enough to read from a distance, even in dim light, and the temperature control is easy—just a simple dial. Since there’s no timer, you’ll need to watch the clock or set a timer to let you know when cooking is done. This was also a successful Kickstarter project that has become incredibly popular. You will have to provide your own plastic bags, but many reviewers report simply using Ziploc bags. Just be sure they are BPA-free.
The Joule sous vide is a relative newcomer on the market, but it comes with great features. This is one of the smallest on the market at just 11 inches tall, so it will fit into a kitchen drawer for storage. It has a magnetic base and a side clip, so it can be used in a wide variety of containers, with as little as 1 1/2 inches of water in the pot. On the other end of the scale, it can handle up to 10 gallons of water.
This is controlled by a mobile app, so you’ll need an Android or Apple device to set and control it. It also works with Amazon Alexa for voice control and feedback. The downside is that you’ll need that phone or other device with the app loaded to control the Joule.
The all-in-one design and user-friendly digital controls make this easy to set up and operate every time, and the precise temperature controls let you use any sous vide recipe you want. While some sous vide setups look like they just stepped out of a lab, this looks like a normal countertop kitchen appliance. The clear cooking carafe lets you watch the food as it cooks, and it’s removable for easy filling, emptying, and cleaning.
This has a 1000 watt circulation system that heats the water quickly and keeps it to within 0.1 degrees of your desired temperature. The removable rack lets you separate small packets of food, or take it out to cook larger amounts.
The timer on this shows the elapsed cooking time, but it does not shut off automatically.Continue to 5 of 7 below.
This sous vide “water oven” holds about three gallons of water and has buttons on the front of the unit to set the cooking temperature and time. The unit has a lid that minimizes evaporation, which can be a problem with cooking foods for extremely long periods of time. It includes a pouch rack to help keep bags of food separate during cooking for even heating.
This doesn’t have a pump that circulates the water. Instead, a perforated rack on the bottom of the tank creates thermal convection that keeps the water heated evenly from bottom to top. Because there’s no pump, it’s quieter that other units. However, compared to the stick-style sous vide devices, this will take up a lot more storage space, and comes with a heftier price tag.
Still can't decide on what you want? Our round-up of the best sous vide ovens can help you find what you're looking for.
Not everyone has space for yet another appliance, but this temperature controller can turn your analog slow cooker into a sous vide machine with ease. The temperature reading is precise to 1/2 degree, and it’s super-easy to operate. Just set the time and temperature, and let it control your slow cooker.
Since this doesn’t modify the slow cooker in any way, you can still use your slow cooker as usual when you’re not using it for sous vide. It can be used for any analog slow cookers up to 1500 watts.
If you’ve never cooked with sous vide, you might be unsure whether it’s worth paying for a stand-alone sous vide device. This cooker solves that problem since you can use it for sous vide cooking, and it’s a standard slow cooker as well. The cooking container is removable and has a nonstick coating for easy cleaning.
This has easy-to-use digital controls, and when you’re using the slow-cook mode, you can set a delayed timer so the food is ready when you are. The glass lid lets you check the food as it’s cooking.
The temperature can be set from 104 to 210 degrees, and it can be programmed to cook from one to 72 hours. It holds 6 quarts for slow cooking and 8 quarts for sous vide.