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Sous vide, a water bath style of cooking once popular primarily among restaurant chefs, is attainable for home cooks thanks to affordable, compact immersion circulator cookers available today. These gadgets are essentially sticks that are placed into a pot of water to heat the water to a set temperature and maintain that temperature while circulating the water so there are no hot or cool spots. The result? Evenly cooked food that never reaches a degree higher than the water temperature.
One of the benefits to sous vide cooking is the inability to overcook, well, anything. It's a slow and steady style of cooking. A steak may need to cook for several hours in a sous vide pot versus several minutes per side over the direct heat of a grill, but your patience is rewarded with perfectly cooked proteins.
You don't need much to get started with sous vide cooking, just a pot (we recommend a solid Dutch oven), plastic freezer bags to seal food in, and an immersion circulator, also known as a sous vide cooker, to heat and circulate the water. A vacuum sealer may be preferable if you plan to really get into this style of cooking, since it removes all air from around food and creates a heat seal to close the plastic packaging, but it's not necessary for everyone. Here are the best sous vide cookers to help you try a new style of cooking.
Best Overall: Anova Culinary AN500-US00 Sous Vide Precision Cooker
Can be controlled manually
App has recipes from top chefs
Reliable and effective
Some experienced Wifi connectivity issues
Appliances these days are getting smarter and more connected, and this sous vide cooker is a prime example. It connects to your smartphone via Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, 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.
Our product tester, who tested a very similar, now discontinued model, was impressed with how well the Anova cooked her meats. "Once the water was hot ... it maintained the temperature and cooked steak to medium-rare perfection. I had similar success on another night cooking pork chops," she says. She does warn, though, that the device warms water rather slowly.
The newly upgraded model, the AN500-US00, promises more power, faster heat-up times, and improved WiFi connection all in a smaller and more durable body.
You can set push notifications on your smartphone 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. It's all extremely easy to use.
"For dinner parties and special meals, I’d opt for the Anova to impress our guests with perfectly cooked meats." — Hailey Eber, Product Tester
Runner Up, Best Overall: Breville Joule Sous Vide
Attractive, minimalist aesthetic
Powerful and quick to preheat
Can only be controlled via the app
The Joule was first introduced in 2016 by ChefSteps, a company that has since been acquired by Breville. This sous vide cooker is loaded with great features. It's 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.
Performance-wise, our reviewer found that the Joule was quick and easy to use: "The sous vide method is quite forgiving. Because the water bath is the exact temperature you desire your food to be, overcooking food is very unlikely, even if you leave your dinner in the water bath longer than needed," she explains.
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 a phone (or other device) with the app loaded to control the Joule.
"Once the water was warm, it held the temperature and did right by my salmon. ... The device really shined, however, when I prepared pork chops later in the week." Hailey Eber, Product Tester
Best Budget: Instant Pot Accu Slim Sous Vide Precision Cooker & Immersion Circulator
Slim, compact design
Can be used with an Instant Pot
Does not include recipes or remote control features
The same brand that brought us the well-known pressure cooker also developed an immersion circulator for sous vide cooking. It can be used with an Instant Pot and boasts a small size and an even smaller price tag.
Its affordability does mean you lose features found in other models, such as Wifi connectivity and remote control capabilities. However, our tester found the interface was easy to read, the temperature accurate, and the slim size a serious bonus for those with limited storage space.
Best Compact: Anova Culinary Precision Cooker Nano
Easy to use
Some say it takes a while to cook
Okay, so most of the options on this list are pretty compact, but the smaller version of our "Best Overall" pick is extremely sleek, at 12.8 inches tall and 2.2 inches in diameter. And like its larger version, Anova Nano wowed customers with how perfectly it cooked a wide range of meats—from steaks and pork tenderloin to skinless and boneless chicken.
It also costs less, but you'll lose Wi-Fi capability and some power. The Nano boasts 750 watts instead of the original's 900; that might be a deal-breaker for those looking for a fast-working circulator.
You'll still have Bluetooth connection, though, so you can connect to your phone and access the brand's app as with the other Anova.
Best for Beginners: Sansaire Sous Vide Machine
Easy-to-use temperature control
Bright digital display
Quick to heat
Does not include a timer
Some say plastic build isn't sturdy
A no-frills approach to sous vide, this Sansaire stick model was a successful Kickstarter project that has become incredibly popular. It 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.
You will have to provide your own plastic bags, but many reviewers report simply using Ziploc bags. Just be sure they are BPA-free.
Consider investing in reusable silicone food storage bags. Most are safe to cook in and can be used for sous vide cooking. Not only will they save you money in the long run, they're better for the environment than throwaway plastic storage bags.
Best High-End: Tribest Sousvant Sous Vide Cooker
Removable cooking carafe
Heats water quickly
Doesn't shut off automatically after cook time is done
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. Its performance is a standout, too: many customers rated the Tribest highly for how it cooked chicken (not dry) and steaks (perfectly medium-rare).
This has a 1,000-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.
You can cook steak anywhere from rare to well-done with sous vide cooking. Simply use the same internal temperature you'd normally rely on to pull steaks off a grill when they're done to your liking or check a temperature guide and set the water temperature accordingly. For example, water set to 135 degrees Fahrenheit should produce a perfectly cooked medium steak.
The Anova Precision Cooker WIFI 2nd Gen is our top pick because of its reliably solid performance every time, particularly when it comes to meats. Plus, it comes with both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. If you'd prefer something a little more compact, we recommend the Breville Joule Sous Vide. It features an attractive, slim design, and is quick and easy to use.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
Donna Currie is a writer and product tester for The Spruce Eats. She's used a stick-style sous vide for years, so she knows what features to look for in a sous vide device—such as precise temperature control. This was one of the reasons she was eventually sold on the decidedly non-stick-style SousVide Supreme Water Oven, which she reviewed for us.
This roundup was updated by Sharon Lehman, a home cook who happens to be a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. She happily makes space for any gadget that make cooking faster and easier and specializes in small kitchen appliance testing and reviews for The Spruce Eats.
Remote control: Some sous vide appliances can be controlled from your phone so you can check the process while you’re out of the kitchen. Others are designed for hands-on operation with no remote functions. Sous vide doesn’t need a lot of adjustments or monitoring, so remote operation is more about personal preference.
Tank vs. stick: The tank-style sous vide machines offer an all-in-one solution. There’s no need for a separate container and they have a lid that keeps heat inside, but they're much larger overall. Stick-style sous vide machines can be used in pots of all sizes—plus, they allow you to cook large or oddly-shaped items that might not fit well in one of the tank models.
Time and temperature options: With sous vide cooking, a wider range of times and temperatures gives you more versatility, but it also depends on what you plan to make. If you’re using your cooker for steaks and chops, a smaller time and temperature range isn’t going to matter. If you want to experiment, a wider range is better.