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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. If you want an all-in-one solution, there are also tank-style sous vide machines so you don't have to find another container in which to cook. 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.
Sous vide cookers come with a range of options these days, from WiFi and Bluetooth features to wide temperature ranges (which will open up your options for what you can cook). There are more basic models that might be more suitable for beginners and high-end models if you really want to make sous vide cooking a regular practice. We rounded up and tested several models to help you find the perfect match.
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
Easy to clean
Large and bulky
Slow to heat water
App can be buggy
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 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.
Our tester, who tested a very similar, now-discontinued model, was impressed with how well the Anova maintained temperature, specifically while cooking steak ("to medium-rare perfection") and pork chops. 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.
Height: 12.8 inches | Weight: 1.6 pounds | Maximum Water Temperature: 197˚F | Power: 1,000 watts
"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 1.5 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. How quick? It heated a stockpot of water to 130 degrees Fahrenheit in less than 12 minutes. And because of its precise temperature control, even if you leave your food in the water bath longer than you need, it's unlikely you'll overcook it.
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.
Height: 11 inches | Weight: 1.3 pounds | Maximum Water Temperature: 208˚F | Power: 1,100 watts
"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 Compact: Anova Culinary Precision Cooker Nano
Precise temperature control
Compact design for convenient storage
Easy to clean
Clamp isn’t adjustable
Takes a while to heat up water
Doesn’t come with any bags
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 our tester 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 WiFi capability and some power. The Nano's 750 watts might be a deal-breaker for those looking for a fast-working circulator—in our tests, it took about 30 minutes to heat a large pot of water to 130 degrees Fahrenheit.
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, and our tester loved being able to remotely set and monitor cooking time. The one design feature our reviewer didn't like was the fixed clamp, which limits the size pot you can use (the original has an adjustable clamp).
Height: 12.8 inches | Weight: 1.6 pounds | Maximum Water Temperature: 197˚F | Power: 750 watts
"As the steak was cooking, the temperature varied from 129.9 to 130.1 degrees—an indication that the Anova Nano was able to control the temperature range very precisely." — Lindsay Boyers, Product Tester
Best Budget: Instant Pot Accu Slim Sous Vide Precision Cooker & Immersion Circulator
Temperature is accurate
No remote control
Beeps are quiet
No recipes included
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 (but it's not required) 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.
Our reviewer put it through the paces cooking steak and boneless skinless chicken breasts for chicken salad with perfect results. But, the sky is really the limit here. She also successfully made crème fraîche (cooking it for 24 hours at 96 degrees), crème brûlée in canning jars ("the rich custard came out silky smooth"), and even pickles.
Height: 12.9 inches | Weight: 1.7 pounds | Maximum Water Temperature: 203˚F | Power: 800 watts
"This is a skinny sous vide circulator, which I appreciated. Since it has to stay in the water with the food being cooked, it’s nice that it doesn’t take up a lot of space, leaving more room for the food." — Donna Currie, Product Tester
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.
Height: 15 inches | Weight: 4 pounds | Maximum Water Temperature: 212˚F | Power: 1,100 watts
"When you cook steak on a skillet or the grill the traditional way, you have a very small window to nail your doneness. If your pan is 400 degrees Fahrenheit, the steak will cook from the outside in and leave you with overcooked edges and a medium-rare center—and that’s if you do it right. With sous vide, your food will NEVER go past medium-rare or whatever doneness you prefer." — Steve Svajian, CEO of Anova
Best Self-Contained: 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 them out to cook larger amounts. The timer on this shows the elapsed cooking time, but it does not shut off automatically.
Dimensions: 14.5 x 8 x 15.5 inches | Weight: 10.5 pounds | Maximum Water Temperature: 194˚F | Power: 1,000 watts
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 Large Self-Contained: SousVide Supreme Water Oven
Extremely precise heat control
Lid thwarts evaporation
Button labels can be hard to see
Beeps are very quiet
Heavy when full of water
If you're looking for a self-contained solution so you don't have to find another vessel to use with your stick-style sous vide, this “water oven” is a solid option that stood up to all our testing and features a size that won't limit you. It holds about 3 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, which makes it quieter than other models. Instead, a perforated rack on the bottom of the tank creates thermal convection that keeps the water heated evenly from bottom to top. 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.
Its size makes it quite versatile. Our reviewer cooked a small pork roast, turkey breast, crème brûlée, carrots, apples, and "a cowboy steak with an impressively long bone"—all with great results.
SousVide has released a newer version, the SousVide Supreme Touch+ (which we haven't tested yet), that includes a few big upgrades like WiFi connectivity, a responsive touchscreen, an app, and Alexa compatibility—but be prepared to spend more.
Dimensions: 11.4 x 14.7 x 11.4 inches | Weight: 13 pounds | Maximum Water Temperature: 210˚F | Power: 850 watts
"Crème brûlée, cooked at 180 degrees for a little over an hour, was divine. It had a super silky texture with no curdling or overcooking, which is always a concern, even when using a water bath in the oven." — Donna Currie, Product Tester
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 WiFi. 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.
What to Look for in a Sous Vide Cooker
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.
What is sous vide?
Sous vide translates as “under vacuum” but the current meaning is a little different. When people talk about sous vide cooking, they’re talking about cooking food at a very precise temperature, typically a lower temperature than other methods, and usually in a bag or container.
For today’s sous vide cooking, the food may be in a vacuum-sealed bag, but it may also be in a zip-close bag with the air squeezed out as best as possible, or it could be in a sealed canning jar.
With the introduction of the Anova Combi Oven with sous vide mode, food can also be cooked in that oven with 100 percent humidity to get results almost identical to sous vide, but without the tub of water or plastic bag. Other new ovens feature “air sous vide” with precise temperature control without steam. In those ovens, food is sealed in a plastic bag to maintain the moist cooking environment.
How do you use a sous vide cooker?
Most sous vide cooking starts with food in a sealed plastic bag. That bag is placed in a container of water with the temperature controlled by the sous vide device. For meats, the cooking temperature is usually set at the temperature desired for the finished product. Cooking time affects the final tenderness, so tender meats require less cooking time than tough cuts.
It may sound a little intimidating at first, but there are plenty of books, websites, apps, and Facebook groups with times and temperatures for almost any food. When the food is done, there may be a finishing step, like searing a steak or smoking a brisket, while other foods are ready when they come out of the water.
What can you sous vide?
The list of possible foods is quite large, and growing larger as chefs and home cooks experiment with the possibilities. Meats are typical, including everything from beef to lamb to pork. Seafood can be cooked gently using sous vide with no chance of overcooking. Some vegetables also do well with sous vide cooking, albeit at a higher temperature than meats. Custard can be cooked in small canning jars, and foods like polenta also do well. And that’s just the beginning of the list.
Can you sous vide frozen meat?
Yes, and there are two options. Food can be started in cold water, perhaps with ice in the water, and with the heat turned off. The food thaws faster with circulation than with other thawing methods, while it keeps the food out of the danger zone for bacterial growth. This method is useful even if the food won’t be cooked using sous vide, and can also be used for thawing leftovers that were frozen.
Food can also be cooked directly from its frozen state using sous vide. Time should be added to the cooking time, based on how thick the food is.
Is sous vide safe?
Done right, sous vide cooking is extremely safe. Pasteurization is not always about heating to a high temperature. Instead, foods can be cooked for a longer time at a lower temperature to achieve pasteurization. Burgers can be cooked rare with no worries by using sous vide to cook the burgers through, then finishing the burgers on the grill. While a longer time at a lower temperature is safe, there is a point where the temperature is too low. Cooking meat at less than 130 degrees, particularly for more than two hours, is considered unsafe. This factors in some wiggle room for possible temperature fluctuation.
Do you need a vacuum sealer to sous vide?
A vacuum sealer isn’t necessary, but it’s handy. Sturdy zip-top bags, leakproof silicone bags, and canning jars can all be used for sous vide, depending on what food is being cooked.
What are the benefits of sous vide?
One of the main benefits is complete control of the finished temperature, along with edge-to-edge cooking at exactly the same doneness. For cooks who aren’t good at cooking a steak to the right temperature, sous vide makes it easy, with just a sear at the end to get a good crust.
Another benefit is the ability to cook tough meats in a new way. Meat that was previously destined for pot roast can be turned into a tender medium-rare roast. Any food that can benefit from precise temperature control, like yogurt or custard, can be cooked perfectly every time, without the risk of overcooking. Another benefit is that once the food is in the water, the cooking is completely hands-off, and a little extra cooking time won’t cause a disaster, so the food can stay warm when guests are late. While sous vide often takes longer to cook than traditional methods, it’s often more convenient.
How long does sous vide take?
When cooking using sous vide, the temperature controls doneness, but time controls tenderness. There’s always a little wiggle room with the time since the food won’t overcook the way it can in an oven. Shrimp might cook from 15 minutes to an hour, steak might cook from 1-4 hours—or even longer, depending on the thickness of the meat as well as the cut. Very tough meats might cook for 24 to 72 hours, and sometimes longer.
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, in addition to the Instant Pot Accu Slim Sous Vide Immersion Circulator.
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 makes cooking faster and easier and specializes in small kitchen appliance testing and reviews for The Spruce Eats.