Everyone has their way of cooking meat; grills, stoves, and ovens are everyday choices you’ve probably tried yourself.
However, an alarmingly small number of people are familiar with sous vide cooking (precision cooking) – one of the very best ways to cook. In this article, we’re hoping to change that.
If you’re unfamiliar with what to look for, you may end up making the wrong choice. Fortunately, we’re here for you.
In this article, we’ll guide you on how to choose the best precision cooker that works for you.
You’ll know what to look for, how to make the most of your sous vide machine, and we’ll also provide you with some hand-picked options to cut down your research time so you can get to cooking as early as tonight.
Let’s dive right in to unlock the secrets of precision cooking with sous vide!
Best Sous Vide Machine in 2018
|Sous Vide Machine||Best For||Price|
|Anova Sous Vide Precision Cooker (Editor’s Pick)||Best Sous Vide with Wi-Fi / Bluetooth||Price|
|OMOCOOK Thermal Immersion Sous Vide Cooker (Editor’s Pick)||Most Quiet Sous Vide Machine||Price|
|ChefSteps Joule Sous Vide Machine (Editor’s Pick)||Best Luxury Modern Sous Vide||Price|
|CISNO Sous Vide Immersion Cooker||Best Budget Sous Vide Cooker||Price|
|Gramercy Kitchen Co Sous Vide Circulator Cooker||Best Beginner Sous Vide Machine||Price|
|Kitchen Gizmo Sous Vide Immersion Circulator||Best for Looks and Safety||Price|
|Gourmia GSV150 Immersion Cooker||Best Inexpensive Sous Vide with Wi-Fi / Bluetooth||Price|
|Chefman Sous Vide Immersion Circulator||Best Value for Money Sous Vide Machine||Price|
|Wancle SVC001 Sous Vide Cooker||Best Mid-Tier Option||Price|
|Avalon Bay Sous Vide Cooker||Best Budget Sous Vide Cooker (Crowd Favorite)||Price|
1. Anova Sous Vide Precision Cooker — Best Sous Vide Machine with Wi-Fi / Bluetooth
Starting off with a beautiful black and stainless steel sous vide precision cooker from Anova, this immersion circulator is a great high-tech option for anyone looking to step up their cooking game.
In addition to advanced tech, it’s also very straightforward to use for new cooks. The only things required to use this device are a water-filled pot and air sealed bags such as Ziploc, so startup is quick and easy.
Simply use the attached clip to clip the precision cooker to your container that is already filled with water. Next, you can set both the time and temperature manually on the device, seal the food in your Ziploc bag, drop it in the water, clip it to the side of the cooking pot, and you’re done.
Perhaps the handiest feature of using this product is the ability to cook directly from your phone. You’re able, or you can download the Anova Culinary App for on-the-go control.
With this app, you are able to not only set both the time and temperature of your cook from your phone or tablet, but you also have access to over 1,000 recipes. Along with the recipes, you have a guidebook for simple foods such as how high of a temperature and for how long you’ll need to cook a cut of steak to medium rare.
When it comes to cleaning, you won’t have any issues either. Cleaning can be an issue for some precision cookers, but fortunately, it is incredibly easy with this product. The stainless-steel parts of the sous vide machine is completely removable and safe for dishwashers.
An aspect of this product that could be improved is the power and price.
At this price point, it is more common to see sous vide cooker with higher amounts of energy closer to 1,000-1,200W, resulting in faster temperature changes. We would like to see either a lower price point or an increase in power to make it a can’t-miss value.
Another area it could improve upon is user-friendliness for smartphone cooking. Currently, to operate the device via Wi-Fi using the app it requires a login either by creating an account or using a Facebook login.
This may not be an issue to some, and to others, it can be a mild inconvenience resulting in them missing out on a significant perk of this model – the app.
When it comes to an immersion circulator, this model ticks off practically all the necessities.
While it is slightly expensive for its power, you likely won’t run into any problems at all using it, and it is quite beginner friendly.
- Easy to clean
- Clips to any pot
- Controllable via manual or app
- Comes with app and recipes
- Lacks power
- Slightly overpriced
- Must register to use the app
2. OMOCOOK Thermal Immersion Sous Vide Cooker — Most Quiet Sous Vide Machine
A large display with a push-start button and a sleek black and stainless steel design, this sous vide machine is as stunning as it is useful.
This thermal immersion circulator made by OMOCOOK is a handy addition to any family’s kitchen arsenal. Coming in at upper-mid-tier pricing, it is beginner friendly in use, but may be a bit steep for your first model.
One selling point of this sous vide machine is the ability to adjust temperatures on the fly.
On the side of the front panel on this device you will find a rotating wheel that allows you to instantly fine-tune temperatures, giving you an accurate reading within .1°C of the actual temperature for a more precise cook.
Another great perk that comes with using this sous vide cooker is the ability to cook without actually needing to monitor or do the cooking yourself, and thanks to the time control on this model, you can set and forget it.
A problem this model solves is the noise issue that a continually circulating immersion circulator can cause. Fortunately, this product comes with a twisting water pump outlet, which results in an almost entirely silent noise level while operating to ensure you can watch TV in peace while you cook, put your kids to sleep, and more.
Near the bottom of the machine, you will notice the complete 3D circulation.
Instead of only being around half of the device, the circulation holes cover the entirety of the model so that it can heat in all directions at once, increasing the heating speed.
In situations where a normal sous vide device would achieve 140° F in 30 minutes, this device can complete the same task in only 15 minutes.
The final impressive aspect to this choice is that you will find the clamps that connect the device to your desired pot are much sturdier than the usual clips you will get with other devices.
This removes the fear that if not handled with delicacy, the clips may break, and your sous vide machine may fall in and be damaged.
Where this product could be improved would be the lack of value for its price.
It lacks power, coming in at only 850 watts while being priced similarly to stronger models. It also doesn’t come with too many extras as it cannot be integrated with your phone, has no magnetic clips, and is slightly bulky when compared to other models.
It is a little bit too expensive for what it offers, but it is by no means a bad product. If you’re looking for a model that provides easy adjustment and is rather quiet, consider this option.
- Simple to use
- Very quiet while operating
- Rotating wheel to adjust temp
- No extras/extra features
- Slightly overpriced
3. ChefSteps Joule Sous Vide Machine — Best Luxury Modern Sous Vide
Perhaps more fitting of the name “Jewel,” Joule is the name of choice for this sous vide cooker brought to you by the folks at ChefSteps (that’s right, they named it Joule).
It’s a much more luxurious (and pricey) option than the other choices (and looks like it came from a spaceship) but it’s one of the most popular sous vide cookers on the market. It is near the top tier of the prices we’re considering today, but boy does it tempt you!
The main attraction that comes with having the Joule is the absolute convenience that comes with using it.
To start, it’s incredibly small.
In fact, it’s one of the smallest cookers you can find on the market being as little as half the size of other machines. This allows for effortless portability and storing.
A common misconception with smaller sous vide machines is that they will have less power than a larger device. In this case, this is entirely untrue as the power level on the Joule is 1,100 watts, allowing you to have a much sleeker and more convenient model without sacrificing any power.
Having a significant amount of power is great in sous vide cooker because it will heat up your water more quickly, allowing you to begin cooking more quickly and in turn, the cooking process itself will take less time.
If you have a pot made of a magnetic metal, then you will find it even more convenient with the Joule as you can simply attach the base of the Joule to it with the magnets located on the bottom for easy mounting.
This lets you mount it on thicker pots and containers than the clip itself may allow, increasing potential tub capacity.
The last of the main features with this product is the ability to operate the Joule directly from your smartphone or tablet using the app.
This allows you to not only control your device but also provides you with over 100 recipes and pictures that show the perfect cook. You can preview what your end result will look like before even beginning so that you know what to expect and can consistently achieve the same results over and over.
The Joule does not come without its flaws, however.
It seems that the only way to control the Joule is by using the app, creating issues down the line if the app isn’t regularly updated. It is also only compatible with 120 V outlets specifically and using any other voltage could damage your Joule.
For the right person, these can be non-issues, but it’s important to make sure the Joule is the right sous vide cooker for you.
Assuming that you have a smartphone and the app is kept alive by the developers, you’ll probably love the Joule sous vide cooker.
It comes with the bells and whistles you’d expect for a higher-priced model, but they may not be necessary for everyone.
- Wi-Fi and Bluetooth compatible
- Sleek and portable
- Magnetic base
- 1,100 watts of power
- App with recipes
- Only works on 120 V outlets
- Not usable without Wi-Fi or Bluetooth
4. CISNO Sous Vide Immersion Cooker — Best Budget Sous Vide Cooker
This Sous Vide cooker from CISNO is a great budget option for your cooker (despite looking luxurious), especially for anyone who is less technologically savvy, doesn’t own a smartphone, or just doesn’t want to deal with overcomplication by apps.
What you see is what you get with this model, and they’ve put all of their focus on the end product you’ll be tasting rather than attractive bells and whistles such as Wi-Fi or Bluetooth capabilities.
A common issue with having Wi-Fi or app dependent devices is that they aren’t future proof. If they don’t update their apps regularly, they’ll be left behind or even unusable. Fortunately, with sous vide machines such as this one, as long as the parts of the machinery are operating well, the product will work for you day after day.
Another unbeatable feature of this product is that it’s even more hands-off than others. It has an auto shutoff timer meaning that 10 minutes after the set cook time is finished, it will automatically turn off to save electricity and prevent possible damage to the machine from overuse.
While you don’t have to worry about overcooking with sous vide, the sealed bag will make sure that the food doesn’t dry out while it waits for you in the water after cooking. This makes it very easy to cook things overnight or while busy, letting you “set and forget” to finish the rest of the meal.
To add to that, you won’t be bothered or woken while the cooker is in use as the noise it creates is virtually non-existent. On top of your cooker, you’ll find an easy-to-use LED touch panel that is easy to navigate and a handy option to switch between Celsius and Fahrenheit.
Another aspect that is always welcomed is the use of clamps instead of clips. Many clips are made of cheaper plastic and can be easily accidentally broken off the model, but clamps are much more sturdy, consistent, and reliable.
If you could change one thing about this device, it would be the manner in which it is cleaned. Unfortunately, it doesn’t come apart, and the only cleanable parts are the section made of stainless-steel.
It can be kind of bulky and at times challenging to clean depending on the size of your cleaning space. There could also be possible dangers as needing to hold the entire device including the plug near running water could be very hazardous.
It also wouldn’t hurt to have the option for Wi-Fi/Bluetooth capability, but it’s definitely elective.
For the price, this is one of the better choices on the list.
It doesn’t have the extras some other products do, but it also doesn’t have their price tag. It’s cheap, quiet, and reliable, making it a worthy choice for any user.
- Incredibly affordable
- Powerful and quiet
- No apps or Wi-Fi required
- Celsius and Fahrenheit display
- 10-minute idle shutoff
- Lacks extra features
- Can be difficult to clean
5. Gramercy Kitchen Co Sous Vide Circulator Cooker — Best Beginner Sous Vide Machine
If you’re looking to save money and want a value choice that is highly reviewed, the immersion circulation cooker from Gramercy Kitchen Company may be the one for you.
It is one of the cheapest of all our options discussed and even has a unique look to it, with a beautiful emerald-green display and temperature scroll wheel. This makes it a solid choice as your first sous vide machine.
The device comes at a fairly low power supply of 800W, which can be a drawback; that means it will take a little longer for your water to reach the desired temperature levels but should not change the actual cooking process once it reaches the set temperature.
This sounds like a direct downside, but if you’re willing to wait a little longer or plan to heat smaller tubs, the money you save may be worth it. This model isn’t all average though – it has some redeeming qualities.
One of the most common causes for sous vide machines failing is the steam that is produced during use getting inside the machinery and causing damage. With this cooker, there is a built-in shield that helps prevent the steam from getting on the insides and causing damage to the inner working parts.
To add to that protection, when the device is not being used there is a storage sleeve provided to protect from any dust or dirt getting inside and causing damage similar to steam. You can also bring it with you to a dinner party to impress your friends.
A feature that can be improved with this product is undoubtedly the power.
Having 800W is 25% less power than some of the other sous vide cookers, and while you may save a small amount of money on your electric bill, you may want to consider a stronger value option.
All things considered, this will still be a decent budget option for many, especially as a first-time experience for anyone looking to try out sous vides cooking to see if they like it.
This product is definitely a price-based purchase though, so look around for sales on stronger machines if you can.
- Protective shield
- Storage sleeve
- Not Wi-Fi or Bluetooth dependent
- Low power
6. Kitchen Gizmo Sous Vide Immersion Circulator — Best For Safety and Looks
With impressive reviews on online commerce sites, this sous vide cooker from Kitchen Gizmo is a good option for someone who wants a relatively well-featured cooker for a lower-mid-tier price.
If you don’t want to spend as much money as the top-of-the-line sous vide cookers are demanding or drop down to the truly budget choices, consider the Kitchen Gizmo.
Right off the bat, you’ll see that this model has a different look to it than the others; its rubberized grip adds both an interesting look (that comes in 3 colors) and a functional grip to your machine.
This way you don’t have to worry about dropping it and destroying your investment while still having a stylish piece you could leave on your countertop.
On top of the device, you’ll notice the light-up LED touchscreen panel. This is where you’ll control the device and be able to set things like time, temperature, and even switch between the temperature settings (Celsius and Fahrenheit).
The use of a selection wheel to change temperatures instead of a touchscreen LED is an excellent feature as after years of use you may run into issues with those style of buttons.
Fortunately, cleaning with this device is exceptionally simple so you won’t have to worry about exceptional wear and tear. The only cleaning steps are to remove the detachable sleeve and then clean it with water and soap.
Another handy feature included with this device is the safety feature. If your device is ever powered on while out of the water, it will automatically power down to prevent any burn danger or damage. When you work with extreme heat, hot water, and electronics, any safety feature is worth it.
If you were to pick an aspect of this product to improve it would have to be the amount of power it produces. At only 800W it falls into the same range as many truly budget options but is about 20% more expensive than them.
This can be justified by the stylish look, easy cleans, and safety features, however.
There aren’t a ton of variable factors with sous vide cookers which means that something like power is especially important for speed and convenience. However, less power does not take away from the product’s benefits, and the only drawback will be more time spent waiting for the water to be heated.
If you want a different looking model that comes with a few more perks than the cheapest options, but don’t want to pay for all the fancy features of a model double its price, you’ll be happy with this choice.
- Scroll selection wheel
- Rubber grip
- Multiple colors available
- Detaches to clean
- Low power supply
7. Gourmia GSV150 Immersion Cooker — Best Mid-Tier Sous Vide with Wi-Fi / Bluetooth
Another stylish black and stainless steel model, this well-reviewed sous vide immersion circulator cooker from Gourmia falls into the mid-tier for pricing.
It is smaller than your average machine while packing a surprising amount of power. As a standard all-around option, this sous vide cooker would be a good fit for anyone.
This model comes in near the top of the power rankings, boasting an impressive 1,200W.
This is nearly 50% more power than models priced within 20% of it, making it one of the better watt/dollar values on this list. Adding on to the value is the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth capability without relying on it solely for use, thanks to the manual options on the LED display and fine-tune temperature wheel.
This lets you easily adjust the temperature, monitor the cooking progress, and focus on other parts of the meal. It is also quiet, with a 360° circulator that maintains a low hum at the very most while effectively circulating the water to maintain the heat and keep the cooking consistent.
The majority of complaints about this product come from the Wi-Fi module being spotty at best and a less than stellar app. While they are not vital features of the machine, it still would be nice to have an effective smartphone integration to add to the value it offers over the bargain options.
Overall, for the money, this is one of the better options.
If you can get the Wi-Fi to work consistently, it may rival the best of the best. If not, it still offers tons of power for the price and a stable circulation system.
- Strong circulation
- Manual and smart options
- Smartphone capabilities are inconsistent
8. Chefman Sous Vide Immersion Circulator — The Best Value for Money Sous Vide Machine
The sous vide cooker by Chefman is a very cheap option for someone who wants a little more power but few extras.
It doesn’t innovate in the looks department, but it is still as stylish as most options, with perhaps the most significant appeal being its price. It is currently the 2nd cheapest model we’ve reviewed but definitely holds its own.
Although being a much lower priced option, thankfully you don’t have to sacrifice power for the price with the Chefman immersion circulator.
At 1,100 Watts, it is one of our most powerful sous vide cookers reviewed and rivals models that are 50% more expensive. It should quickly heat your water, allowing you to cut down total cook time you would have spent waiting.
It has a big, bright LED display that offers Fahrenheit or Celsius for both your goal and current temperatures, and an easily accessible temperature scroll for fine adjustments.
Cleaning this device is also a relatively simple process. The cap at the bottom comes off, but otherwise, the unit stays entirely together, allowing you to clean it as a single piece. It’s not too big or bulky so keeping it in one piece and cleaning in most areas should not be a problem.
An aspect that we would like to see improved with this device absolutely has to be its lifetime.
Many customers have reported that they either received defective units or within a month of use, their unit died. Thankfully to help counteract this unfortunate situation, if you purchase one and this happens it should be covered under their year-long warranty to ensure that the unit you receive will be working to the highest of quality.
For the price, it’s rare to find a cooker that has 1,100W of power.
You’re missing out on smartphone capability, but at more than 20% cheaper than the next highest choice, this has to be a budget frontrunner.
- Very affordable
- Easy to clean
- Reports of defective units
9. Wancle SVC001 Sous Vide Cooker — The Best Mid-Tier Option
Surprise, another black, and stainless steel model!
This well-rated model falls into the mid-range for pricing. It does not include a ton of extras or additional features, but it is highly regarded for its longevity and quality.
It focuses on the core concept of making quality food without all the bells and whistles. It would be a solid choice for anyone who’s okay with paying a little more for a quality machine.
Like any good product should be, this sous vide cooker is simple to use and very beginner friendly. It has a large LED display that shows you both your target and current temperatures, with a scroll wheel to adjust the heat so that you’re always in control of your cook.
Once you lock it in place and set your temperature, it’s going to reach and maintain it thanks to its ultra-quiet 360° circulator. This way it can quietly spread the hot water uniformly, giving you an even cook throughout without any hot or cold spots or extra noise.
It reaches up to 212°F, allowing it to be used for almost any meat or vegetable you can think of and is protected by an overheating and low-water level safety mechanism in case you forget about your cooking, there are any power surges or heater malfunctions.
Where this product could improve would be the power and Wi-Fi capabilities.
Despite falling in the same price range as some of the more feature-rich and stronger options, this product has neither with an 800W power capacity and no Wi-Fi or Bluetooth option.
If it were cheaper, with a few more features, or were more powerful, it would fall in with the rest of the mid-tier options. However, falling short in those categories makes it a secondary choice on this list.
- Weak for price
- Lacks features for the price
10. Avalon Bay Sous Vide Cooker — The Best Budget & Crowd Favorite
Talk about value!
This product has an excellent product review rating on e-commerce sites, the lowest price, and includes free sous vide bags. What else could you ask for?
While it looks a little bit cheaper than other models due to its smaller display and low-profile look, it will still more than get the job done for those who want to save as much as they can to buy better cuts of steak to cook!
This immersion circulating sous vide machine is smaller than many of the other models, making it easier to store and fit in most pots you’d use to cook in. It also has an LED display that has all your controls in one place, making it very simple to use for even new users.
It reaches up to 194° F, which should be more than enough for cooking most meals (though you may run into some trouble with certain vegetables without a vacuum seal). Fortunately, to sweeten the deal you’ll receive vacuum-sealable sous vide bags so you can make up for the lower temperature range with a more even cook and better heat transference.
Given its price, it makes sense that this model would have some shortcomings.
800W is not impressive (despite being the same as some options double its price), and a lower temperature range is unfortunate for veggie fans. It also has a relatively unimpressive hook to mount onto the pots, whereas a clamp would likely be sturdier.
This product is absolutely a value, and reading the reviews, you’ll be hard pressed to find someone who is unhappy. If you’re a new user or someone who plans to cook at lower temperatures or with less water, give it a try.
- Incredibly cheap
- Easy to use LED screen
- Includes sous vide bags
- Low power
- No Wi-Fi capability
- Weak pot mount
Sous Vide Machine Buyer’s Guide
If you’ve been looking for a way to bring your cooking to the next level, you’ve come to the right place.
Sous vide cooking is not only very easy, but it’s also inexpensive while producing restaurant-quality food in the comfort of your home. It won’t earn you any Michelin stars, but your family will thank you.
But what is sous vide machine?
What can you cook with it?
What should you be looking for when you’re considering different products?
These are all questions we’ll answer in this guide (and then some).
In no time you’ll be able to compare our recommendations above or find your perfect sous vide machine online.
What is a Sous Vide Machine?
Many people have heard the term “sous vide” on television or on a restaurant menu, but unsurprisingly not everyone knows what it means.
This French term, meaning “under vacuum” refers to a cooking process that combines your stove or oven, and a hot pot into a single cooking appliance.
That may sound a bit confusing, but don’t worry; world-renowned chefs around the world have been using this approach to cooking for years. Now that residential models have become more popular, nothing is stopping a kitchen-savvy individual from cooking like the pros at home.
Sous vide cooking involves cooking foods (usually meats and other foods that require specific temperatures) by submerging them in hot water and clipping them to the pot so they can cook.
Unlike boiling water on the stove, this method of cooking is all about precision when it comes to temperature. The foods are placed in sealed bags, jars, and other containers that are resistant to heat and will not let water in to degrade the food. Vacuum bags, mason jars, and similar containers are popular choices.
Depending on your machine, you will either place your packaged food into the machine’s “water oven” and secure it or attach it to your own pot, where its thermometer and water heater will monitor and maintain the temperature you set it to, with little to no fluctuation in temperature. This gives you consistency and the utmost control over the final product, leading to high-quality meals.
Benefits of Sous Vide vs. Traditional Cooking
If you cook regularly, you’ve probably been using the same methods and techniques for most of that time. You’re used to grilling meats, boiling water for pasta, and baking dishes in the oven.
So why would you make the change to a relatively new method of cooking now? For the benefits, of course!
Once you get past the fancy French words and the rather unique cooking process, you’ll see there are many things sous vide cooking can do that your grill simply can’t.
It won’t replace all of your other appliances, but it can sure take your cooking up a few notches.
Sous vide cooking is:
- Incredibly consistent
Have you ever made a great steak, but were never able to replicate it after that one time? Are your vegetables sometimes perfectly crisp but other times just plain mush?
With sous vide machine, you can have the same high-quality cook every time thanks to the controlled temperature of the water. It will never drop below or exceed your heat setting so you can achieve the same interior temperature and doneness without worrying about overcooking it.
When cooking in pans or on the grill, you’re going to have “hot” and “cold” zones where the temperature is inconsistent.
You’ll also have varying thicknesses of meat so your cook may not reach the center in the same amount of time. Instead of dealing with variable quality, simply use sous vide machine and then add a layer of crisp with your grill or pan once it is already cooked.
For your vegetables, skip the microwave or stove pot and let them cook in a consistently-heated environment so that they cook without losing their natural crunch.
- Healthier, juicier, and more flavorful foods
If you’ve overcooked a piece of chicken and ended up with what resembles a hockey puck in terms of consistency, you’ve seen what traditional cooking can do to the quality of meats.
That may be good if you’re trying to cut down a few pounds, but dry, boring chicken does not a meal make! All those juices in the bottom of the tray or grill are going to waste, leaving you with a less than ideal meal.
Fortunately, with sous vide machine you’re going to be able to keep all the natural juices and flavorings (as well as any marinades) inside the meat while it cooks.
This results in the juiciest and most flavorful meat you’ve ever had outside of a restaurant. It’ll also keep your vitamins and minerals inside, giving you a healthier meal, so you don’t feel as bad about taking another pork chop.
- Safe and convenient
Anyone who has been cooking for a while has had one of those near-catastrophic cooking situations. If you’ve ever put your stove, oven, kitchen, or even home in danger while cooking, you’d definitely benefit from sous vide machine.
Most importantly, the sous vide machine will keep the temperature of the water the same no matter how long it is on. That means even if you accidentally fall asleep for an hour, you’re not risking it catching on fire, food burning to a crisp, or other wastes of good food.
The ability to set it and forget it also lets you focus on the other parts of your meal, with one less thing to worry about.
Additionally, because you’re not leaking juices onto your grill, stove, or pan or burning vegetables to a crisp, you lower the risk of a grease or oil fire.
The self-contained water bath offers incredible safety, with the only danger being the relatively hot water. That’s much better than oil and grease spitting everywhere.
Immersion Circulator or Water Oven?
When looking for sous vide machine, you’re going to come across 2 different types of device:
water oven models
While both of these choices can achieve similar results, they have their own pros and cons that you’ll have to consider when making your decision.
If you’re looking for versatility, the immersion circulator is a solid choice for your sous vides cooking.
The immersion circulator machine can be attached to your “tub” of choice and will sit in the water with a thermometer and heater.
When you set the desired temperature, it takes water into its heating storage, heating the water and then pumping it back into the tub.
This allows the water to constantly circulate, which prevents hot and cold spots that may hurt the consistency of the cook.
This type of sous vide machine is an attachment rather than an entire appliance, which means that you can use it with nearly any container you want.
From pots you already own to hard plastic tubs and drink coolers, anything that has a lid and can be sealed for temperature control can be used with the circulator (and even those without covers, but your machine will have to work harder to maintain temperatures).
This means that your cooking capacity is nearly unlimited as well, the only restriction is your imagination and available containers.
Not only is the immersion circulator versatile, but it’s also convenient.
They are usually quite small, allowing them to be stored easily and fit most pots. You’ll also find that in general, they are the cheaper option when compared to water ovens.
You will have to supply your own container though, but who doesn’t have a whole cabinet of pots lying around?
There’s not much negative to an immersion circulator, as its effectiveness primarily depends on the container that you use with it. It can have less capacity than some water ovens, but can also have much more.
A potential negative is that it doesn’t come with a container that insulates heat well, which means that if you use an open-top pot, you’re losing a lot of heat which will make your machine have to work harder, potentially causing more noise than you’d like.
However, again this depends on the container you end up using!
If you’d like to get an all-in-one solution for your sous vides cooking, a water oven may be the choice for you.
Unlike the immersion circulator models, this option will come with a “tub” for you to fill with water, as well as the temperature gauge and heater included. It’ll heat the water to your desired temperature and maintain it, allowing you to cook your delicious meats, veggies, and more.
As long as you have the counter space, this option that will include a cooking tub (that often comes with an insulative lid) is an excellent way to make it easy for a newbie to start with sous vide cooking.
Depending on your choice, you’ll likely end up with either a 5-liter, 8-liter, or 10+ liter tank that allows for larger cooks than you may get with your own pots. They are also very easy to clean, similar to any standard dish you own that can be cleaned with a wipe down.
Price is one of the larger negatives of a water oven, with larger models reaching into the multiple-hundreds as compared to the usually single-hundred range of an immersion circulator.
The other significant shortcoming is that the water ovens don’t circulate the water inside the tub. They heat in a singular location rather than focusing on heating the entirety of the tub. This allows for cold spots to pop up, hurting cook time and consistency.
Finally, water ovens are much larger and harder to store than immersion circulators because they are their own appliance rather than an add-on.
If you’ve got the counter and storage space, there’s nothing wrong with choosing a water oven.
They are perhaps the simpler-to-use model, with everything being contained in a single package. However, they do not quite offer the level of value, versatility, and convenience that an immersion circulator does.
Due to the extra benefits at a lower price point, we would recommend you go with an immersion circulator for residential use, scaling your containers based on your individual capacity needs.
If you plan to use it commercially, a deluxe water oven may offer better capacity and convenience to you (as long as you have room for it).
How Safe is Sous Vide Cooking?
We can admit that the idea of sous vide cooking is a little intimidating at first. Afterall, food safety is incredibly important, and you don’t want to risk getting your family sick.
So naturally, you may be skeptical of cooking meats in a plastic bag in hot water being a safe way to kill bacteria and not absorb chemicals from the plastic. Fortunately, sous vide machine allows you to do so safely and efficiently with just a little discretion.
Cooking meats with hot water
Primarily, when people think of cooking meats, they think of a grill or pan, not hot water.
The idea that the scalding heat from your appliance removes bacteria and allows the meat to cook safely is correct. However, cooking outside-in is not the only way to achieve this level of sterilization (and can often lead to overcooking or inconsistent doneness).
For meat to be safe, it needs to reach a specific internal temperature; how it reaches that temperature doesn’t necessarily matter, though many believe that you should just cook it at high temperatures until the inside is cooked from the outside heat source.
In the case of a sous vide machine, the food sits in the packaging immersed in specifically-heated water. Due to its total immersion, it is consistently being cooked from every side at once, allowing the heat to reach the core without overheating the exterior.
This way you can be sure that all parts of the meat are at the safe temperature, and the whole piece is evenly cooked and delicious.
Cooking food in plastic
You may be thinking, “hot water, plastic, and food together? That doesn’t sound safe!” and in some case, you may be right to worry. However, in this case, you can trust the millions of chefs around the world who have safely used this method for years.
Outside of the inherent dangers of being around boiling water, you’re in total control over the safety of your cooking.
It’s true that heating plastics can allow BPA to leak from the material, mixing with whatever is nearby and becoming potentially dangerous. Fortunately, the creation of BPA-free plastics like microwave-safe containers and Ziploc plastic bags has practically eliminated the need for concern over BPA exposure.
All you have to do is make sure your packaging is BPA-free and heat resistant, and you’re good to go.
Packaging Options for Sous Vide Cooking
When it comes to the actual packaging for cooking your food, you have a few options to choose from.
This makes sous vide cooking even more convenient than it already is because as long as it seals, resists heat, and is BPA-free, you should have no problems.
That being said, certain containers work better than others for different foods.
Perhaps the most economically friendly (but not environmentally friendly) option are Ziploc-style bags.
You’ve probably already got them in your drawer or cabinet so you can start right away without special supplies.
These plastic bags will come with a “zipper” on the top which allows you to seal them to prevent leaks safely. You should look for freezer-quality bags as well because they are less likely to have their seams burst in warmer temperatures (above 155 °F) and overall resist the heat better.
You’ll find them to be almost exclusively BPA-free, making them safe to use in hot water. You can easily make any type of meat in these bags, but if you’re considering other foods like vegetables, you may want to consider sous vide bags.
Vacuum-sealable sous vide bags
The fancier alternative to Ziploc bags, sous vide bag is specially crafted to resist heat and stand up to the max temperature your machine can reach.
This makes them useful for cooking vegetables, which need more heat than many types of meat (depending on your cooking preferences). You can also vacuum-seal these bags, which takes away any air bubbles and allows for an evener heat distribution and cooking experience.
If you’re willing to pay a little more, you can’t go wrong with this versatile packaging option.
We’re taking a bit of a left turn here, moving from plastic to glass containers.
This is not the option for meats but may be a better choice for some more unconventional sous vide cooks. You’ll primarily want to use these jars for things with a high liquid content, which allows them to cook more easily despite the lower heat exposure glass offers.
These would be foods such as eggs, yogurts, and more that need to set after cooking. Another tip is to put the jars into the bath as it heats, as the glass is susceptible to shattering when heated too quickly.
Overall, you’ll probably want to stick with either a Ziploc or sous vide bag (depending on your budget) for most cooks, as they offer more versatility than jars.
If you can afford to use them regularly, the sous vide bags with vacuum-sealing potential are the cream-of-the-crop. If not, you’ll likely be fine with a Ziploc bag.
What to Look For
Now that we’ve (hopefully) convinced you that you need a sous vide machine, it’s time to start looking.
When you’re browsing the web (or our recommendations above), you’re going to see a lot of different products using different terms, metrics, and information that you may not be familiar with.
Knowledge is your best friend in this case, which is why we’re going to lay out everything you need to look for in a listing to decide if that product is right for you.
Use them to filter your search, compare products, and feel confident in your decision!
Cost is going to be a deciding factor in any decision, and in this case, it will likely point you towards buying an immersion circulator instead of a water oven.
For an immersion circulator, you can expect to pay between $100-$200 on average, with some value and deluxe models available to it your price range.
Many quality water ovens fall above $200, although you will find smaller-capacity models for cheaper if you’re looking for minimal capacity.
As outlined earlier in the article, your 2 choices for types of sous vide machines are immersion circulators and water ovens.
Capacity refers to how much you can cook at once, which is essential for those with larger families.
You will only find a storage capacity on water oven models, however, as immersion circulators are simply placed onto an existing pot of nearly any size.
You will need to find a water oven that has a capacity matching your needs, with typical sizes being 5L, 8L, and 10L.
The whole idea behind using a sous vide machine is precision and consistency in cooking.
You will want to find a machine that is as accurate as possible, with a .1° C margin of error being the standard you’ll want to seek.
Heating power (wattage)
Simply put, the heating power will be described in wattage, with more watts meaning that you can heat the water faster.
While this will get you from 0 to cooking more quickly, it will not reduce cook time because once it reaches the desired temperature, it will only maintain the heat.
For immersion circulators, the pump strength will tell you how much water it can heat and circulate at a time.
The more water can be circulated at once, the more efficiently the temperature can be maintained throughout the tub.
While most meats will not require more than 160°F, you’ll find that vegetables benefit from temperatures as high as 190°F.
You’ll want a machine that can reach that – and then some. Aim for 200°F as a minimum, with more being an added bonus.
As with most everything else late in this decade, many sous vide machines come with smart technology which allows them to sync with your smartphone, allowing you to monitor the cook’s temperature, timer, and more on the go.
This is not vital for everyone, but it sure adds to the convenience of being able to set it and forget it.
Further adding to the fantastic “set and forget” benefits of sous vide machine is an automatic timer that can alert you when it is complete, or even turn off the heat automatically.
Many of the higher-end models come with the timer but be sure to check the description to double check. It’s quite convenient for recipes.
It never hurts to have a company back up their product. When browsing sous vide machines, you will find a one-year warranty often, and anything after that should give you even more faith in your purchase.
If they are willing to back it up for more than a year, it is probably a solid choice!
Frequently Asked Questions
- Will sous vide cooking give me a grill-like crust?
Unfortunately, no. You’ll have to sacrifice that outer crust in favor of a juicier cut of meat. Rather than cooking outside-in to form an outer crust, sous vide machine evenly cooks all the way through.
Fortunately, you can always put it into a pan or on the grill for just a few minutes after your sous vide cooking, adding some solid texture to the outside without drying it out.
What can I cook in sous vide machine? Simply put anything that benefits from an incredibly consistent and precise cook! You may be surprised to know that sous vide cooking is not isolated to just meats.
- Custards like pudding and yogurt
- Purees like mashed potatoes
- French Fries
- Hot Pockets
- and more!
Does it take longer to sous vide?
Yes, unfortunately, it takes longer to cook using sous vide. Rather than intense heat, the slow and steady method leads to longer cook times.
However, you can easily leave the machine on and the food cooking while you do something else, making the time difference manageable as long as you plan ahead. Plus, you can’t rush perfection.
Hopefully, you learned a thing or two about one of the best ways to take your cooking to the next level.
Now that you’re a sous vide expert, you’re ready to begin choosing the perfect machine for you. Be sure to go throughout the list of features and make sure your choice fits the bill.
If you’re like most people, you’ll end up deciding on an immersion circulator for the convenience and price.
They’re versatile enough to work in most containers, pots, and tubs that you’ll want to use and allow you to expand your capacity as you need to.
While you’re browsing, pick up some Ziploc freezer bags, or sous vide bags as well so that you can safely heat your food without risking chemical contamination or leaks into your food.
Depending on your budget, you’ll likely want to consider our recommendations above.
We’ve laid them out for you so that you can easily compare them based on what you value most. No matter your choice, you can’t go wrong with one of the 10 above as they each excel in one way or another.
If you got this far, it’s clear you care about your cooking.
If you want the juiciest meats, crispiest vegetables, and easiest cooking of your life, invest in sous vide machine. Your family and their stomachs will thank you!