Whether your culinary interests lie in modernist cooking, or you just like to cook meat safely without sacrificing its tenderness, then the sous vide machine should be a staple in your kitchen. Based on the principle of cooking within a vacuum, the sous vide machine, or immersion circulator, is no longer the domain of professional chefs.In this article we take an in-depth look at sous vide cooking, including the equipment you need, and some of the food safety concerns that arise with sous vide. We also offer some helpful tips if you are new to sous vide, as well as taking a look at some of the best sous vide machines available for the home kitchen.
The compact ChefSteps Joule sous vide (white) is our best pick for offering Visual Doneness to guide you through sous vide cooking.
The Anova sous vide with its timer function and two year warranty is our choice of budget sous vide.
Table of Contents
- Quick Comparison: Top 8 Best Sous Vide Machine
- Things to Consider Before Buying a Sous Vide Machine
Quick Comparison: Top 8 Best Sous Vide Machine
1. ChefSteps Joule Sous Vide
The compact ChefSteps Joule sous vide (white) measures just 11" tall and weighs 1.3 lb. It has a stainless steel base and cap and its body is white. It is 1100 watts for faster heating and it can cook to a precision increment of 0.2°F, and the maximum temperature of 208°F.
This sous vide is Bluetooth/Wi-Fi controlled through the Joule app, which includes a Visual Doneness scale as well as recipes - some of which you will have to pay to access. As this sous vide is app controlled, you will need to ensure you have the correct operating system on your phone/tablet. Unfortunately, if this pairing breaks down, there is no manual control for the sous vide machine.The manufacturer offers a 90 day satisfaction guarantee and this sous vide carries a one year limited warranty.
2. Anova Culinary Sous Vide
The 800 watts Anova sous vide has a temperature range of 77°F to 210°F and a 99 hour timer. This sous vide is Bluetooth compatible and the Anova app allows you to control it remotely. The app also allows guided cooking, has over 1000 recipes and video tutorials. Like any app-controlled equipment there can be issues if your Bluetooth connectivity is less than great, and on this machine, if you lose Bluetooth during cooking, the timer may reset itself.The stainless steel skirt and disk are suitable for cleaning in the dishwasher and it comes with a two year limited warranty, although some owners have had trouble contacting the manufacturer over warranty claims.
3. Kitchen Gizmo Sous Vide
The 800 watts Kitchen Gizmo sous vide (blue) has a touchscreen control panel and cooks up to 194°F. This sous vide is ETL certified and for safety, it will only work when water is above a minimum level. This also comes with recipes and a temperature guide.The timer will stop the sous vide from continuing to heat and circulate once the time is up so you will have to keep an eye on your cooking to ensure that your food does not start to slowly cool.
4. Anova Culinary Sous Vide Precision Cooker Nano
The Anova Nano sous vide can be controlled either through its touchscreen or through the Anova app. The app also contains a number of recipes. This 750 watts sous vide has a temperature range of between 32°F and 197°F. Although this comes with a two year limited warranty from the manufacturer, this sous vide will not work as well if you have limited Bluetooth connectivity or you do not have a suitable phone or tablet.
5. Sansaire Sous Vide
The Sansaire sous vide (black) is a 1000 watts machine with a digital easy read display. This is a heavier sous vide and its temperature range of 32°F to 211.8°F is controlled by a twist of the top ring. There is no timer function on this machine.Although this does come with a one year limited warranty, a number of owners have struggled to contact customer services and get satisfactory resolution to their queries or warranty claims.
6. Monoprice Sous Vide
The Monoprice sous vide (800 watts) has a touchscreen control, LED display and adjustable clamp. It has a temperature range of 41°F to 212°F with a 1% temperature stability. The stainless steel pump housing and cap are dishwasher safe.A small number of owners have experienced this machine beeping continuously, and the only way to stop it is by turning it and restarting it. There may also be some variation between the temperature on the display and the actual water temperature. This comes with a one year limited warranty and the manufacturer also offers a 30 day satisfaction guarantee.
7. Nomiku Wi-Fi Sous Vide
The US-made Nomiku W-Fi sous vide is controlled through the EatTender app, which also contains thousands of recipes. This is an 1100 watts machine that is able to withstand commercial restaurant use. It also allows you to create your own recipes and send them to the machine through the app. This comes with a one year limited warranty.Like anything with connectivity, you may experience some problems setting the machine up through the app and it is always worth checking that your phone or tablet is compatible with the app. Unlike similar sous vide though, this machine can be controlled manually.
8. PolyScience Creative Series Sous Vide
The 1100 watts PolyScience Professional Creative Series sous vide is able to cook up to 210°F. It has a large LCD display which is backlit and shows the actual temperature and the set temperature. This also has a timer and an auto-restart function. The lifespan on this sous vide may be less than expected; a number of owners have experienced it burning out within its one year warranty period.
Things to Consider Before Buying a Sous Vide Machine
Sous vide, or French for ‘under-vacuum’ is a technique for cooking which allows you to maximize the taste, aroma and texture of foods. Sous vide today tends to mean any cooking that takes place in a water bath in which the temperature is tightly controlled.
The food, ideally at a temperature of 42.8°F, is placed into a plastic bag or canning jar and sealed. It is then placed into a water bath, which can be a large pan or pot with a lid or covering, and the sous vide machine, or immersion circulator does the rest.
Large cuts such as legs of lamb, pork shoulders, steaks, chicken breast, lobster and vegetables are just some of the many foods that can be cooked sous vide.
Meat such as steak cooks to its preferred temperature throughout, and for larger cuts, it allows cooking to be done at a lower temperature – giving a more tender cut. This also means an end to undercooked centers and overdone outer edges.
It is also ideal for holding poultry at a food safe temperature to ensure that the pathogens which can cause foodborne illness are killed.
To cook sous vide regularly, you will probably need some extra equipment alongside the machine. A dedicated large pot may be useful, and you will need a good supply of suitable bags.
You may also want to invest in a vacuum sealer to make sure that the air is completely removed from the bag otherwise there is a risk that your bag will float rather than stay in the water. Adding a spoon to your bag before cooking can help make sure your bag stays down.
Although you cannot sear before sous vide cooking, you can do so afterwards, although this will rarely give you the same results as if you had cooked your steak the traditional way. For effective searing, you may want to use a cast iron skillet, so you can sear at high temperature.
The Immersion Circulator or Sous Vide Machine
This is the device that does all of the hard work. Clamped onto the side of the pot, the cylindrical sous vide machine is inserted into the water. It will draw water up into the machine, heat it to the exact temperature required and then pump it back out, forcing the water to circulate as it is heated. This gives a constant temperature through the water.
Vacuum packing food before sous vide cooking removes oxygen from the bag which stops some bacteria (aerobic) from reproducing. The absence of air allows the bag to stay in the water rather than float and it also gives accurate cooking at the set temperature.
If you can regularly, then rather than vacuum packing bags, you can use your canning jars in sous vide; especially for batch cooking of foods such as yogurt, custard or pate which needs to set. You can cook other foods and meats in canning jars, but they will need covering with a liquid or oil, and the food will take a lot longer to cook.
Although a home vacuum sealer is the easiest way to vacuum pack the food, they can be expensive to buy but luckily, you can still cook sous vide without always needing to vacuum pack.
Specific sous vide bags are designed with stronger seams and to stay tough at temperatures of above 158°F - the temperature at which vegetables, beans and some braised meats need cooking at. These bags can be vacuum sealed with a vacuum sealer, or you can just push some of the air out, drape the opening of the bag over the side of the pot and secure it there.
Most bags such as good quality zip-top bags and plastic wrap are safe for using in sous vide, as long as they are made from high-density polythene, low-density polythene or polypropylene. These plastics are resistant to the sub-boiling temperatures of sous vide cooking.
Some of these plastics may however contain additives such as BPA or phthalates, so do take the time to check your bags will be food safe for sous vide cooking. Also, be aware as well, that if you are cooking at higher than 158°F the seams of zip-top bags may begin to fail.
Some cheaper wraps or bags may be made from PVC and if you use these in cooking there can be a risk of chemicals leaching into the food.
Once your filets have been cooked sous vide, the easiest way to serve is to cut across the top of the zip-top bag, or the top and sides of a vacuum packed bag and carefully slide the filets straight onto a plate covered with a paper towel. As the food is so tender, if you try to use tongs it will disintegrate.
Sous vide recipes often have a wide cooking range of hours. There is no reason to panic about this - there will be no, or little, difference in safety or quality of the food within this wide time window.
As long as you avoid cooking for longer than the stated time, then the texture of the food should remain constant.
If you are cooking food such as fish filets, then you may want to give the bag a gentle shake every so often to keep the food moving around and prevent it from sticking together.
Cooking Temperatures and Food Safety
Food should be cooked at or over 130°F to inhibit the growth of bacteria. If you do choose to cook meat below this temperature, then sear it beforehand to destroy any bacteria on the surface of the meat. Also, if you are cooking below 130°F, avoid cooking for longer than four hours.
Food is usually in its ‘danger zone’ between 40°F and 140°F. The USDA recommend that the center of the meat spends a recommended time at its appropriate food safe temperature which is at 140°F or above.
What this means for sous vide cooking is that you can cook at 130°F – not recommended for poultry – but, you must leave it at that temperature for longer. For example, chicken cooking at 136°F would need to stay at that temperature for at least 69 minutes to kill any Salmonella.
When you have finishing cooking, foods need cooling quickly if you want to leave them in the refrigerator. Rapid chilling may be specified in some recipes. This means taking the sealed bag and placing it into an ice bath to stop the cooking. Once the bag is cold, you can then refrigerate for eating later. It should not be left in the refrigerator for long either, as some bacteria can start to grow even when the food is cold.
Using Garlic in Sous Vide
Raw garlic should always be avoided in sous vide cooking to minimize the risk of botulism. Instead use cooked, or granules or powder. Botulism is caused by Clostridium botulinum, bacteria that can grow in the absence of air (anaerobically). C. botulinum produces a tough spore that can grow in a wide temperature range and survive normal cooking temperatures.
Because sous vide cooks under vacuum and at lower temperatures, this gives the bacteria an ideal environment in which they can grow. C. botulinum will die at around 126°F over a length of time.
Some chefs do use raw garlic in sous vide recipes. Any food cooked with raw garlic needs cooking at a safe temperature for a certain amount of time, and it also needs fast chilling in the sealed bag and then cold holding at a maximum temperature for a maximum number of days.
For safety, it is much easier to stick with pre-cooked or commercial garlic seasonings.
Sous vide cooking allows you to serve up foods that are tender and full of flavor which they would lose more of when cooked in traditional ways. There are some safety considerations when using a sous vide machine, but if you follow professional recipes, these will help ensure that your food is always cooked safely.If you are new to sous vide or have been looking for a new sous vide machine to replace your much loved old one, we hope that you have been able to use our reviews to find the best sous vide machine for your kitchen.