Buying a sous vide machine is a fantastic way to take your cooking to a new level. However, before you buy, it’s worth being aware of some key pieces of information. This will ensure you end up with the right sous vide product for you. At Sous Vide Hub, we’ve done the homework so that you don’t have to. Read on for 15 top sous vide tips to help you choose the right product for you.
As far as sous vide equipment goes, there are two main categories:
- Sous vide water ovens
- Sous vide immersion circulators
There are a range of products that support sous vide water ovens and immersion circulators. These include temperature controls, sous vide containers, vacuum sealer bags and sous vide cooking water balls.
Here are our top tips and key things to look for when you are deciding which sous vide water oven or immersion circulator to purchase:
1. Heater reliability
Sous vide ovens and immersion circulators warm up at different rates depending on their power. The quicker the water heats up, the sooner you can put your vacuum sealed food into it. So the higher the wattage, the more powerful the sous vide machine is.
2. Temperature range
Some sous vide machines do not go above a particular temperature or below a particular temperature. Check the temperature range carefully to make sure it will meet your needs.
3. Temperature precision
This is a critical element when it comes to the sous vide method of cooking. Reputable brands will communicate their accuracy range. Look for something with a 0.01 degree variance.
4. Temperature notifications
Alarms are a common way for sous vide machines to alert you that they have reached cooking temperature. Some products may come with a companion app that sends you are alert when the water reaches the cooking temperature you have set. Check user reviews for comments about the accuracy of these alerts and alarms as some sous vide products are better than others. The volume of the alarm is also important – you need to be able to hear it if you are in another room of your home!
5. Removable water bath
Sous vide ovens have water baths built into them (as opposed to immersion circulators which do not – instead this clips onto the side of your pot). Try to source a water oven with a removable water bath so you can fill and clean it easily.
6. Lid fit
Maintaining a consistent water bath temperature is an important part of sous vide cooking. So is minimising evaporation. Lids help greatly with both of these factors. If you purchase a sous vide water oven, it will come with a built in lid. If you purchase a sous vide immersion circulator, you need to think about how you are going to keep your water bath insulated. If you are using your own pot, sous vide water balls are a good option to consider. Many people purchase plastic containers specifically for their sous vide cooking. Many of those containers have lids that fit them perfectly. The lid that goes on your water oven must fit tightly. However if you are using your own pot or water vessel it can take a little trial and error to find a lid that fits securely.
7. Water capacity
Check to see how many liters of water a sous vide water oven can hold. Alternatively if you are looking to purchase an immersion circulator see what water capacity it requires to function. Most immersion circulators have a minimum level and a maximum level of water that they can tolerate. You will need to make sure that your pot or other water vessel is able to sustain those parameters.
If technology floats your boat, there are some sous vide machines that come with Bluetooth and/or WiFi connectivity. Some sous vide water ovens and immersion circulators work exclusively in conjunction with technology (ie the Joule immersion circulator requires Bluetooth or WiFi and is controlled via an app).
9. Rack size
Stainless steel racks can be used to ensure that the food pouches stay immersed in the water when cooking. They also help to keep those food pouches separated to allow for even water and heat distribution during the cook. Have a think about the size of meals you will be making. You need to make sure that any stainless rack you purchase can hold the quantity of food you are looking to cook. Of course the rack needs to be able to fit in to the pot, water oven or water vessel you are going to use!
10. Noise levels
You want the alarms on your sous vide machine to be loud. BUT when it comes to the cooking process itself, you want the actual sound of your sous vide machine to be quiet. A sous vide machine circulates water in the water bath, pot or other water vessel to ensure an even temperature throughout the water whilst cooking your food. Some machines make a lot of noise when they do this. Look at reviews for the sous vide machine you are considering. Avoid sous vide machines that make a lot of noise.
11. Added extras
Look out for extra accessories or offers included with your sous vide water oven or immersion circulator. Many companies include recipe books, temperature guides, tongs, wire racks and/or food pouches. Others offer access to an app which contains recipe ideas, How To guides, step by step sous vide cooking video clips and more. Others may package up full “kits” that come complete with a vacuum sealing machine as well.
Water can accumulate on sous vide machines. This in turn may drip off your sous vide machine onto your counter top and so on. Look out for products where condensation is minimized and/or managed effectively. Reviews are sometimes helpful too as actual users will definitely comment if condensation is a problem with sous vide machine they have purchased. Keep in mind that sous vide water ovens can get very hot on the base of the unit. Consider using a trivet or something similar to protect your counter top.
13. Unit warmth
Some units warm up a lot which makes them hot to touch. Again reviews will uncover feedback on specific sous vide machines that heat up to significant levels. Avoid sous vide machines that get seriously hot. They pose a safety risk to you and others in your kitchen.
14. Ease of clean up
It goes without saying that ease of clean up is a very important aspect for kitchen appliances. Seek products made with materials that are easy to wipe down and clean. Keep in mind that units with lots of coils etc can be trickier to clean.
15. Unit weight and size
Most people don’t leave their sous vide ovens or immersion circulators on their counter tops, although you certainly can if you are going to use it daily. Consider the weight of the unit. Will you be able to easily move the sous vide machine from the bench top to your kitchen cupboard? Consider how much space it will take on your counter top. It is a good idea to measure out the area of the unit and even mark up the dimensions of the product you are considering on a piece of paper. Cut that out and place the paper footprint in various spots in your kitchen to get a good feel for where the sous vide water oven or immersion circulator will fit best in your kitchen.
To see our Product Recommendations and a range of other helpful information including the best sous vide recipe websites, apps, YouTube channels and more, head to our Resources page.
To learn more about sous vide cooking, head to our FAQ page by clicking here.