Congratulations. You have managed to get past the initial nervousness about sous vide cooking and bought yourself either a sous vide water oven or an immersion circulator. We are sure you are already loving the delicious things you are able to cook sous vide.
Here are our top 5 sous vide cleaning tips to protect your new best friend in the kitchen
- Always consult instructions/manuals and any other documents sent to you by the manufacturer before you attempt to clean your sous vide water oven or immersion circulator
- When instructions/manuals are unhelpful, confusing or do not include cleaning instructions make contact with the manufacturer directly – its better to clarify the steps to follow than to ruin your sous vide machine
- Don’t do any of the No Nos mentioned later in this article
- Always clean your product only once it is unplugged!
- It pays to be gentle. Harsh chemical cleaning products are never a good idea for sous vide water ovens or immersion circulators
Removing mineral build up and dealing with hard water issues
In some areas of the world, tap water can be “hard” and full of minerals. Over time your sous vide water bath can become scaly due to deposits of substances dissolving in the hard water. The amount of build up in your sous vide water oven will depend on how frequently you use it and the water hardness where you live.
Generally speaking you should be able to clean away any buildup by filling a pot with a solution of vinegar and water and running your immersion circulator or water oven for about 30 minutes. Consider running a 20% to 25% vinegar water bath with no food at a fairly low temperature. Let it run. Vinegar is acidic in nature and will dissolve the scale. It is useful because it will not corrode the water bath. Take a look every so often to see if the vinegar and water mix has removed the scale that has built up on your sous vide machine, the heating element and the tank itself. Let it cool. Drain the vinegar, then rinse your immersion circulator or water oven (do NOT put the whole water oven under water, just rinse out the water bath area itself). Wash the tank and lid with soapy water.
Food safe cleaning products are VERY important
You should always use a cleansing agent that is 100% food safe. Some people suggest using a CLR cleaner. Calcium Lime Rust, more commonly known as CLR, is a household cleaning product. It is used for dissolving stains, such as calcium, lime, and iron oxide deposits. It’s ingredients include water, lactic acid, gluconic acid, lauramine oxide, Propylene Glycol, n-Butyl Ether, and solvents that dissolve cobalt gel coats and paint. However given CLR’s list of ingredients we would suggest that a more natural cleaning alternative is the way to go. Put it this way – if there were any tiny holes in your zip lock or vacuum sealer bag, you wouldn’t want to ingest CLR. Call us conservative!
Between each use of your sous vide water oven or immersion circulator empty the water EVERY time. Wipe up the remaining water with a kitchen towel or clean cloth.
Specific sous vide immersion circulator cleaning
For cleaning the immersion circulator heating coil, pump shaft and sensors you can use a very mild dish soap and a soft toothbrush to gently wipe them down. After that you can rinse them out under water.
To clean the stainless steel skirt and pump cover – place in a dishwasher (if the manufacturer confirms that is appropriate). Alternatively wash them in the sink with a mild detergent.
Do not immerse your whole immersion circulator unit in water especially the top part of the circulator that includes the main body and the LCD display.
Here is a great resource from Anova with some very specific cleaning instructions (again – please refer to your manufacturer’s instructions for their specific directions on cleaning various aspects of your sous vide immersion circulator):
Help! My cooking pouch ruptured
You may need to clean your sous vide water bath if a dreaded cooking pouch rupture occurs. Use a soft cloth or sponge with mild soapy water to wipe out the interior of the water bath. After that, rinse with clean water and, using the offset handles on the unit (if your sous vide water bath has them), pour the water out from the corner of the water oven itself. Wipe up the remaining water with a kitchen towel or clean cloth.
In the unlikely event that food gets into any part of your sous vide immersion circulator, follow the manual instructions really carefully. You may need to remove safety covers to get to specific parts. It is super important to refer to instructions (and the manufacturer directly) if you are in any doubt about how to do this safely.
Specific No Nos
- Don’t use a scourer or brillo pad as this may scratch the surface of your water bath or immersion circulator
- Avoid immersing the whole unit (either a water oven or an immersion circulator) in water
- Dishwashers and sous vide water ovens are not friends. Do not put your water oven or immersion circulator in a dishwasher (unless the product instructions say specifically that it is dishwasher safe)
- If your water smells like anything other than water do not commence your sous vide cook!
- Never rinse or immerse the sous vide digital/LED screen and electrical unit in water
Cleaning resources for particular brands of sous vide products
For further information about sous vide cooking, head to our FAQ page by clicking here.
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