Sous Vide Cooking

everything you need to know to get you started

(Jan. 2019 review)

 

There is so much about the sous vide topic online and it is growing fast. Products have developed a lot in the last few years, and we are already finding some of the information out of date.  So we are reviewing, using, and tweaking it every day, in order to give you up to date sous vide information. We aren’t scientists, or chefs, just keen users, with experience. We’re diligent researchers, and avid foodies looking to provide honest information for you all.

We started from scratch to research sous vide for you, then decided which are the best ones to buy… and then bought the best one ourselves !
So, on this page you will find all the information that answered our questions along the way, from the basic beginners questions, right through to the point where we got excited enough to part with our own cash and buy the best one for us. We hope it takes you on the same journey. Just ask anything else in the comments section at the bottom.

 

First, you need can speak French like a native and pronounce "sous vide". ... click the + for the big reveal !

It’s simple… just pronounce it like a girl’s name ‘Sue Veed’ !

What sous vide means

Let’s start by getting a few niggling questions out of the way. The French word ‘sous’ means under, ‘vide’ means empty. Together it means ‘under a vacuum’. It’s a French term of course, but in the U.S. you might hear the term “Cryovacked” to describe the same cooking process.

Sous vide myths

The first thing people might think when you say sous vide is “perfect steak”… “unbelievable eggs”… “um, boil in the bag !”  O.K., let’s clear the last one up, because it’s a total misconception.

Boil in the bag was invented in the 1950s… but take away the boiling water from that and you have a nice gentle cooking method instead. The food is indeed usually vacuum sealed in a bag in sous vide,  but this is so that the water bath is in direct, even, contact with all of the food. In addition, it means that no water enters the food bag. The food never usually gets to boiling point though. For example, proteins are cooked at lower temperatures say 50 – 70℃, and only desserts and vegetables are usually cooked higher at 80 – 90 ℃.

So, why the obsession ?

Essentially, sous vide is professional cooking… simplified.

What started as a trend, has become the norm in restaurants. A restaurant kitchen can have 3 or 4 machines for batch prepping foods. For chefs…its all about product quality, economic and organisational benefits. It also allows them to create gourmet meals with consistent ease. This prepping or batch cooking is a big reason more people are getting obsessed with sous vide. Imagine how it helps organise the food prep for a busy family.

Since 2010, sous vide has crept its way into the developing cook’s kitchen ( with foodies like us). It’s a technical tool that helps level the playing field from cook to chef. That’s why we think all our readers will love this.

 

What sous vide cooking will do for you

Ok, this is the crux of the matter. Sous vide is for all levels of cooking abilities. Whether you’re cooking steak, chicken, fish, eggs for a weekday meal, or a fancy dinner party, sous vide is an extremely practical tool that takes care of the tricky part of cooking. Sous vide can both enhance your cooking, whilst making your life easier.

Even if all you need is to keep something (like baby milk ) at a constant temperature … the precision of sous vide takes care of that too.

It can even help you save money, and be more adventurous foodie-wise. That’s just a snapshot of the benefits. Read on to see why cooks are obsessed with sous vide, or have a look at our 20 reasons why this trend has a serious uptake. 

How, and why it works

Traditional cooking vs Sous vide cooking

When you heat food, it goes from uncooked to cooked when it reaches a critical temperature.

Normally when you cook, you have to have the temperature of the pan and cooking liquid a lot higher than the food ever needs to be when its cooked. This is because it cooks the food from the outside inward. Hence the chance of burning the outside while its still raw in the middle.

Sous vide is essentially precise cooking in water rather than using direct heating elements in a frying pan, or through air in an oven, or even through microwaves ! Sous vide also cooks the food at a lower temperature, for a longer time.

The whole idea of sous vide is to gently get the food to the precise scientific critical internal temperature that means the food molecules are perfectly cooked. It never goes beyond this temperature so the food never under or over cooks, and is never dried out.. So, unlike traditional cooking where the goodness literally bursts out of its cells and changes the form of the food, sous vide keeps it all intact. It does this by cooking for longer, at a lower controlled temperature. 

The other important thing is that the precise temperature is delivered to the food evenly. That way, it cooks things to perfection , consistently. The food is cooked all the way though using water as the medium to cook it evenly from end to end, and from outside in.

The two main added benefits of sous vide cooking (because it preserves the quality of the raw food), are that the flavour of the food is more intense, and the texture is beautifully tender.

 

Now you can cook like a chef too

If there was such a thing as a robot chef then a sous vide machine is it !  The main machine is the temperature and timer all in one. Apart from that you just vacuum up the raw food, set the temperature and timer, then when it reaches the temperature you want your food to be when cooked, you just place it in a water bath,  and wait till its done… tada! 

Any extra seasoning or marinades cook into the food, rather than coating on it. Liquid isn’t lost, and any extras that you add like oils or butter just cooks back into the food rather than having it all cooked out, so it doesn’t dry up. No overcooking or undercooking, and more importantly, no chance of error.

How a sous vide machine works

The three main elements required to cook sous vide.

1.  The main machine has a temperature and time controller,  and a heating coil to heat up the water to the temperature you have chosen. It goes on and off in order to maintain that temperature as precisely as possible. Plus a fan / pump to circulate the water in the cooking vessel, in order to maintain an even temperature around the food to cook it evenly.

2. A deep container to cook the food in.  It could be a saucepan, a plastic tub, or an insulated cooler. The end of the wand / pod sits in the water and circulates it evenly around the food, at a set temperature. 

3. Something to house the food so that the water doesn’t touch it. Usually its a vacuum sealed bag that holds the food.  So you will need the bags and perhaps a vacuum sealer, although a lot of people successfully use Ziplock or BPA freezer food type bags. Some chefs are also even experimenting with glass containers instead of the vacuumed bag. You can see what kind of foods need the vacuum sealed bag and which the glass jars here.

A fourth optional element could be a pan, or a blow torch. Basically you will probably want to sear some foods like steak or burgers. 

The two types of machines you can buy

Immersion circulation tool

A wand like machine that you put into the, also known as a pod, that you place in your own choice of water vessel. The wand, or pod as its also known,  heats and circulates the water at the same time, around your protected package of food. The vessel which could be a saucepan,  or you can buy an associated water vessel.

Usually this is the best startup solution, and also the most flexible for home and professional cooks because you can cook up any food size, and in almost any vessel.

 

Water baths

An all in one counter top solution which is in fact the water vessel with the heat source integrated within it. So The home versions don’t usually have a water circulator element, although the more expensive options don’t tend to need one. Water baths are usually more expensive, and in our opinion, often not as precise unless you go even more high end toward a restaurant grade model. With some food ( particularly eggs), a temperature variance of just 1℉ can turn out a very different product !

How to use your machine

You pick a temperature and time that will cook your chosen food to the perfect point for you or your guests.  Most machines give some guidance. Some have an app for your phone where you can even pick the temperature and time recommended and control the machine to start from the phone. It can also set off a beeper to let you know when its done. 

Just think, you can serve everyone the same perfectly cooked steaks to everyone at the table, and even customise the seasoning, herbs or marinade in each one, if you know your diners preferences. You can sous vide them all, at the same time, to exactly the same temperature. The key is the precise low temperature, think of it like a much more high tech slow cooker… it takes a lot longer, but its hand off cooking. Just leave it alone, don’t interfere, and go do something more interesting instead 😉

 

See an immersion circulator sous vide machine in action

Click the image below to see a Martha Stewart video to see a chef easily cooking the perfect eggs, fish and steak.

 

sous vide beginner's guide you tube video

sous vide beginner’s guide video

Buying a sous vide machine

The top 10 sous vide machines we recommend for 2019

It will probably be no surprise that more of our recommendations for sous vide at home are the pod style (I.C. immersion circulator sous vide). However, we have also included top choices for the all in one chamber style ( a.k.a. the water bath sous vide).

Like hand blenders, we have talked this subject endlessly in every shop and restaurant, and with cooks and chefs at every dinner we go to. We read supplier sites, and buyer reviews on sales sites. We check out all the tests and user blogs and reviews we can find online. Finally, after choosing our top sous vide machine, the one we believe in the very most…we then bought it !  So we will keep updating you with how its going.

Best sous vide machines overall, for the home / pro cook

Immersion Circulators

1. Anova Precision Cooker 900W (amazon UK) ,

2. Sansaire 1100W (amazon UK)

3. Chefsteps Joule 1100W (amazon UK)

Self contained water ovens

4. SousVide Supreme Demi water oven

5. Tribest Sousvant Sv-101 Complete

 

 

Best Entry level sous vide machines for beginners

Immersion Circulators

6. Gourmia 2nd Generation 1200W

7. VonShef 1500W

7. Anova Nano 750W

Self contained water ovens

9. Andrew James Water bath sous vide (in the U.K.)

10. Gourmia GSV550 ( in the U.S.)

Buying check list

Power – which really means time to heat up.

Best heat / water circulation – which leads to the most precision and even cooking.

Noise – from the motor and the water circulating.

Size – Pods range from a few the size of a whisk to most the size of a champagne bottle and beyond. Domestic use water bath models aren’t too big, but professional models can take up a lot of counter space.

Most wands are pretty industrial ( professional and robust) looking, but there is a new style of modernist sleek slimline wands, or water baths that are pretty much slow cooker / instant pot / deep fat fryer kind of size.

Price, robustness, reliability, user support,  connectivity, display, min/max water levels, cooking capacity, reputation, energy consumption, ease of use, cleanup, convenience, temperature accuracy, price, weight, attachability, accessories, cook time, warranty, alarms/beepers.

How does it fit in with your lifestyle? That was a biggie for us. We imagined ourselves popping the sous vide in a carry on case when we travel… we are getting more and more mobile so using our smartphone to connect is good. We could go on…just click over to our in depth buying guide to read in more detail.

Comparing the top 3 Immersion Circulator Wands

Power – Of the three, the Sansaire heated the water fastest, then the Joule, and lastly the Anova. It takes the Joule about 10mins to bring a gallon of water (approx. 4L) from room temperature to 132℉ (55℃) . The Anova takes about 20 mins.

Best heat / water circulation – Anova came first, then the Joule, then the Sansaire.

Noise – the Sansaire is the quietest, then the Anova, then the Joule.

Size – The Joule is the smallest, then the Anova, then the Sansaire. The Sansaire is a little large for a standard pot !

Clips – The Joule wins with its magnetic base as well as a snap on clip, the Sansaire clamp is second with its easy to snap on clip, then the Anova clamp comes last.

Style – The Joule comes first with its minimalist white style that would fit in any kitchen, then the sleek black futuristic Sansaire comes second, the Anova last with a slightly hybrid commercial/ domestic black and silver look.

Energy comsumption / efficiency – the most efficient was the Anova, followed closely by the Joule. the Sansaire came last. 

Water capacity – Joule comes top at 40L, and the maximum recommended for both Anova and Sansaire have a recommended maximum of 22L.  To be fair though,  typical domestic use probably only requires a 10Litre capacity.

Weight – The Joule (1.28lb) is about half the weight of the Anova (2.4lb). The Sansaire is heavy at 5.3lb (2.4kg) !

We based our information on a combination of personal use, manufacturer’s details, user reviews, press reviews, and youtube reviews in particular this great you tube show from the sous vide everything guys.

If we give 3 points for coming first place, two for second and 1 for 3rd place here are the results showing Joule win so far…

1st place: Joule 19
2nd place: Sansaire 14
3rd place: Anova 15

So, which sous vide machines would WE actually buy today?

Before giving it points in the comparison above, our first impressions after all the research was a toggle between the Anova and the Joule. We almost went for the Anova, then we dug deeper… our hard earned cash was going to go on one of these eventually ! We grew to love the Joule more and more and more – we have it now and not one regret… we are just loving it. 

 

Our top 4

1. Our overall winner is the Joule, by Chefsteps.

It is an Immersion Circulator for Foodies, the Apple Mac crowd, and both beginner and advanced cooks. It’s the tiniest, yet most powerful and beautiful kitchen gadget that you can even store in the cutlery drawer with your whisks and ladles ! Made by chefs who provide a fabulous recipe database which can be constantly updated over the smartphone app. The Joule app is the easiest to use. If you’re not yet confident in your cooking terms or temperatures, you can even choose to cook your food according to a visual ‘doneness’ … how cool is that!  So, there is no excuse to not look fabulous,  whilst impressing your foodie friends with easy perfect cooking.

Click over to see our in depth review of the Joule, and the many reasons why it blows the other machines out of the water !

 

2. The Sous Vide Supreme Water oven.

If space isn’t an issue, we would opt for the brilliant, silent Sous Vide Supreme. We were tempted by the demi version ( a black, slightly smaller and cheaper version for the home – but we then thought if you are going that far in price and size, you should go for the original 11 Litre stainless steel larger oven. It’s top notch engineering, incredibly precise, and you can really just leave it to do a fabulous job, It was one of the first machines to be made for the domestic market and has had an excellent reputation for reliability.

 

3. Andrew James Sous Vide machine

In the UK, the Andrew James Water bath is the most convenient self-contained sous vide solution for beginners and general (but pretty perfect) home cooking. Compared to the usual expensive water bath solutions, this is so affordable, and there’s even a promo package including all the accessories you might ever want.

 

Andrew James doesn’t seem to exist in the U.S. but the Gourmia GSV550 seen here on Amazon appears to be the same look and specification. If we were looking at a higher spec.,  more expensive model, the SousVide Supreme Demi Water Oven would be our next choice up the price scale. We also really love the cool looking, transparent design of the Tribest Sousvant sous vide machine. Howeverlooks aren’t everything, so the unfaltering reputation of the SousVide Supreme brand is what we need to recommend right now for you.

 

4. Anova Culinary Sous Vide Precision Cooker Nano

3. Anova is a well known reputable name in sous vide, and the Joule and Anova 900W are closest competitors right at the top. Anova are more recently taken over by Electrolux now, and the new Anova Culinary, Nano 750W model competes with the Joule in size, but nothing else yet. It is relatively new, great looking, modern, and precise. Our winner for an entry level immersion circulator cooker for beginners. Given it’s great price, it’s a good choice for those just wanting to dip their sous vide toes in the water !

 

Chefsteps Joule Immersion circulator 

overall foodie winner

 

£££

tiny, powerful, precise, chef driven, best app.

Heating power (watts)

1100 watts

 

Min/max cooking temperature

min : 68°F / 20°C

max : 208°F / 98°C

Capacity

10 gallons / 40 litres

 

Min/max water levels

1.5″/3.8cm – 8″/20.3cm

Display / Control / Connectivity

Smartphone display only. Connect and control by Bluetooth Smart 4.0 OR wifi, iOS 8.0 & Android 4.4 minimum

Clamp

Universal clip AND a magnetic base

Water circulator / pump

gallons / litres per minute

1.6 gpm / 6 lpm reported

Size

11″/ 27.9cm high x 1.85″/ 4.7cm wide)

Weight

1.28 pounds / 580g

Temperature accuracy

to 0.2°F / 0.1°C

Water Bath

has a universal clip to attach to a container but even better it has an ultra strong magnet underneath so it can sit anywhere in the container, and even a small pan!

Colour and Material

White, polycarbonate

Warranty

U.S. full refund 99 days after receiving your unit. One (1) year or 5,000hrs warranty provision.

Anova Nano 

Immersion circulator

entry level immersion circulator winner

££

small, sleek, precise, affordable 

Heating power (watts)

750 watts

 

Min/max cooking temperature

min : 32°F / 0°C

max : 197°F / 92°C

Capacity

5 gallons / 20 litres

 

Min/max water levels

2.5″/6.35cm – 7.5″/18.41cm

Display / Control / Connectivity

Manual Display control + Bluetooth control and connectivity BLE 4.2 iOS & Android

Clamp

adjustable only up to 0.7″ / 18mm

Water circulator / pump

gallons / litres per minute

1.25 gpm / 4.6 lpm

Size

12.8″ / 32.5cm high x 2.2″ / 5.6cm wide

Weight

1.6 pounds / 725g

Temperature accuracy

to 0.2°F / 0.1°C

Water bath

clip to a pot or container

 

 

Colour and Material

Black and reported to be plastic

Warranty

U.S. full refund 99 days after receiving your unit. One (1) year or 5,000hrs warranty provision.

Andrew James Water Bath 

entry level water bath winner 

££

all-in-one, easy, affordable 

Heating power (watts)

520 watts

 

Min/max cooking temperature

min : 113°F 45°C

max : 194°F 90°C

Capacity

oven is 8.5L, cooking capacity is

1.6 gallons / 6 litres

Min/max water levels

unknown but min/max levels marked and alarmed

Display / Control / Connectivity

Manual Display and control all on the machine

Clamp

Not applicable

Water circulator / pump

gallons / litres per minute

none !

Size

16.3″ / 41.5cm(L) x 11.8″/30cm(w) x 8.4″/21.4cm(H)

Weight

10.5 pounds / 4.75 Kg

Temperature accuracy

to 2°F / 1°C

Water bath

included… with wire rack & tongs too

 

 

Colour and Material

Brushed stainless steel housing

Warranty

U.K. full refund xx days of receiving your unit. Two (2) year manufacturer warranty.

Sous Vide Supreme Water oven 

best water oven overall

 

££££

most popular, silent, top reputation

Heating power (watts)

Incredibly energy efficient, equivalent to a 60watt lightbulb once cooking starts.

Min/max cooking temperature

min : 86°F 30°C

max : 210°F 90°C

Capacity

oven is 11.2L ( 2.96gallons), cooking capacity is

2.6 gallons / 10 litres

Min/max water levels

unknown but min/max levels marked and evaporation really minimal

Display / Control / Connectivity

Manual Display and control all on the machine, renowned for being very simple to use

Clamp

Not applicable

Water circulator / pump

gallons / litres per minute

so sophisticated, its not needed

Size

11.4″(l) x 14.2″(w) x 11.4″(h)

Weight

13 pounds / 5.89 Kg

Temperature accuracy

to 1°F / 0.5°C

Water bath

included… with wire rack, stainless steel lid (doubles as a drip tray to carry pouches), insulated lid blanket, perforated bottom to generate thermal turbulence, detachable power lead

Colour and Material

silver, stainless steel

Warranty

1 year from date of purchase

 

It´s the sous vide blog !

1. Buying a sous vide machine

Sous Vide machine buying guide

An answer to all those questions we had when we were choosing our own sous vide machine ! The factors you need to consider and why they matter.

Sous Vide FAQs

Here are all the silly, (and frequently asked), questions about sous vide. Answered here by our in house expert !

20 reasons why we’re obsessed with Sous Vide

Sous Vide simplifies professional cooking… levelling the playing field between cooks and chefs. It goes even further than that. It can simplify your kitchen, your life… and more !

2. Cooking with sous vide

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As a gift, a sous vide is perfect for foodies and busy parents, a great wedding gift, or for those of you that like or need to be more organised, and have a consistent failsafe help in the kitchen ! 

Why we, personally, love sous vide?

Personally, we feel that these days we all worry more about how much goodness is already taken out of our food before you even get to buy it raw ! So a big reason for us to cook sous vide,  is the huge health benefits of keeping all the goodness intact in our food while it’s being cooked. ( You’ll see us using it more and more to cook our veggies.)

We love that it’s a very developing subject, so we expect to see it used more and more. Keep an eye on our sous vide cooking times and temperatures page for new ideas.  The most recent uses are: for ‘warm ageing’ ( i.e. to tenderize meat in the same way as dry ageing would); using it as a bain marie for desserts;  and experimenting with more sustainable food containers like mason jars, rather than just plastic ( albeit BPA free, and even reusable plastic) to hold the food in the cook’s water vessel.

 

Another little gadget that can fit in the drawer, or the suitcase!  Fits right in with our new simplified lifestyle.  Follow us on our social media accounts to see how and where we find it in our own foodie life.

Paul and Aoibheann