Sous vide is a method of precise cooking in which you enclose food in plastic bags (certain items can be cooked in glass containers) and immerse it in a water bath set to a low temperature, usually your desired ultimate cooking temperature. The meal gradually warms up to the same temperature as the water as it sits in the bath.
While technique may sound futuristic, sous vide cooking has several advantages: the long, slow cook time can make tough cuts of meat very soft; the sealed atmosphere helps keep moisture so food doesn’t dry out; and there’s almost no risk of overcooking because the temperature is so low. Sous vide cooking may be safe and simple with the correct equipment, and it can help you make some of the most delicious meals you’ve ever tasted.
Since 2014, I’ve been testing and blogging about sous vide machines. My sous vide reviews and research have appeared in Cook’s Illustrated, on “America’s Test Kitchen,” and in the book “Sous Vide for Everyone.” I put seven common sous vide machines to the test for this tutorial, putting them through a series of time, temperature, and cooking tests. More information about how we tested may be found here.
What we recommend:
Anova Precision Cooker Nano
Cons: Preheating takes time, and the app might be glitchy.
- 750 watts of power
- Water depth requirements: minimum 2.4″, maximum 6.7″ Onboard controls: 3.46″ x 2.6″ x 13.78″ Dimensions: 3.46″ x 2.6″ x 13.78″ Yes
- Compatible with apps: Yes, iOS and Android are compatible.
- Temperatures range from 32 to 197 degrees Fahrenheit.
- 2 year warranty
The Anova Precision Cooker Nano combines accuracy and simplicity with a pricing that is unsurpassed by other sous vide appliances.
After years of testing sous vide equipment, I’ve discovered that ease of use is the most important factor to consider when choosing a machine to cook with. The Anova Nano is the simplest, most user-friendly product we evaluated, and there is no better sous vide machine at this price.
The Anova Nano isn’t the fastest or most powerful machine we tested; heating four quarts of water to 130 F took nearly 20 minutes. However, we believe that the $100+ savings over more powerful equipment is more than worth the extra 10 minutes spent pre-heating the bath for most home cooks (a process that is totally hands off).
It makes up for its lack of power and speed with ease of use, precision, and usability. To get the Nano set up and cooking, I didn’t even need to read the instruction handbook. It has simple onboard controls and can be synced with Anova’s app through Bluetooth. The Bluetooth connection was far more robust and reliable than Anova’s other sous vide machines, which pair over Wi-Fi and seemed to lose connection regularly. All of the Anova machines, however, use the same app, which I found to be somewhat buggy. The inbuilt controls will be easier to use for most people.
Overall, this slim, low-cost machine contains everything you’ll want or need to get started with sous vide cooking, and it’s the best choice for most amateur cooks.
Joule Sous Vide
Cons: No onboard controls; requires use of an app.
This nimble, small equipment boils water quickly, works in a variety of vessels, and is completely controlled by an app.
- 1100 watts of power
- Water depth requirements: minimum 1.5″, maximum 8″ Dimensions: 4.1″ x 13″ x 4″
- Controls on board: App compatibility: Yes, iOS and Android are compatible.
- Temperatures range from 68 to 208 degrees Fahrenheit.
- 1 year warranty
I’ll be honest: the Joule is my personal favorite sous vide machine, and it’s a close second. It was only beaten by the Anova since it lacks onboard controls and relies solely on an app for all functions. If you don’t mind being tethered to your phone or smart device while cooking, the Joule may be the better choice.
The Joule is distinguished from the Anova by various characteristics. For starters, it’s lightning fast. It heated four quarts of water to 130 degrees Fahrenheit in seven minutes in my tests, which was faster than any other gadget in this book. Second, it is the tiniest of all the machines we tested, but it is also one of the most versatile. It can function with as little as 1.5 inches of water and as much as 8 inches, so it can be used in anything from a coffee mug to a cooler. I appreciate not having to use the large Dutch oven every time I want to sous vide a few of eggs. For increased stability, it has a magnetic bottom that allows it to stand in smaller metal pots.
The Joule app is one of my favorites. It’s the only app I tested during this testing that didn’t cause me any problems. It always linked to the unit with ease, provided clear and accurate notifications, and came with a large number of recipes to get you started.
Breville Polyscience HydroPro Sous Vide Immersion Circulator
Cons: No app, larger, and requires multiple steps to switch between Celsius and Fahrenheit settings.
The adjustable flow rate and built-in memory for commonly used recipes are among the smart features of this powerful sous vide machine for professional users.
- 1,450 watts of power
- Water depth requirements: minimum 2.4″, maximum 5.2″ Dimensions: 3.7″ x 4.9″ x 14.5″
- Controls on board: Yes
- App compatibility:
- Temperatures range from 32 to 194 degrees Fahrenheit.
- 1 year warranty
Sous vide is a popular restaurant cooking technique because it allows chefs to keep huge quantities of food warm without risking overcooking. For example, a steakhouse may keep steaks at 125 degrees F in a sous vide bath while orders come in, sear them quickly, and serve perfectly cooked steaks to diners in record time. Both Michelin-starred restaurants and fast-food companies like Starbucks and Chipotle adopt this strategy.
However, if you own or work in a restaurant, or are otherwise familiar with sous vide cooking, I’m probably not telling you anything new. I definitely recommend the HydroPro to restaurant owners and professionals searching for a machine with more commercial capabilities than the sous vide units sold to amateur cooks.
Precision and reproducibility are key features of the machine. A touch panel allows you to manage time, temperature, and flow rate (three speeds), as well as a large number of built-in time and temperature algorithms for cooking and pasteurizing cereals, custards, and a variety of meat cuts. Any settings can be saved in “my presets” on the device, allowing you to quickly repeat recipes night after night. The machine is extremely precise and quick, reaching 130 degrees in just eight minutes.
When it came to boiling eggs, the adjustable flow settings were crucial. I was able to reduce the flow rate and angle the outport away from the eggs, ensuring that none of them broke while cooking. When the bath is covered, the clamp is entirely adjustable, the body disassembles for easy cleaning, and the machine can supposedly heat nearly 12 gallons of water. Overall, this is a robust and well-designed option for advanced users or those working in a commercial context.
Instant Pot Duo Crisp
Cons: Takes longer to heat up and has a smaller capacity than immersion circulators.
The Instant Pot Duo Crisp combines a pressure cooker, slow cooker, air fryer, and sous vide machine into one compact unit, making it one of the most versatile and cost-effective small appliances we tested.
- 1500 watts of power
- 13.6″ x 13.6″ x 13″ Water depth requirements: 1.5 cup minimum, 6 quarts maximum
- Controls on board: Yes
- App compatibility:
- Temperatures range from 70 to 200 degrees Fahrenheit.
- 1 year warranty
Sous vide is still a somewhat uncommon cooking technique that few people utilize on a regular basis. We propose the InstantPot Duo Crisp + Air Fryer, which contains a sous vide mode, for those who want to experience sous vide but don’t want to invest in a dedicated equipment.
I’m usually dubious of items that add sous vide settings to a separate device since I’ve found that they often lack the precision temperature control required for proper sous vide, but the InstantPot Duo Crisp pleasantly pleased me. The gadget reminds me of classic water ovens, which are essentially large heated boxes of water and were the first sous vide equipment before circulators became popular. Of course, the Duo Crisp offers multicooker features including pressure cooking, slow cooking, searing, and even air frying. While I’ve experimented with all of these settings over the last few months, I concentrated on how well it could sous vide for this article.
In separate testing, the machine took nearly half an hour to heat four quarts of room temperature water to 130 and 190 degrees, which was longer than previous units. The temperature, on the other hand, was pretty accurate — barely 1 or 2 degrees from the desired temperature at most — and not enough to affect the cook on most items.
Aside from the slow heating and restricted capacity compared to more adaptable immersion circulators, I enjoyed sous-viding with the InstantPot. It was simple to operate and eliminates the need for another appliance in my home. The InstantPot Duo Crisp is a wonderful first step if you’re interested in sous vide but don’t want to invest in a dedicated machine.
Our sous vide testing procedure
For the past seven years, I’ve been testing and reviewing sous vide machines. During that time, I’ve interviewed sous vide pioneers like Dave Arnold, Scott Heimendinger, and Tony Maws, as well as following the progress of many of the brands featured in this book since their early prototypes. “Sous Vide for Everybody” and Cook’s Illustrated magazine have published my sous vide machine reviews and studies on the history and safety of sous vide cooking. I’ve discovered that the greatest sous vide devices excel at speed, precision, and, most importantly, ease of use over time.
We put seven sous vide machines to the test for this guide, putting them through a number of time and temperature tests, testing fit in various containers, and rating simplicity of setup, operation, and cleaning. With each machine, we cooked 63 C runny “onsen” eggs and 130 F steaks. Here are the criteria we considered:
I timed how long each machine took to heat four quarts of room temperature water to 130 and 190 degrees Fahrenheit. The fastest machines completed the task in under 10 minutes and under 25 minutes. (It’s worth mentioning that you can speed up this process by covering the bath in plastic wrap, which we didn’t do for this experiment.)
Versatility: To meet your demands, a decent sous vide machine can be utilized in a number of vessels. In this region, models with a wide range between minimum and maximum fill lines provided the most versatility.
Precision: Because sous vide is a precision cooking technique, accuracy is essential. We used a lab-calibrated thermometer on a regular basis to make sure the actual temperature of the bath matched the temperature we set with the controls. Ease of use: Because sous vide is a relatively niche cooking technique, if you find it frustrating or difficult to use, your sous vide equipment is likely to end up in the donation pile. The best sous vide machines have clear, bright displays, are simple to use, and are simple to set up, clean, and store. App connectivity was also considered for smart sous vide machines, but we eventually chose models with onboard controls because they are the most user-friendly and adaptable.
Cooking: We looked at how well the machines cooked the meal, of course. In general, if a sous vide machine is accurate, it will cook perfectly. However, we also cooked eggs and steak with each machine to check whether any had difficulties that affected the cooking process. The major issue we discovered was that machines with adjustable flow rates and outports were softer on eggs, whereas machines without this capability frequently jostled eggs during cooking to the point of cracking them.
What else do we suggest, and why:
Anova Precision Cooker ($199): This circulator is Anova’s mid-priced choice, with both onboard and app controls. I found it to be nearly equal to the Nano in terms of functionality and features. The only difference for most home cooks is that this type warms somewhat faster and has an adjustable clamp. However, these improvements do not, in my opinion, justify the $100 premium over the Nano.
Anova Precision Cooker Pro ($245.47): This model is even more expensive than the Anova Precision Cooker. It’s advertised as Anova’s fastest and most precise machine, but we found Anova’s other models to be just as precise. It features the same software and onboard controls as the other Anova models in terms of usability, but it’s built to survive accidental water immersion, has an adjustable clamp, and comes apart for cleaning. Again, we don’t believe these features warrant the significant price increase for most home cooks. Although it may be a suitable choice for restaurant chefs or professionals, we believe the Breville | Polyscience Hydro Pro provides greater power, speed, and functionality for advanced users.
FAQs on the spot
What is sous vide cooking?
Sous vide is a cooking method in which the components are sealed in plastic (though glass jars can be used in some cases) and immersed in a water bath set to (usually) the food’s final cooking temperature. The sealed food steadily heats up to the proper internal temperature in the bath, eliminating the risk of overcooking.
What foods can be cooked sous vide?
Meat, veggies, and eggs are the greatest candidates for sous vide cooking. It’s especially good for making difficult cuts of meat juicy and tender because the low and moderate temperatures allow tough collagen and fat to gently render over many hours. Pasteurization of items such as eggs or homemade mayonnaise can also be done sous vide.
Is a vacuum sealer required for sous vide?
No. If you remove the air beforehand, you may sous vide in any zipper-lock bag. Place the food in the zipper-lock bag, press out as much air as possible, and then use the zipper-lock to seal the bag except for a small corner. Slowly submerge the partially sealed bag in the water bath until it is completely submerged except for the unsealed corner. Almost all of the air will be pushed out by the water. Seal the final corner and drop the bag into the bath to cook after the food appears taut against the bag.
If you sous vide large or irregularly sized slices of meat frequently, you may wish to invest in a vacuum sealer, which removes air more thoroughly.
What are some of the benefits of sous vide cooking?
Sous vide cooking allows you to raise your food to a desired cooking temperature gradually and securely while preventing it from drying out. It takes some time, but it is nearly infallible. When it comes to beef, all you have to do at the end is pull it out, give it a short sear, and you’ll have a perfectly cooked steak right at home.
What are some of the drawbacks to sous vide cooking?
Sous vide cooking takes time (between 20 and 30 minutes for a steak), and it’s another bulky (albeit still compact) gadget to have in your kitchen. You’re also cooking in a plastic bag, which could pose a health risk depending on its quality.
Should I buy a sous vide on Black Friday or Cyber Monday?
You might find sous vide deals on Black Friday or Cyber Monday, and since both shopping holidays are so close together, it’s best to wait and see.
This article will help you find the greatest bargains on sous vide machines.
Sous vide machines, also known as immersion circulators, are useful kitchen tools that you may not realize you needed until you use one. We don’t currently suggest any sous vide cookers under $100, however they are frequently discounted. Our top option, the Anova Precision Cooker Nano, is frequently discounted to around $100 for days at a time during the year.
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