In sous vide cooking, the food (usually, but not always, meat or fish) is sealed in a vacuum-sealed bag or other airtight container and then cooked for a long time in a container of water with temperature control. This keeps the water warm and at a constant temperature, never too high or too low, while the food in the bag slowly reaches the temperature of the water. The food never comes into contact with a heated metal surface, open flame, steam, or smoke. If you want to give sous vide cooking a try, purchasing a good sous vide cooker is key.
Why buy a sous vide cooker?
There are a few factors that people find appealing about the sous vide cooking technique. Even though sous vide cooking is a much more time-consuming process than regular cooking, it reduces the risk of overcooking your meats and proteins. And unlike boiling, sous vide doesn’t remove the natural flavors of the food. In fact, the food can be sealed in the bag with a marinade, spices, or sauce for extra-flavorful results.
Many people find sous vide to be a useful technique for meal prepping since it cooks your proteins all the way through and pre-seals them in a vacuum-sealed bag. You’ll be able to just remove the bag from your pot or container and stick it into your fridge, and it won’t leak juices or marinade all over. And the actual cooking process is pretty hands-off. All you have to do is pop your food into vacuum-sealed bags, place it in the water, and set the cooker, freeing you up to do other tasks as your food slowly cooks to the perfect temperature.
What should you look for in a sous vide cooker?
- Controls and Display: Each sous vide cooker has its own slightly different control and display features. These can help you get your new cooker set up and keep you informed about the cooking and temperature process, and they might even have a built-in timer. The larger the display, the easier it will be to read. Most of the controls will be fairly simple, with a few buttons for turning the cooker on and off, setting the temperature, and switching between functions. However, there are more and less in-depth versions as well. Some sous vide cookers don’t have a display at all and require you to use an app on your smartphone instead. Others will have built-in Bluetooth and/or Wi-Fi connectivity, allowing you to control your cooker from anywhere in the house.
- Water Features: There are some water compatibility features to keep an eye on when buying a sous vide cooker. There’s the water capacity, which states the highest volume of water that the cooker can heat up at a time. A cooker with a water capacity of 5 gallons is more or less the standard. GPM (gallons per minute) also tells you how fast the water moves in the bath during cooking. The higher the GPM, the faster the cooker heats the water, and the easier it is for the cooker to maintain that temperature. Lastly, each sous vide cooker will list a maximum and a minimum water level at which it can operate. If the water level goes above the cooker’s maximum or below its minimum, it will shut off. The greater the difference between the maximum and minimum water levels that a cooker has, the better.
- Temperature: To ensure that you can properly cook the foods that you want to cook sous vide style, be sure to check that the cooker can reach the maximum temperature you need before you buy it. Your new device won’t do you any good if you need to cook, say, pork belly at 185 degrees and the cooker only reaches up to 170 degrees Fahrenheit. Regardless of the foods in question, you won’t need a cooker to reach a super-high temperature since it never brings the water to a boil. Most will have a maximum temperature of around 200 degrees Fahrenheit, which should suit most of your sous vide cooking needs just fine.
Which type of sous vide cooker is superior?
There are two main types of sous vide cookers: circulators and containers (sometimes called water baths). Circulators clip onto the side of pots and containers, while water baths are containers and cookers all in one, almost like sous vide slow cookers. Circulators are a better choice if you want more versatility since they can clip onto just about any pots, pans, or other containers that you own, no matter the size. This allows you to change the capacity as needed, depending on whether you’re cooking just for yourself or for a full party of people. They also take up a lot less space, are easier to store, and are more affordable on average. Container sous vide cookers, on the other hand, have the advantage of a built-in lid. Their lids provide superior insulation (which is key for a cooking method that requires precise temperature control), and they prevent water from evaporating. Self-stirring container models keep warm water constantly circulating and save you the need to stir yourself.
Overall, circulators will be a better choice for most people due to their lower price tag and versatility. But if you’re really concerned about temperature control and insulation, you might find the added cost of a sous vide container cooker to be worth it.
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Inkbird Wi-Fi Sous Vide Immersion Circulator Cooker
An affordable sous vide cooker that doesn't skimp on power or useful features.
Pros: This sous vide cooker is relatively inexpensive but still provides you with an impressive 1,000 watts of power and a range of features. The cooker is made of easy-to-clean stainless steel and is Wi-Fi-compatible. It has a temperature range of 77 to 210 degrees Fahrenheit, a maximum temperature that’s ideal for just about all sous vide recipes. The cooker makes a noise to alert you when the water has reached the target temperature and shuts off automatically if the water level drops below the minimum.
Cons: Some users might have issues with the control panel and the sensitivity of the buttons. It’s easy to accidentally turn the cooker on or off or change the temperature without meaning to. This, in turn, can mess with your cooking time. While this cooker does offer a Wi-Fi connection, it only works with 2.4-GHz Wi-Fi, not 5G. And some of the useful features (checking your cooking status outside the kitchen, saving basic settings, adding friends and family) are only accessible via the associated app. This isn’t a big deal if you have a smartphone, but anyone who doesn’t own a smartphone will miss out.
Bottom Line: Like many kitchen appliances, sous vide cookers can run on the pricey side. If you want to branch out to sous vide cooking but are on a stricter budget, this model is the one for you, as it’s priced below average. It cooks meat, fish, vegetables, eggs, and even fruits and cheeses. If you like to just hit a few buttons and then leave food to cook, you’ll love this immersion cooker and its associated app. But if you don’t own a smartphone or have Wi-Fi at home, you’ll be missing out on some of the bonus features.
Anova Culinary Sous Vide Precision Cooker
A plastic and stainless steel sous vide cooker with an all-around new and improved design.
Pros: Unlike some models, this sous vide cooker’s entire body is water-resistant in case of accidental splashes or spills during cooking. The adjustable clamp will fit onto nearly any pot in your kitchen. The clamp and the stainless steel skirt can easily detach to make cleanup easier, too. You can then cook the food by setting the time and temperature using the built-in controls or through the Anova app on your smartphone. The app also lets you monitor the food’s cooking process from the couch and gives you access to thousands of complimentary recipes. Using the app as part of the process is optional, but you might find it to be a convenient tool to have on hand. And if you already plan to buy other sous vide accessories to make the cooking process easier or more precise, this cooker can also be bought with a lidded container, a storage container, a vacuum sealer pro, or a precision base.
Cons: Like with other Wi-Fi-compatible sous vide cookers, some features are only available if you download and use the associated app. If you don’t own a smartphone, you won’t be able to control your sous vide cooker from another room, and you won’t have access to a wide array of complimentary recipes. This model is also a bit pricier than many similar sous vide cookers. It’s not ridiculously expensive by comparison, but it definitely costs toward the higher end of average for a sous vide circulator cooker. Keep in mind that this isn’t a quiet, noiseless cooker, either. It will often make a whining sound when in use, which can become irritating during a long cooking session.
Bottom Line: This precision sous vide cooker is designed to precisely cook your meals, whether you’re making red or white meat, fish, or even vegetables, and to give your food optimal taste, texture, and moisture. You can cook your food by setting the time and temperature using the built-in controls or through the Anova app on your smartphone. Its adjustable, removable clamp makes it more versatile than most. Except for people on a tight budget or households with a noise-sensitive resident, this sous vide cooker should be a great fit for just about anyone.
Anova Culinary Nano Sous Vide Precision Cooker
A sous vide cooker that will fit in your kitchen drawer yet still provide enough power to cook a full meal.
Pros: Although not the most powerful sous vide cooker on the market, it packs a good punch for its small, compact size at 750 watts. Its size makes it that much easier to store, fitting in just about any drawer, nook, or cranny while taking up minimal space. It also offers a good temperature range for a nano cooker, with a minimum temperature of 32 degrees and a maximum heat of 197 degrees Fahrenheit. And you won’t have to worry about temperature inaccuracies or mistakes during cooking, as its readings are within 0.2 degrees of accuracy at all times. The entire cooker is water-resistant, so there’s no need to worry if it gets accidentally splashed or dropped into the cooking water.
Cons: While this sous vide cooker does offer good power for its size, it isn’t as powerful as some other, larger immersion circulators. It can make meals for up to four people at once. (Cooking for more people will require a more powerful model.) This also means that it won’t be as effective when attached to larger pots and containers. While the plastic body ensures that the cooker is water-resistant, it also means that it’s less durable than a metal model. Users who don’t own a smartphone won’t have access to some useful features and recipes found on the app.
Bottom Line: This sous vide cooker is designed to be as small and compact as possible without sacrificing power and precision. Since it’s 2 inches smaller than the previous model, this cooker is ideal for people with limited kitchen storage space. But thanks to the 750 watts, it still has enough power to cook a full meal. It will properly cook meat, fish, vegetables, or even eggs without sacrificing texture or flavor. That being said, it still isn’t the best choice for higher volumes of food, so anyone who cooks in large quantities or containers should probably spring for a bigger sous vide cooker with more power.
Inkbird WIFI Sous Vide Precision Cooker and Kit
A powerful immersion cooker that comes with all the essentials to get you started on sous vide cooking.
Pros: The price of this model is toward the lower end for sous vide cookers alone, and that’s before you add all the extra accessories onto the scale. Not only do you receive a circulator-style sous vide cooker, but also 30 bags, a pump, five bag clips, six sealing clips, two replacement air valves, and access to multiple sous vide recipes through the smartphone app. Basically, you receive almost everything you need to get started on your sous vide cooking journey. The only thing that you’ll need to supply on your own is a pot or container to cook your food in. As a bonus, the bags are reusable. As long as you don’t mind cleaning them after each use, you won’t have to spend extra money on new bags. And the app isn’t required to operate the circulator, unlike some other models. The sous vide cooker itself offers 1,000 watts of power, which is plenty strong enough for cooking large meals.
Cons: Unfortunately, this sous vide cooker isn’t completely waterproof or water-resistant, so you do run the risk of it wearing down faster than more premium models which are. And while you can use it without the smartphone app, it’s a bit tricky and confusing to get the settings right without it.
Bottom Line: If you’re an inexperienced cook or otherwise new to the art of sous vide cooking, this circulator cooker and kit is a good place to start. Since all the implements you need (minus a pot or container) come included in this set, you don’t have to worry about spending extra money on more accessories or missing out on a key piece. That said, if you plan to sous vide cook often, you’ll probably want a slightly hardier model that’s completely waterproof or water-resistant.
Dash Chef Series Stainless Steel Sous Vide
A sous vide cooker and container in one, with a built-in touchscreen.
Pros: This water-bath-style sous vide cooker comes with a container, so you don’t have to supply your own, but its benefits go beyond the obvious. The stainless steel container has a capacity of 85 quarts, which is ideal for feeding families, entertaining, meal prepping, or simply ensuring that you have plenty of leftovers throughout the week. It will work just fine on smaller portions as well. The water circulation system is magnetically driven, ensuring that the ingredients cook as evenly as possible. And since this is a water bath cooker, the lid ensures better insulation, keeping the temperature steady. This makes it an ideal choice for defrosting food as well as for cooking it. You get more than just the cooker/container with your purchase. It comes with a hand-pump vacuum sealer, 10 vacuum-sealed bags to get you started, a recipe book, and access to a recipe database.
Cons: Despite its larger size, this sous vide cooker doesn’t have as high of a wattage as you might expect. Some circulators operate at 1,000 watts, while this one offers 750 watts—enough to cook full meals, but not the most powerful model on the market. Temperature settings start at 104 degrees and go up to 194 degrees Fahrenheit, which is a smaller range than what other sous vide cookers offer. If you like connecting your sous vide cooker to your devices via Bluetooth or monitoring it via Wi-Fi connectivity, you’re out of luck, as this model isn’t compatible with either.
Bottom Line: This convenient sous vide cooker is a cooker and container in one device. Even though its design differs from immersion sous vide cookers, it still provides precise temperature control and the ability to cook juicy meats, fish, vegetables, soups, or even desserts. If you’re accustomed to slow cookers, you’ll likely love this sous vide cooker, as it will feel familiar and be that much easier to operate. But it’s less versatile than a circulator-style cooker, and the smaller temperature range and wattage might make some recipes more challenging or increase their cooking time.
Sous vide is a modern cooking innovation that prevents food from being overcooked and can even reduce your energy consumption while cooking. The precise and uniform temperature control decreases your risk of dry edges and underdone centers in even the largest meat cuts. Whether you want a cooking attachment to stick on your current pots or a self-contained sous vide container cooker, you can enjoy the benefits of sous vide cooking for years to come.