Affordable Sous-Vide Gadgets Bring Haute Cuisine Home

This formerly cost-prohibitive cooking method could be your new favorite kitchen tool.

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Sous-vide was one of cooking's best kept secrets, but now the cat is out of the vacuum-sealed bag. You may not know what sous-vide is, but you've probably enjoyed it without realizing.

The process is similar to poaching, except the food (typically meat) is vacuum-sealed in a plastic bag and placed in a water bath at a constant temperature. The water is kept well below boiling, meaning your steak, chicken breast, or pork tenderloin is cooked through to exactly its perfect doneness without any part of the meat ever exceeding the ideal temperature. You just have to wait. The payoff for your patience? A perfect medium-rare, if that's the way you like it.

To cook a steak, it takes anywhere from one to four hours, depending on the size. However, sous-vide can only take you most of the way there. Since sous-vide cooks at such low temperatures, important chemical processes like the Maillard reaction can't take place, so cooks typically toss the meat on the pan for a quick sear before serving.

Vacuum Sealing
A chef seals a steak in a vaccum in preparation for the water bath.[Credit: Wikimedia Commons, "Erikoinentunnus"] View Larger

Until now, sous-vide's prohibitive cost kept it in the domain of gourmet restaurants, though a few fast food chains have also used it to good effect. But with a recent surge in popularity, a few companies now provide sous-vide options at relatively affordable prices.

Dorkfood DSV Temperature Controller



Price: $99
Requires: A slow cooker or similar appliance
Availability: Amazon

Dorkfood's ingenious sous-vide option transforms a slow cooker, rice cooker, or other appliance into a temperature-regulated water bath. As long as the connected appliance automatically heats up when plugged in, the Dorkfood DSV can turn it on and off to keep the water temperature constant. Unfortunately, there is no circulator, so temperature readings might not be consistent throughout the bath. But at $99, it's a heck of a bargain.

Sous Vide Supreme



Price: $432
Availability: Amazon

The Sous Vide Supreme has a 11.2 liter capacity, which the company claims equates to 20 four-ounce portions of food. This starter pack comes with a vacuum sealer and pouches in addition to the cooker itself, so you can get your food into the bath right away.

Sous Vide Supreme also comes in a smaller 8.7-liter version—good for 12 four-ounce portions. Both options have a long timer that goes up to 99 hours, but it doesn't turn the machine off when time is up. Like the Dorkfood, there's no circulator to prevent hot spots, just hot water rising to the top via convection.

Johnson Controls Digital Thermostat Control Unit

Johnson
Thermostat control units are good for building heaters from scratch, or for regulating temperatures in a bath. View Larger

Price: $74
Requires: A slow cooker or similar appliance
Store: Amazon

This thermostat isn't actually designed for sous-vide, but many Amazon user reviews say it works very similarly to the Dorkfood. You simply pair it with a slow cooker, put the thermostat lead in the water, and program in the ideal temperature. The device then cuts or switches on the power as needed. Johnson Controls' take on a thermostat might not be as stylish as its accidental competitor, but it's $25 cheaper.

AquaChef Professional Sous Vide Water Oven



Price: $240
Store: Amazon

AquaChef's Professional Sous Vide Water Oven is even more affordable than the Sous Vide Supreme. As a water bath, heater, and regulator rolled into one, the Water Oven has everything you need to get into sous-vide. It has its down-sides, though: there's no circulator to ensure a uniform water temperature, and some users have reported a larger-than-ideal swing in actual temps during cooking.

Anova Sous Vide Immersion Circulator



Price: $199
Requires: A tub
Store: Anova Culinary

Anova Culinary changed the sous-vide climate by providing what was essentially the first widely available, reasonably priced sous-vide unit.

This temperature-regulating device has a circulator that can keep up to 22 liters of water at a consistent temperature between 77 and 210 degrees Fahrenheit. Like the Sous Vide Supreme, it has a 99-hour timer, but it improves on that machine's capabilities with an auto-shutoff feature. We haven't reviewed the Anova, but Serious Eats raves about it.

Sansaire Sous-Vide



Price: $199
Requires: A tub
Store: Sansaire.com

Sansaire's sous-vide option is very similar to Anova's—it's a circulator cooker that attaches to a large pot or tub. The Sansaire originated as a Kickstarter project and can circulate almost 23 liters of water at a given temperature. It's available for pre-order right now. Unlike the Anova, though, it doesn't have a timer. Even so, Serious Eats still loves it.

Nomiku



Price: $299.95
Requires: A pot of some kind
Store: Nomiku.com

Nomiku is another Kickstarter success story, having raised nearly $600,000 on its initial goal of $200,000.

Though it costs $100 more than the Sansaire, the Nomiku is capable of setting and maintaining very precise temperatures, and has a very user-friendly interface that combines a twist-to-set temperature knob with a small touchscreen. The unit also includes a heavy-duty clamp, so you can affix it to the side of a sturdy pot for long-term cooking.

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DorkFood DSV Temperature Controller for Sous-vide

Buy now for $99.00 at Amazon

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