I can’t pinpoint when it started, but sous vide machines are all the rage these days. I’m guessing some hotshot chef used one on his cooking show (probably getting a nice kickback in the process), and soon, everyone was hopping on board this new craze. And, mark my words: it will be the hot gift this upcoming holiday season. Here’s what you need to know:
What Do Sous Vide Machines Do?
Sous vide (sounds like soo-veed) is a fancy pants French phrase meaning “under vacuum.” It is a cooking technique where you put your food in a vacuum-sealed pouch and then let it relax in a culinary hot tub. You generally cook your vegetables, fish, pork, desserts, eggs, chicken, and beef (hopefully not all in the same pouch) at a precise, low temperatures for long periods of time.
Sous vide is the “bomb” because it is quite forgiving. That means even morons like me can cook a juicy, melt-in-your-mouth filet mignon (pro-tip: briefly sear your beef before cooking it in the sous vide.) The sous vide machines make it easy for you to maintain precise temps in your food Jacuzzi for hours at a time.
There Are Two Types of Sous Vide
The first step in choosing a sous vide machine is deciding whether you want an immersion circulator or oven. Both types made our top 10 sous vide machines list, but we prefer the immersion circulators. The sous vide ovens are great because they are self-contained units with racks. You would just need to buy a sous vide vacuum sealer to go with it (might we recommend the FoodSaver V4440 2-in-1 Automatic Vacuum Sealing System?). You can also use BPA-free, food-grade bags, but vacuum sealing is recommended.
On the other hand, immersion circulators are small appliances (similar in size to immersion blenders) that attach to the side of a container or pot and heat the water. In addition to needing a vacuum sealer, you will also need a water bath suitable for cooking when you choose an immersion circulator. If you want to get an efficient sous vide container, I recommend the Sous Vide Container 3 Gal (12 QT) and Floating Ball Cover Kit Bundle.
Features to Look for in a Sous Vide
Here are some key features to look for in a sous vide machine:
- Temperature Range and Precision – Most sous vide gadgets reach temperatures of 200 degrees Fahrenheit and higher and stay within 0.1 degrees of your target temp.
- Water Capacity – This only applies to the ovens. If you plan on doing some entertaining, you’ll want a rig that can pack a nice payload.
- Safety Third – This includes power outage warning (so you don’t eat rotten food), timers, automatic shut off when water is low to avoid burning your house to the ground, and more.
- Circulator Heater – For immersion circulators, you need to know how big of a water bath you can have. For instance, your immersion circulator probably won’t do the best job of turning your swimming pool into a giant sous vide, but it’s fun to think about.
Now that you know a thing or two about sous vide machines, here are my picks for the top 10 best sous vide machines:
- Super small: 1.3 pounds and eleven inches tall so you can take it with you on international flights
- 1100 watts of power allows it to heat water quickly
- Works in water levels of 1.5 inches and up to 10-gallon containers
In the sous vide industry, it is basically a no-holds-barred, knock-down-drag-out fight between ChefSteps and Anova Culinary for superiority. Right now, ChefSteps is winning with the Joule. Besides all of the usual important features, including hyper-accurate heating, the Joule works with your Echo or Echo Dot to give you completely hands-free, voice-controlled sous vide cooking. Or, you can just use the Joule app. I, for one, am tired of using my hands to cook food.
- Works well with sealed bags and glass jars
- The Anova Culinary app allows you to cook from anywhere, except the moon
- 800 watts of power
If you want to save 50 bucks and don’t need the power or verbal abilities of the Joule, then this Anova Culinary sous vide is the way to go. It notifies you on your phone when your food is ready, so you don’t have to spend the day in the kitchen. This baby will allow you to buy the crappiest flank steak and have it turn out tenderer than Chateaubriand. This Anova Culinary sous vide is also made in the United States, so you can feel like a job creator when you buy one.
- Has removable, dishwasher-safe, stainless steel skirt for easy cleaning
- 900 watts of power
- Works well with the app
Here’s another Anova Culinary entry and another immersion sous vide. The biggest issue with Anova is that they have had some problems with their app in the past. This can be a problem if you’re at work and watching helplessly on the app as your dinner is ruined. On the plus side, they appear to have fixed the issue, and their app has worked well for a while now.
- 1200 watt, quiet run motor
- Claims to keep water within .01 degrees of what you set it to
- Comes with a recipe book
The Gourmia GSV140 is the best sous vide machine for under $100. It doesn’t have any of the fancy Wi-Fi features of the top three, but it gets the job done. The GSV140 does require you to use a container that is at least three gallons in size. Otherwise, it starts to get weird on you.
- Comes in three different colors, so you can accessorize with your food
- More compact than the above option
- 1200 watts
The GSV130 is the most affordable option on the list, which makes it ideal for gift giving: you’ll look like some fancy rich guy, but only we need to know you spent 80 bucks. Anyway, you’ll notice that eight of the top 10 sous vide I’m reviewing are immersion circulators. This is because they are more affordable than the ovens, and they take up less real estate in your kitchen.
- Use the EatTender app to control your dinner while driving
- Claims that it’s impossible to undercook or overcook your food
- Wireless sync with Android and iOS smartphones
Pro-tip time: here’s something neat you can do with the Nomiku Sous Vide (and really any Wi-Fi sous vide): drill a hole that’s just big enough to fit the sous vide in the lid of a cooler (9-quarts or so like this Igloo Island Breeze Cooler). Put cold water and ice along with whatever you plan on cooking into the cooler in the morning. This should keep your food cold until you want the sous vide to kick in (and the app will let you know if the water gets too warm). Then, let the sous vide know via the app when you want dinner to start. Lastly, come home and enjoy your delish dinner. Or work late and forget about it.
- Digital LCD display (they all have this)
- 800 watts of power
- Heats to 194 degrees F
The Forsous sous vide lacks a lot of the whistles and bells of the above alternatives. It does have a low price tag, but you would be better off with the Gourmia GSV130 at this pricing point. The Forsous will still do an excellent job, though.
- Holds 8.7 liters of water
- Keeps constant temperatures within .5 degrees
- Holds twelve 4-oz portions of food
The Sous Vide Supreme Demi is the highest-rated oven on our list. However, it has a hefty price tag, and you are limited on how large of a container you can use. But, if you want an all-inclusive unit, this is your best bet.
- Holds 11.2 liters of water or twenty 4-oz portions of food
- Can stay within one degree of its ideal setting for hours or days
- Totally programmable
The SousVide Supreme is the most expensive option on our list. It’s basically the same as the above unit only larger.
- Powerful pump that keeps temperatures within a degree of goal temp
- Easy to clean
- Comes with a one-year warranty
Listen, all of the sous vide machines on this list are great. It’s just if you are going to spend $100, I recommend going with one of the above options. The Primo Eats Sous Vide will do you up right, but it lacks the precision and functionality of the higher-rated sous vide machines.
Do you know someone who could use a little help in the kitchen? Share this list with them!