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Shopping Guide for Best Sous Vide Machines

Culinary trend spotters, serious home cooks, and professional chefs have climbed aboard the sous vide bandwagon. This cooking technique, which employs a heating element submerged in a vessel with water to ensure even cooking, has grown increasingly popular in professional and family kitchens.

More of a cooking style than an actual product, sous vide cooking began as a way to preserve fish, meat, and vegetables. From there, it evolved into a process in which food cooks evenly at a constant temperature without losing any of its original taste, aroma, color, or fat content. The current interest in sous vide cooking coincides with a drop in price and a burgeoning array of recipes on sites such as AllRecipes and YouTube.

Sous vide immersion units start at around $70, with the vast majority landing in the $120 to $150 range. (See our Price section, below, for more details.)

Because of its simplicity, the sous vide method of cooking is not a trend likely to burn itself out. It also can be viewed as a method for use in conjunction with other finishing procedures, such as grilling and searing. More than anything, it’s the sort of technique that allows home cooks to impress guests with an unconventional way of preparing meat, fish, veggies, and even dessert.

There are hundreds of sous vide machines available on the consumer market, so how do you tell which is the right one? With so many kinds of options, it can be tough to sort the wheat from the chaff. That's where we come in!

At BestReviews, we want to help you pick the perfect sous vide machine for your kitchen. We're dedicated to writing the most honest and unbiased reviews out there. We never accept free products from manufacturers. Instead, we buy products off of store shelves, test them in our labs, consult experts, and examine feedback from product owners.

Our ultimate goal: to become your go-to source for trustworthy product recommendations whenever you’re faced with a buying decision.

At the top of this page, you'll find our five favorite sous vide machines on the market. These highly rated products all qualify for our top-contender list.

Some sous vides come with an attached tank, while others need to be attached to the side of a separate tank.

How Sous Vide Machines Work

The most popular sous vide process involves an immersion unit which heats water in a containment vessel (generally a large stockpot) to a specified temperature and maintains the water at a precise temperature for cooking.

More advanced immersion units — which generally clamp onto the side of the vessel —  swirl the water to further ensure uniform cooking. In the case of a standalone immersion unit, any pot or vessel that can hold two to four quarts of water is suitable.

The food to be cooked — meat, fish, or whatever’s on the menu — is placed in a vacuum sealed bag, which prevents the water from directly contacting the food. Any required oil, butter, and/or spices are added to the bag before sealing. These additions will evenly distribute during the cooking process.

EXPERT TIP

Those who are highly skilled and/or highly adventurous may wish to use a culinary blowtorch to finish the cooking process after the sous vide phase is complete. Most operate using a propane tank.


Nina  | Gourmet Chef, Health Care Executive

A sous vide cooker allows the user to set the desired temperature for the water bath (bain-marie) and program a time to ensure thorough doneness. Sous vide recipes that accompany the appliance will indicate the proper cooking temperature.

One of the best features of sous vide food prep is the ability to target the cooking temperature to the exact degree of doneness required for your meat, fish, or poultry. Target temperatures in the sous vide hover above the 120°F mark, where bacteria cannot survive. Users appreciate this additional safety net in the cooking process.

Potential buyers should bear in mind that sous vide cooking, by itself, does not allow food to have that finished grilled or seared taste. Many recipes recommend grilling or searing food over high heat after the sous vide process is finished.

DID YOU KNOW?

A sous vide machine helps ensure that your meat reaches a safe temperature for human consumption. For example, the “safe” internal temperature for medium rare meat starts at 129°F.

Is A Sous Vide Machine Right for You?

If you are a foodie ready to tackle the next food trend — or someone who likes to impress friends and family with your kitchen skills — a sous vide machine should be in your future. If you’re particular about the doneness of your protein (fish, meat, poultry) or the loss of nutrients in your vegetables, you may also wish to consider this technology.

While the sous vide process is fairly simple and foolproof, there are a few costs and other considerations you should keep in mind before buying one.

Nina
EXPERT CONSULTANT

Nina is a longtime gourmet chef, interior designer/decorator, and events planner. She has accomplished all of this in addition to maintaining a stellar career as a healthcare executive, where she helps alter the course of people’s lives via preventive care and healthy living. Nina’s hobbies include learning new recipes, planning and executing amazing dinners to impress local chefs, and hiking around the world.


Nina  |  Gourmet Chef, Health Care Executive
Considerations

Vacuum Sealing Costs

In addition to the price of the immersion heater and water vessel, there are costs associated with vacuum sealing your bags. Vacuum sealers can run from $35 to $260 depending on the model and its specifications.

If you intend to cook large pieces of meat, make sure your sealer can handle bigger bags.

EXPERT TIP

If you want ultimate control over your sous vide cooking, consider purchasing an immersion unit or all-in-one unit that has WiFi built in. The Anova unit allows you to start cooking remotely with an accompanying app.


Staff  | BestReviews
Considerations

Accessory Costs

If you plan to buy a blowtorch to put the finishing touches on your meat, plan to spend at least $40.

Adding a Searzall to a blowtorch adds another $75 or so to the bill. And no self-respecting sous vide master wants to be without a supply of specially designed water balls.

Sous vide water balls are used to speed up the heating process and maintain the target water temperature for cooking. Sous vide water balls prevent evaporation of the water and can act like a “lid” on the vessel. They’re reusable, but a drying bag to store them (about $20) is yet another expense.

DID YOU KNOW?

Don’t forget the bags! A 34-count package of one-quart vacuum sealer bags can cost about $15. Of course, prices vary depending on size and quality.

Considerations

Water Tanks

To look like a pro, you’ll want a vessel large enough to hold the necessary quantity of water. (This varies by food and recipe.) A traditional stockpot will work, but alternatives include plastic coolers and polycarbonate food storage containers.

Again, make sure the container is large enough to handle what you intend to cook.

Sous vides work by slowing moving water around vacuum-sealed packages of food at a very specific temperature.

What Can I Prepare in a Sous Vide Machine?

A sous vide machine is a tool that can spark the creativity of both beginning cooks and professional chefs. Here are some of the items you can prepare in your sous vide:

Types of food

Meat

The ability to cook meat to a precise doneness makes the sous vide ideal for those who are fussy about their steaks. To prepare a medium rare steak, for example, you must cook the meat for two hours in a 130°F bath.

Types of food

Fish

Sous vide preparation of fish will leave it flaky and tender. For perfect salmon, set your timer to 118°F and cook a one-inch slab for 30 minutes. (Put one TB of olive oil and whatever spices you like in the bag before sealing.)

EXPERT TIP

Want to add some pizzazz to your sous vide steak? After removing the meat from the bag, char it on both sides using a grill, cast iron skillet, or blowtorch.


Nina  | Gourmet Chef, Health Care Executive
Types of food

Vegetables

For honey glazed carrots, add butter and honey to the cooking bag along with the carrots. Because vegetables need to cook at a higher temperature than meat or fish, set the temperature between 176° and 190°F and cook for 45 minutes.

Types of food

Eggs

Eggs are easy to prepare in the sous vide, given that they come with their own “cooking bag” (the shell). For medium poached eggs, set the temperature to 154.4°F and cook for 45 minutes. Run the eggs under cool water before serving.

DID YOU KNOW?

A sous vide machine can regulate cold temperatures as well as hot ones. In addition to the perfect steak or swordfish, a sous vide setup can be used to chill wine, make pâté, infuse liquor, and make ice cream.

Price

The price of a sous vide machine varies depending on power (wattage), the way in which it circulates water, the size of the water vessel it can accurately heat, and added features as Bluetooth or WiFi capability (for smartphone control).

Price

Under $100

Thanks to some stiff market competition, a number of fine machines can be purchased in the $80 range. These machines are generally well-received with only minor complaints about accuracy of water temperature, accuracy of wattage, and the fact that they often have no on/off switch. The only way to turn off a unit without a switch is to unplug it from the wall.

EXPERT TIP

Don’t want to spend money on a vacuum sealer and bags? You can use everyday clips to seal the bags once the air is pushed out. A cooking rack, vegetable steamer, or heavy cooking utensil could be used to weigh keep the bag submerged while cooking so the food maintains a consistent temperature.


Nina  | Gourmet Chef, Health Care Executive
Price

Under $200

The vast majority of machines fall into this range, with $175 being the “sweet spot” for machines with smartphone control via WiFi or Bluetooth. Some machine in the $120 range include WiFi capability, but a significant percentage of customers complain that the WiFi is either difficult to set up or just doesn’t work.

Price

Under $650

A large gap exists between sous vide machines for home cooks and those built for professional kitchens. For close to $650, a state-of-the-art sous vide (called a water oven) will hold up to three gallons of water and simultaneously cook up to 24 portions of six-ounce food. The all-in-one design comes with a lid to keep steam in for precise temperature control.

DID YOU KNOW?

Sous vide machines can be used to cook meals for a large number of people quickly. A number of top Washington, D.C. chefs used sous vide machines to produce dinner for 400 Hurricane Katrina evacuees in 2005.

Tips

Follow these tips before investing in a sous vide machine:

  • Read the instruction manual that comes with your appliance. This booklet will provide information on how to store, clean, and handle your machine.
  • Contact with water that is 120°F or hotter can lead to serious burns. Never put your hand in sous vide water once it’s heated up, and keep the appliance out of reach of children.
  • Keep a pair of tongs within easy reach to remove your cooking bag from the hot water.
  • Although machines vary, the majority have a minimum temperature of around 80°F. Some get as hot as 210°F. Machines also vary in the length of time it takes to reach a target water temperature.
  • Ensure you have sufficient space for the large water tank to which the immersion unit will attach. All-in-one units like the Sous Vide Supreme Demi Water Oven are generally the size of a large slow cooker and weigh between seven and twelve pounds.
The original sous vide, pioneered by Sir Benjamin Thompson of England, dates back to 1799. It didn’t gain much popularity until the 1960s, however, when French restaurants used it to make perfectly cooked foie gras.

Sous Vide Machine Alternatives (Hacks)

Cooking hacks are the rage. With a quick search through YouTube, you can find some ingenious ways to replicate sous vide cooking without purchasing the tried-and-true equipment. Here are some of the most popular hacks —

  • Bare bones: Pre-heated water is placed in a large container and regulated using a food thermometer. The meat, fish or other food is placed in a Ziploc-style bag. By squeezing and folding the bag, most of the air is removed. The food is then placed in the water with a tight lid or plastic wrap used to cover. The cooking water is checked periodically to ensure it maintains its target temperature and more hot water is added as need. A tight lid will keep the target temperature fairly consistent. Finishing touches such as searing or grilling can be done using a cast iron or grill pan on the stovetop.
  • Slow cooker: Use a thermostatic controller and thermocouple,  along with an extension cord and slow cooker that has an on/off switch. The controller allows you to regulate the temperature on the slow cooker to a precise target by raising and lowering the heat as needed. For directions on this hack, here’s a video with the details.
  • Accessories: For hackers or those who get tired of shelling out money for vacuum sealers and bags, you can use everyday clips to seal the bags once the air is pushed out. If you have regular cooking racks around, they can also be used to hold the cooking bags in place as — depending on the material — some cooking bags tend to float. A vegetable steamer or heavy cooking utensil can also be used as a weight. It is important to keep the bag submerged to keep the food at a consistent temperature.
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