Sous vide cooking equipment has been in use for decades but has been the exclusive preserve of professional chefs and a few culinary loving consumers. This is because it was huge, costly and had more features and controls than the cockpit of a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner.
That was before cooking shows and the internet popularised this cooking technique and informed consumers of the amazing benefits of sous vide cooking. Before Anova keyed into this popularity; and designed and manufactured the first consumer-friendly sous vide cooking device which made the product available to anyone with a kitchen or what passes for one.
Today, the market is awash with various sous vide cooking equipment that making a choice could be a daunting and often tasteless task. So, to assist you, we have come up with a simple guide based on 5 basic considerations. But before that, what equipment exactly do you require for sous vide cooking?
While there is tons of different sous vide cooking equipment in the market, they mostly fall under two basic types – Immersion Circulators and Water Ovens or Water Bath sous vide devices.
Sous Vide Immersion Circulator
As the name suggests, immersion circulators are relatively small units that are immersed in a water-filled container and are made up of a heating element to heat the water and a pump to circulate the heated water to maintain a precise temperature evenly.
The immersion circulators offer unparalleled versatility as they can be used with any size of water container, depending on the quantity of food you want cooked. This helps to save energy as well as heat up the water to the required cooking temperature faster.
Immersion circulators simply clip-on any container you already own, and since they do not come with an inbuilt water bath, they take up very little storage space.
Sous Vide Water Oven or Water Bath
Sous vide water baths consists of a self-contained temperature controller and heater integrated into a water bath.
At about the size of the normal microwave oven, they are generally bulkier than immersion circulators and often more expensive. And unlike the immersion circulators, they do not circulate the water, thus providing a less than consistent cooking result.
They are also limited in the amount of food they can cook due to the built-in bath size. However, because of their self-contained nature, they are easier to use and can be used to make stocks and poach in oil or butter which immersion circulators might not readily do.
So if you are considering getting a piece of sous vide cooking equipment, here is the 5 things to consider which we hope will considerably assist you to select the right sous vide device.
1. Water Bath capacity
Sous Vide ovens usually have a water bath capacity of 2 to 3 gallons. This is believed to be the ideal size for most home cooking needs and portable enough to be carried to the sink and cleaned. Immersion circulators, on the other hand, have capacities to heat up to 10 gallons. They are not limited in water bath capacity like the sous vide ovens – any large container can do. They are therefore more suited for occasions where you might need to cook large volumes of food at home.
2. Versatility and convenience
The ease-of-use and versatility are important considerations in choosing the right sous vide device. The immersive circulators offer a great deal of versatility as they can be used in different containers and can cook a wider range of food quantities. They are also easy to clean and store easily due to their compact size. They are easy to use, and some models can be controlled from your mobile device through WiFi or Bluetooth connection. While the water oven types are also easy to use, they do not offer as much versatility.
3. Cooking Duration
The Sous Vide cooking method typically takes a long time. For foods requiring really long cooking times, a sous vide water bath or oven is recommended. This is because they come fitted with lids which stop the water from evaporating. And even if you can get a cover to fit an immersion circulator and water container, they are designed for use with just about any container which may not offer any insulation.
Water ovens conserve more energy than immersion circulators because of their inbuilt insulated walls. Once the water gets to the set temperature, the insulation often works to maintain the heat without additional power. And since it doesn’t circulate water, it consumes far less energy.
4. The quantity of food at a time
If you only need a small amount of food cooked, a large water bath won't be necessary. Immersion circulators are ideal for cooking small quantities of food because any container can be used as long as the water totally covers or immerses the food.
Also, you should ensure the water gets up to the minimum level required for the type of immersion circulator you intend to use. Immersion circulators are equipped with sensors which instantly turns off the device if the water levels fall below a predetermined level to avoid overheating the device. Different models of sous vide machine have different minimum water depth level requirements.
Immersion circulators are usually compact and don’t occupy much space. They can easily fit in the kitchen drawer to be stored until when next they are needed. Water ovens, however, take up valuable kitchen real estate. They are mostly left on the counter when not in use as they cannot be easily stowed away.
Some water ovens have recessed handles to help reduce the overall size and save space. Thus, it is really important that you consider the available kitchen space before you decide on the type and model of sous vide cooking device to purchase.
While there are other factors to consider when buying sous vide cooking equipment, such as heating power, design, and price, having these 5 key factors at the back of your mind while shopping for sous vide machines and accessories will help you choose the perfect device.