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Dec 8, 2009 11:52 PM

Sous vide at home.

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  1. Nice to see it coming to the masses. Kinda so-so if you've already invested in the circulating water bath and vacuum sealer.

    1. Funny, I predicted home sous-vide machines in my recent "10 worst dining trends" blog essay, suggesting that if you mock molecular cooking today, you're going to feel pretty stupid when you buy a home sous-vide machine in a few years. But I didn't expect them to arrive this quickly!

      1. Interesting toy, but does it have any real advantage over a basic rice cooker or crock pot plugged into a PID controller? I mean, aside from the fact that it says "sous vide" on the front. And costs three times as much.

        14 Replies
        1. re: alanbarnes

          Any advantage should come from its ability to keep the temperature constant, which I would imagine is more critical in the crock pot than the rice cooker. I would guess that the constant temperature function is proportional to the cost of the unit too.

          1. re: Phaedrus

            A PID controller's sole job is to keep the temperature constant, and a laboratory-grade one costs less than $150. Of course, it lacks the timer you get with the $500 "Sous Vide Supreme."

            1. re: alanbarnes

              Actually a PID controller's job is to actuate the desired performance index, much like any kind of controller. It probably doesn't have the derivative function either. I would not think that they would even use a PI controller given the bandwidth and the time constant, i.e. very large thermal capacity. I think a simple proportional controller will do. But, knowing how cheap some of the components are for home home appliances, I doubt they would have that in a rice cooker.

              1. re: Phaedrus

                We seem to be talking past each other. AFAIK, cheap rice cookers and slow cookers don't have any kind of proportional controller on board. But if you happen to have both (1) a cooker and (2) a PID temperature controller, then you can use the latter (**sold separately**) to maintain water in the former at temperatures suitable for sous vide cookery.

                1. re: alanbarnes

                  You would need to access the temperature sensor on board the rice cooker to complete the feedback loop and hook it up to the controller.

                  1. re: Phaedrus

                    Most temperature controllers can take input from a thermocouple or RTD sensor, so you don't have to rely on the cooker's (cheap) components. Here's one that's specifically set up to do plug-n-play sous vide in a rice cooker or crock pot:


                    1. re: alanbarnes

                      So. $150 for a controller. $140 for a temperature sensor. $80 for a rice cooker. Thats $370 spent to replace a $450 sou vide machine, not to mention the fact that the sou vide machine is integrated and does not require the set and constant monitoring.

                      1. re: Phaedrus

                        Where did you get the idea that it's necessary to buy a temperature sensor? Or that the setup requires "constant monitoring"? This isn't that complicated. Let's try it one more time.

                        A controller costs $100 to $140, depending on wattage. It has an on-board temperature sensor and includes a probe. If you don't already have a cooker, you'll need to buy one. I saw 7-quart crock pots on sale for about $20 recently.

                        That's all you need. Really.

                        Use is straightforward. Plug the controller into the wall, plug the cooker into the controller, fill it with water, insert the probe, set the desired temperature, and walk away. Go to work. Go take a nap. Whatever.

                        Yes, the "Sous Vide Supreme" is integrated. But that means you can't use it for anything other than sous vide cooking. With a separate cooker, on the other hand, you can plug it directly into the wall to make a pot of beans or a batch of rice.

                        In short, for well under $200 you can buy a setup that does exactly the same thing in exactly the same way with exactly the same degree of ease as the $450 gadget featured in the article. It's really that simple.

                        1. re: alanbarnes

                          This auber one has caught my eye. what about water circulation is that required for such a small device or is it natural with the heating from the crock pot/rice cooker itself?

          2. re: alanbarnes

            The advantage of this device would seem to be a combination of form factor and ease of use. However, your comment is partially true.

            I say "partially" because you can even skip the PID. This appliance was available in Toronto in the early eighties, but it didn't sell. See my posts at

            1. re: embee

              Does the "Smart Pot" just use a rheostat, or is there a thermostatic controller? I've plugged the ol' crock pot into a dimmer switch, but it's a little hands-on.

              1. re: alanbarnes

                It's a very accurate thermostat - an old fashioned mechanical one

            2. re: alanbarnes

              From the article: "One true believer in the technique’s usefulness for home cooks is Jason Logsdon, a Web developer in Southington, Conn. He uses a large Crock-Pot that is filled with hot tap water and plugged into a SousVideMagic, a $139 device that turns the heating element on and off to maintain steady temperature. Mr. Logsdon became interested in sous vide when his wife gave him the chef Thomas Keller’s glossy 2008 book 'Under Pressure.' "

              1. re: soypower

                The Sous Vide Magic is available from

                I have never used this device, but can't see any reason why it wouldn't work. If you already have a rice cooker, you probably don't need one of their "packages". However, they guarantee that it will work with the rice cookers they sell. The brands displayed on their website are widely available in Toronto.

                I don't think you would need any kind of fancy rice cooker ("neuro fuzzy logic", induction, or whatever), since the PID will be controlling the temperature.

            3. For 4 years now I have used a digital water bath I picked up at a government auction for $45. It's integrated with a digital controller and is accurate to +/- .7 degrees according to the plate on the back.

              You can get water bath's from scientific supply sites for under $450, look at the lower end units the expensive ones are highly precise and not needed for Sous Vide.

              7 Replies
                1. re: celeryroot

                  Mine does not, the high end ones do, but they sold for more than the home sous vide machine.

                  I have compared the results of mine (and I’m not a sous vide fanatic by any definition) to high end commercial ones and to be honest, I can really tell any difference. Circulating water baths are required in CA by the health department but in reality only bring the items to temperature minutely quicker. They shine the most in cook / chill applications where the chilling times are greatly reduced by circulating the water.

                  1. re: RetiredChef

                    Depending where the heat source is you could have a difference in temperature at different spots. Although Im not sure on a small, 20 liters or less , with good installation this would be significant. The health issue is if you set at 135 or 140 and part of package is at 130 and other at your set temp you are not going to eliminate possible contamination. I think NY uses 140 as min temp for meats.

                    Why dont you just take out and chill? Ive never heard of using circulator to chill, I thought it was for the purpose of maintaining a constant temp thru out????

                    I had looked at the unit mentioned when they had a 399 offer. Called and talked to someone and wasnt impressed with answers. They are assembled in China and he said they hadnt worked out warranty yet nor repair service. They never responded back with the answers. I think you are better with what you have.

                    1. re: celeryroot

                      If your food has sufficient mass to not overcook almost immediately, there's a trick you can use to eliminate any viable bacteria on the surface of the product. Put the package into a 200 F water bath and then immediately reduce the temperature to the desired level.

                      1. re: celeryroot

                        Chillers I have seen are on commercial units, not on home units where that would be overkill.

                        Many health departments require a chilling log and on commercial units since it is a critical control point. When you are processing 500 lbs of something it's easier to dump the water, put in cool and have a chiller run to cool the water quickly all in the same machine, it's automated, less chance of screwups, tighter quality control and less labor involved.

                        1. re: RetiredChef

                          Thanks, the commercial ones Ive seen are used for relatively small items and not hugh volume, and they remove and chill manually. I can see how that would be handy for airline products etc and large volume.
                          Have you ever done small game birds and then finish else where quickly???

                          1. re: celeryroot

                            You hit the metal tube on the cockpit or something like that.

                            >>small game birds

                            I have not, but I think that might be a good application. I am not a sous vide aficionado, actually think most of the meat cooked in it is lifeless, limp and vapid. (Yes I sear/brown it before service) It does beautiful fish and vegetables but rarely gets the nod for those. Chicken was ok, but cooking it twice just seemed unnatural.

                            Just FYI When people do not know the cooking method they are usually less enthusiastic about the protein items (except fish) and more enthusiastic about the vegetables.

                2. I receive my sous vide supreme on Dec 16th. I'll post of review on how it worked after I get done testing it out.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: SDGourmand

                    Pls do.......what is the warranty and how serviced if needed? How well is it insulated?

                    1. re: celeryroot

                      I received my sous vide supreme a few days ago and I love it. I've cooked eggs, duck, and rib eye. They all came out beautiful. The temp went down very slightly when I added the proteins but came back to temp quickly. Set up was a breeze just plug in fill with water and you're set. Machine is about the size of a bread maker. Light easy to handle. I think it's well worth the money for the ease of use. They are selling them at sur la table now. SLT also started carrying commercial quality sous vide machines as well for upwards of 1500.