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Sous vide equipment

o
olly78 Jul 7, 2011 01:11 AM

Hi
I was looking to buy either the sous vide supreme or the sous vide professional. Really to use once or twice a week for home cooking, and possibly a few dinner parties.

Obviously the supreme is the cheaper option, but does it do a good enough job? And is it going to limit my cooking options in the future.

Did some searches previously, but nothing came back conclusive.

  1. twyst Jul 7, 2011 01:33 AM

    I have a sous vide supreme and it works great, although if I had it to do all over again I would probably get something like this

    http://freshmealssolutions.com/index....

    And cook in a coleman ice chest.

    The sous vide supreme is great, although it doenst circulate the water so its not quite as precise as something with a bubbler or circulator. The fact that the fresh meals magic setup can be put in anything also allows you to cook bigger things and larger quantities of things. Ive actually seen photos on another site of someone using it to sous vide a whole hog in a bathtub. I frequent another forum where there is tons of sous vide talk, and everyone has really high praise for the fresh meals magic setup.

    2 Replies
    1. re: twyst
      twyst Jul 7, 2011 04:12 AM

      By the way Id just like to add that whatever route you choose to go with your sous vide equipment you should definitely dive right in and get something. It truly is a superior method of cooking, I expect every home kitchen will be set up for sous vide in 10 years or so, its that amazing of a cooking method.

      1. re: twyst
        j
        Johnny L Jul 10, 2011 12:16 AM

        I was an early adopter of the Sous Vide Magic and although I do love how cheaply I got in on sous vide cooking I think I may have to get that water heater and try it in a big lexan tub.

        Personally if I was rich I'd buy a rational combination oven like what I use at work but I can only dream.

        For now I'm saving up for a Vacmaster VP112 which is only $600 for a true chamber vacuum sealer. Don't bother with the foodsavers unless you really can't afford it. I try it at home and the things you can do with a true chamber sealer is a worlds difference.

    2. cowboyardee Jul 7, 2011 08:14 AM

      There is no one best way to go for cooking sous vide. That said, some recommendations:

      An immersion circulator like the SVP does give you more options than other equipment. Mainly in terms of how big a bath you can create, where you can create it, and how quickly you can bring the bath up to temperature and stabilize it. Also, as Twyst pointed out, a circulator provides a little extra temperature accuracy. In practice, there are only certain circumstances where that extra accuracy is really important - cooking eggs to specific effects, adding frozen or very cold foods to a bath already cooking something else, cooking to pasteurization at the lowest end of pasteurization temperatures (131 F for most foods). It will also help if your bath is especially crowded. On the other hand, there is a lot to cook sous vide that doesn't require the degree of precision that a circulator ensures. And, obviously, you pay quite a premium for the ease and versatility of an immersion circulator.

      I don't have a SVS. I haven't heard anything bad about it, in terms of breaking or being poorly designed. It does offer a fairly large bath in its 10 liter tank. My issue with it though - it offers no added functions over a basic PID and crock pot/rice cooker set up. None. Contrary to what some confused online reviewers have claimed, it does not contain a circulator. And it costs ~$400, while a crock pot + PID set ups costs about ~$200, less if you already have a slow cooker or rice cooker of decent size.

      You can rig your own temperature controller, to spend even less money.
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MXxVjc...

      I've been using a Sous Vide Magic PID along with a 5 qt slow cooker for a while now. No circulator. Plain old convection from the bottom and sides along with the occasional stir while the food is still cold seem to work well enough. The temperature control is accurate enough for maybe 95% of sous vide applications - very even once the bath is stabilized, just a couple degrees (F) of variation until then. It's far more affordable than the SVS, and unless there's some reason you actually need a 10L bath (I submit you'd be better off spending your money creating a second smaller bath) I really feel there is no reason to drop $400 on the SVS.

      The FreshMealsMagic Twyst linked you to is interested and promising. It should have the versatility and accuracy of an immersion circulator costing 3 times as much because it is basically all the same components, just spilling out rather than integrated into one unit. I haven't tested it and haven't seen many reviews though. I also wonder whether the heating element would get in the way. Still, looks promising.

      I'll also point out that until you get more elaborate equipment, sous vide on the stove top in a large stockpot works better and more easily than most people think. It's worth some practice runs to see if you like the technique in general.

      We're not even getting into vacuums yet.

      4 Replies
      1. re: cowboyardee
        c
        cajundave Jul 7, 2011 03:19 PM

        Hey Cowboy,

        Is this the unit that you have?

        http://freshmealssolutions.com/index....

        Thanks

        1. re: cajundave
          cowboyardee Jul 7, 2011 04:09 PM

          Yeah. I started a thread about it when I was learning to use it.
          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/678636

          That thread made it a good deal more complicated than it has to be, but it really breaks down how a PID works.

          1. re: cowboyardee
            c
            cajundave Jul 8, 2011 05:12 AM

            Thanks for doing the research and application history. You saved me a lot of time.

            Yes it was quite complicated and I have an electrical engineering degree! Too bad they didn't vary the output voltage instead of turning the power on and off.

            1. re: cajundave
              cowboyardee Jul 8, 2011 09:47 AM

              It was one of those things where I fell pretty deep down the rabbit hole, got very fascinated in figuring out the minutiae of the device, then made a nice short rib dinner and never thought about it again.

              Varying voltage output would have made intuitively more sense to me, but I'm no engineer. In practice, it offers pretty tight temperature control without too much overshoot (and just as importantly, the overshoot is fairly predictable), so I'm happy enough.

              You'll still have to spend a little while with the manual just to figure out the control interface if you do go the PID route, BTW.

      2. Kagemusha Jul 7, 2011 12:07 PM

        I'm starting to shop for the bits for this DIY version:

        http://seattlefoodgeek.com/2010/02/di...

        No plans to use it for sous vide. Will be hacked to heat developer chemistry for a home darkroom.

        Why not?

        3 Replies
        1. re: Kagemusha
          cowboyardee Jul 7, 2011 12:14 PM

          I'd seen that a while ago - it would be a fascinating project. But do you know whether anyone has gotten around the problem of the heating elements' tendency to burn out without custom designing/building the element or wiring it to an external heat source?

          1. re: cowboyardee
            Kagemusha Jul 7, 2011 12:22 PM

            I'll find out! Several friends are building these and repurposing them as I am. The "inventor" has upgraded several components that amount to a 2.0 version. We'll be using these at lower temps. It's the ability to heat, circulate and hold a set temp that's the grail here.

            1. re: Kagemusha
              cowboyardee Jul 7, 2011 02:24 PM

              Good luck. If you have time to write up some of your experience, I'd like to read it.

        2. w
          wattacetti Jul 7, 2011 12:37 PM

          I have been doing SV for quite a while using the pot and thermometer method and it's time to come out and get some equipment.

          I came out of a lab environment where we used jacketed water baths and immersion circulators with 0.01ºC tolerance and given that I've been trying to make the ideal onsen and hanjuku eggs for a while now, I've gone with Julabo's FusionChef circulator.

          That said, everyone I know who has the SV Pro loves it and the accompanying booklet, and I've never heard anyone who has one speak ill of the SVS. Cowboyardee's right in that it offers nothing over a PID system.

          I guess it really depends on what you cook and how you cook. Apart from being able to scale up significantly, a circulator transports better and can be clamped onto a large stock pot or any other container. The pot obviously can be used for other things (like making stock or bathing small animals) when not part of a SV setup.

          5 Replies
          1. re: wattacetti
            j
            jrock645 Jul 7, 2011 12:41 PM

            If you're going to spend that kinda money for either the svs or the svp, just save the extra bit to get the svp. The fact that it circulates the water and the svs doesn't is a huge difference. I bought two svp's for work earlier this year and they've done really well for us, though I don't use them heavily.

            1. re: jrock645
              w
              wattacetti Jul 7, 2011 12:50 PM

              Well, yes that would be the way I would go if I were the OP. And I've gone a bit further than that by picking the same manufacturer we used in the lab.

            2. re: wattacetti
              twyst Jul 7, 2011 12:48 PM

              There is a really good thread about cooking eggs sous vide on the egullet forums. Getting the perfect egg is actually shaping up to be much more of a challenge than it should be using sous vide methods. It actually requires baths of a couple of different temperatures or a carefully timed bath at a high heat to achieve "perfect egg" results. Cooking eggs and holding them at a desired temperature leaves the whites not quite set enough at the proper temperature for the yolk to be truly consedered a "perfect egg". I dont go through all the fuss and just deal with a little bit of runny eggwhite :P

              1. re: twyst
                w
                wattacetti Jul 7, 2011 12:53 PM

                I love onsen eggs but my dream is to have the perfect hanjuku egg with a cooked but soft white and a warm and runny yolk *after* it's been seasoned in a shoyu marinade.

                1. re: twyst
                  cowboyardee Jul 7, 2011 02:15 PM

                  I always was a little displeased with the questionable perfection of 'the perfect egg.'

                  OTOH, I've had success cooking 'the perfect egg' to 148 then adding it to very hot ramen and serving it pretty much immediately. Obviously this is a little less scientific a method than some of those EGullet suggestions.

                  I also like cooking a 148 degree egg and then cracking it into a very hot pan for a nice sunny side up egg with a lava-like yolk and crispy edges.

              2. o
                olly78 Jul 7, 2011 12:52 PM

                Hi - thanks everyone for their feedback. I think I'm going to go for the pro - the key drivers being that its easier to store, it circulates and that it can be used in different size pots (quite fancy trying the roast!

                Follow up question - Im looking for a vacuum packer, really cant spend a fortune on it. Any options?

                6 Replies
                1. re: olly78
                  twyst Jul 7, 2011 12:58 PM

                  Chamber sealers are very nice, but not necessary. They are very expensive.

                  I use a foodsaver v2440, it was highly recommended to me and I have been totally satisfied with it. They run a little under $200.

                  1. re: olly78
                    cowboyardee Jul 7, 2011 02:21 PM

                    I don't know anyone who uses a chamber vac at home. If I hit the lottery, I'll try one out and review it.

                    I have found that ziplock freezer bags are excellent and fully serviceable for most meat applications - the only ones that give it problems are highly irregular shapes such as chicken wings. Submerge in water and work the air out before sealing. Leave the zipper part out of the bath. No problems at all with liquid. Little enough air to avoid oxidation and freezer burn.

                    For vegetables (typically cooked at a higher temperature and more irregularly shaped), a foodsaver or comparable vacuum sealer is more necessary. I don't know enough about the different models to guide you in buying one. I do know that some of the egullet guys have figured out how to effectively use them when cooking in liquid (and I don't just mean freezing the liquid first). You might want to look over there for more guidance.

                    1. re: cowboyardee
                      twyst Jul 7, 2011 02:24 PM

                      "I don't know anyone who uses a chamber vac at home. If I hit the lottery, I'll try one out and review it."

                      Its becoming a little more prevalent now since the introduction of this unit
                      http://www.homebutcher.com/index.php?...

                      its sold in several places, but its very cheap on that site (comparitively speaking)

                      1. re: twyst
                        cowboyardee Jul 7, 2011 02:29 PM

                        Holy crap. I had no idea such a product existed. And at something like 1/5 the price of other chamber vacs. Must look into this more - looks too good to be true.

                        Thanks for the heads up.

                        1. re: cowboyardee
                          scubadoo97 Jul 10, 2011 02:58 PM

                          From what I've read it's way better than a foodsaver but not near as good as the more professional vac machines. And for a fraction of the price there should be a difference.

                          1. re: scubadoo97
                            l
                            Lieber78 Dec 4, 2011 11:45 AM

                            Did anyone end up buying a VacMaster VP112 chamber vacuum sealer? My husband and I are thinking about splurging and buying one as a joint birthday present to each other (we have the same birthday so it works out well!) -- they are still quite expensive at around $600, so I was wondering if anyone had used them and how much they had liked them?

                            The other brands I have seen recommended by chefs -- Mutilvac and the Koch ultravac but those seem probably out of the price (and size) range of most home chefs.

                  2. m
                    MattR Jul 25, 2011 12:36 AM

                    Hi guys,
                    I am gearing up with some collaborators to release a sous vide machine that would be much (much) cheaper than SousVide Supreme or other similar ones, despite being of similar quality. We are now finalizing our prototype.
                    Could you give me a feeling for how interested you would be in this kind of machine? A lot, a bit, not at all?
                    thanks!

                    12 Replies
                    1. re: MattR
                      w
                      wattacetti Jul 25, 2011 05:38 AM

                      Not particularly; the SVS doesn't do it for me because there's no circulator, meaning that there's slower return to temperature when I drop things into the bath. Temperature precision also isn't as good as a Julabo.

                      1. re: wattacetti
                        m
                        MattR Jul 25, 2011 08:50 AM

                        Hi wattacetti, thanks for the quick reply. Just to clarify, our machine would have circulation, unlike SVS. Re: temperature precision it would instead be just like SVS.

                        1. re: MattR
                          w
                          wattacetti Jul 25, 2011 09:12 AM

                          SVS is apparently within one (1) degree of set point, so some egg applications could be something of an adventure.

                          I'd have to take a look since an insulated bath with what I'm assuming is a built-in circulator might work for the home crowd. How's your build quality?

                        2. re: wattacetti
                          cowboyardee Jul 25, 2011 09:14 AM

                          That seems like a bit of an unfair comparison - best I can tell Julabo only sells immersion circulators (with specially designed steel bath basins) - they should be more precise and quicker to heat up and recover than a lower priced unit like the one MattR is talking about.

                          I mean, what does a Julabo cost anyway? (that's meant to sound like a rhetorical question but it's not - after a quick search, I can't find going prices for any of their units).

                          1. re: cowboyardee
                            w
                            wattacetti Jul 25, 2011 09:32 AM

                            It is an unfair criticism, but it's the difference between a circulation system and a static bath.

                            They circulators are expensive. $1250 for the lower-end Julabo circulator and add about as much for an insulated tank. The Polyscience circulator is $800. High-end Julabo does 0.01ºC variation, low-end Julabo 0.03ºC, and Polyscience 0.05ºC. The SVS is apparently 1º (no mention of temperature scale).

                            MattR has since clarified that his proposed unit has a built-in circulator, so that takes away one of the two criticisms of the SVS and certainly gives his unit a leg up.

                            1. re: wattacetti
                              cowboyardee Jul 25, 2011 09:47 AM

                              I don't think a non-circulated, PID-driven unit like the SVS will ever compete with an immersion circulator in terms of performance. But it still does allow you to pull off 95% of sous vide preparations and applications (I made that figure up, obviously) with acceptable accuracy and results - especially for home cooks and hobbyists who probably won't regularly be adding cold packages to baths that already have food in em. So if the price is low enough, I can see plenty of value in a SVS or SVM type unit. As I said in the PID thread, my issue with the SVS is mainly that it is overpriced for what it is, not that what it is is necessarily bad.

                              1. re: cowboyardee
                                o
                                olly78 Jul 25, 2011 10:26 AM

                                So just to keep everyone posted (boom boom) - I ordered the Sous Vide professional but as soon as I got it saw it wasn't going to meet my needs. Its surprisingly big (surprised me anyway) and it also looks a little delicate - at least for that amount of money I would likely keep it in the box. Given that it also needs a big pot as well I decided to send it back and get a SVS instead, even if it isn't as technically accurate hopefully it will fit my needs, and more importantly fit my kitchen. I'll let you know how it goes......

                                1. re: olly78
                                  cowboyardee Jul 25, 2011 10:34 AM

                                  Please do let us know. Hope the SVS serves you well. It's probably not as delicate. It is pretty big though.

                                  Thanks for updating. Please review the SVS if you decide to stick with it.

                                  1. re: olly78
                                    w
                                    wattacetti Jul 25, 2011 10:44 AM

                                    Very interesting; you might want to take a look at this blogpost (which was never followed up as a part 2), as it has comparison photos of the SVP, SVS, Julabo and Swid.

                                    http://www.sousvidecooking.org/sous-v...

                                    1. re: wattacetti
                                      o
                                      olly78 Sep 7, 2011 01:23 AM

                                      Hi
                                      Just want to thank everyone for their feedback and guidance. I received my sous vide supreme a couple of weeks ago and have used it 3 times now – it seems to be producing amazing results. We have only tried with vegetables to date, but each time we end up asking ourselves “is this what an aubergine / courgette / onion really tastes like”. It seems like sous vide distills the food to the very core of its flavor. There isn’t anything to distract it (such as searing) unless you introduce it.
                                      It’s a technique that I look forward to using much more in the weeks / months / years to come.

                                      1. re: olly78
                                        twyst Sep 7, 2011 08:35 AM

                                        Just wait til you try shortribs!

                          2. re: MattR
                            p
                            pabboy Jul 25, 2011 07:31 AM

                            Only if it's a thermal immersion circulator that can be attached to a variety of containers with an accuracy of 0.01 degrees for under $500.

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