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Sous Vide vs. Immersion Circulator

My copy of Modernist Cuisine at home will be here tomorrow, and after reading through Under Pressure I am going to break down and purchase either an Immersion Circulator or Sous Vide.

I was wondering is any fellow chowhounders have any suggestions? I am not sure if the Sous Vide Supreme is going to be big enough? And is an Immersion Circulator is worth the extra expense. Any help would be great!


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  1. so jealous! been coveting MC for quite some time now...

    1. I would definitely go with an immersion circulator (though in all honestly I've never used the SV Supreme). I say that only because of the ability to use any container. The SV Supreme would be too small for me. I recently did a whole beef brisket and there is no way I could have chopped it up small enough to do it in that little box.

      I own the Polyscience circulator. They recently came out with a less powerful cheaper model which I think from what I've read would work for me as home cook as well as the professional model (it wasn't available when I got into SV). The price difference between a SV Supreme and this isn't that much really and the flexibility of a circulator would be worth it in my opinion.


      1. If you can afford a decent quality immersion circulator, it offers numerous advantages over the sous vide supreme. It heats water faster, circulates water (allowing you to put more in a bath and creating more consistent results), handles a larger bath, and is generally more portable and versatile and flexible.

        The sous vide supreme isn't a bad device, but it's overpriced for a non-circulated sous vide bath, IMO, and there are cheaper options that are just as good for non-circulated baths.

        1. Last Saturday night I tried out my "sous vide" set-up for the first time. Crock pot, temp. Controller, and Ziploc freezer bags. I cooked two 10-1/2 oz. Berkshire pork chops at 138 degrees for about 3 hours (ready to eat in half that time and held for the rest). They came out as perfect as can be; tender and juicy and slightly pink throughout. A couple of minutes searing and we ate. Next up, rib-eye steaks. I'm hooked!! Btw, total investment $100.

          1 Reply
          1. re: grampart

            There are definitely cheaper ways to enter the "sous vide craze". I started with a temp controller and a crock pot, then upgraded from a crock pot to counter top roaster (needed more water space), and then finally to the circulator.

            And I would recommend going the temp controller/crock pot route before the sous vide supreme based entirely on the cost of entry. But if you were debating between SV supreme or a circulator, I'd go for a circulator.

            I still often use Ziplocs instead of vacuum sealer. Just so easy, cheap, can include liquids without issues, etc.

          2. Modernist Cuisine at Home just arrived with the UPS guy.

            Anyway, another vote for the immersion circulator for pretty much all the reasons that has already been discussed. I've noticed the greatest differences with eggs.

            UPDATE: browsed the volume and the SV section starts with a photo of… a slow cooker and digital temperature controller. "Less than $200".

            3 Replies
            1. re: wattacetti

              This is so interesting to me, to see so many people voting for the immersion circulator. I am wondering if I made the wrong decision by going with the SVS? I have been so happy with it! What kind of a difference have you seen in eggs?

              1. re: livetoeattolive

                Did you make the wrong decision with the SVS?

                Do you use it? Does it deliver the results you were expecting? Yes? It was the right purchase decision for you.

                I came out of a lab environment so circulators were what we used to maintain heated water baths. PolyScience was the first to actively tap into the chef market and commercial kitchens are better off with the capability and flexibility of the circulators to keep up with the volume.

                For your specific question, I was getting more variability in the runniness of the egg yolk with a static bath than a circulator when making batches of the things.

                1. re: wattacetti

                  I think you're exactly right -- the PolyScience is perfect for commercial kitchens to keep up with the volume, fast turnaround of dishes/items cooked. Plus, really precise for super scientific lab cooking.

                  Been surprisingly happy with the SousVide Supreme, given that I thought the whole sous vide trend was overrated at first and soooo not "romantic" in the kitchen, without all the wonderful smells you get from the cooking process... but I gladly trade that in for the flavor and texture it gives me in the final result. It made an honest cook out of me!

                  Thanks for your take on the eggs! The most eggs we have ever cooked sous vide was 16 at one time and they all came out velvety and consistent... but I can definitely see your point regarding movement in large batches.

            2. Space might be an issue for the SousVide Supreme if you are in fact trying to cook a whole beef brisket (on the large side) or entertaining large groups (restaurant-style) on a regular basis. But still, you can fit like 16 steaks in the Sous Vide Supreme at once.

              As a home cook myself, I have successfully and deliciously cooked a full pork shoulder, whole pork roasts, a whole prime rib rack, and a whole chicken in my SousVide Supreme Demi, which is the smaller version of the two. I cook for my family of 4, 5-6 times a week and entertain groups of 6-8 about once a month. I have both the SousVide Supreme and the SousVide Supreme Demi. (Got the Demi as a gift and bought the SVS a year later.)

              I can store both my SVS machines away easily and I like how the entire sous vide experience is contained. I'm not dealing with constant steam and condensation indoors (i.e. the PolyScience) and I believe the SousVide Supreme is more energy efficient (saving money on energy costs) because of the fact it's contained. The machine runs like a hybrid car turning off its engine whenever possible, whereas the PS is constantly working. There are lots of sous vide recipes that call for 24-48 hour cook times -- open steaming and energy costs would be less agreeable to me with the PS.

              Plus, when I have guests over I like the contained look of the SVS, it looks sleeker to me. Let's be honest, food doesn't look great cooking sous vide... at least in my opinion. The final results are unbelievable, but the process isn't very appealing. A bunch of plastic bags submerged in a vat of steaming water isn't very appetizing. The sleek look of the SVS is appealing to me... it's like a secret to the guests until the great reveal! :) :) :)

              When I was deciding between the PS and SVS myself, I did some research and read that the constant vibration of the PS can damage granite/marble countertops, which was a red flag for me given that we just did a big ticket revamp on our home kitchen complete with granite countertops (that we waited months to obtain...which is whole different story!)

              Some people have told me that the PolyScience is more accurate, which is true. But the SVS is accurate within 0.5 of a degree. Nothing I cook needs a temperature more accurate than a half of a degree -- I guess if you're into hardcore molecular gastronomy, I get the need to be ultra-precise, but you don't need that for your usual chicken breast, pork tenderloin or short ribs. I still have yet to find a recipe that I have used (or been interested in) to call for a temp more accurate than a half of a degree.

              All in all, I probably use the sous vide method once or twice a week and the SVS has delivered great food for our family time and time again. I'm glad I didn't pay the extra $600 to get the PS.

              1. Has anyone tried the new PolyScience Creative Series? It's $300 less than the Chef Series - sounds like it could be the best choice if it works as advertised.

                6 Replies
                1. re: calumin

                  This page compares all of their lines:

                  I would think it would be good for a home cook but would love feedback from this board.

                  1. re: JonDough

                    I bought the Creative Series. It's a great machine and is only $499 (not cheap, but cheap compared to their other models)

                    The main reason I wanted it over the SVS is that it's small (detachable from the tub) and you can keep it in a drawer. The circulation is great and it is very precise -- I ran a few thermometer tests and it kept the water at the right temperature everywhere in the bath.

                    I had this fear from earlier posts that it would be noisy. I think if your machine is noisy it might be defective, because mine is so quiet I can barely hear it.

                    For the home cook I don't think there's any meaningful difference between this model and the higher end models.

                    1. re: calumin

                      Thank you calumin. Looks like I am going to pull the trigger and buy the Creative Series.

                      1. re: JonDough

                        Any recommendations for a vacuum sealer?

                        1. re: Ryan Goldschlager

                          I use Zip-Loc freezer bags and a straw.

                          1. re: Ryan Goldschlager

                            I got the FoodSaver V3880.

                            I would say that it's not great, but it's not bad for the price and a huge improvement over ZipLoc bags. I'm happy with my choice.

                            Pluses are that it is easy to use, it gives a pretty good seal, and it's fairly portable. I haven't had any problems at all.

                            Most of the negatives are that it can be finicky, so you need to be careful when doing the sealing. For example, don't put liquid (beyond a few drops) in the bag or else the suction will suck the liquid and the machine will clog.

                            The bags are expensive (10x the price of chamber bags) but given the price of a chamber-based sealer, I'd have to use it a lot to make up the cost difference.

                            I wanted to buy the VacMaster VP112 because it's a chamber-based sealer and really foolproof. However I went for the FoodSaver because it's less than 1/4 the price and the VacMaster is really heavy and bigger.

                            The main disadvantage of not having a chamber sealer is that you can't seal anything with liquid.

                            I wouldn't use Ziploc bags in most cases for sous vide anymore -- too much of a hassle (e.g. unless you get every last drop of air out, the cooking can be uneven and the bag will float on the water meaning you have to find a way to keep it submerged).

                  2. I have both, a homebrew system and a svs. I got the svs because it was so much easier for my kid to use. For unsupervised cooking by him, I decided the simpler controls were better. Oh - for a7th grade class he had to bring in for the class a whole "healthy" meal he cooked himself. I was apes**t when he got an 'F' because the teacher said that all the cooking directions he turned in were wrong. He had done everything in the svs. I did the same meal taking pictures, copying several articles/recipes related to the svs and brought lunch in to the district superintendent. He had her on the carpet and the kid got his 'A'. The super also bought a unit for his wife.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: exvaxman

                      A very nice way to educate the educator.

                      1. re: wattacetti

                        I did try dealing with her first, but that was a brick wall.

                    2. Which DIY Immersion Circulator kit did you buy and from where? Did you get all the devices in one kit or did you have to buy a piece here and a piece there? I've heard that the aqua pumps used for aquariums break down quickly and often. Is this what you used as a circulator and, if not, what did you use? Last question, I've found so many different sites that give ideas as to how to put it together, what did you use as a guide? Thank you so much for your help.