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Brewing beer, curing meat, or making cheese?

DSV Temperature Controller as Sous Vide?

THoey1963 Apr 25, 2013 03:43 PM

I am interested in trying to use the Sous Vide method of cooking, but not interested in the price tag. While searching here and else where, I stumbled across the following for a DSV Temperature Controller that I could use with an old crock pot:


Anyone have one or know if it is worth it? $99 on Amazon might be worth a try if it is any good...

  1. drongo Apr 25, 2013 05:09 PM

    Calling it "DorkFood" is a little much! This dork "resembles that remark"!

    I use a controller from Auber Instruments (http://www.auberins.com/ ) that was a little more expensive (maybe $150). It works well, provided you are OK with +/- 1 degree control. It has the advantage that I can also use the same controller to control fridge or freezer temperature -- e.g. for lagering or cheese-making.

    1. splatgirl Apr 26, 2013 10:12 AM

      I have a DIY version of that, built using an arduino for about $35. It works fabulously.
      You still have the (potential) issue of needing a circulator if you want to be true to the real thing. I was thinking an aquarium pump...

      ETA that if you are in posession of the connections, ability and/or desire to DIY one, you can make it programmable for time and temperature intervals which I find quite useful.

      1. grampart Apr 26, 2013 10:16 AM

        I use that exact same one with an old crock pot and it works like a charm. btw, you have to an old type crackpot (non-digital) in order for the thing to work.

        1. THoey1963 Apr 26, 2013 12:50 PM

          I went ahead and paid the extra money for the Auber. Paid a little extra to get it sooner too. Have a nice ribeye in the fridge with it's name on it... ;)

          1. THoey1963 Apr 29, 2013 11:55 PM

            Ok. Got my Auber today. Had a little time to play with it (not actually cook anything). Filled my 4 quart crockpot with warm water, connected everything, set it for 134, and saw it rise up and then stay at 136 for the rest of the time I had. So, before I cook with it tomorrow (1.5 inch thick ribeye I bought to try it out), I have some questions.

            1. I set it for 134 as that is what I remembered reading for RARE to MEDIUM RARE. But, it held at 136, not the 134 that I selected. Now, looking at another chart, I see 138 for a medium ribeye. What should I set it at to cook it right and knowing that when I shot for 134 it held at 136?

            2. Do you just throw the probe in so it is laying on the bottom? I was thinking that since the crockpots supposedly heat from the bottom that this might explain the higher reading.

            3. When I put the bagged steak in, do I let it just lay on the bottom too? Or do I need something to hold the bag upright so that the bottom heat doesn't cook one side more than the other side?

            2 Replies
            1. re: THoey1963
              grampart Apr 30, 2013 04:28 AM

              Best if probe end is suspended, not touching sides, bottom, or (and this is trickier) the bag.

              What kind of bags are you using?

              1. re: THoey1963
                Coogles Apr 30, 2013 08:14 AM

                A crock pot has a lot of thermal mass, when the water reaches the set temp and the controller turns off the heating element there will still be a lot of thermal energy in the crock that will continue to heat up the water bath past the set point. You can try to minimize this by using the low setting on the crock once it has reached the desired bath temperature. The probe should not be touching the crock since the crock will be at a higher temperature than the water bath when the heating element is on. The bags containing the steak should also not be laying on the crock for the same reason, the side touching the bottom will be exposed to a higher temperature than the other side. A small cooling rack on the bottom will prevent direct contact with the crock. Adding some circulation to the bath will help even out the bath temperature, you could use an air stone hooked up to a small aquarium air pump to do this.

              2. THoey1963 Apr 30, 2013 10:45 AM

                Thanks for the replies. Don't have anything like a cooling rack that will fit. Tried a steamer basket, but it is elevated too high. Have an old, light weight, aluminum lid that I placed on the bottom. Hopefully that will work for today.

                For the probe, I got three long zip ties and connected them in a loop going from handle to handle. Dangled the probe off that so that it is submerged, but not touching. Not pretty and doesn't let the lid seal well, but should work.

                I went with a quart sized ziplock bag to cook the meat in. Took me a couple minutes, but got most of the air out so that it doesn't float.

                Giving it a run now to test the temperature. Staek is still in the fridge. Will probably bring it to room temperature and then through it in around 4 pm and plan on eating around 7.

                Plenty of time for any last minute tips...

                7 Replies
                1. re: THoey1963
                  thimes Apr 30, 2013 12:35 PM

                  IMHO - you'll be fine with steak if you're reading 136 instead of 134, other proteins may not be as forgiving (eggs being one in particular)

                  if you want to keep the steak off the bottom, you can use anything - small dish (like a ramekin), or even just a wad of tin foil - but I haven't had a problem, though I tend to move my bags around every 30 min or so (what can I say, I have trouble just "leaving it alone"). Again, steaks are pretty forgiving with a few degree differences.

                  I like my steak (when cooked regularly) about 135, so that is the temp I shoot for (that is my medium-rare). If your steak is thin and you are thinking of searing after (which I recommend) then you might want to be a little less. If it is thick, the quick sear won't impact the center of the steak significantly.

                  Have fun! Enjoy!

                  Someone on one of these threads highly recommended burgers cooked sous vide - haven't done it yet but your thread has made me think about getting my equipment out again!

                  1. re: thimes
                    grampart Apr 30, 2013 12:44 PM

                    I've done boneless, skinless chicken breasts with good success. Served with a sauce (I used mushroom), they don't really need to be seared which, with chicken, is more cosmetic than anything. With steaks and chops, I think the sear does affect flavor.

                    1. re: grampart
                      THoey1963 Apr 30, 2013 01:58 PM

                      Chicken was next on my list, but those burgers mentioned above sound good too...

                      1. re: THoey1963
                        grampart Apr 30, 2013 02:04 PM

                        Have you tried any fish yet?

                        1. re: grampart
                          THoey1963 Apr 30, 2013 02:54 PM

                          The steak that is cooking is the first meal. Just got the PID yesterday.

                          As a side note, just went to check on it, and the PID temp is showing 133 when I have it set for 136. Bumped it back up to 138 to see if it will bring it back up. Not sure why it did that.

                          1. re: THoey1963
                            grampart Apr 30, 2013 04:17 PM

                            Sorry, I forgot that you just got it. My Dorkfood unit stays on temp for the whole cook. What's happening with yours doesn't sound right.

                    2. re: thimes
                      THoey1963 Apr 30, 2013 01:58 PM

                      PID was set at 138, but current temp showing 139/140. I tend to like a little more rare than medium rare, so I rolled the pouch over and dropped the PID to 136.

                      Just had lunch, so I am not hungry, but the anticipation is making me want to rush it. Another couple hours and I will saute up some mushrooms and onions. When they are done, turn up the heat for the sear.

                  2. THoey1963 Apr 30, 2013 10:24 PM

                    Dinner was great. The steak came out very tender, almost like a prime rib.

                    I am thinking the inconsistencies on the heating probably have more to do with the old crockpot than the PID. Will have to rethink that side of the equasion.

                    Going to try to attach a couple photos. First time I have done it on CH, so lets see if I get it right.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: THoey1963
                      splatgirl May 1, 2013 08:21 AM

                      Well, now I'm hungry for steak. And mushrooms and onions. That looks delicious.

                      Whatever you do, don't toss that old crock pot. IME the newer ones are much worse for uneven heating. If anything, look for an even older one!

                      Or, as I said, circulate the water...

                      1. re: THoey1963
                        thimes May 1, 2013 08:27 AM

                        I think someone else mentioned that if you do decide to get a new croc pot, just make sure you don't get a digital one. They don't work with the constant "on/off" function of the PID (which is how the PID is controlling the temp). It has to have a manual dial.

                        Before upgrading to my "fancy" sous vide equipment, I actually bought a large table top roaster from amazon/target/somewhere like that - it worked great for large batches/parties. It was somewhere around 20 quarts and got quite a deal on it.

                        1. re: thimes
                          splatgirl May 1, 2013 08:47 AM

                          +1 to the large roaster. A larger volume of water would be less sensitive to temperature fluctuations...

                      2. THoey1963 May 4, 2013 06:07 PM

                        Went to Wally World today to get a roaster pan. Of course they don't carry it now. Got a 900 watt hot plate and will use my own pots. Got an aquarium pump and hose for aeration. Saw the Foodsaver 3400 series and got one of those and supplies too.

                        Used heavy duty paper clips to weigh down the hose.

                        Brought the water up to temp via the stove and now using the hot plate / PID and holding steady at my target temp. Bouncing from 137 to 139 with 138 as my target.

                        Pot lid was pushing the probe against the pot wall, so just using a plate on top. Noisier with the bubbles, the pump, and the plate gently rattling.

                        1. THoey1963 May 4, 2013 06:31 PM

                          Last photo with lid on.

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