Three best sous vide machines
Cooking the perfect steak requires a bit of babysitting. You can't leave your stovetop or grill for too long before your steak becomes overcooked and almost inedible. Cook chicken too long and it gets dry and nearly tasteless. Fish is similarly easy to overcook. A sous vide machine solves all these problems by enabling home cooks to prepare evenly cooked meats and vegetables without having to remain nearby. The vacuum-sealed foods retain their flavor and nutrients, and the technique requires no supervision, so you can stick to other food prep tasks or catch up on chores while your food cooks.
Considerations when choosing sous vide machines
What to expect from a sous vide machine
A sous vide machine cooks food evenly and slowly, so don't expect your food to be ready at a moment's notice. You can choose the cooking temperature, but you should still adhere to food safety guidelines when cooking meats. And a sous vide machine isn't just for preparing meat. If you eat a vegetarian or vegan diet, you can also use this kitchen tool to cook all kinds of vegetables.
Using a sous vide machine requires that you have a deep pot or heat-proof container. The technique requires that the foods be vacuum sealed, which represents an extra cost if you don't already have one of these devices. And finally, you'll still need to sear your food after cooking it using the sous vide machine.
Sous vide machine features
Controls: Look for controls that are simple to use. You should be able to easily adjust the temperature settings. Buttons should be responsive to the touch. Some sous vide machines can only be turned off by unplugging. An on/off switch enables you to turn off the machine even when it's plugged in.
WiFi: Some sous vide devices are WiFi enabled so you can control it with your smartphone and check in on your food while it's cooking. Some apps even deliver alerts to let you know when the cooking is nearly done, so you can monitor your dinner from the comfort of your living room couch. Units with WiFi capabilities typically fall in the $150 to $200 price range.
No vacuum sealer? No problem!
Vacuum sealing the food before using the sous vide machine makes the process easier, but if you don't have the budget to invest in a vacuum sealer, you can also use reclosable plastic bags. The only issue is that any air trapped in the bag will allow it to rise to the surface of the water bath, which can lead to uneven cooking. A trick to keep your bags from floating is to stick a heavy utensil inside the bag with your meat, fish, or veggies.
Q. Is a sous vide machine safe to use unsupervised?
A. We don't recommend leaving the house all day while your sous vide machine is running. However, you can perform other tasks while prepping dinner or do other chores around the house. Just make sure to check back once in a while to see how your food is doing. Most sous vide machines have safety features like auto shutoff that turns the unit off if the water level is too low. And be careful not to burn yourself. Never touch the metal part of the appliance when it's on and working. It gets very hot!
Q. How can I sear my meat after cooking it with a sous vide machine?
A. The one big drawback of sous vide cooking is that no crispy crust forms on your meat while it's cooking. To incorporate some texture and get a nice sear on your steak once it's done cooking in the water bath, brown your meat quickly in a preheated cast iron pan, on a hot grill, or using a culinary blowtorch.
Q. Which temperature setting should I use to cook food?
A. It depends on the type of food you're cooking. Your sous vide machine should come with a handy chart with guidelines for cooking temperatures and times.
Sous vide machines we recommend
Best of the best: Anova Culinary Sous Vide Precision Cooker
Our take: A reliable precision cooker with convenient wireless features.
What we like: You can keep tabs on the Anova via a smartphone app and control it remotely, too.
What we dislike: It's an expensive gadget.
Best bang for your buck: Wancle Sous Vide Cooker
Our take: A good introductory unit for the cook new to the sous vide technique.
What we like: Very accurate device that delivers consistent results.
What we dislike: There is a learning curve to using this machine; it's not as intuitive as some people would like.
Choice 3: ChefSteps CS10001 Joule Sous Vide
Our take: An attractive sous vide cooker that's easy to use.
What we like: It's controlled wirelessly, and it's lightweight, so it's easy to clip on to any pot.
What we dislike: You can't use this device without a smartphone.
Steph Coelho is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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