While thermal immersion circulators and thermal circulating water baths are the undisputed leaders of precision temperature control they are out of the price range of many home cooks. Some companies are finally addressing this fact and coming out with interesting ways of regulating water temperature for much less money.
One of the best combo systems is the sous vide cooking controller. This device is pretty simple in principal and is used with a rice cooker, crock pot, slow cooker, or other similar device.
The sous vide cooking controller is basically a plug with an automated on / off switch that is controlled by a thermometer. Here are the 4 steps to using it:
1) Take your slow cooker, crock pot or rice cooker, fill it with water, and put the vacuum sealed food into it
2) Set the temperature you want to maintain on the sous vide cooking controller
3) Plug your slow cooker into the outlet on the sous vide cooking controller and turn it on
4) Put the thermometer attached to the cooking controller into water in the slow cooker
The sous vide cooking controller then turns the crock pot on and off to keep the temperature in the slow cooker at a stable temperature.
Positives of Using a Sous Vide Cooking Controller
The low price tag is probably the biggest benefit to using a sous vide controller. Most are between $110 and $180, depending on the control desired. There are many places to get PID controllers but the two most common are Auberins, a generic temperature control company, and
Fresh Meals Solutions, who's controllers are specifically made for sous vide and Frank, the owner, provides great customer support.
Sous vide controllers are used with your existing crock pots, slow cookers, and rice cookers (check the sous vide controller for specific brands supported). This is definitely a nice convenience and helps save money.
Most sous vide controllers can regulate the temperature to within 1 degree celsius, which is adequate for most sous vide cooking preparations.
Disadvantages of Using a Sous Vide Controller
The biggest downside of sous vide controllers is the lack of precision. While most of the producers claim their controllers maintain steady, even heat, they aren't as precise as the more expensive thermal immersion circulators or the thermal water baths.
However, most people feel that the precision sous vide controllers do have is enough for the home cook to produce excellent results in sous vide cooking.
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