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One of the most commonly asked questions we get is Which sous vide machine should I buy? We normally take them through a series of questions to see what would work best for them. We thought this would make a great flowchart and could help people make up their mind about which sous vide equipment to buy more easily.
Immersion circulators are the heavy lifters of sous vide cooking. They are more precise, faster to heat up, and have a much steadier temperature than the rest of the sous vide options. If you want the best then an immersion circulator is the way to go but they also have the price tag to match. The two most well known brands are
Polyscience, which was dubbed the best circulator Seattle Food Geek has used and fusionchef by Julabo.
Build Your Own Sous Vide Machine
If you don't want to fork out several hundred dollars and have some knowledge of electronics you can make your own immersion circulator for about $100. There are many ways to do it but the gold standard is from Seattle Food Geek.
Sous Vide Supreme is "the world's first water oven designed specifically to bring the gourmet sous vide cooking method into home and small restaurant kitchens". It's a self contained, easy to use unit that looks like a typical kitchen appliance. They are a very good mid-level option for sous vide cooking. You can get them from the Sous Vide Supreme website or Amazon.com.
A smaller version of the Sous Vide Supreme that is less expensive and good for people not cooking for a large number of people. It also comes in a variety of colors. It is available from the Sous Vide Supreme Website or Amazon.com.
PID controllers work by regulating the temperature of an external heat source such as a crockpot or rice cooker. They are a cheaper alternative to the other methods and are a great way to test out sous vide cooking without a large upfront commitment, especially if you already have a crockpot or rice cooker. 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.
Beer Cooler Hack
If you're looking for a quick and dirty way to try out sous vide then you can't go wrong with J. Kenji Lopez-Alt's Beer Cooler Hack. You simply fill up your beer cooler with water heated to the proper temperature (the hot water in many homes is just about perfect), drop in your meat and close it. Hours later the food will be ready.
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