3 Best Sous Vide Cookers, Tested by Food Network Kitchen
We found the best sous vide machines for making the tender sous vide steak, easy eggs and more.
Our Top Sous Vide Cooker Picks
Tested by Madison Papp for Food Network Kitchen
A sous vide cooker is an ideal investment if you are a precision chef, an eager home cook, or a kitchen novice. Sous vide cooking can take an ordinary filet of salmon to buttery and flakey perfection or tenderize your steak, transporting you to the best of steakhouses without ever leaving your home. However, a sous vide machine is not an inexpensive piece of machinery. Thus, purchasing this device requires fundamental research and attention to detail. Otherwise, you could end up unsatisfied and stuck with a machine well over $100 (ouch!). Lucky for you, we've completed all the legwork to find the best sous vide cookers on the market. Thus, follow our guide to find your perfect match.
What To Look for When Buying a Sous Vide
Some sous vide machines activate by touch screens, and not all are efficient. In our test, one brand took at least 3 minutes to calibrate temperature due to a faulty touchscreen. Some have a difficult time keeping temperature. All of our top picks kept accurate time and temperature from start to finish.
It is also important to consider weight and bulk. Light and slim models will prove best for storage, and there is less risk of the machine tipping over. Heavier sous vides without the proper attachments or clamps can quickly shift or slump during cooking, thus affecting the process.
Each brand of sous vide will have a unique clamp that will determine how the machine sits in a pot or culinary tub. Before purchasing a device, measure the vessel you wish to use for sous vide. A deep stainless steel pot or culinary tub work best. Shallow pans are a no-go for any sous vide cooker. Because the device can be easily stored or shipped, it should also be travel-friendly and fit across various pots. A solid device can truly turn any basic or bare-bones kitchen setup into a culinary wonderland.
Of course, cooking speed is another area to consider. A proper sous vide device heats a small pot of water within 10 to 15 minutes — similar to preheating an oven.
Another bonus feature for sous vide: customer support. The best brands invest in their products as much as they do the user experience. Some of the top models come with free recipes, how-to videos, and more.
This article has been reviewed since its original publish date for accuracy, pricing and availability. We stand by our list of top sous vide cooker picks.
The Joule has a sleek design and its lightweight plastic form is ideal for those on-the-go or who frequently cook in small spaces. Its signature shade of white will look chic nestled in just about any cabinet or kitchen drawer. Unlike other devices in our test, the Joule offers three options to secure the gadget to various pots, pans, and tubs. Its metal clip is thin yet sturdy and will fit most containers. It also has an oversized clamp for working with thicker vessels, such as a cooler and a magnetic base for additional support with metal pots.
Make note (which may be a deterrent for some) this device is app-dependent. It does not have any buttons or screens for controls. Thus, if you are void of a compatible smartphone or tablet, the Joule will not work for you. Furthermore, the device requires Bluetooth or Wi-Fi to run and sync with its app. It is the most expensive sous vide on this list at $249. Still, sales do come about, and a close scan of discount codes via email sign-ups on kitchen and home sites can shave off tens of dollars.
In our speed test, the Joule outpaced all models, heating the water bath to a piping 145 degrees F in just under 10 minutes. This is due to its wattage of 1100. It cooked a thick New York strip steak at 130 degrees F to a close 129 degrees F in two hours. The Joule's app, which features a variety of precision-focused recipes, takes the guesswork out of cooking and will guide the user and take on the entire cooking process, set timers, and more. The included recipes conveniently make grocery shopping and meal planning a breeze.
The Anova Culinary is similar in size and shape to the Nano (our budget pick), but it packs a higher wattage. Thus, it heats water faster than the Nano. But, only by two minutes according to our test. When cooking steak, it too heated the meat to 129 degrees F at a setting of 130 degrees F. This is the only model to display a metal body within our top picks. Like the other models on our list, this sous vide is highly intuitive. While all come with an instruction manual, the easy-to-use interface yields quick set-up and activation.
We love the Anova Nano for its compact and stylish plastic black matte design. Unlike the Joule, the Anova line comes with controls mounted on the device. In our speed test, the Nano heated the water to a warm 145 degrees F in just over 10 minutes. Like the Joule, our steak came out of a two hour water bath of 130 degrees F at 129 degrees F. While it was not the most inexpensive sous vide tested, it was on the lower end of the average price-point at $129.
Similar to other models, at the right time, one can buy this helpful kitchen gadget for $99. Like the Joule, the Anova comes with an app, and it does not require WiFi or Bluetooth to run. However, we found the Joule recipes and guides to be easier and more intuitive than Anova.
There is no difference in how the Joule and Anova sous vides cook ingredients. It ultimately comes down to preference and budget when deciding between the units.
How We Tested
Our first test concerned the actual product before it hit water. It was important to note how they were built, with what materials, and how they could work across various cooking vessels, pots, and culinary tubs. The next test involved cooking steak at 130 degrees F for two hours and then cooking to medium-rare at 145 degrees F. The third test involved heating gallon-sized water baths from 75 degrees F to 145 degrees F and analyzing speed. We used a steel pot in this test, which naturally conducts heat. Still, we expect different results if the test ran in another vessel, such as a plastic culinary tub.
We further noted if any of the gadgets were easy to clean. These are electrical devices and should never be placed in a dishwasher or fully submerged in water. It was wonderful to find that each sous vide could be wiped down with a bit of soap and water. Our test analyzed a total of eight sous vides. However, most did not make the cut due to design and inadequate execution. Here are our sous vide stars.
Other Common Questions About Sous Vide Cookers
What Is a Sous Vide?
A sous vide is an electronic device that heats and circulates water. It does not require a stovetop or any particular method beyond a simple pot or heat-friendly plastic culinary tub. The beauty of sous vide cooking is that it is virtually impossible to overcook your food. When cooking with a stove or oven, the cooking mechanism is usually hotter than the desired temperature for your finished dish. For example, a steak cooked to 145 degrees F will sit under a 550 degree F broiler to reach proper temperature and ultimate flavor. (If the steak is left too long, it can easily overcook and become tough.) The sous vide circulates water at the desired and pre-set temperature to ensure even cooking. What cooks in a sous vide will not heat beyond the pre-set temperature. For example, to cook at a steak to 145 degrees F, you cook at that temperature, too. Furthermore, the sous vide method is slower than traditional cooking methods. Thus, meat fibers become further tenderized and flavors saturate.
However, cooking with a sous vide is more that just a set-and-forget-it method. A beef filet cannot be dropped naked in a water bath without losing texture and flavor. Sous vide translates to "under vacuum" in French, referring to the process of sealing the cooking bag. In sous vide cooking, the ingredients must sit in a sealed plastic bag (with the air removed) or vacuum-sealed sous vide bag within the water bath to properly cook. All the sous vide cookers we tested were not sold with sous vide bags, so we recommend ordering a batch before getting started.
What Can You Cook With a Sous Vide?
What can't be cooked in a sous vide? Fish, beef, and chicken are standards. However, fruits, vegetables, and sauces can all come together with this handy machine. It is also an excellent tool for infusing flavor. Carrots in a sous vide with a touch of ginger and honey take on a sweet and vibrant taste an oven or frying pan can't provide. A beef filet sealed with a large clove of garlic, and fresh sprigs of rosemary and thyme heighten the flavor of the meat.
Furthermore, a sous vide is ideal for holiday gatherings or dinner parties. The meats and vegetables can quickly cook in advance and keep to temperature until the meal is ready. However, note that most proteins benefit from a quick sear post-sous vide for color and flavor.
How to Get Started With Your Sous Vide Machine
Time to get cooking! First, you'll need to get a bag for cooking in. None of the models we love come with sous vide bags. You can easily experiment with cooking in standard plastic gallon bags with a secure lock or upgrade to a vacuum sealer and compatible sous vide bags. For the eco-conscious cook, Stasher, a popular silicone bag company, makes reusable sous vide bags easily washable by hand and dishwasher safe.
Invest in an instant-read meat thermometer. The sous vide will cook proteins to a perfect temperature, and many recipes suggest a quick sear to follow. Use a thermometer to prevent overcooking in these situations, thus protecting the texture, flavor, and integrity that comes with sous vide.
Most of all, have fun. A sous vide eases the stress of cooking and provides a hands-off experience so the user can simultaneously focus on adjacent meal elements or tasks outside the kitchen.