When you’re starting out shopping for a sous vide machine, it can be a bit daunting to figure out which model to get, which type to get, and how many of the bells and whistles you want or don’t want.
We’ve put together a quick guide that covers the basics for you so you know what you’re looking at when it comes to finding the best sous vide machine for any budget.
Recommended Immersion Circulators
Recommended Water Ovens
What Does Sous Vide Mean?
Sous vide literally means “under vaccum” in French. Sous vide is a cooking method that utilizes longer cook times and lower temperatures than conventional cooking methods.
Sous vide cooking is done by placing food in a sealed bag and into a water bath. The water bath is set to a precise temperature. This prevents overcooking your food because the food cannot reach a temperature that’s higher than the water bath.
Makes sense so far, right?
The beauty of this method is that it is so really simple and yet it allows you to be so precise with your cooking.
Many people don’t quite get sous vide cooking as a concept because it involves special equipment — specifically, an immersion circulator or water oven, and it’s so different from other ways that we usually cook food.
In addition, for a long time sous vide equipment was really too expensive for most home cooks to want to purchase them.
Now, sous vide immersion circulators and water cookers (another word for water ovens) are priced so that they’re a lot more accessible.
Still, since sous vide equipment is not as mainstream as, say, a Crock-Pot, there is still the perception that it is expensive to start cooking sous vide at home. You can find some really great deals these days, especially on immersion circulators.
Sous Vide Pronunciation
Sous vide is often misspelled as “suvi” or “souvee” as a way to approximate the way the words sound. It is correctly pronounced as “soo veed” and although you will hear many people drop the final D sound (“soo vee”), that is actually incorrect.
Sous Vide Health Benefits
Sous vide offers health benefits because you can reduce the amount of fat in your meal since you’re not cooking in oil. You can also use less salt, since sous vide cooking packs in more flavor. Read more about sous vide health benefits.
What Can You Cook Using Sous Vide?
The array of foods that you can cook with the sous vide method is wide open. The method is most popularly used for meat because of the controlled cooking and superior results over other methods.
This is our list of the best and worst things to sous vide. Best foods include asparagus, steak, chicken, and potatoes. Worst: fin fish and chicken. Yep, chicken can be the best AND the worst.
Check out our sous vide ribeye steak recipe for a step-by-step guide to a steakhouse-quality steak.
And here is our list of ten surprising foods that you can sous vide.
What Equipment Do You Need for Sous Vide Cooking?
To get started cooking sous vide at home you’ll need a sous vide machine, a vacuum sealer and bags or heavy duty Ziploc bags, and a cooking container.
(You won’t need a container if you’re going to be using the water oven style machine.)
Sous Vide Machine
One key piece of equipment you’ll need is obviously going to be a sous vide machine like an immersion circulator or water oven. You have a range of options in terms of budget and type of unit, which we’ll get into further in just a minute.
Sous Vide Bags
You’ll need to decide on what kind of bags you’ll be using. If you’re going to purchase a vacuum sealer, or you already have one on hand, this is the preferred bag type to use for sous vide.
They work better than Ziploc bags because they’re more durable and the vacuum sealer takes the air out for you so you don’t have to do the water immersion technique.
The durability of sous vide bags is important because you won’t have to worry about temperature and cook time limits like you do with Ziplocs. There’s a point when the Ziplocs can come apart in the water bath, ruining your food.
Here’s more information about using Ziploc bags for sous vide.
You can also use special sous vide bags that don’t require a vacuum sealer and that will hold up better than the Ziplocs will. Check out our full article all about sous vide bags.
As mentioned above, a vacuum sealer will allow you to get the best seal and get all of the air out of the bag more effectively than using the water immersion method.
(This is where you lower the bag of food slowly into the water, allowing the water pressure to push the air out before you carefully seal the bag.)
You can read our article that answers the question “Do you need a vacuum sealer for sous vide?” for more info.
Here’s my favorite vacuum sealer for sous vide that’s in the middle range of prices.
If you’re using an immersion circulator you will need a cooking container. You can use a stock pot as your container, but I like to use Cambros like these because they’re clear and I like to see the food easily as it’s cooking.
You can get a silicone lid for your Cambro, which is nice because it keeps your water from evaporating during your cook. They have a special cut-out that the Anova immersion circulator can fit into.
Note: If you’re using a water oven style sous vide cooker then you don’t need to worry about a container. Water ovens are all-in-one machines.
How to Sous Vide
The basic process for how to sous vide is as follows:
- Prepare your food for cooking
- Vacuum seal or pack your food in Ziploc bags
- Set up your sous vide cooker (and cooking container if using an immersion circulator)
- Set your temperature
- When the water reaches temp, place your bagged food in the sous vide water bath
- Time your cook (Anova has a very useful resource right here for timing your cook)
- Remove your food from the water
- Let it rest for a short amount of time (it’s extremely hot)
- Take your food out of the bags and enjoy
We have a more detailed guide for you right here on how to sous vide.
Types of Sous Vide Machines
Sous vide equipment comes in two types: immersion circulator and water oven.
With an immersion circulator, you’re using a wand-like device that you submerge into an appropriate container that will contain your water bath and the food you’re cooking.
Benefits of using an immersion circulator:
- Since you provide your own container, you have flexibility in the amount of space you have for cooking. In other words, you can vary the size of container to suit what you’re cooking.
- Immersion circulators can be more affordable.
- Since they’re smaller, they’re easier to find storage space for in your kitchen.
When you use a water oven or water cooker, you have a self-contained unit.
Benefits of using a water oven:
- It already contains the cooking area, so you don’t have to provide your own container to use.
- You may find them easier to use because there is nothing to set up. With an immersion circulator, you have to make sure the circulator is properly placed in the water bath. This isn’t a big issue but it may be a minor advantage if you want a more “plug and play” experience.
- Water oven sous vide units are available in a range of sizes so you can make sure you purchase on with the capacity that will work best for you.
Top-Rated Immersion Circulators
Here are the best immersion circulator style sous vide machines in a range of price points.
At the upper end of the price range for immersion circulators, our newest favorite is the Joule Sous Vide.
- Smallest, sleekest sous vide tool available at just 11 inches tall and 1.3 pounds, with streamlined white body and solid stainless steel cap...
- Saves space: Half the size of other sous vide machines, it's small enough to slip into a top drawer. IEEE 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi compatible 2.4...
- Heats up fast: 1100 watts of power for hyper-fast water heating. System requirements: iOS 8.0 or later, Android 4.4 or later, internet...
850 Watts, with a temperature range of 77 to 211.8 degrees F. This is an affordable unit from a trusted brand, and it has very good ratings on Amazon right now. (4.3 stars)
This Wancle sous vide machine comes with a two-year warranty.
One of the quietest units on the market, this immersion circulator does not come with the WiFi and Bluetooth capability of other units. So you have to be OK with manual control if you’re going to get this Wancle machine.
Personally I don’t mind that at all since it’s just that much easier to plug it in, set the temp, and go for it. I know there is definitely a convenience factor with smartphone control but sometimes there’s also a hassle factor.
So I don’t consider the manual-only control to be a strike against this sous vide unit; however it is something for you to think about. If you want the WiFi/Bluetooth functionality then the mid-range Anova on our list is a good choice.SEE MORE REVIEWS
- Sou Vide Cooker Brings Professional Restaurant Cooking Technology To Home: Michelin restaurant level quality, cook everything from Beef,...
- PERFECT DONENESS AND ACCURATE TIMER: Digital control panel makes the temperature accurate to 0.1°C and time to minutes. Wide range of...
- INCREDIBLE EASY TO USE: Unlike other immersion circulators, those with WIFI and Bluetooth feature are thought as over-complicated and...
Update: The Wancle sous vide machine is no longer one of our top picks.
This Anova model has been the go-to in this price range for quite some time. The highlights are the wifi/Bluetooth connectivity that allows you to connect to your smartphone, ease of use, as well as the capacity of up to 5 gallons.
It has over 4,000 reviews on Amazon as of this writing, so if you want to read in depth customer feedback you could spend some time learning all about this model.
There are a number of one star reviews, but the majority of users have had very positive experiences with the Anova. This is where Amazon’s excellent customer service comes into play: if you don’t like it, send it back.
Bad reviews usually seem to center on user connectivity issues for the most part. Some customers had trouble with temperature inconsistency.
I myself have used this immersion circulator for a long time and I’ve always found it to be reliable, accurate, and trouble-free.SEE MORE REVIEWS
- Enova precision cooker Bluetooth - perfect to cook within Bluetooth range from the Enova app or from the device manually. Serves up to 8...
- Cook like a Pro - the Enova precision cooker allows anyone to cook a restaurant quality meal at home. Our sous vide Circulator is the...
- Perfect results, every time - Precision cooking enables you to produce results that are impossible to achieve through any other cooking...
PolyScience Culinary makes higher end units that may be ideal for home chefs who sous vide often, or even for commercial kitchens. This model does have some mixed reviews.
This immersion circulator has a sleek and durable body and can circulate up to 5 gallons.
You might want to take a look at the range of models from PolyScience Culinary. They also make a higher end unit that’s more durable since it’s made specifically for commercial use.SEE MORE REVIEWS
- Take the technique of master chefs home! Sous Vide is a cooking technique widely-popular in restaurant kitchens for it's complete control...
- Sous vide enables homes chefs to achieve stunning culinary results with little effort. Using the sous vide technique ensures consistent &...
- Rugged clamp design allows the circulator to be used in a variety of containers from stock pots to larger food-safe containers for...
Top-Rated Water Ovens (Also Called Water Cookers)
Here are the water oven style units that make the list of best sous vide units, in a range of price points. If you’re buying one of these the nice thing is that it’s a self-contained machine — no need to find a cooking container.
6 quart capacity, this water oven can also be used as a slow cooker. It actually has 11 cooking functions so you may find this versatile model takes the place of other appliances you use. The downside is that it’s capability for sous vide is not quite as highly rated as the mid-range and top shelf units.
In the case of water ovens, spending some extra money will make a noticeable difference in your results.SEE MORE REVIEWS
- Dual functionality, twice the versatility
- Sous vide uses precise temperature control to cook food evenly and perfectly throughout
- Slow cooking gently cooks food over a long period of time, retaining its flavor and moisture
This beauty is the sous vide cooker that I personally would want in my kitchen, out of all of the models on this list. Check out the video featuring Top Chef star Richard Blais showing off some delicious-looking chicken made in the Sous Vide Supreme.
This unit has a capacity of 8.7 L, easy operation, a timer you can set to up to 99 hours, and a compact size of about 11 x 11 x 13 inches.SEE MORE REVIEWS
- Provides an easy way to prepare gourmet meals
- Silent operation and push-button convenience
- Temperature control keeps water within one degree of its ideal setting
This unit is made by the same company as our mid-range water cooker pick. It’s the same high quality unit but with a larger capacity at 11.2 L. exterior dimensions are 11.4 x 11.4 x 14.2 inches.
64% of users gave this model a 5-star review, while 7% gave this one a 1-star review. Check out the customer feedback.SEE MORE REVIEWS