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Sous Vide Supreme and other home options: 2009-10

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Well, it appears as if home cooks like me will finally get to "sink" ourselves into sous vide cookery. While a number of my friends, accomplished home cooks all, own immersion ciruclators that they've procured from web sites like eBay, I've never taken that plunge. Many of those previously used machines came from science labs, and once they're cleaned up, I'm led to believe they were good as new...even though at one time they may have been circulating fluid around some nasty stuff.

Poly Science is a well known maker of immersion circulators, and once they saw a market niche for their product, the company started producing sous vide and other "techie" cooking tools specifically for cooks - home and professional alike...and they even rebranded that product line to be called Cuisine Technology, a nice bit of marketing.

One of the reasons I'd never taken the plunge into home sous vide cooking was the price. A new immersion circulator, or better yet, the kit from Poly Sci, will set one back a cool grand. I'm not averse to spending money for kitchen toys; I mean I have the whole Silvia/Rocky set-up for espresso, but $1,000 for the circulator just seemed a bit much for me...and I don't even know if I love sous vide that much.

Enter Sous Vide supreme. It's being touted thusly:

The SousVide Supreme™ is the world’s first water oven designed specifically to bring the gourmet sous vide cooking method into home kitchens.

I've already placed my order. And I can't wait to start playing around with it, but I have a question or two - and hopefully someone with lots more knowledge than me about sous vide can answer.

All the sous vide cooking I see done is done with an immersion circulator, which not only keeps the temperature perfectly, but circulates the water at the same time. The Supreme is not a circulator - does that mean it won't do the job properly? And will everyone end up like the scene in Monty Python's Meaning of Life - dropping dead at the table after eating a dish that was not properly cooked? Just asking.

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I briefly considered one of these when I saw it mentioned on the Chadzilla blog but it says "U.S. only"... so I decided they didn't want my money and I'll spend it elsewhere. It's not really what I want anyway, the price was just tempting.

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I was thinking of trying Sous Vide Magic--

http://freshmealssolutions.com/index.php?page=shop.product_details&flypage=flypage-ask.tpl&product_id=18&category_id=15&option=com_virtuemart&Itemid=31&vmcchk=1&Itemid=31

--which is less expensive (even if you have to buy a rice cooker to use it) and would work with the rice cooker that I've been thinking of replacing, because it's larger than we're ever likely to need for making rice but would be perfect for this application.

Sous Vide Supreme certainly looks like less of a kludge than Sous Vide Magic.

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It's a more professional/commercial version of a sous vide magic with a rice cooker I guess. Actually that guy wanted to come out with something like this as well. EiPod or so it was supposed to be called.

It's not as exact as a circulator I figure but for home cooking this should be fine. I actually just use an induction cooktop, I did only steak and chicken so far at 60 and 70 fahrenheit and while I had to babysit it a bit it worked out Ok.

JK

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I actually just use an induction cooktop, I did only steak and chicken so far at 60 and 70 fahrenheit and while I had to babysit it a bit it worked out Ok.

JK

That's pretty much what I've been doing as well. It does require a little more attention but it works fine for what I do, I haven't got into attempting the 24 - 48 hour stuff yet. Still, a temp controlled bath would make the task much easier.

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Pre-orders are $399, which is $50 off retail, apparently.

Very tempting indeed. Like Mitch -- somewhat eerily so -- I am not averse to dropping big bucks on certain items such as the Sylvia/Rocky combo; like Mitch, I have no experience with SV and can't anticipate using this machine three times daily (the current use rate of the Rancilio duo). But as I packed up my brisket in tin foil for a few hours in a 225F oven, I thought about how nice it would be to seal it all in a FoodSaver bag and plop it into an immersion circulator....

Probably can't spring for one now but I'm very eager to read more.

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I own an old VWR water bath that I bought on ebay from a lab equipment supplier; it works fine, although the dial with gradations of 1 - 10 makes it troublesome to tune. I've spent a considerable amount of time trying to mark off the equivalent temperatures. At the very least, if they didn't want to do specific temps, I wish they could have had the dial go to 11.

Anyhow, I think this is a great product idea and very well priced. I got my water bath for $150 or so IIRC, so having a bath with temp control and racks and in "new" condition - rather than having to give it a vigorous cleaning like I did mine - is a very good tradeoff. Had this product been on the market when I was looking, I would have bought the sous vide supreme rather than go the used lab equipment route.

The one thing that concerns me is the granularity of the temperature control. Sous vide can be very safe if the operator knows just a few key rules, but the wrong combination of sanitation / temperature / time could yield some very, very bad results. I didn't see anything on the website about the temp control range, specifically the bath having temp control down to 120F (or lower), which is necessary to get the full functionality of the cooking method - rare beef; fish; etc. The thought of someone (stupidly) cooking a poorly handled piece of chicken sous vide for an hour at 120F, though, gives me the willies.

I wouldn't want to buy the unit if it didn't do low temp. But what lawyer would allow these guys to sell the unit if it did? I hope I'm just being cynical about the litigiousness of American society, but it's something I'd least want to check before buying this thing. If some lawyer or insurance carrier made them cap out the low end at 150F, it would be a lot less useful.

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If some lawyer or insurance carrier made them cap out the low end at 150F, it would be a lot less useful.

If that were the case, I'd go one step further and call it pretty much useless... the money saved would be negated by the drastic reduction in usefulness. I would be surprised if it doesn't handle low temp though. I would think a simple "always heat food to a minimum of xxx degrees" sticker and/or brochure would cover the legal aspect. People likely to buy this item would have no trouble completely ignoring such warnings because they would know such blanket statements are ridiculous.


Edited by Tri2Cook (log)

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Sous vide can be very safe if the operator knows just a few key rules, but the wrong combination of sanitation / temperature / time could yield some very, very bad results.

Which are? The key rules that is. ch

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Sous vide can be very safe if the operator knows just a few key rules, but the wrong combination of sanitation / temperature / time could yield some very, very bad results.

Which are? The key rules that is. ch

There is a very (very) long, detailed, in depth thread on that right here on these forums. Lots of great information from people who use, study and experiment with sous vide cooking on a regular and ongoing basis have contributed an entire textbook of information on the subject. Search "sous vide" when you have a spare hour or three, read and grab notes. It's worth the effort.

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The "rules" I was talking about relate to combinations of time and temperature to make sure you kill off the bad stuff, as well as an understanding of a couple of outlier bad things like botulinum toxin.

Look at this thread: specifically post #14. If that catches your interest, read everything NathanM has ever written on egullet.

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You can make your own immersion circulator on the cheap(er) by going to a lab supply company and getting a hotplate and magnetic stirrer combo. You can buy magnetic stir bars of varying sizes and then place a stand in the beaker or whatever to keep the food and bag off the stirrer. Probably would need to calibrate the temperature dial with a good thermometer, but once that was done you're in business. I priced it out from my own company that supplys schools and it was in the sub $200 range.


Edited by Doodad (log)

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I was thinking of trying Sous Vide Magic--

http://freshmealssolutions.com/index.php?page=shop.product_details&flypage=flypage-ask.tpl&product_id=18&category_id=15&option=com_virtuemart&Itemid=31&vmcchk=1&Itemid=31

--which is less expensive (even if you have to buy a rice cooker to use it) and would work with the rice cooker that I've been thinking of replacing, because it's larger than we're ever likely to need for making rice but would be perfect for this application.

Certainly looks like a good competitor to the SV Magic (mine's in the mail; can't wait to use it) but I agree with David that the SV Magic is a little cheaper and would have more functionality as a rice cooker.

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I didn't see anything on the website about the temp control range, specifically the bath having temp control down to 120F (or lower), which is necessary to get the full functionality of the cooking method - rare beef; fish; etc. The thought of someone (stupidly) cooking a poorly handled piece of chicken sous vide for an hour at 120F, though, gives me the willies.

There are no tech specs at all, strangely enough considering the potential market. There is this statement, though:

The concept of sous vide is to cook the food at the same temperature you wish it to be served; most dishes should cook between 120°–190° Fahrenheit (48.9°–87.8° Celcius).

I'd think that they wouldn't say that if they didn't get down to 120F.

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You don't even need a to lay out the cash for a rice cooker, a regular stock pot with a cheap hot plate will work fine:

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I can't see where cooking with a rice cooker or a cheap hot plate would ever be better, even if cheaper, than cooking with this unit if the Supreme is all it appears to be. Blumenthal was extolling its virtues, and I doubt he'd lend his time to it if he didn't think it was worthy. Keeping accurate temp. control over 24 hours is not really gonna happen with a hotplate or even a rice cooker, imo.

Anyway, that's neither here nor there. I've emailed the company to get the more important specs, and invited them to join in the discussion, so we'll see what happens there.

Another concern is what's the importance of circulating the water, which this unit doesn't appear to do? "Immersion circulators" obviously do. And a $950 Poly Sci immersion circulator, along with a couple of clamps and a big stock pot, would be the way I'd go - if I wanted to spend $950. But jury-rigged rice cookers don't circulate water either, nor do stock pots on inexpensive hot plates, and for those content with putting together $250 worth of parts, circulation is obviously not that important either.

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Thanks Mitch, I look forward to seeing those specs.

I've been wondering when such a product was going to hit the mainstream. Electric slow cookers are everywhere for cheap, how hard could it be to add a reliable temperature control offering actual degrees instead of low-med-hi? The answer is "not hard" if there's a market.

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Another concern is what's the importance of circulating the water, which this unit doesn't appear to do? "Immersion circulators" obviously do. And a $950 Poly Sci immersion circulator, along with a couple of clamps and a big stock pot, would be the way I'd go - if I wanted to spend $950. But jury-rigged rice cookers don't circulate water either, nor do stock pots on inexpensive hot plates, and for those content with putting together $250 worth of parts, circulation is obviously not that important either.

Isn't the purpose of circulation to make sure that the temperature is consistent throughout the bath? With a rice cooker setup, or this product, you know the temperature of the water near the thermometer probe, but there could be variation (however slight) in the rest of the water. It seems to me that some people have reported having luck using an aquarium pump as a homemade answer to circulation.

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The idea of Sous Vide Magic is that the rice cooker or hotplate doesn't have to be accurate--that's the job of the sensor/control unit--and the advantage of a separate control unit and heating device, aside from cost, would be that you're not limited by the size of the container. You can use a larger or smaller rice cooker or a bigger or smaller hotplate and stockpot as needed.

While I can see the attractions of a simple self-contained appliance, it's not obvious to me that at that price point it's going to be any more functional.

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As I said in the other thread I linked to, I measured the temperature everywhere inside a stockpot on a hot plate controlled by the Sous Vide Magic and didn't find any temperature difference anywhere in the pot. The probe I was using is sensitive to tenths of degrees F.

David's identified why I prefer the external controller to the dedicated appliance:

  • Cost: Since I already had a stock pot, my sous vide gear cost me about $175 (controller + hotplate).
  • Storage: It's easier to find room for a hot plate and the sous vide controller than a box the size of a bread machine.
  • Flexibility: If I wanted to cook a bunch of things at once, I'd want a larger than 10 qt capacity to make room for an aquarium powerhead (to keep cold spots from developing between items). My stockpot is 16 qts, which seems about right for two or maybe three items at once, tied up to keep them apart.

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I have nothing substantive to add to this discussion other than Heston Blumenthal and Kyle Connaughton (both of The Fat Duck) were just in my city (Vancouver BC) to do a demo to a select few people of the SousVide Supreme. (I wasn't in attendance.) Is Heston the new George Foreman of Sous Vide?

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Keeping accurate temp. control over 24 hours is not really gonna happen with a hotplate or even a rice cooker, imo.

With the Sous Vide Magic and a rice cooker, this is easy Mitch.

If people are interested in safety, you cannot go past Douglas Baldwin's sous vide guide. He runs through all the temperature and time combinations for different thicknesses of foods being cooked.

I've been looking enviously at the sous vide supreme but do not know when it is going to come to us in Australia or what the cost is going to be.

According to the publicity blurbs, Heston Blumenthal has used it in his experimental kitchen and considers it as good as the professional models.

It doesn't have a circulator but judging from what people have measured in terms of temperature with similar set ups, this is not really a consideration unless you cram the device full of things to cook. Even then, the sous vide supreme has a neat little rack into which you can load your food to keep it separate.

I use my SVM plus rice cooker all the time. The meat is exceptional. Even with casseroles, I now do the sauce and vegetables separately and then add the sous-vide cooked meat at the end. The texture is different from what you'd expect so it adds another level of interest into the final product.

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http://www.sousvidecooking.org/tag/sous-vide-equipment/

http://www.cookingsousvide.com/info/freshmealsmagic-from-fresh-meals-solutions

I found the link to the updated fresh meal solution product.

What I am not getting with the Supreme is how it will hold the temperature consistent without a circulator. Using my induction cooktop I noticed that it could keep temperature stable at 60c but not so at 70c, depending where I put the thermometer I would get deviations of 3 or 4 degrees quickly.

The unit looks thought through though with rack and lid.

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