At first glance, sous vide can look more like a middle school science experiment than a revered cooking method. But its bizarre setup serves a purpose. Cooking with a sous-vide circulator lets you select a specific temperature, so you’ll never have to worry about overcooking. Plus, whatever you’ve cooked will better retain moisture.
If that sounds appetizing to you, you’re not alone—many have dabbled in the method over the years, one of the first being Sir Thomas Benjamin, a physicist who, in an 1802 essay, recounts how he left some mutton cooking in water at 212 degrees Fahrenheit for hours on end. Though initially disheartened by how long it took, the result was “perfectly tender; but though it was so much done, it did not appear to be in the least sodden or insipid.” In recent years, the method has been championed by chefs like Thomas Keller and Wylie Dufresne—the latter of whom even gave sous vide one of its first on-air appearances, using it in a face-off with Mario Batali on Iron Chef America in 2006.
Once only available to the pros, high-quality sous-vide circulators are now up for grabs online. Buy one, plop it in a water bath with some vacuum-sealed steak, and you’re off. Keep in mind, though, that because sous vide cooks at a lower temp, food will take much longer to prepare than it would on a skillet or grill. The results, however, are worth it. Here are four circulators to consider for your culinary arsenal.
1. Anova Sous Vide
Anova’s sous vide circulator can heat up to 100 liters of water for 10,000 hours at a time. That’s plenty for the average home kitchen and the professional chef alike. Its companion app, which includes recipes and guides for those new to sous vide, will keep you alerted about your food’s temperature and doneness, and its removable clamp means you won’t have any trouble attaching it to the pots and other containers you already own.
Pros: The whole thing comes apart, so it’s easy to clean and maintain.
Cons: Accessories are sold separately.
2. Breville Joule Sous Vide
Breville’s sleek Joule circulator uses 1100 watts of power to quickly heat up your food, but you’ll never have to worry about over or undercooking. After you set the temp and timeframe, you can monitor your steak’s doneness from your phone via the Joule app. Joule can even connect to your Amazon Alexa device, which you can verbally ask for updates on progress. When you’re done cooking, stash it away in a kitchen drawer or cabinet—its slender design means it won’t take up too much space either way.
Pros: The circulator’s accompanying app means you’re always up to date.
Cons: Many of its functions rely on a stable WiFi connection.
3. Souvia Sous Vide
Souvia comes with everything you’ll need to get your sous vide started. That is, not just the device itself, which packs in 1200 watts of power and can circulate 7.5 liters per minute, but a bag of BPA-free balls as well. They may look like your average ping pong fare, but they actually sit at the top of your bath and prevent water from evaporating so your tub will never run out—and your electric bill won’t go sky high.
Pros: The included BPA-free balls make for a more efficient circulator.
Cons: Its bulkier size can prove a storage challenge.
4. Sansaire Sous Vide
The product of a particularly successful Kickstarter campaign, Sansaire’s Sous Vide lets you cook juicy steaks from home with ease. Clamp it to the side of your water bath, set the time and temperature on the LED screen, and let the circulator work its magic. The active pump system will distribute water evenly throughout, ensuring no hot or cold spots.
Pros: A simple yet powerful sous vide for beginners.
Cons: Its clamp may not fit every container.