- Sous vide is a precise way of cooking that ensures your food is always cooked perfectly temperature.
- Sous vide machines – also known as immersion circulators – make the process easy by heating to an exact temperature.
- The best sous vide machine is the Anova Nano because it’s easy to use, inexpensive, and accurate.
Sous vide is a method of very precise cooking where you seal food in plastic bags (some foods can be prepared in glass containers) and immerse it in a water bath set to a relatively low temperature, usually your desired final cooking temperature of the food. As the food sits in the bath, it slowly comes up to the same temperature of the water.
While it may sound futuristic, sous vide cooking has quite a few advantages: the long, slow cook time can turn tough cuts of meat incredibly tender; the sealed environment helps contain moisture so food doesn’t dry out; and because the temperature is so low, there’s almost no risk of overcooking. With the right equipment, sous vide cooking can be safe and easy, and help you produce some of the most delicious meals you’ve ever had.
I’ve been testing and writing about sous vide machines since 2014. My sous vide reviews and research have been published in Cook’s Illustrated magazine, aired on “America’s Test Kitchen,” and published in “Sous Vide for Everybody.” For this guide I tested seven popular sous vide machines, running each through a series of time, temperature, and cooking tests. You can read more about how we tested here.
Here are the best sous vide machines in 2021
- Best sous vide machine overall: Anova Precision Cooker Nano
- Best sous vide machine with an app: Breville Joule
- Best sous vide machine for restaurants and pros: Breville | Polyscience HydroPro
- Best multitasking sous vide machine: InstantPot Duo Crisp + Air Fryer
The Anova Precision Cooker Nano offers accuracy and ease of use at a price unmatched by other sous vide machines.
Pros: Accurate, onboard controls are incredibly easy to use, compact for easy storage, can be paired with an app via Bluetooth, accommodates a range of vessel types and depths
Cons: Preheating takes awhile, app can be buggy
After years of testing sous vide machines, I’ve found that one thing matters above all when it comes to finding a machine you’ll want to cook with: ease of use. The simplest, most easy to use product we tested is the Anova Nano, and there’s no better sous vide machine you can get at this price.
The Anova Nano isn’t the fastest or most powerful machine we tested; it took almost 20 minutes to heat four quarts of water to 130 F. But for most home cooks, we think the $100+ savings in price compared to more powerful machines is probably worth the extra 10 minutes you’ll spend pre-heating the bath (a process that is totally hands off).
What it lacks in power and speed it makes up for in effortless controls, accuracy, and usability. I didn’t even need to read the instruction manual to get the Nano set up and cooking. The onboard controls are intuitive and it can be paired with Anova’s app via Bluetooth. I found the Bluetooth connection to be much more stable and reliable than Anova’s other sous vide machines, which pair via Wi-Fi and seemed to frequently lose connection. That said, all the Anova machines use the same app, and I found it to be fairly buggy. Most folks will find the onboard controls easier to use.
In all, this slender, inexpensive machine has everything you’ll want or need to get started with sous vide cooking, and is the best option for most home cooks.
The best sous vide machine with an app
This nimble, compact machine heats water quickly, can work in a wide range of vessels, and is operated entirely through a helpful app.
Pros: Accurate, fast, compact for easy storage, app connected, accommodates widest range of vessel types and depths, has a magnetic bottom for standing in pots
Cons: Lacks onboard controls and relies on an app for use
I’ll be honest: the Joule is my personal favorite sous vide machine and a very close contender for our top pick. The only reason why it was edged out by the Anova is because it lacks onboard controls and relies on an app for all functionality. If you don’t mind being tied to your phone or smart device to cook, the Joule could very well be the better option for you.
The Joule has several features that distinguish it from the Anova. First, it’s incredibly fast. In my tests, it was able to heat four quarts of water to 130 F in seven minutes; faster than any other machine in this guide. Second, it’s the smallest of all the machines we tried, but one of the most versatile. It can work with a minimum of 1.5 inches of water and a maximum of 8 inches, so can be used in something as small as a coffee mug or as large as a cooler. I love that I don’t have to break out the big Dutch oven every time I want to sous vide a couple of eggs. A magnetic bottom helps it stand in smaller metal pots for better stability.
I really love the Joule app. It’s the only app I tried as part of this testing that didn’t give me trouble. It connected to the unit easily every time, gave clear and accurate alerts, and has a robust selection of recipes for getting started.
The best sous vide machine for restaurants and pros
This powerful sous vide machine has thoughtful settings for pro users, like an adjustable flow rate and built-in memory for frequently used recipes.
Pros: Extremely accurate, heats quickly, built-in collection of recipes, can program to remember frequently used settings, adjustable flow rate, comes apart for easy cleaning
Cons: Doesn’t have an app, bulkier, takes many steps to toggle between Celsius and Fahrenheit settings
Sous vide is a popular restaurant cooking technique because it allows the chefs to hold large quantities of food at the perfect serving temperature without risk of overcooking. For example, by holding steaks at 125 degrees F in a sous vide bath, a steakhouse can take each out as orders come in, give them a quick sear, and send off perfectly cooked steaks to diners in record time. It’s a technique used in both Michelin-starred restaurants and chains like Starbucks and Chipotle.
But, if you own or work in a restaurant, or are otherwise well-acquainted with sous vide cooking, I’m probably not telling you anything you don’t already know. For restaurant folks and pros who are looking for something with more commercial features than the sous vide machines marketed for home cooks, I highly recommend the HydroPro.
The machine is thoughtfully designed for precision and repeatability. A touch screen lets you control time, temperature, and flow rate (three speeds), and offers a robust collection of built-in time and temperature algorithms for cooking and pasteurizing a wide range of foods, including grains, custards, and a whole host of meat cuts. You can save any settings in “my presets” right on the device, so you can easily repeat recipes night after night. The machine is ultra accurate and fast, heating to 130 F in just eight minutes.
The adjustable flow settings were key when cooking eggs. I was able to lower the flow rate and angle the outport away from the eggs so none broke during cooking. The clamp is fully adjustable, the body comes apart for easy cleaning, and the machine can purportedly heat nearly 12 gallons of water when the bath is covered. In all, a powerful and thoughtfully designed choice for more experienced users or those working in a commercial setting.
The best multitasking sous vide machine
The Instant Pot Duo Crisp is a pressure cooker, slow cooker, air fryer, and sous vide machine all in one, making it one of the most useful and economical small appliances we tested.
Pros: Multi-use appliance that sous vides, pressure cooks, slow cooks, sears, and air fries; easy to use
Cons: Slow to heat, more limited capacity than immersion circulators
Sous vide is still a pretty niche cooking technique, and not one that most people use every single day. For folks who are interested in trying sous vide but don’t want to buy a dedicated machine, we recommend the InstantPot Duo Crisp + Air Fryer, which has a sous vide setting.
I’m usually skeptical of products that tack on sous vide settings to a completely different product, as I’ve found they usually don’t have the precision temperature control needed for proper sous vide, but I was very pleasantly surprised by the InstantPot Duo Crisp. The machine reminds me a bit of traditional water ovens — the original sous vide machines before circulators came onto the market — which are essentially big heated boxes of water. Of course, the Duo Crisp also has the added benefit of multicooker functions like pressure cook, slow cook, sear, and even air fry. While I’ve tried all these settings over the last few months, for this guide, I focused on how well it could sous vide.
The machine took about a half hour to bring four quarts of room temperature water to both 130 and 190 degrees in separate tests, which was longer than other machines. However, the temperature was fairly accurate — only 1 or 2 degrees off from the target temperature at most — and not enough to impact the cook on most foods.
Aside from the slow heating and the more limited capacity compared to versatile immersion circulators, I actually really liked using the InstantPot to sous vide. It was easy and intuitive to use, and makes for one less appliance I need in my house. If you’re sous vide curious but not ready to invest in a dedicated machine, the InstantPot Duo Crisp is a great first step.
What else we tested
What else we recommend and why:
- Anova Precision Cooker ($199.00): The mid-priced option from Anova, this circulator also has both onboard and app controls. I found it almost identical in usage and features to the Nano. The only difference most home cooks will encounter is that this model heats a tiny bit faster and the clamp is adjustable. However, in my opinion, these upgrades don’t justify the $100 jump in price over the Nano.
- Anova Precision Cooker Pro ($399.00): An even bigger step up in price from the Anova Precision Cooker is this Pro model. It’s billed as being the fastest and most precise of Anova’s machines, but we found Anova’s other models just as accurate. Usability wise, it offers the same app and onboard controls of the other Anova models, but is designed to withstand accidental dips in water, has an adjustable clamp, and comes apart for cleaning. Once again, we don’t think these features justify the huge jump in price for most home cooks. It might be a good option for restaurant kitchens or pros, but we think the Breville | Polyscience Hydro Pro still offers more power, speed, and functionality for expert users.
What we don’t recommend and why:
- Tribest Sousvant Complete Sous Vide Circulator ($275.10): This tabletop water oven looks and sounds a lot like a fish tank. It heated quickly and was easy enough to use, but for a unitasking appliance that takes up a lot of room, it lacked many of the features we like in a good sous vide machine. For starters, it doesn’t make any sound to let you know the water is up to temperature so you can start cooking, and its timer is more like a stopwatch; you can’t set it for a certain time and it starts counting up the second the water is up to temperature, whether you’ve added the food or not. The manual recommends against stacking individual pieces of food vertically on top of each other in the bath, but the machine is much taller than it is wide or deep, leaving little other choice than to stack vertically if you want to cook multiple pieces. We think you can get much more versatility with a smaller, less expensive machine.
Our testing methodology
I’ve been testing and reviewing sous vide machines for seven years. During that time, I’ve interviewed pioneers in sous vide cooking like Dave Arnold, Scott Heimendinger, and Tony Maws, and followed the growth of many brands in this guide since their startup phase and first-generation prototypes. My sous vide machine reviews and research on the history and safety of sous vide cooking have been published in “Sous Vide for Everybody” and Cook’s Illustrated magazine. Over the years, I’ve learned that the best sous vide machines excel at speed, accuracy, and — above all — ease of use.
For this guide, we tested seven sous vide machines, running each through a series of time and temperature tests; measuring fit in a variety of vessels; and evaluating ease of setup, use, and cleaning. We also cooked 63 C runny “onsen” eggs and 130 F steaks with each machine. Here’s the criteria we looked at:
Speed: I timed how long it took each machine to heat four quarts of room temperature water to 130 F and 190 F. The best machines were able to do this in under 10 minutes and under 25 minutes, respectively. (It’s worth noting that you can speed this process by covering the bath with plastic wrap, which we didn’t for this test.)
Versatility: A good sous vide machine can be used in a variety of vessels to suit your needs. Models with a large range between minimum and maximum fill lines offered the most flexibility in this area.
Accuracy: Sous vide is a precision cooking technique, so accuracy is paramount. We regularly used a lab-calibrated thermometer to see if the actual temperature of the bath matched the temperature we set with the controls.
Ease of use: Sous vide is a somewhat niche cooking technique, so if your experience with it is frustrating or difficult, it’s likely that your sous vide gear will end up in the donation pile. The best sous vide machines have bright, clear displays; are intuitive to operate; and easy to set up, clean, and store. We also looked at app connectivity for smart sous vide machines, though we ultimately prioritized models that have onboard controls, since they’re the most user-friendly and versatile.
Cooking: Of course we looked at how well the machines cooked food. Generally speaking, if a sous vide machine is accurate, it’ll cook just fine. But we also made eggs and steak with each machine to see if any machines had issues that impact cooking. The biggest issue we found was that machines with adjustable flow rates and outports were gentler on eggs, while machines without this feature often jostled eggs so much during cooking that they cracked.
What we look forward to testing
Breville | Polyscience HydroPro Plus ($599.95): In addition to the HydroPro, which we were able to test for this guide, Breville | Polyscience released an upgraded model called the HydroPro Plus in the first quarter of 2021. This model is geared towards pros and restaurant cooks, and features a similar design to the HydroPro, but with a built-in probe for monitoring the temperature of food as it cooks. This makes it easier to do what sous vide aficionados call Delta-T cooking, where you cook the food at a higher water temperature than the final desired food temperature for faster results. It also can log temperature data for HACCP compliance — not something you’ll likely need unless you work in a restaurant, but a great added benefit if you do. While these features are probably overkill if you’re just a casual sous vide user, I’m looking forward to testing this model for our “prosumer” readers.
What is sous vide?
Sous vide is a method of cooking food where the ingredients are sealed in plastic (though glass jars can be used for some applications) and immersed in a water bath set to (typically) the final cooking temperature of the food. As the sealed food sits in the bath, it slowly comes up to the correct internal temperature, so there’s no danger of overcooking.
What types of foods can you sous vide?
Sous vide cooking works best with meat, vegetables, and eggs. It particularly excels as a method of rendering tough cuts of meat juicy and tender; the low and slow temperatures allow tough collagen and fat to render slowly over many hours. Sous vide can also be used as a method of pasteurization for foods like eggs or homemade mayonnaise.
Do I need a vacuum sealer for sous vide?
No. You can sous vide in any zipper-lock bag as long as you first remove the air. The easiest way to do this is place the food in the zipper-lock bag, press as much air out as you can, and then use the zipper-lock to seal all but a small corner of the bag. Slowly submerge the partially sealed bag in the water bath until all but the unsealed corner of the bag is submerged. The water will push out almost all of the air. Once the food appears tight against the bag, seal the final corner and drop the bag into the bath to cook.
If you regularly sous vide large or irregularly-sized cuts of meat, you may want to purchase a vacuum sealer, which does a more complete job of removing air.
Do I need to vacuum seal eggs?
No. Whole eggs in their shells do not need to be vacuum sealed. You can place the whole egg directly in the water bath. The shell will act as its own little vacuum sealed environment.
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