Sous Vide Cooking

Tag: sous vide

Sous Vide Immersion Circulators Review – Part 1

by on Nov.20, 2017, under Equipments & Accessories

Dissna KW802, Vacmaster/Buffalo, Swid Premium, Melissa (Anova Counterfeit), Anova Wifi

My last review of the most known sous vide equipment of the market dates from 2011. In 2009 most immersion circulators were manufactured by Julabo (now German Fusion Chef), Polyscience (USA), Roner (Spain), Clifton Range (UK). All these machines were laboratories equipment used in kitchens. Then the US Sous Vide Supreme and the German Swid (Addelice) were launched as firsts sous vide equipment 100% devoted to sous vide cooking. End 2012 Nomiku started a sous vide project on Kickstarter followed by Sansaire and Anova…After that the Chinese have flooded the market with cheap and low quality products.

If you are interested in a sous vide immersion circulator, just surf on Alibaba, it is probably available for wholesalers at USD 40…you’ll find the same machines sold on internet with dozens of other trademarks at retail price between USD 100 and USD 300.

Example of "quality immersion circulator" Dissna sold on Alibaba at USD 39...

Some friends of mine have purchased different thermal circulators. They borrowed them to me to conduct this test. Unfortunately I couldn’t put a hand on a Sansaire or Nomiku which are not so popular in Europe.

- Anova Wifi: USD 130 to 180. This world-renowned device has been acquired in 2017 by the Electrolux Swedish Cie. Is this device so great?
- Melissa: EUR 80, Anova’s counterfeit available on the European market (no Wifi or Bluetooth). Is it worth saving EUR 80 compared to the Anova?
- Chinese thermostat sold under many trademarks such as Buffalo, Vacmaster, Lacor, Allpax, Steba, Metro…priced between EUR 230 to 300. Let’s call it Buffalo / Vacmaster. This device seems to be popular among professionals who don’t want to invest in an Addelice or Julabo/Fusion Chef. Is it a good strategic choice?
- Dissna KW802 (also sold under other trademarks): EUR 110. A new comer on the market. Is this piece of hardware promising and about to compete with Anova?
- Addelice: the Swid is very popular in Europe among professionals and amateur cooks. It has the reputation being a high performance and user friendly device. Price is high compared to the other devices (Swid EUR 400, Swid Premium 630 excl. VAT), nevertheless, I think it is interesting having a reference for comparison for the purpose of this test.

On this first post I have focused of the heat speed, temperature accuracy and stability. Other tests and information will be disclosed in future posts.

Test 1: Heat Speed

Power of sous vide devices can vary from 800w to 2,400W. Does the manufacturer’s information comply with the technical specifications? Is it worth it to have a lot of power to cook sous vide? What are the advantages and drawbacks?

The purpose of a sous vide device is to heat and stabilize the temperature of a water bath.
If you are an individual and use small containers (less than 10L) you definitely don’t need strong power. Nevertheless, a powerful device can help temperature stability when regulating high temperature (such as 90-95°C for vegetables), even in a middle size container. Drawback: a powerful immersion circulator in a small container can “overshoot” for some minutes. If the temperature controller is good the overshooting should vanish after some minutes.
If you are a professional and use big containers (as from 28L) power is very useful to reach fast the target temperature and stabilize high temperature in big containers up to 58L. For big containers it is essential, even with high power devices to, at least, insulate your container with a cling film or a custom made lid.

To conduct this test I have used a container filled with 7 litres (1.85 gallons) water only. The container was not insulated and not covered by a lid. Starting temperature was 20°C (68°F) and set temperature 55°C (131°F).

- Without any surprise the Swid (2,400W) is the fastest device. It took 7 minutes only to reach the target temperature.
- The Buffalo / Vacmaster took approx. 55% more time (11 minutes) compared to the Swid. Therefore we could estimate its power to approx. 1,300W.
- Anova took 24′. Compared to the Swid the Anova should be rated 700W (official specifications 800 to 900W).
- Melissa, the counterfeit Anova, took almost as long as the Anova, which is consistent with the 800W specifications.
- Dissna KW802 took 15′, then should be rated approx. 1,120W which is consistent with official specifications. I had some problems to assess the Dissna’s exact heating time. Indeed the temperature displayed on the immersion circulator and the actual temperature in the water bath are not fitting during the heating process. Dissna stopped heating full power at 52°C (while displaying 55°C on its display) and took really long to regulate until 55°C. Then I have done again the same tests but set the target temperature at 58°C. This way I could assess the real time needed to reach 55°C.

Test 2: Temperature Accuracy

Accuracy of the temperature is key for sous vide cooking. 1°C (1.8°F) of inaccuracy can have a great impact on the final result of a recipe! Most immersion circulator’s users don’t realise a sous vide equipment can become inaccurate after a while. Some times an immersion circulator can be inaccurate out of the box! To test the accuracy of an immersion circulator you need a very special thermometer. I have used a Greisinger GMH 3750 with accuracy ± 0.03°C and a Pt100 probe DIN B ± 0.10°C. This device, together with its probe cost approx. EUR 380! Just to say that you can trust in the accuracy of my temperature measuring.
If you make your own test with your immersion circulator and thermometer, you may find different results for the reasons as follow:

- Your thermometer probably sucks! Sorry but many people are relying on their digital thermometer without looking at specifications. I give you one example: This very classic kitchen thermometer is ranked with an accuracy of ± 1°C (± 1°.8°F which is already bad)! But this information is not enough. You need both the accuracy of the thermometer AND the accuracy of the probe. One data is missing, which means this thermometer can be even more inaccurate…
In addition, thermocouple type K thermometers can become inaccurate after some years. Professionals usually make them be calibrated each one or two years.

- For example a manufacturer indicates ± 0.3°C accuracy for his immersion circulator. Which means my device can be + 0.3°C off when yours can be – 0.3°C off, which is totally normal.

The above chart speaks for itself.

- Dissna KW802 circulator was the worst device tested. No comment!
- Melissa, Anova’s counterfeit, got an unacceptable accuracy above 67°C.
- Anova was very good until 80°C.
- Vacmaster / Buffalo Chinese machine was excellent until 80°C and acceptable until 90°C
- The Swid accuracy was excellent at all temperatures. We could not measure the accuracy above 90°C as the Swid can’t be set above 90°C. We asked Addelice why. Addelice said all Swids could set temperature up to 95°C as from mid 2018. In the meantime the Swid can be ordered with 95°C specification, on request. Addelice confirmed accuracy should remain excellent at 95°C.

Test 3: Temperature Stability

The “stability” criteria is the capability for an immersion circulator to regulate the temperature of a water bath which can be affected by external factors like an open window nearby the water bath container, or immersing 5°C pouches in the water bath…
Usually, stability of immersion circulators isn’t an issue.
I have used the Greisinger thermometer to check the temperature stability. The resolution of this thermometer is of hundredth of a degree and its display is refreshed each half second.

- Addelice Swid is very stable.
- Anova is very stable.
- Vacmaster / Buffalo stability is ok although confusing. The temperature stability of the water bath (checked with my thermometer) is ok but the temperature on the display of the Vacmaster circulator is constantly fluctuating of ± 0.2°C.
- Dissna KW802 stability is less good compared to the Vacstar / Buffalo / Allpax and suffer from the same “issue” than the Vacstar device. Fluctuating on the circulator display can raise up to + 0.3°C.
- Melissa (fake Anova): I was flabbergasted! I never thought a manufacturer could cheat that way! As soon as the set temperature is reached, the software of the immersion circulator freezes the display. In other words, if you drop ice cubes in the water bath you will not see any changes on the display…

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First try with rhubarb cooked sous vide at 61°C during 45 minutes

by on May.08, 2010, under Recipes


Rhubarb is the vegetable of my childhood, my mum was often preparing jam out of fresh rhubarb coming directly from our garden.
I found the post from The British Larder’s blog about rhubarb cooked sous vide interesting. Therefore I have decided to reproduce the recipe and try to obtain a delicious rhubarb tart.
Madalene recipe is easy:

  • 140g rhubarb
  • 30g sugar
  • 30g water
  • 1 vanilla pod

Madalena recommends a hard vacuum for this recipe. I was happy to test my MiniVac (a very compact vacuum chamber sealer) at this occasion. I am almost sure you can obtain a similar final result with a good clamp vacuum sealer.


With a storng vacuum, color of fruits and vegetables appear more intense as usual. It is also amazing to observe the sudden transparency of the food stuff.
Contrary to what was recommended by The British Larder (61°C during 20 minutes) I cooked the rhubarb 61°C during 45 minutes with my immersion circulator. I had the strange intuition that rhubarb can’t be cooked at 61°C during 20 minutes.



The result was excellent, not too soft, not too hard. The vanilla syrup was very tasty. The texture of the rhubarb was also surprising. As you will see on the picture bellow the rhubarb cooked sous vide at 61°C is not becoming mushy at all. The rhubarb remains in one piece.

Here is the final result, a rhubarb tart I let probably a little bit too long in the oven. Anyway, it was delicious.

Jean-François

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Sousvide Supreme now available in Europe (Netherlands) at € 600

by on Apr.12, 2010, under Equipments & Accessories

I was very surprised to see that the Sousvide Supreme was today available in Europe (Kookpunt.nl – Netherlands) at € 599 (incl. shipping?).
No star Chef, no Heston Blumenthal for the introductory in Europe of the so called  “water oven”?
So strange that the Sousvidesupreme (USD 449 in the US) is now almost as expensive as a Grant SV100 immersion circulator and 30% more expensive than a swid! Please keep in mind that, contrary to what was said in several articles on internet,  the Sousvidesupreme is not an immersion circulator but a non stirred water bath (PID controlled).

JF

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Sous vide at home – Confit duck legs – Multiple tries

by on Apr.07, 2010, under Recipes, Time and Accurate Temperature

Today I wanted to experiment confit duck legs. The idea came to my mind while reading Casqu8′s blog who cooked some weeks ago a couple of confit duck legs.

I copied Casqu8 recipe consisting in curing the meat with salt, thyme and bay leaf. I vaccum sealed the pouch and stored it in the fridge for 24 hours.

I rinced the legs with clear water and took care taking off the thyme and bay leaves. No need to leave them in the pouch, otherwise the final flavour of these aromats will be too strong!

Then I vaccumed sealed the duck leg with some duck fat (3 tablespoons) I purchased in a supermark (300 gr cost EUR 4).

In my first try I cooked sous vide the duck leg at 80°C during 9 hours with my immersion circulator.

I have not be satisfied with the final result. The confit duck legs were to dry in my opinion. Casque8 recommended me setting my immersion circulator at 75°C instead of 80, raising the cooking time to 20 hours and adding more duck fat (I have added 150 g per leg). The result was much better and I liked that confit duck leg very much.
I also tried 75°C during 24 hours with the same amount of duck fat. I had the feeling the additional 4 hours have not improved the texture of the meat. In my opinion the 20 hours duck legs cooked sous vide were far better.

Don’t forget to sear the legs both sides in a hot pan in order to obtain a crispy appearance, 20 to 30 secondes are enough.

Bon appétit!

Jean-François

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Are Douglas Baldwin Sous Vide Cooking Tables Correct? Review of Baldwin’s table with a 30 mm Salmon Mi-Cuit

by on Mar.15, 2010, under Books, Equipments & Accessories, Time and Accurate Temperature

As you may already know Douglas Baldwin “Practical Guide to sous Vide Cooking” is to date probably one of the only serious source of information about sous vide that you can download for free on internet (English, Portuguese/Brazil, French and German). The revolution of this document is to allow home cooks cooking sous vide with tables. No need of an external probe to be inserted in the pouch in order to get the internal temperature of the food. Before using Baldwin tables I purchased most of the books available but none of them were mentioning the thickness of food as a key information in order to cook sous vide. Therefore, in my opinion, all these books can be considered as art books but not cooking books where recipes can be reproduced.

I have experimented Baldwin tables for a while now and I have to admit that I have never been sick or disappointed by the degree of doneness according to the temperatures given.

Nevertheless I realized that nobody on the net ever discussed if Baldwin tables are correct or not. Do I have to accept the fact that everybody is assuming these tables are accurate?

This the reason why I decided to purchase an external penetration probe and verify by myself. For those who would like to purchase such equipment I want to say that I made a mistake in my previous post when buying the needle probe from Thermoworks. The one that should be used for sous vide (water proof) is THS-113-181 only (see on the right of the picture). The needle is very thin (1 mm) and long enough to get inside a 7 cm thick beef fillet (incl. the turbigomme foam).

For my first test of Baldwin table I took a cut of salmon, 30 mm thick that I wanted to cook “mi-cuit” at 47°C. Douglas Baldwin table indicates 1 hour and 2 minutes cooking time. As mentioned in Baldwin document I raised the temperature of my immersion circulator of 0.5°C (47.5°C) in order to be sure to reach the target temperature of 47°C.

In order to comply totally with Baldwin table I took care the core temperature of the salmon was 5°C. This step made me realizing that my fridge is definitely not cold enough as the core temperature of my salmon was 10°C before chilling it! As illustrated on the picture I immersed the pouch in iced water for some minutes.

As mentioned above I set my immersion circulator at 47.5°C for 1:02 and noted frequently the data in order to make a graph out it.

And the result is EXCELLENT!

I was very surprised to see how fast the temperature was raising during the first minutes. I was also having some doubts when the countdown of my sous vide equipment was indicating 22 minutes left while the core temperature of the salmon was 36.6°C. The last tenth of degrees take really long to be reached and I now understand why you should set your sous vide appliance 0.5°C above the target temperature…if you don’t it will take ages before you really reach the target temperature.

Jean-François

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