CNET editors pick the products and services we write about. When you buy through our links, we may get a commission.
If you think about common cooking appliances -- microwaves, ovens, stovetops -- even the most experienced chef is limited by each machine's ability to maintain a constant temperature. This has been a kitchen sticking point as steadiness is key when you want to make certain delicate dishes, or reduce the margin of error on any frequently-cooked foods. Convection tech can mitigate the sometimes-extreme fluctuations in microwaves and ovens, but it doesn't completely solve the problem.
Sous vide, a cooking style that relies on making your favorite meals in a vacuum-sealed plastic bag immersed in water, presents an interesting alternative to more traditional residential appliances. The $500 Caso SousVide Center SV1000 is one such device (about £466 on Amazon's UK site). Unfortunately, its high price, inaccurate temperature gauge and unwieldy water-bath style makes it tough to recommend. Consider the Anova One immersion model for something that's easier to use, less expensive and more accurate.
Although $500 is a lot to spend on a sous vide machine, the SV1000 does seem to have a lot going for it -- at least at first glance.
It has a capacity of roughly 2.25 gallons (9 liters) and a stainless steel finish; it weighs 12.8 pounds. The display panel is straightforward, with a Fahrenheit/Celsius button for selecting your preferred option (the temperature settings range from 86 to 194 degrees Fahrenheit, or 30-90 degrees Celsius), a clock button for setting the timer by the minute to anything from 0 to 99 hours (it defaults to 2 hours and 25 minutes), plus and minus buttons for adjusting the temperature and the time settings, a "play" button for starting and stopping a cooking cycle and a "stop" button, which, counterintuitively, acts as the delayed timer setting (you can set it to start cooking up to 12 hours in the future).
Aside from the power on/off button, the only remaining display button operates the built-in vacuum sealer. This is a fantastic feature that works even when the machine is in use. The vacuum sealer is tucked away in a front compartment and each component can be removed, cleaned and easily stored back in the hidden enclosure. Caso also provides 20 zip-sealable vacuum bags for use with the included sealer. That's handy.
I also like that it has handles on the bottom, because this thing is fairly cumbersome, especially when it's full of water. There's also a bit of a surprise feature in the back of the device -- a hose to drain the water. That way, you only have to carry it to the sink, make sure the hose is attached and then flip the valve open to release the water inside. It's slow, but it definitely beats struggling to pour the water out yourself.
The SV1000 also circulates the water around as it's cooking. This is a preferred feature, as it helps ensure even more temperature uniformity. We used professional-grade thermometer probes to test the water and found that the temperatures on either side of the device were extremely close.
We did notice something unexpected during this testing, though. While the water temperature was consistent throughout, it was a few degrees lower than the target temperature. So, say you want to cook something at 135 degrees Fahrenheit (about 57 degrees Celsius) -- the water, while uniform, is likely closer to 132 degrees. That's a fairly easy tweak if you know about the issue (just add a few degrees every time you cook), but it definitely isn't what you want to see from such a pricy, precision-based device.
That resulted in some undercooked food -- I made salmon, poached eggs, steak and pork ribs and the salmon and ribs were noticeably under-done, even though I used standard sous vide settings. Interestingly, I didn't experience such an extreme temperature disparity with the SousVide Supreme, a model that doesn't have built-in water-circulation capabilities.
I cooked the salmon at 140 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes. As you can see in the photo, it was still quite pink and even translucent in the center. The water-bath SousVide Supreme salmon turned out quite well and the immersion models we tested also produced perfectly palatable salmon.
I had a great time experimenting with eggs in the SV1000. I'm not picky about egg consistency, but it was fascinating to see how a few minutes completely changed the result. I tried out a 15-minute run at 167 degrees (that's 75 Celsius), a 12-minute run (also at 167 degrees) and a 45-minute run at 145 degrees (about 63 Celsius). The 15-minute eggs, pictured above, had pretty solid yolks, the 12 minute eggs had a nearly "perfect" consistency -- not extremely runny, but not fully-cooked, either -- and the 45-minute eggs were very runny.
If you are particular about your eggs, look no further than sous vide. This wasn't an especially successful test in the Caso, though -- only because all of the sous vide machines we've reviewed have returned consistent eggs.
Steak was another story. Sous vide machines make big claims about being able to transform the cheapest cuts of meat you can find into something magnificent. So, I found a top round steak -- a notoriously tough slab of beef -- and stuck it in the sous vide for 4 hours at 131 degrees (55 degrees Celsius).
The Anova One returned a beautifully cooked medium-pink steak with these specifications, so I was hopeful. Unfortunately, both the SV1000 and the SousVide Supreme produced chewy, tasteless results, with the SV1000 on the low side of medium-well (some pink) and the SousVide Supreme closer to well-done (no pink). I think this particular cut would've needed much longer to cook before tasting anything close to tender.
The final test involved pork spare ribs cooked for 48 hours at 135 degrees (57 Celsius). The ribs were significantly underdone, even after two days in the cooker. The SousVide Supreme ribs were closer to done and noticeably better.
I'm generally skeptical about the value of water-bath-style sous vide machines after testing the SV1000 and the SousVide Supreme. You have to be a pretty dedicated "sous vider" to make these large hunks of metal worth your while. Both were less accurate than the $200 Anova One immersion model and significantly more expensive. Yes, you can fit more in them, so they make sense if you're planning on preparing food en masse, but immersion models make so much more sense for someone wanting to experiment with this cooking style.
The Caso SousVide Center will get the job done, but it's more expensive and less precise than much smaller immersion models and its performance wasn't quite as good as its water bath counterpart, the SousVide Supreme. I did enjoy the built-in hose and vacuum sealer, but it wasn't quite enough to recommend the Caso SousVide Center SV1000. Start with an immersion model like the Anova One if you're looking for something solid and simple for less money.