Dorkfood Sous-Vide Temperature Controller (DSV) review: Dorkfood offers legit sous vide, sans style

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MSRP: $99.00

The Good The simple-to-use Dorkfood DSV surprised us with how well it kept up with more full-featured -- and more expensive -- sous vide cooking appliances.

The Bad The DSV won't exactly blend in with your kitchen decor, and it only works with certain types of cookers. For shorter sous vide recipes, it isn't quite as precise as the competition.

The Bottom Line Ugly looks aside, at just $100, the Dorkfood DSV is an attractive and legitimate sous vide entry point.

8.0 Overall
  • Performance 10
  • Usability 9
  • Design 5
  • Features 5

Review Sections

Sous vide is a trendy, foodie-supported means of precision cooking that suspends vacuum sealed ingredients in a water bath that's held to an ultra-consistent temperature. For decades, it's been the secret weapon in the kitchens of high-end restaurants, but a recent crop of affordable countertop contraptions promises to bring the technique into your kitchen, too.

At $100, the Dorkfood DSV is one of the most affordable of them. Clunky in appearance, the brick-like DSV is simply an industrial grade temperature controller -- stick its probe into a slow cooker filled with water, then plug the two in together, and Dorkfood will cycle its power on and off to keep the water precisely as hot as your recipe demands, for as long as you need.

That's a much more basic approach to sous vide cooking than other all-in-one devices that we've tested, and I had my doubts as to how well it would work -- but the results spoke for themselves. Test after test, Dorkfood delivered, keeping up with pricier competitors from Anova and Nomiku. If all you're interested in is the food, the DSV offers the most bang for the buck.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Since I started reviewing appliances last year, my bio has read:

...Ry Crist is a text-based adventure connoisseur, a lover of terrible movies, and an enthusiastic yet mediocre cook. He has a strong appreciation for nifty, well-designed tech that saves time, looks stylish, and/or helps him avoid burning his dinner quite so often...

Needless to say, sous vide kitchen cookers which promise precise temperature control, set-and-forget simplicity, and which are almost completely incapable of burning anything, would seem to be right up my alley. Dorkfood doubly so. At just $100, it's the most affordable such device to come through our test kitchen, claiming it can turn your old Crock-Pot or rice cooker into a bonafide sous vide super machine. I happen to own a cheap Crock-Pot that's compatible with Dorkfood, so I was eager to see how well the DSV worked.

The product doesn't go out of its way to make a great first impression. It's literally just a block of grey plastic with a few tactile buttons, a rubbery probe, and a dated LCD display. It looks like something you might find buried in the junk drawer of a long-retired IT professional. It looks like something you stick into a potato in order to tell the time and win fourth place in a middle school science fair. It does not look like a glamorous, high-end cooking device.

Sure, looks can be deceiving, but even eschewing the ugly design, the DSV looks the part of a compromise product. In addition to carefully heating your water to a precise temperature, sous vide cookers will usually also circulate the water with a small fan, which helps keep that temperature consistent throughout the pot. The DSV has no such fan. The only tools at its disposal are the temperature probe and its ability to turn your slow cooker's power on and off.

Using the DSV is about as simple as it gets. Dorkfood's plug has a socket on its back -- plug the thing in, then plug your slow cooker in behind it. You'll hold down the "Set" button until the display flashes, then use the "+" and "-" buttons to set the target temperature. Press set again, and Dorkfood will begin doing its thing. Just fill your cooker with water, drop the probe in, and wait for the DSV to bring it up to temperature, which can take anywhere from thirty to ninety minutes depending on how high you're cranking it up and how hot the water is to start. It's worth mentioning that both Anova and Nomiku were able to heat a lidless stock pot of water much faster than Dorkfood was able to heat a slow cooker with a lid on it, though your mileage may vary depending on the specific slow cooker or rice maker you're using.

To use the DSV, you'll need a slow cooker or a rice maker that can heat on high as soon as you plug it in. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Also worth noting: you won't be able to use just any slow cooker or rice maker. The DSV can't actually control the cooker, it can only cycle the power on and off. This means that you'll need to use a cooker that's capable of turning on to high as soon you plug it in. In most cases, this simply means you'll need a cheap cooker with a physical dial you can leaved turned to high.

If you're unsure if your cooker will work, turn it to high, then unplug it and plug it back in. If it resumes cooking on high without you needing to mess with it, then it'll work with the DSV. If it doesn't, you'll need to buy another one, but you probably won't need to spend much -- I picked up my Dorkfood-approved Crock-Pot in the appliance aisle at my local grocery for about $20.

The first thing I tried cooking with Dorkfood was eggs. I'm a big fan of cracking one into a boiling pot of ramen -- perhaps one time out of four I can time it just right to get a perfectly poached egg on top of my chicken-flavored noodles. With the precision of a sous vide cooker, you should be able to dial in to your preferred level of doneness each and every time.

At 18 minutes, the yolk starts to firm up. Ry Crist/CNET

A quick Google search turns up plenty of different recipes for sous vide poached eggs, but I decided to try one that instructed me to cook them at 167 degrees F (75 degrees C) for about 15 minutes. If I wanted my eggs a little runnier, 13 minutes would do it. For firmer yolks, I'd want to push it to 18 minutes.

I tried all three, and lo and behold, Dorkfood nailed it. At 13 minutes, my egg was lightly poached with a very runny yolk. At 18 minutes, the yolk held its shape even after cutting it in half. And 15 minutes did indeed seem to be the ooey-gooey sweet spot between runny and firm. On repeated runs, I got the exact same results, which means that with a few eggs' worth of experimentation, you could find your own preferred level of doneness, then dial in and enjoy the same results time and time again.

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