The flank steak won me over. It's a flavorful cut that's not as tender as your typical sirloin or ribeye, so it's cheaper. The SousVant Circulating Sous Vide Oven helped me fix that issue using the primary weapon of the sous vide style of cooking: time. I let the vacuum sealed meat soak in the heated water bath for 24 hours. Since the SousVant held the water temp at an exact 131 degrees Fahrenheit -- the desired mark for medium rare -- I didn't have to worry that it would overcook. Instead, I could just let the heat break down the tendons and work on that infamous flank steak toughness.
The result -- a delicious and tender steak that impressed everyone in the office. The sous vide style in general deserves much of the credit for my culinary delight, but the SousVant made it easy enough for a novice cook like myself to pull it all off. A self contained, circulating water bath, the $400 SousVant is easy to use and a consistent performer. It didn't invent the method, and since the $180and upcoming $250 are so much less, it's not a clear winner. That said, it's the best and least expensive we've tested. If you're ready to invest in sous vide and want a full sized machine, it's well worth your consideration.
Between two styles
SousVant tries to skirt the line between the industrial bulk of other self contained sous vide water baths and the science experiment feel of sous vide immersion circulators. It succeeds.
With an unassuming plastic tank that rests on a simple metallic base, the SousVant doesn't leave a huge footprint on your counter in either space or appearance. It blends in, and that's a lot more than you can say for either theor the . Those self-contained water baths are giant metal boxes that would stick out anywhere.
On the base of the SousVant, you'll find four buttons for raising and lowering the temperature and starting and stopping the cook. Above those, a simple LED display shows the temperature setting and a timer, and that's it. It's simple and elegant, and I was quite pleased with the overall look of the SousVant.
The best part -- it looks less bulky than the other water baths, but it actually beats them in capacity. The carafe, as the instruction manual calls it, holds three gallons of water, besting the 2.6 of the SousVide Supreme and the 2.25 of the Caso SousVide Center.
It's also easier to use. You don't have to lift the whole machine to fill up the tank or dump it out. With the SousVide Supreme, you have to hoist all 13 pounds of it, and that's not accounting for the water weight. The Caso Sous Vide Center has a hose in the back to make dumping out the container a bit easier, but you still have to get the 12.8 machine near enough to a sink for the hose to reach.
All together, the SousVant weighs a comparable 10 pounds, but the water tub is only 4 pounds and easily lifts free from the base. I found it comfortable carrying it to and from the sink by the sturdy handles on the sides.
In terms of appearance and ease of use, the SousVant easily bests the other sous vide water baths we've tested, and gains an edge on the popular immersion circulators. The lid forms a nice seal on the container. Throughout a two day long cook, I never noticed any water loss, and never had to worry about a refill as a result.
With immersion circulators, you're clipping a heater to a stock pot you already own. The control of the circulator rests well above the top of the pot, so you can't cover it with a normal lid. Over the course of a long cook, quite a bit of water will evaporate and escape. The circulators have maximum and minimum water levels, so you'll need to make sure your volume stays within the required range to keep things running smoothly.
You can find a few hacks to work around this. Ping pong balls covering the surface can keep the water from escaping, but with the SousVant, you don't have to worry about any of this.
You can order the SousVant from the company website now. At $400, it's priced favorably compared to the $500 Caso SousVide Center and $430 SousVide Supreme. You are still paying a premium over the new $250 due out later this year, as well as the $180 , and especially the $100 you can use with an old fashioned slow cooker.
If you're ready to splurge on the SousVant, expect a bit of a wait. The SousVant Kickstarter campaign missed its crowdfunding goal. Thankfully, the product is still being released, but manufacturing units without those funds has caused delays. Right now, a company representative estimates a 90-day turnaround after an order.
If SousVant can catch up and gain some momentum, the company plans to distribute it for sale by multiple online and brick-and-mortar retailers. Eventually, a 220 VAC international model will follow. No pricing on this has been announced but the cost converts to about £260 and AU$512.
Prepping the cook
To get cooking, fill the tub with however much water you need. The instructions recommend an extra half inch of depth above the top of your food. Place the full container on the plugged in base. You'll see bubbles rise to the top as a small amount of liquid flows from the carafe to be heated in the base below.
Use the arrow keys to set the temperature and hit "cook." More bubbles emerge as the machine whirs to life and the temperature display switches from what you've set to it's current temp along with the word "warm." The preheat process will take between 15 to 30 minutes depending on your desired temperature and the amount of water you've tasked it with heating.
The SousVant can hit anything from 95 to 194 degrees Fahrenheit (35 to 90 degrees Celsius). That's a tighter range than either the 86 to 194 degrees offered by the Caso SousVide Center or the 86 to 210 degrees of the SousVide Supreme, but it's plenty to accommodate the majority of cooks.
Setting the temperature is slow. You can adjust to the tenth of a degree, but that also means holding the up button for awhile when you go from 131 degrees Fahrenheit (55 Celsius) for a medium rare steak to 165 degrees F (74 C) for a quick poached egg. The scroll doesn't speed up much when you hold it like on the other water baths we've tested. And the immersion circulators offer the best solution with a wheel that you can spin fast when you have a big adjustment to make.