Sous Vide rocks! Thanks dcarch & FOAS

arley_gwJanuary 27, 2014

Many thanks to dcarch and FOAS--I got my sous vide up and running last weekend, and it's great. Everything I cooked in it so far has come out tender and juicy. I'm using dcarch's info and FOAS's advice, and my only contribution is to point out current sources for the parts you need. If you're interested in making one, you can probably cobble together one for under $100 including an Igloo cooler. You may have some of this stuff around the house anyway, so your cost may be even less.

You can buy a ready made sous vide setup for $400-$500, but if you want to make a contraption like this, it's really easy. The heart of the rig is a STC-1000 temperature controller. You can get them online for $15 to $20. For this application it functions basically as an 'open on rise' thermostat: when a temperature is reached, it cuts the power to the heater element. The heat is provided by a 500w aquarium heater element. These are available online for $30-40. (you want the kind without a thermostat; you'll be using the STC-1000 as a thermostat). Another item you might want is a small submersible dc high temp water pump; I got one online for $18. You'll need a cooler, but you probably have one around the house anyway; I got a Igloo Marine 25 qt cooler for about $19 at Walmart. You can get whatever size you think you might want, and the guts of the system are easily moved from one cooler to another if you need a bigger setup.

You'll also need a few inexpensive items to wire it up: an electrical handy box ($2), an electrical outlet ($2), a faceplate, and some sort of enclosure. For a power cord, I used a polarized two-prong extension cord and cut off the socket end; I used a foot of that cord for hookup wire in the box. I also rigged up a little rack made of CPVC pipe to attach the pump. That way I'm not making any attachments to the inside of the cooler.

The STC-1000 is often used by homebrewers to control the temperature of a refrigerator for precise fermentation. It can turn on either a heating element or a cooling element. You can download wiring diagrams for the STC-1000, and if you do just ignore the cooling circuitry--you're only going to be using this to control the heater.

Here are the specific items I obtained:
STC-1000 Available from several places-- you might save a few bucks if you order it on eBay from China:

Aquarium Heater element without thermostat:
(or something similar. A 500w heater brought my water bath from room temp to 131 degrees in a little over an hour, then maintained it +/- 0.5 degrees thereafter) See if the kind you get has little suction cups to mount on the inside of the cooler

Circulation pump--not absolutely necessary, but it'll ensure a stable temp throughout the cooler:

This is one of several small submersible DC pumps available online. Make sure you get one that says 'high temperature--you can't just use an aquarium pump as they aren't made to operate at sous vide temperatures. Google 'submersible DC pump suitable for sous vide' and you'll get lots of hits.

You might need a power supply for your pump. This one works well, and you can select your voltage to match your pump ( although you might have a suitable wall-wart transformer around the house). If you cut into the black cord, you'll find a black and a red wire so it's easy to match the polarity of your pump:

This really is a fun project. If any of you have any questions, let me know. I guarantee if you like rare or medium rare steaks, you'll love how the stuff comes out of this cooker.

Here's the inside of the cooler. The long silver thing at the bottom with the suction cups is the aquarium heater element, the black cylinder at the upper right is the pump, and the cord to the left is the temperature probe that goes back to the STC 1000. The rack is made of CPVC, and the weight of the pump is enough to keep it from floating. But if you make a bigger one, you might need to put sand or gravel in the pipes to keep it from floating. Finally, so that the food pouches don't touch the heater element directly, I bent an aluminum soffit vent (about $2) to shape to make a guard over the element.

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Arley, very exciting! You have done a great job putting the system together.

A few ideas:

You can buy 120Vac fountain pumps cheap, around $10.00. This way you don't need a low voltage DC power supply.

You may not need to pay for a high temperature fountain pump. I have my aquarium pump running as high as 182F without failing for over two years. typically you would be cooking below 160F.

I use a hot water tank heating element for my heater, $12.00. The heating element is for 240V 2,000 watts. Runing it at 120V, it becomes 500 Watts.

There is a lot of excitement in the cooking world. Recently there were several sous vide circulators came on the market for under $200.00.

In addition to enjoying perfectly cooked food, you will be saving money because you can work with lower priced cuts of meat, as well as meat cooked sous vide has much less shrinkage. it's like having a 5% discount always on all meat purchases.


    Bookmark   January 27, 2014 at 7:58PM
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Arley - be sure to post pictures of the results! The method has always intrigued me. I no longer cook enough meat or larger portions of anything so I have not attempted to build one myself. I always enjoy seeing Dcarch's accomplishments however.


    Bookmark   January 28, 2014 at 6:21PM
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I thought the heading of this thread meant you could sous vide rocks, which I thought dcarch had probably already tried.

Anyhoo, very useful information, but I, too, would like to know what you prepared.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2014 at 11:50PM
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"---I thought the heading of this thread meant you could sous vide rocks, which I thought dcarch had probably already tried.---"


Almost. I shared a 2" think prime rib with a friend tonight. The rib was frozen like rock.

The rock hard beef was put into the sous vide cooker direct. No need for thawing.

I asked my friend with a chart showing beef cooked to various degrees of done-ness, "What color would you like?"

"This one"

I set the control to 136F, and the meat came out identical to the one shown on the chart. Perfectly uniform.


    Bookmark   January 29, 2014 at 12:24AM
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Oh my! How wonderful. I love that chart idea. I shared an office with a poet once. He had worked as a gopher for an interior designer. On his first day there, the ID produced a fandeck of paint colors, pointed to a taupe-camel color, and said, "Bring me a Starbucks this color!" He thought she was a jerk, but I thought it was a brilliant way to communicate how she wanted her coffee.

How long did that steak take?

This post was edited by kitchendetective on Wed, Jan 29, 14 at 8:40

    Bookmark   January 29, 2014 at 8:17AM
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You can also get an egg chart (see link) to have eggs cooked exactly the same way every time to specification, it does not matter how cold/hot/big/small the eggs are.

The sous vide system can be set up to do anything which will require exact temperature control, such as making yogart, hatching eggs, pasteurize eggs (for ice cream raw eggs), pasteurize milk, proofing bread, starting seeds, ---------.

The steak took me about 8 hours. I like to serve steaks as hot as possible without overcooking. The sous vide method does not require resting.

This is how it works:

Since you cannot overcook the meat, you can take the time to prepare every other sides, then when it's time to eat, you tell everyone to sit down and fire up the cast iron skillet. I normally get the skillet to about 520F with an IR thermometer.

Sear the steak about one or two minutes each side, get the house to smell real good.

Perfect timing. Served hot !!!


Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   January 29, 2014 at 9:26AM
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Notice that cross section: it's medium rare from edge to edge. No way you can get that with conventional cooking. Also, since you're not heating the meat to the point where you get contraction of the muscle fibers, it's appreciably more tender than you would expect.

And another advantage, as dcarch alluded to, is the timing of the cooking is not critical. Once it's done it won't get overdone because the temperature is fixed. You can get everything else done, and then sear the meat and serve.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2014 at 9:55AM
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Here's a pic of some beef filet. It was frozen and fell behind something else in the freezer two years ago; fortunately it was wrapped fairly tightly so there wasn't any appreciable freezer burn. Unwrapped it, seasoned it, put it in a vacuum pouch, then put it, still frozen, in the sous vide cooker and left it alone for about 26 hours; took it out of the pouch, seared it in a skillet, and sliced it and served with some mushrooms. Easy peasy.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2014 at 7:18PM
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Very nice! Actually, because you used the camera's flash so that color kind of pale. But looking at the other plate, I can see how perfect the beef came out.

Yes, I love being able to go from freezer to cooker, no thawing and end up with perfect steak.

And for comparison, typically beef filet done the regular way.


Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   February 3, 2014 at 10:18PM
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How delightful to come across this thread by chance! I have just this week started experimenting with sous vide. I'm using Anova's $200 water heater/circulator, which you can stick in any stockpot or other handy container. My tri-tip could have been better, but the salmon and the chicken came out fantastically.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2014 at 2:45AM
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Achauer, welcome to the Cooking Forum!

There is so much excitement in the cooking world, with many affordable sous vide circulators on the market recently.

In addition to Anova, there are Nomiku, Sansaire and PolyScience Creative, etc.

They are around $200 buying direct from the manufacturer.

Hope to see more of your sous vide creations here.


    Bookmark   February 7, 2014 at 7:56AM
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I liked the looks of the Anova, but am I correct that it is 199.00 from manufacturer and 450 from Amazon?

    Bookmark   February 7, 2014 at 8:27AM
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"------but am I correct that it is 199.00 from manufacturer and 450 from Amazon?"

That's why I said buy direct from the maker.


    Bookmark   February 7, 2014 at 8:38AM
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Wow! Talk about mark-up.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2014 at 5:49PM
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The one on Amazon is a "used offer". By the comments, it sounds like Anova has had a significant price drop, possible the seller doesn't realize this.

Funny story - a few weeks ago I was watching the Rachel Ray show (accidentally, to be sure) and she did a segment where they had given new gadgets and devices to regular folks for them to use for a bit and review. One was a sous vide system (nomiku) and the woman hesitantly said she wasn't very impressed. Well, it turns out she was putting hamburger patties in a bag, sous viding and then serving, just like that LOL. (They gave her a brief lesson and let her keep it a bit longer.)

Anyway it's not surprising that these things are coming down in price a lot. Cheap technology, just a matter of putting it together into an appealing package and marketing it.

Arley, I'm glad you finally got yours going and are excited about it!

This post was edited by foodonastump on Fri, Feb 7, 14 at 18:57

    Bookmark   February 7, 2014 at 6:17PM
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