Mike's Excellent Sous Vide Adventure 🥩

(Michael - When reality fails to meet expectations, the problem is not reality.) #1

After my first couple experiments with sous vide here and here, I decided I’d try again with something other than my Breville kettle as the ‘cooker’. I know I could purchase a purpose made sous vide immersion device. They’re not expensive at the low end. But I thought, yes but it’s a single purpose gadget totally useless for anything else. So…

I like the idea of multi-use devices and in this case I liked the idea of not having a device drawing electric current steadily for a few hours. Thermal cookers offer the possibility of ‘heat and wait’. These are essentially pot sized stainless thermos containers. The good ones, however, are pricey although there is quite a range of both prices and quality, I’m sure. They’re certainly big enough to use as a standard cooking pot even if not retain a steady temp for several hours.

After looking at thermal cookers I realized that they’re just the big cousins of stainless thermos food containers. There are many of these and even the high quality ones are a lot cheaper than thermal cookers. Smaller as well although they are available up to 3 quarts/liters. That’s big enough to submerge a piece of meat. So…

I bought one of these in the 1.9 liter size:

It looks nice: shiny stainless steel, however, on first test it lost nearly 10℉ (5.6℃) in 90 minutes. That’s not good enough. Half way through my 3 hour cook time I had to remove and add hot water. Not good.
I could just spring for this which is my next choice:

But before doing so I decided to try my QIAOXIN 1.9 with a little thermal reinforcement. So I bought one of these from Walmart in 10 liter size:

This is big enough for the QIAOXIN 1.9 to fit inside with enough space all around to add some insulating material, like this:

Although I purchased this nice white sand from Mr Pets here in North Vancouver.

Testing soon. Will advise.

(Full Metal KETO AF) #2

You won’t be able to maintain steady temperatures doing it the way you are. That’s pretty important for sousvide as you want precision stable temperatures over time. I would just invest in a budget sousvide pod. I did a couple of cooks in my regular oven after some temperature tweaking inside a enamel Dutch oven with the bag inside. It wasn’t precise but it gave me confirmation that I wanted a pod. They hardly use any electricity even in an uninsulated vessel. I think you would be happy with a real cooker, I have gotten a ton of use from mine. Probably less than $0.20 per cook I have used it so much. You can make custard in 8oz mason jars and poached eggs, and ramen eggs too.


(Michael - When reality fails to meet expectations, the problem is not reality.) #3

We’ll soon find out. :sunglasses:

(Michael - When reality fails to meet expectations, the problem is not reality.) #4

Temp retention test now underway. Water temp at 5:30 PM: 185℉. My plan is not to touch it for 6 hours, 11:30 PM. This took about 17 pounds of sand!

#1: Partial burial of the thermal food container. There’s an inch of sand underneath the pot.

#2: Water added. Heated to 185℉ in my Breville kettle.

#3: Thermal container lid sealed.

#4: Burial complete. Note that I added more sand after this photo to make sure there was a minimum of 1 inch of sand over the top of the container. There is probably close to 1 1/2 - 2 inches.

(Full Metal KETO AF) #5

Sousvide is adjustable in +/-0.1F or C increments. It maintains within a couple of decimal points. Cooking a beef steak at 126F, 129F or 133F can mean rare, medium rare and medium. Higher tempratures for longer times to break down tougher cuts and make them tender (pulled pork, pot roast).

Yes you can definitely do the water bath method without a pod, but they circulate the water gently to keep the temperature even throughout the bath too. I’ve done it without a pod, you just won’t get as predictable results and you’ll have to keep checking and fiddling with it. People used to make homemade cookers before they were cheap, usually with a crockpot and a variable voltage box and a thermometer.

(Full Metal KETO AF) #6

That looks like a lot of hassle Michael…And very much of a space inconvenience too! :flushed:

(Michael - When reality fails to meet expectations, the problem is not reality.) #7

Inquiring minds want to know. :slightly_smiling_face:

I purposely used water far hotter than what anyone would use for sous vide. If my contraption holds that temp, I have no doubt it will hold any lower temp. I’m not really into raw/semi-raw meat, so I’ll probably stay around 150℉.

BTW, it took longer to make the photos than fill the bucket with sand. I think removing the sand will be a bit more troublesome. But, I’ll find out soon enough. And I do appreciate that a purpose built cooker does a better job of it. AND that my contraption may be more work than it’s worth.

(Michael - When reality fails to meet expectations, the problem is not reality.) #8

11:30 PM. Water temp: 102℉.

:-1: Fail!

(bulkbiker) #9

Good news is you could use the thermal container for your sous vide stick when you get one?

(Steve) #10

Cooking in a sealed cooler is the most energy efficient way to run a sous vide circulator. I used a gizmo called the Kill a watt to check how much money it actually costs to run in a sealed cooler. With my Anova set at 165 running for 24 hours, the energy consumption turned out to be pennies.

The best part about cooking in a cooler is there isn’t any evaporation in a long cook. The cooler also muffles any circulating noise.
I have used my Anova hundreds of times and it hasn’t even put a dent in our electric bill. I see that you can now buy a sous vide immersion circulator for $50.

Dill a hole through the lid like this.

(bulkbiker) #11

Mine’s blue but pretty much exactly the same… very handy for the xmas turkey… deconstructed and sous vide’d the best ever.

(Steve) #12

This is my quick sous vide mini cooler, .50 at a garage sale. I also cut a piece of green pool noodle for an extra tight fit.
Oh and that is the ‘Kill a Watt’ in the background.
The mini will be used tonight for sous vide boneless skin on thighs. 155* 2 hours
A quick fry to crisp up the skin, dip into buffalo butter… outstanding tender chicken.

(Dirty Lazy Keto'er, Sucralose freak ;)) #13

Steve, yea ! That’s cool. I really need to get myself a medium sized icebox, for larger SV cooks… Plus, what the heck, I have two SV machines now, so maybe around Christmas or Thanksgiving, I might have my current setup, with the 12qt Rubbermaid container, and neoprene insulating cover / silicone lid going + my other SV machine going for a larger cook in the ice box, at the same time !

In retrospect, an icebox might be the smartest way to go, as they are insulated (even better than my insulating neoprene cover, i’m sure) and covered, to stop evaporation, and they are dirt cheap ! Maybe free. I see iceboxes laying on the side of the freeway all the time :slight_smile: lol

(Michael - When reality fails to meet expectations, the problem is not reality.) #14

Thanks, guys, for all your input! I have seen the Anova ‘Beer Cooler Hack’. @Jamboribs I like your ‘noodle seal’, most excellent.

That China Direct™ food container I bought is a real dud. It lost just as much heat per hour buried in a bucket of sand as it did sitting on the kitchen counter! I suspect it doesn’t have much of a vacuum in the sides.

I’m sure the Stanley I linked above or the Thermos equivalent would work much better. The question, of course, being: better enough? Unfortunately, it would cost me another $66 to find out, added to the $41 I already spent on the Chinese dud. Whereas, for $90 I could just bus to Canadian Tire and buy this. No lid on the pot, but I also like the idea of using a cooler. Although I’d prefer something other than a plastic, foam insulated cooler. That said, I can get a decent Coleman cooler at Walmart with my 10% discount, so that’s attractive.

(Steve) #15

Canadian Tire, $90 and you are ready to go, it’s on sale too. If anything happens to the sous vide stick, Canadian Tire will stand behind the product. It doesn’t come with the pot though.
As for the vessel that holds the water and sous vide stick, you can use a big Tupperware container with plastic wrap on the top to help with evaporation. I have used a small plastic garbage can, a big stock pot and even the kitchen sink as they all work. My favorite is the cooler with the lid because it is very efficient and quiet for long cooks.

(Michael - When reality fails to meet expectations, the problem is not reality.) #16

LOL! Love it. They could have thrown in a $5 pot and still make a decent profit. I guess they figure everyone has a pot so why bother.

(Dirty Lazy Keto'er, Sucralose freak ;)) #17

A couple of you have mentioned an insulated, covered contrainer to help keep your SV machine quiet ? Hmmm. My $60 1000wt SV machine is so quiet, it’s hard to hear in a quiet house, from 3ft away, yet it has great circulation…

I’m telling you guys…

The price varies almost daily depending on what seller you get it from. My first one cost $73 and I felt like that was a steal ! My second one cost $58.85 !

(Michael - When reality fails to meet expectations, the problem is not reality.) #18

I went to Canadian Tire and bought this one. $89.99 after a $40 discount from regular price. As noted, comes with a 1 year warranty. This sucker is huge!

I looked at portable coolers while at Canadian Tire. There were a couple, but then I decided I don’t want to cook in plastic. So I’ll visit my local Sally Anne to look for an aluminum pot or pressure cooker. It will be lots easier to drill a hole in an aluminum lid than a steel lid, especially stainless.

Need fish cooking advice
Sous vide?
Sous vide?
(Dirty Lazy Keto'er, Sucralose freak ;)) #19

I think my VPCOK is about that size. I saw a couple reviewers complain about this, but I don’t see any problem with it.
Ya’ know, regardless of what material your water vessel is made of, your meat pouch is going to be whatever type of plastic you choose. I’ve heard that “all plastic bags”, including Ziplocs are completely safe, because of the relatively low heat used for SV cooking. Of course personally speaking, cancer is the last thing I worry about anyway, in spite of the fact I’m most likely to get it. (that’s a whole other story)

(Michael - When reality fails to meet expectations, the problem is not reality.) #20

That wasn’t my concern, Chris. I thought I’m probably going to be cooking at 150-160℉ and that might be too hot for the plastic. These coolers are designed to hold ice water not hot water. Maybe my concern is unfounded and the plastic in these things could hold boiling water with no problem. I’ll research that a bit and see what I can find out.

PS [edit]: An aluminum or stainless pot can be heated on the stove.