Learning how to cook sous vide (which translates literally to “under vacuum” in French) can be intimidating. Not only do you need to have a sous vide machine (aka an immersion circulator), some people will also say you need additional equipment like a vacuum sealer, special plastic bags and more. And while those things do help, they’re not 100 percent necessary and they shouldn’t scare home cooks off one of the best and most accurate ways of cooking, especially proteins like meat and fish.
The hard part, though, is choosing the right device for you, as sous vide machines are relatively recent newcomers to home kitchens. After all, the first immersion circulator priced under $500 went on sale in 2009. Prior to that, these devices were typically only found in high-end restaurants or as playthings for celebrity chefs — they were not as widely available to home cooks. So if you want to see which sous vide machine can up your cooking game, take a look at our picks for the best devices you can buy right now.
What we look for
While they might have a fancy name, the main things we look for in a quality sous vide machine are quite straightforward: ease-of-use, reliability and a good design. It should be easy to clean and have clear, no-nonsense controls. It should also have some way of attaching to a tank or pot so it doesn’t become dislodged during use. And most importantly, it should have a strong heating element and motor that can deliver consistent water temperatures to ensure your food hits the correct level of doneness every time.
The best overall: Anova Precision Cooker
Anova is one of the oldest names in the game. I’ve personally been using one of their older models for almost seven years and it’s still going strong. However, on the latest version of the Anova Precision Cooker you get a number of handy upgrades like digital touch controls, a longer power cord, a water-resistant IPX7 design and even Wi-Fi connectivity. And with a flow rate of eight liters per minute, it can heat up water faster than less expensive competitors.
But perhaps the best part is that, thanks to a collaboration with chef J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, the Anova app has one of the largest collections of tried and tested sous vide recipes from any manufacturer. So not only is it easy to use, the Anova Precision Cooker can help you find a ton of tasty dishes to try
Alternatively, if you like Anova’s devices but want something a bit more compact, consider the Precision Cooker Nano 3.0. Priced at $149, it’s a bit more expensive than the standard model but you still get all the most important features including dual-band Wi-Fi connectivity, a two-line touchscreen and onboard controls so you don’t need to ever pair your phone to the Nano if you don’t want to.
Our upgrade pick: Breville Joule Sous Vide
If you want a more sophisticated immersion circulator, Breville’s Joule Sous Vide is a great choice. It has a slick, compact design, which is great for people with smaller kitchens, and because its motor is located at the very base of the device, you don’t need to use as much water to cook. So instead of requiring a huge dedicated tank, you can simply fill a three or four-quart pot with water and go from there. On top of that, because it has a magnetic base, it can clamp to the bottom of a pot without needing a separate clip or stand. It also supports both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity. The one downside is that because it doesn’t have onboard temperature controls, you need to pair it with your phone and use Breville’s free companion app every time you want to use it.
The best budget immersion circulator: Inkbird Sous Vide Precision Cooker (ISV-200W)
For those who want to try out sous vide cooking without dropping a bunch of money, Inkbird’s Precision Cooker is a great entry-level choice. While it’s not quite as powerful or fancy as more expensive rivals, it covers all the bases for just under $90 (and it’s often on sale for even less). Not only do you get a built-in screen with Wi-Fi connectivity, the Inkbird has a powerful heating element with a 0.1-degree Celsius accuracy. Cooking temps range from 77 degrees Fahrenheit to 210 degrees and with a timer setting that goes up to 99 hours, you can try to recreate some of those super long, multi-day recipes like you’ve seen on YouTube in your own kitchen.