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Thread: Sous vide cooking, on the cheap

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    Sous vide cooking, on the cheap

    Gene Cafe Coffee Roaster $850 - Free Beans Free Freight
    I've been tempted to try sous vide cooking for a while but the price of a proper sous vide set up put me off. Then I recently discovered a guy in Adelaide who makes sous vide pid controllers that you linkup to a rice cooker, almost correto style.

    I was a little cynical that it could operate as good as a $1,000+ sous vide machine, but for $140 I thought I'd give it a go. Having tried it, I'm delighted to say it works great. I have it linked up to an $80 rice cooker, so the whole setup cost me $220.

    I'm not sure of the rules of linking to non-sponsor sites, but I'm happy to recommend them via PM.

    Cheers
    Jonathon

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    Does it use an osPID by any chance?

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    Sous vide cooking, on the cheap

    It used the XMT7100 pid, which is a pretty cheap pid you can pick up online for about $30. Throw in a $3 thermocouple and you could build it even cheaper.

    Does make me wonder why some Silvia pids are so expensive, with even the $120 Silvia pids being considered cheap!

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    Senior Member trentski's Avatar
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    The DIY sous vides that I have seen use a slow cooker.

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    Sous vide cooking, on the cheap

    I've read that using a slow cooker, rather than a rice cooker, is problematic because the slow cooker isn't as reactive as the rice cooker, i.e. it doesn't heat up as quickly. But that's just what I've read and might be complete rubbish.

    I've also seen lots of Americans online use those large coffee urns attached to a sous vide PID...well at least it's better than using them to make that dark liquid they call coffee.

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    I made myself one. I used a Sestos PID controller (was $40 with SSR and PT100 probe) which I put into a metal box (from Jaycar, I think). I paired this with a $19 rice cooker from KMart (the cheapest decent sized one I could find). The whole thing works quite well. I will probably get another to PID my silvia when it arrives - but I can't find the right probe to stick into a silvia easily.

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    Senior Member yabba's Avatar
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    Hi All,

    My brother has been into this for awhile and raves about the results hence after months of rattling in my ear I have caught the bug. He has been using a temp controller and slow cooker as mentioned above. I have bitten the bullet and have just started my build of a sous vide "machine". As the temp variances are very minimal between different finishing results such as a medium steak to medium rare, fish, chicken or veg it is difficult to entertain with only one water bath. Combining this with my obsessive approach to everything I am in the process of building a three bath system to allow for multiple meats and / or "doneness". There is one point that hasn't been mentioned yet and that is water circulation. That is the one thing the machines such as the sous vide supreme has over the cheaper alternatives. As there is such minute differences in how the meat turns out based on small temp changes the circulation prevents the hot and cold spots hence a consistent result.
    I have bought all the materials except the esky which I get tomorrow. Each bath is costing me around $38 with a few extra dollars needed for jiffy boxes and a power chord per bath - so lets say $50 - $60. Each bath has its own 1.5kw heating element, submersible water pump for circulation and controlled by its own controller. While I am over the top, to run a basic system with a slow cooker or rice cooker would only cost about $30 - $35 for a temp controller setup and working.
    If people are interested I'm more than happy to post pictures of the build or PM for parts details.

    Cheers Bryan

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    Sous vide cooking, on the cheap

    Quote Originally Posted by yabba View Post
    If people are interested I'm more than happy to post pictures of the build.
    Yes please!

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    Sous vide cooking is awesome. Great results and hard to stuff up.

    I'm sure you guys already know this, but just in case you don't, please read up on "botulism" before exploring sous vide cooking - you could save yourself a trip to the hospital.

    Happy cooking!

    Gavin.

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    guys, You dont even need the $50 PID for this.
    For the temperatures of SV cooking .. 50-80 C ?.. the electronic temp controllers used for brewing and Aquarium control are ideal.
    They hold +- first crack and cost <$20 complete with thermocouple and an inbuilt power relay. .. Ebay is full of them.

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    Senior Member yabba's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by blend52 View Post
    guys, You dont even need the $50 PID for this.
    For the temperatures of SV cooking .. 50-80 C ?.. the electronic temp controllers used for brewing and Aquarium control are ideal.
    They hold +- first crack and cost <$20 complete with thermocouple and an inbuilt power relay. .. Ebay is full of them.
    Hi Blend I agree that the temp controllers for brewing are good enough (that's my background) and mine are mid $20, two channel (heating and cooling). I have tried to find aquarium heaters but none I have seen go that high (well not officially). It would make life a lot easier than elements however I cant find any. I better get my contacts checked....

    Cheers Bryan.

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    Quote Originally Posted by blend52 View Post
    guys, You dont even need the $50 PID for this.
    For the temperatures of SV cooking .. 50-80 C ?.. the electronic temp controllers used for brewing and Aquarium control are ideal.
    They hold +- first crack and cost <$20 complete with thermocouple and an inbuilt power relay. .. Ebay is full of them.
    whether you need PID or just bang-bang control depends on the thermal inertia of your system and what sort of delays are inbuilt. a friend of mine does sous vide with a bang-bang controller (with deadband+hysteresis) and it works well for a slow cooker but doesn't work for a kettle.

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    Sous vide cooking, on the cheap

    Quote Originally Posted by Hildy View Post
    whether you need PID or just bang-bang control depends on the thermal inertia of your system and what sort of delays are inbuilt. a friend of mine does sous vide with a bang-bang controller (with deadband+hysteresis) and it works well for a slow cooker but doesn't work for a kettle.
    Yes the thermal inertia is hugely important, if you have a water bath at 53 degrees and you drop in a couple of steaks at say 11 degrees, then the water bath is going to drop by at least 1-2 degrees.

    How quickly it gets back to your desired temp but not above it is very important, too long at even 1 degree above your desired temp can overcook the food.

    A well-programmed PID will do this reasonably well, but I don't know anything about home brew heaters, are they that accurate in a short period of time? For example, can they take 15 litres of water from 50 degrees to 53 degrees in a couple of minutes but on the way to stabilising at 53 not take it over 54? (assuming some kind of water distribution in the tank)

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    Senior Member yabba's Avatar
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    As I mentioned I was building a Sous Vide cooker. While I was originally going to build a triple cooker from a 100 ltr esky I decided that 3 x 35 ltr cookers would be better. Here is the finished cooker except for a grill over the element to stop the plastic bags touching them.

    The element is 1500w and the pump is 200 LPH. I am letting some silicon cure so I should be able to test run it tomorrow. I will interested to see what the temp control is like.

    Cheers Yabba
    Attached Images Attached Images

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    Sous vide cooking, on the cheap

    Looks very well done, great job.

    Is the element home brew-specific or a general heating element? How does it go at holding a set temperature?

    Is the controller a PID with some kind of intelligent control or a simple on/off thermostat?

    Would be keen to see a parts list, my current setup is too small for large chunks of meat but your setup would be perfect.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jonathon View Post
    How quickly it gets back to your desired temp but not above it is very important, too long at even 1 degree above your desired temp can overcook the food.

    A well-programmed PID will do this reasonably well, but I don't know anything about home brew heaters, .
    I think you may have mis understood my point about PID vs Electronic controllers.
    I am only refering to the temp CONTROL ..not the type or size of heaters used..that is a separate issue.
    No controller can prevent the system temp drop when you add cold food. As you say, that is down to the "Thermal Mass".
    how quickly the temp recovers is a function of the heater size (power) and the thermal mass.
    Control sensitivity is down to the controller system.
    PID's are designed to carefully control to fractions of a degree. Electronic controllers will control temp within 1 or 2 degrees.

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    Senior Member yabba's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jonathon View Post
    Looks very well done, great job.

    Is the element home brew-specific or a general heating element? How does it go at holding a set temperature?

    Is the controller a PID with some kind of intelligent control or a simple on/off thermostat?

    Would be keen to see a parts list, my current setup is too small for large chunks of meat but your setup would be perfect.
    Hi Jonathon,

    The element is a basic kettle style element (1500w). Brewing elements used for the boil are usually higher wattage as the goal is to allow rapid boil / evaporation of large volumes of wort. I had contemplated using a 2200 w unit however I wanted lower output to allow for slow / lower heating bursts. The thing with sous vide is that the meats internal temp will mostly be below the water bath temp drawing temp / energy inwards within the meat as once meat temperature is equal to the water bath the cooking is complete apart from secondary benefits of tenderness etc. The controller is just an on/off type rated to +/- 1 C. Blend is correct re the tighter control of a PID type however considering that there is a 6 degree c difference in the finished temperature of meat cooked to medium versus medium well meat I'm not too concerned with 1 degree variations in water temp and hence finished meat temp. Where I would / should have run a PID is with eggs where there is a marked difference in the finished product with 1 degree variations.
    As for "temp control" I am going to run a test to track stability and temp variations and will let you know. I am still not convinced that I shouldn't have used the 2200 w element and if there is a lag in reheating times I will probably use one for the next build, likewise a PID if target temps aren't maintained within reasonable limits.

    Cheers Yabba

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    Senior Member yabba's Avatar
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    OK I have run a batch of water through it and mapped the temp control. From a start temp of 30.2 from the tap it took 20 minutes (19min 19 sec) to reach the 63 degrees set. With the momentum it over shot to 63.7. I dropped a 600 gram cooler block in to mimic meat insertion. The temperature dropped to 62.7 (it has a .3 variance for switching) triggering heating. Temp dropped to 62.5 before increasing and rotated between 63.3 and 62.7.

    I'm very happy with the control. I am a little suspicious to the true zero of it so I may need to calibrate it or allow for temp variances. I think it maybe 1 degree low.

    Cheers Yabba

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    Sous vide cooking, on the cheap

    That control is excellent, up there with a $1,000 polyscience machine.

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    Re: Sous vide cooking, on the cheap

    If you are able to stir you may find you get less overshoot (as the measured temperature will be closer to the mean bulk temperature.

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    Sous vide cooking, on the cheap

    Quote Originally Posted by MrJack View Post
    If you are able to stir you may find you get less overshoot (as the measured temperature will be closer to the mean bulk temperature.
    I think he had a water pump running, which would have stirred the water fairly vigorously.

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    Re: Sous vide cooking, on the cheap

    No worries then. Didnt notice that in the pic.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MrJack View Post
    If you are able to stir you may find you get less overshoot (as the measured temperature will be closer to the mean bulk temperature.
    Hi Mr Jack, Although there is a pump I think what your saying is still correct. What I'm getting at is that I have a 200 LPH pump which I thought would be quite turbulent however it is actually quite calm and slow moving. I think that a larger volume pump may help as you mentioned especially when water flow is restricted by bags of food.


    Cheers Yabba

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    Sous vide cooking, on the cheap

    I wonder if you introduce too much air, through a more vigorous pump, would that affect the temperature?

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    Re: Sous vide cooking, on the cheap

    Is the pump outlet aimed at the heating element?

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    Senior Member yabba's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MrJack View Post
    Is the pump outlet aimed at the heating element?
    yes.

    Cheers Yabba

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    I've just picked up a sous vide circulator from Anova, a US company. They do a 220v version for $200, with shipping and forex it cost me A$300 all up.

    www.sousvides.com

    It arrived about a week after ordering. It looks great (much better than my rice cooker PID setup) and works a treat.

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    Senior Member Barry O'Speedwagon's Avatar
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    Stupid question....do you need to vacuum seal the food portions prior to immersing, or can they just go in something like a plastic sandwich bag?

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    Best to vacuum seal... air pockets are insulators and not great from a food safety perspective. However, one can apparently do a decent job with a zip lock bag by putting food in, slowly lowering the bag into a bowl of water displacing air until you reach the zip lock level, then lock the bag up.

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    Thanks kwantfm. This sounds like my next cooking experiment.

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    Quote Originally Posted by kwantfm View Post
    Best to vacuum seal... air pockets are insulators and not great from a food safety perspective. However, one can apparently do a decent job with a zip lock bag by putting food in, slowly lowering the bag into a bowl of water displacing air until you reach the zip lock level, then lock the bag up.
    Yes you can definitely do this with a regular zip lock bag, with a little practice it's quite easy and effective. In fact if I'm cooking something soft like fish them this is better as a vacuum machine can squish the fish. It's also a better approach if you're putting a liquid with the food...unless you have a $3k vacuum chamber.

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    The one food you can cook unbagged is eggs, 63 degrees for an hour. But it's a bit gimmicky, not a patch on properly poached eggs, but worth trying.

    Also, you can confit a piece of meat by putting it (unbagged) into a suitable container full of oil and floating that container in the water bath. As long as the container is the right material the oil will remain the same temp as the water.

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    Senior Member Barry O'Speedwagon's Avatar
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    Thanks Jonathon. I'd certainly give the eggs a go ( I experiment with lots of weird methods of poaching them e.g. wrapped in cling film with salt, pepper and tarragon).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Barry O'Speedwagon View Post
    Thanks Jonathon. I'd certainly give the eggs a go ( I experiment with lots of weird methods of poaching them e.g. wrapped in cling film with salt, pepper and tarragon).
    Modernist Cuisine by Nathan Myrvhold has a lot of great ideas for sous vide eggs. I only have the home version of the book, maybe Santa will be good to me.

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    Bean Powered Member jaybee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jonathon View Post
    I've just picked up a sous vide circulator from Anova, a US company. They do a 220v version for $200, with shipping and forex it cost me A$300 all up.

    Sous Vide Water bath & Circulators By Anova

    It arrived about a week after ordering. It looks great (much better than my rice cooker PID setup) and works a treat.
    How about a machine for less? Sunbeam MU4000 Duos Sous Vide 5L Slow Cooker at The Good Guys

    I bought one a while back and it seems to do the job ok, and is a brilliant slow cooker too!

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    Quote Originally Posted by jaybee View Post
    How about a machine for less? Sunbeam MU4000 Duos Sous Vide 5L Slow Cooker at The Good Guys

    I bought one a while back and it seems to do the job ok, and is a brilliant slow cooker too!
    At that price it's a screaming bargain, but all the reviews I've read mention 2 things:
    1) it can only be set in increments of 1 degree; and
    2) it's pretty poor at temperature stability, swaying a couple of degrees either side of the desired temperature.

    1 degree increments might seem trivial, but for steak left in for 75 mins there's a noticeable difference between 53.0 and 53.5. That said, for the price it would still be a bargain.

    But if the temp isn't stable...what's been your experience with its temp stability Jaybee?

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    Senior Member Barry O'Speedwagon's Avatar
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    I reckon I'll get shot if end up storing another large kitchen appliance in the linen cupboard (in addition to the existing slow cooker, pressure cooker, auxiliary back-up reserve food processor, and green coffee beans), so maybe the immersion circulator might be better for family harmony

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    And the immersion circulator can be used in any size container, so if you need to cook a load of steaks ahead of a barbecue you can use it in a large esky or even a fish tank.

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    I have been doing small sous vide for some time, using a home made PID control box and a Kambrook multi cooker / deep fryer. Works very well for up to 3 decent size steaks.

    Several months ago, there was a large BBQ planned, 20 steaks about 300g each so i knocked up this 50L tub version out of what i had lying around from brewing and bits around the home. Even if you had to buy some of this, it still works out cheaper for the size, more accurate and robust than anything you can buy out of a box for the home. Quality 2400W hand held immersion element $120, the 12V pump rated for 100 degrees C and food grade around $35, Sestos PID and bits n pieces $50.

    IMAG0097.jpg

  40. #40
    Bean Powered Member jaybee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jonathon View Post
    At that price it's a screaming bargain, but all the reviews I've read mention 2 things:
    1) it can only be set in increments of 1 degree; and
    2) it's pretty poor at temperature stability, swaying a couple of degrees either side of the desired temperature.

    1 degree increments might seem trivial, but for steak left in for 75 mins there's a noticeable difference between 53.0 and 53.5. That said, for the price it would still be a bargain.

    But if the temp isn't stable...what's been your experience with its temp stability Jaybee?
    One day I may do a temp profile of it to see how it looks. But it works ok and the results seem consistent, although I'm no Heston!

    As

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    Quote Originally Posted by Barry O'Speedwagon View Post
    I reckon I'll get shot if end up storing another large kitchen appliance in the linen cupboard (in addition to the existing slow cooker, pressure cooker, auxiliary back-up reserve food processor, and green coffee beans), so maybe the immersion circulator might be better for family harmony
    Thankfully, the built in slow cooker meant that it was out on the bench for almost the entire winter! Gathering dust now unless Salmon is on the menu...

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    Quote Originally Posted by jaybee View Post
    Thankfully, the built in slow cooker meant that it was out on the bench for almost the entire winter! Gathering dust now unless Salmon is on the menu...
    I do think most of the general population has no idea what they're missing out on. Whether it's sous vide or traditional slow cooking, the way slow cooked meat tastes after it's been cooked for half a day or more is phenomenal.

    I recently did beef short ribs for 75 hours in the sous vide. They cost me $8 for 3 good servings and after 80 hours they were stunning.

  43. #43
    Senior Member Yelta's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jonathon View Post
    I do think most of the general population has no idea what they're missing out on. Whether it's sous vide or traditional slow cooking, the way slow cooked meat tastes after it's been cooked for half a day or more is phenomenal.
    Morning Jonathon, qualifier needed here, most of the general population under the age of 40 have no idea of what they are missing, cooking skills have been declining fast since the mid 7o's.

    Of course we oldies well remember Mums stew, braises and pea soup simmering away on the stove for most of the day.

    Oh for the days of real food.

    PS we still use a crock pot (nowadays refereed to as a slow cooker) in our home.
    Last edited by Yelta; 27th November 2013 at 11:06 AM. Reason: remembered what I forgot.

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    I purchased a couple of Sous Vide Supreme minis quite a while ago, people still rave about the steaks we serve out, and I've also found results for fish to be superb. I've had one go with chicken and it was not great. I've also done eggs a couple of times but totally agree with Jonathon that my preference is a good poached egg over a sous vide egg any time.

    If I had my time over again and could purchase what is available now I'd definitely go with a good value immersion circulator, it takes less space, is more adaptable and provides tighter temperature control because of the circulation. Having said that the tighter temperature control is probably really useful for specific cooking needs such as eggs which I've already written I don't really do...

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    Yep eggs are no good. But chicken can be superb - not so much for a chunk of meat to eat as is, but for putting into a salad it's wonderful.

    I rarely do non-proteins in the sous vide, but the one I really like is carrot. 85 degrees for 25-30 mins and the flavour concentrates beautifully.



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