Nom Nom Paleo

Hacking Your Own Sous Vide Machine

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It’s no secret that I love my SousVide Supreme.

It’s perfect for daily meal planning, emergency meals, and prepping lots of protein when I’m throwing a party. As long as you know the final serving temperature and the minimum cooking time for the item your making, you’re golden. Just fill it with agua, set the temperature, dump in your vacuum-sealed food, and forget it. The machine has such a large capacity that you can cook lots of meat which you can freeze for many months or refrigerate for up to a week. It’s perfect for those of us who crave good eats but can’t afford to slave over a hot stove every night. Using a water oven has completely revolutionized the way I cook, and I’m constantly extolling its virtues to whoever will listen.

And it’s not just ‘cause I’m a windbag.

Unfortunately, sous vide machinery can cost mucho dinero: thousands for commercial-grade and hundreds for home-use models (e.g. SousVideMagic and SousVide Supreme — even the smaller SousVide Supreme Demi ain’t exactly cheap). However, if you’re a 21st century MacGyver, you can MAKE your own sous vide contraptions!

Make Magazine just posted in-depth, step-by-step instructions on how to construct your own sous vide immersion cooker. This project costs only about $75 and after 5-6 hours of tinkering, you end up with a nifty

portable device that heats and circulates water while maintaining a temperature accurate within 0.1°C. And unlike the SousVide Supreme, it mounts easily onto larger containers, up to about 15 gallons, for greater cooking capacity.

Since I’m not mechanically inclined, I’d never attempt a DIY sous vide machine. I’d rather plunk down the dough than risk electrocution (me + water + electricity = quick, horrific death and bad hair). But for all you engineers out there, game on!

Seventy-five bucks still too steep? The cheapest DIY sous vide apparatus is the beer cooler get-up described on the Serious Eats website back in April.

For about $25, you can transform a lowly plastic beer cooler into your very own reliable water bath!!! Why the three exclamation points? ‘Cause this is a very big deal: With this cheapo hack, your cooking results are INDISTINGUISHABLE from those you’d get when cooking with a SousVide Supreme or other pricey water bath gear. Yes, you’ll have to more frequently monitor your food during the cooking process, but at least you won’t run the risk of accidentally electrocuting yourself to death. 

(Lifehacker has an even better method on how to rejigger a beer cooler into a sous vide cooker. Click here for instructions.)

What? You don’t want to shell out for a vacuum sealer, either? Quit yer whining! You don’t need one if you use the Ziploc water displacement method shown in Douglas Baldwin's video.

So what are you waiting for? Get your sous vide on!