Instructables
Picture of Sous vide cooker for less than $40
sous vide
[soo VEED]
French for "under vacuum," sous vide is a cooking process in which food is encased in an airtight plastic pouch (typically vacuum sealed) and cooked for a long period of time at a (precise) low temperature.  

Using traditional methods of cooking, you might put a steak on a 750 degree grill, attempting to get the center of the steak to a perfect medium-rare temperature of 130 degrees, without cooking the outside of the steak until it's gray and lifeless.  To make it even more difficult, even when you take the steak off the grill, the temperature of the center continues to increase due to the heat of the meat surrounding it.

The magic of sous vide is that you cook the entire piece of meat at the precise temperature you like.  To cook a steak to the perfect medium-rare temperature of 130 degrees, you cook the steak in 130 degree water.  It takes a lot longer to get a steak to 130 degrees by cooking at 130 degrees, but the benefits are worth it.

1) It's impossible to over-cook.  No part of the steak can get over cooked.
2) The entire steak, from "coast to coast" is exactly how you like it.
3) Timing is easy.  I usually cook my steaks for somewhere around six hours.  If your guests are late, an extra hour (or three) doesn't make any difference.
4) The fat in the steak is always perfectly rendered.  It's absolutely amazing how great inexpensive cuts of meat turn out when cooked sous vide for six hours.  

There are many sous vide cookers out there.  I'm more of a do-it-yourself (cheap) kind of guy, so I built my own sous vide cooker for less than $40.  The fancy, $500 cookers have water circulators and tenth-of-a-degree precision, but from my experience, that isn't necessary.  For $40, you can make absolutely incredible steak!
 
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I made this exactly as instructed and it's completely awesome. Have since made three more for friends. I don't even know how to read an electrical diagram. I also made the vacuum chamber, also awesome, inexpensive, and highly useful. Will think of you every time I sous vide my sockeye!
tony.decoste.5 made it!24 days ago

Been looking for a sous vide hack for a while now. Easy Project! Cooking the first batch of 147 degree eggs now. What's everyone's source for recipes? Found this chart which is helpful https://www.polyscienceculinary.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/Temp_Ref.jpg

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Here a easyer way.. To slow cook but its not Sous Vide per say as old as time.The "danger zone" according to the USDA is a window of time the meat is between 40F and 140F. That window of time should be no more than 2 hours. So how get around this?? And you want to get around this 140 overdone(medium) for a steak in my opinion 135 the perfect temp.. Easy pickled it, First I brine for 2 hours in at least a 20% salt bath, The I WASH IT a lot..Then I soak it in milk whey or kefir water for about 12 hour in a fridge fully covered.. (there no hostile bacteria left its been out competed, I know people that stored meat this way in a container with loose lib (nor air tight but secure) with 1/2 inch olive oil over the top to form a moisture seal for up to 6 years no refrigeration,basic Pickling) Now put it in the oven lowest setting (135 to 200) 12 hour later your good to eat Safe Soon as it internal temp 135!(now just turn it up to 500 and let it crisp/brown for 15 minutes or grab a blow torch! NOW EAT!) I do this with a 12 pound leg of lamb.They normally can not Sous Vide that big. But this way you can slow roast! Some one please try this with a camera!

For traditional sous vide, you aren't worried about the danger zone because you are vacuum sealing the food in a pouch while it is out of the zone, and then cooking it to a safe temp. If you are not using vacuum (like if you are using ziplock bags) then you should limit the cooking time to two hours or less.

oh remember to season it..lol forgot..here my favorite for lamb


  1. 1/2 cup rosemary leaves, minced
  2. 1/2 thyme leaves
  3. 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  4. 2 tablespoons Whole Dijon mustard
  5. 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  6. 1/2 cup honey
  7. Sage
  8. Lavender food grade
  9. Salt
  10. Ground black pepper
burkelashell (author) 2 months ago

Here's another take on the sous vide cooker by 24Eng. He uses a lot of the same ideas, but adds a 3.5 mm plug for the temperature controller, and a clever method to keep the temperature controller away from the sides of the cooker.

http://www.instructables.com/id/Sous-Vide-Oven-Controller/

pj627754 months ago
Great Instructable. I followed everything and got it working. I'm having a problem with over cooking. I put a steak in this morning for 4 hours at 135 and it's too done. I like my steak medium rare. What am I doing wrong?
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burkelashell (author)  pj627753 months ago

If you don't want that steak, I'll eat it! ;-)

One of the limitations of this cooker is the lack of a circulation pump to circulate the water and keep the temperature equal everywhere.

Three thoughts:

1) I like to put two separate vacuum packs with the temperature probe in between them. One pack tends to get cooked a little more than the other (which is good when you have multiple people eating with different preferences).

2) You might try some sort of "stand" to keep the steak off the bottom of the pot.

3) Try moving the probe around and see if there are "hot spots", and then try to adjust.

Let us know if you make an adjustment that improves your results.

-Burke

While poking around for DIY sous vide cookers I came across several that used an aquarium air pump and an air stone to circulate the water by bubbling air into water bath.

binarymein4 months ago

I made this a while ago and have been using it weekly at minimum ever since. Just now near the end of some 32 hour ribs, I found the controller displaying "HHH" instead of the temp. luckily I caught it before temps dropped into the danger zone but what is wrong with it? Maybe the sensor got water in it because of the extended soak time?

burkelashell (author)  binarymein4 months ago

I've never seen that. From my brief research, that looks like HHH means that the temperature is above the maximum temperature (but with this setup, that's impossible).

Were you able to reset the controller? Is it working now? If not, my guess would be that the probe is faulty.

After sitting about 3 hours outside the water bath I just tried it again. Said 121 degrees (obviously wrong) at first, then I touched it and it went to HHH again. I'll let it sit a few days and see if its maybe just water inside the sensor. Otherwise a 2 wire sensor off ebay is likely to fix it right? Thanks for finding out what the HHH means!
burkelashell (author)  binarymein4 months ago

>> Otherwise a 2 wire sensor off ebay is likely to fix it right?

I think so. The good news is that it'll cost you less than $5 (shipped) to find out.

blissb4 months ago

This is great! I made a couple of minor modifications to save money -- used a different box and didn't use the C14 receptacle. Came in less than $26! Thanks for this. Wish I'd thought of sacrificing an extension cord rather than getting the outlet -- I could have saved a couple more dollars. I was seriously starting to consider spending the $200+ on a pre-made. Now, I'm going to make a couple more of these for friends!

Colorado_Al made it!4 months ago

That is awesome! Thanks for the instructable! After reading your design, I ordered a similar controller, a project box and 6ft grounded extension cord. Foregoing the receptacle and outlet cut costs considerably. Mine came in at $29.70 for the controller. If I had been willing to wait for shipping from China, I could have saved $2.41, but I figured it was worth the extra to get the controller in 2 days by Amazon Prime.

Here is my parts list:

110v °F Controller with thermocouple http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00F05UI8O (If you choose "more buying choices" you can select one shipped by Amazon from the USA)

4.7"x4.7" Project box http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B007POB8PK/

6' grounded extension cord http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0002J1KS0

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burkelashell (author)  Colorado_Al4 months ago

Nice, clean build! Well done!

Maybe I should change the name of the Instructable to "Sous vide cooker for less than $30" ;-)

Thanks! Couldn't have done it without your instructions. I've used it 3 times now and my wife went from extremely skeptical to asking what else we can use it for!

vatoniolo made it!4 months ago

Mine has cost me under $15 thus far... controller was $14 and a 90 cent box from my local thrift store. The same thrift store has a variety of crock pots for around $5, so even after the wire connectors I might stay under $20

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burkelashell (author)  vatoniolo4 months ago

I love the box. I'm not sure what my favorite thing about it is:

1) It's cheaper than the plastic box I used

2) It's easier to work with than the hard plastic.

3) It looks so freaking cool.

Nice job!

I'd make sure that the cord you are using can handle the load. I think the controller is rated at 10A, not sure how much your crock pot will draw. I like the bamboo box!

Excellent point. It states max 1625 watts so I have to keep it under 13 amps total, but I doubt a small crock pot will draw more than 2 amps...

Byte_M35 months ago

Built this sous vide sometime ago, and I've been using it a lot. Thanks for the awesome guide!

Did you ever play around with the settings of the controller? I didn't get much of a manual with mine. I was hoping there are some settings to make it more accurate, but I can't make mucht sense of it.

I also had a broken thermosensor. Fixed it by baking it in an oven at 90 degrees C overnight, figured water had gotten inside. Now it's working fine again, but I am now protecting it with a thin plastic bag from the water.

fns7209 months ago
I built this and I designed a compact 3d printable case to the controller device - it's free, you can download it from Thingiverse: http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:188649
Byte_M3 fns7205 months ago

Thanks! I might try this if my other plan fails. For now I took a automatic timer switch, cut off the timer, installed the controller, and designed a 3D printed housing for it. Just waiting for the last parts for my printer to arrive (heated bed).

burkelashell (author)  fns7209 months ago
Wow. That's very cool. Very nicely done!
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fhaller5 months ago

This looks like a great project and I am going to build it, but have a question about making it a dual-purpose rig. This temp sensor is clearly for submersion. Do you believe this same design would work as a controller for a wood smoker if it had a different temp sensor attached? If so do you happen to have any recommendation? I was thinking of using a micro-plug in the controller box to make it easy to swap between the two temp sensors...

burkelashell (author)  fhaller5 months ago
I can't think of a reason it wouldn't work. Just be sure your sensor and controller can handle the temperature range, and you'll be good.
wlee175 months ago

My temperature controller immediately blew when I turned the power on. My lamp survived the trip though. My wires seem to be in place. Any idea on what could have happened? I'm using 220v.

burkelashell (author)  wlee175 months ago

That's a bummer. I'm sorry to hear it.

One way to troubleshoot would be to connect only the power (connections 3 & 4), and the temperature probe. If the controller powers up, lets you set it, and displays the temperature, you know you have a couple of the wires correct. Then, you can add additional wires.

I hope that helps.

bennelson made it!5 months ago

I built one, just using an enclosure I had kicking around. Working pretty good so far. If you add a Kill A Watt, you can also track power and total cooking energy. For anyone wondering, my Crock-Pot uses 160 watts on high and 90 watts on low, and a simple emersion "tea cup heater" runs at 70 watts.

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jaredshearer made it!5 months ago

One word: Awesome. I'll never cook steak any other way.

I find that I need to set it a few degrees F lower than I want it to hold at as the lack of water circulation causes it to overshoot the target temperature by a few degrees. I did calibrate my temperature controller. It might be that I should try it with the slow cooker on low instead of high, but I haven't tried it.

The only "tough" part of the construction was keeping the connectors on the pins of the C14 receptacle while I pushed the top down onto the base. They must have popped off twenty times! Hard wiring the cord in there would have been easier, but being able to remove it is really convenient.

Thanks for the great write-up!

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burkelashell (author)  jaredshearer5 months ago
That's some great looking steak. Nice job!
pindash6 months ago

I seem to have burnt out my last controler with a pot that says 1000watts. Does that make sense and should I be worried about plugging it into the new controller or was the previous one defective.

burkelashell (author)  pindash6 months ago

That really shouldn't burn out your controller. Give it more try. Connect only the power and the probe and see if it works. It might not be dead after all.

shavig6 months ago
(removed by author or community request)
burkelashell (author)  shavig6 months ago

By fluctuation, do you mean variance of temperature in different parts of your crock pot? Or, do you mean that there is a big swing from too low to too high? The controller should turn on when the temperature is below the set temp, and off when the temperature is above the set temp. That should keep things in a nice narrow temperature band.

thanks for quick reply, I mean that if I were to set to 50, it will drop to 49 then rapidly jump to 54, then drop back very slowly to 49, then loop and do again, so it spends very little time at the set temp, the only thing i can think to do is set it 4 degrees lower than desired temp and add cooking time, but i dont know if that might be unsafe to cook some things, am missing something?

SQWIB shavig6 months ago

@Shavig This may have something to do with your method of heating the water. I have a roaster and on my roaster I had a 5.4°F differential using a celsius temperature controller, I swapped it out for a Fahrenheit controller and now get a swing of 3.7°F . A rice cooker or Coffee urn should have less of a swing than a crock pot or roaster due to their design.

It should never go lower than your Low Limit but what happens is you get carry over heat (Convection) from the appliance, this is where the temp swing is coming from.

If you want more precise temps, your going to need a PID controller

The burkashell controller works great and has its place, but is not great for precision cooking.

@Bhole they are recommending Solid State Relays for builds that are using higher wattage items such as the immersion heaters, this relay in this controller works fine on a Roaster, Crock, Coffee Urn, Rice cooker.

I strongly suggest a circulator but beware if running temps higher than 160° it may melt.

Also make sure to calibrate the controller with a high quality thermometer such as a Thermapen

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I love the project, but you've got the neutral on the wrong side of the receptacle.
teeps6 months ago

Shipping from China takes forever. You can get the same prices fulfilled by Amazon with Prime shipping :

thermostat: http://amzn.to/1ldbaLe

socket: http://bit.ly/c14socket

project box: http://amzn.to/1cIGvAh

Thanks for the awesome instructable!

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