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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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Funkspieler2 years ago
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!
Fabri10 months ago
I Made my sous vide controller last week and I'm using a deep fryer.
Even if your instructions are created and simple, I had some trouble wiring all the connections.
I cocked a beef steak and some salmon perfectly and I'm going on experimenting other recipes.
Thank you for this wonderful Instructables

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BrianN10 Fabri12 days ago

I used a fryer as well...did you have to keep resetting the heat everytime the fryer cycled back on?

Fabri BrianN108 days ago
no I don't. The controller turns on and off the fryer as it gets the right temperature.
rehpotsirhc Fabri9 months ago

How many watts is your deep fryer? I was thinking about using a Nesco roaster for more volume but at 1450 Watts it comes to around 13 amps, exceeeding the max amperage of the controller.

My Fryer is 1200 W. But i don't understand anything about technical stuff :)
I just followed the instruction and the scheme to make the right connections, and it works.
rudivs made it!11 days ago

So simple to make, and so versatile! Used it with a slow cooker so far for amazing eggs and steak, and then plugged the heater in and used it for climate control :-).

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burkelashell (author)  rudivs11 days ago
Very nice, clean implementation. Well done!
jjnemec11 days ago

I built one of these and am having a blast working with it. Built it even cheaper, used an old computer power supply for the plug and the wiring! This wiring diagram was helpful. Just hook to the hot side not the cold side.

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burkelashell (author)  jjnemec11 days ago
Nicely done! The selection of the box certainly changes the "personality" of the project. I definitely like the personality of yours.
schwing7 months ago

Awesome project. I'm a bit confused about the wiring. Wiring diagram appears to be different than wire configuration in photos. Specifically, wires connected to pin 3 and 4 on temp controller. Which one is correct?

burkelashell (author)  schwing7 months ago
Good eye! You can swap hot/neutral on pins 3 and 4 with no impact. So, either one is correct (but it would have been a better Instructable if I made the picture and diagram match).

I was noticing that today as I was building this...bu I figured both 3 and 4 pins were basically the same...I went with what you typed, not with the pic..works great

BrianN1012 days ago

I just made this..tried using it with my home deep fryer..works ok but when the fryer turns back on I have to reset the the temp. So it's kind of a pain in the butt..have to stay near the fryer to listen for the beep...I will try the slow cooker tomorrow

dapackers made it!2 months ago

Works great with an 18 quart roaster oven. Did 30 pounds of brisket for 48 hours and it turned out as tender as a tenderloin steak! In 24 hours tough spare ribs just fall off the bones. Also ideal for maintaining the proper serving temperature.

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atgdesign4 months ago
pa0lab00m5 months ago

Great tutorial! I want to build one for my boyfriend who's a non-believer of sous vide without having to shell out a couple of hundred USDs. We are here in the Philippines and our sockets are at 220v. Is there any difference on how should how I get parts?

burkelashell (author)  pa0lab00m5 months ago
Be sure you get a 220v temperature controller.

Other than that, I don't know how 220v differs from 110v? I assume that it'll be wired very similar, but I don't know because I've never worked with 220.
to.cor.145 months ago

I am planning my build using a countertop food warmer http://www.webstaurantstore.com/avantco-w50-12-x-20-electric-countertop-food-warmer-120v-1200w/177W50.html or a roaster oven

http://www.webstaurantstore.com/proctor-silex-32918-18-qt-roaster-oven-warmer-120v-1440w/41032918.html to allow for cooking more product. I believe the food warmer may have space to allow embedding the controller inside the box itself. If not, a smaller electrical box can be used to house the temperature controller and connected external to the food warmer/roaster oven.

pa0lab00m5 months ago

Great tutorial! I want to build one for my boyfriend who's a non-believer of sous vide without having to shell out a couple of hundred USDs. We are here in the Philippines and our sockets are at 220v. Is there any difference on how should how I get parts?

CoryKS6 months ago

I made this and it's wonderful! Took some experimenting but finally got it right on the third try. Thanks so much, burkelashell!

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tgodkin6 months ago

You sure polarity is wrong? Wired it as shown, put it together then checked polarity with a tester. Perhaps the image of the C14 is difficult to interpret. Are we looking at the front or the back?

Works like a charm and will probably make more.

Does that temperature controller remember the last setting? I was thinking about adding a programmable timer relay so I can have an auto on/off function, but that would only work if the temperature controller remembers the last setting after losing power.

Yes, it remembers the last setting. You don't really need the programmable timer, though. Just start your dinner when you leave in the morning, and it'll be perfect whenever you are ready for dinner. You can't over-cook with sous vide.

Thanks!

I actually sous vide eggs in shell (a poached egg) for breakfast, but they only take an hour at 63 C. Delicate proteins like the ones in eggs can definitely overcook if left in the oven a long time, for instance, overnight, or even an extra hour.

A $7 programmable timer means I can drop the eggs in at night and set it to start cooking an hour before I wake up. Perfect eggs with no work. Plus, it means my Crock Pot is temperature-controlled and time-controlled.

But you're generally right, meat is more forgiving and can be cooked for many extra hours without adverse effects.

toweyb made it!6 months ago

$40 is for the deluxe version. I used a fixed power cord and double
outlet from my used parts bin. Total cost was under $25. Otherwise I
made it exactly as described, and it works perfectly. I plan to
calibrate it against my digital fever thermometer. If they agree on my
body temp, hooray; if not, I'll know to adjust. Hope the probe doesn't
taste bad! I have admired a lot of Instructables, but this is the first
one that had me ordering parts on the spot. Thanks!!

I Made the Instructables Sous Vide Controller.jpg
toweyb made it!6 months ago

$40 is for the deluxe version. I used a fixed power cord and double outlet from my used parts bin. Total cost was under $25. Otherwise I made it exactly as described, and it works perfectly. I plan to calibrate it against my digital fever thermometer. If they agree on my body temp, hooray; if not, I'll know to adjust. Hope the probe doesn't taste bad! I have admired a lot of Instructables, but this is the first one that had me ordering parts on the spot. Thanks!!

I Made the Instructables Sous Vide Controller.jpg
toweyb made it!6 months ago

I saved a few bucks with a double outlet and a fixed power cord, both from my used parts bin. Otherwise I made it exactly as described, and it works perfectly. I have admired a lot of Instructables but this is the first one that had me ordering parts on the spot. The total price was well under $40--more like $25. Thanks!!

I Made the Instructables Sous Vide Controller.jpg
Jaymenna78734 made it!6 months ago

I got the controller wired and the crock pot filled with water. I set the crock pot to Low and I set the controller for 100 Degrees (with a 1 degree accuracy) to test. Sure enough when it his 100 degrees the relay trips. (you can hear it in a quiet room) and the working light goes off. But my temperature continued to drift up for quite some time. 115+

I backed off on the crock pot heat: dropping it from Low to Warm and set the temperate for 137. (As Im desperate to try a steak and that particular temperature seems to come up a lot in posts on the web.) Took half an hour but it wouldn't go over 121.

So i left it at 137 and cranked the crock back up to low. Finally temperature

The programming instructions that came with my controller were unreadable : but I found some guidance here:

A cheap digital kitchen thermometer I have show the temperate as constantly 2 degrees higher than the controller.

I controller unit does get a tiny but warm, but its impercptable unless your fingers are directly on the unit.

I took the short cut making the unit. I simply cut an extension cord in half and put the controller "inline" I will box it up but Ill drill small oles in the box and simply tie knots inside making the cords unlikely to be pulled out of the terminals but accident.

Ill drop a cheap circulating pump not the mix here shortly: Cant imagine you need a heck of a lot of circulation at these long cook rates and relatively low volume of water.

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maozai837 months ago

what about this controller? $27.5 sold on ebay.http://www.ebay.com/itm/141553021483

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burkelashell (author)  maozai837 months ago
That looks like it would probably work the same way. DIY gives you much more geek "cred", but this controller will probably work, too.

Give it a try and let us know how it works for you.

It works great. Temp reading is accurate. I think it's helpful to someone who know nothing about electric..

And save time

aiannar9747 months ago
What do you set your difference value at or at what temp range does the switch kick on and off? I would think this needs to be pretty tight especially for things like eggs

Anthony
burkelashell (author)  aiannar9747 months ago
Look at the specifications of your temperature controller. Most seem to be 1 degree accuracy.
I agree. But I thought they also had the ability to set the on point so if your goal was 135 you might set the on point at 5 deg and it would kick on when it dropped to 130deg. I saw at least one like this maybe they are not all like this
aiannar9747 months ago
Hello - how does the temp controller listed here compare to a PID? Big difference in cost and more sophisticated feedback, but does it matter for this?


Anthony
burkelashell (author)  aiannar9747 months ago
I haven't used a PID controller, but I think your analysis is correct: the temp controller is cheaper and does what you need.
fly-fast made it!7 months ago

This was fun to make. I made a few changes... I added a GFI, two pumps (each on own switch - so I can run just the sensor). Put both pumps inside box. Added LEDs. Upgraded temperature probe per the suggestion of the eBay seller you reference.

If you want pictures, let me know.

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burkelashell (author)  fly-fast7 months ago
I'd love to see pictures. It's really interesting to see the different boxes everyone finds to put it all in.
solarmax made it!7 months ago

Great instructions. Mine turned out perfect and my test run today with a round steak was great. Worth the $30 that I spent. Thanks!

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