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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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!
tgodkin18 days 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!21 days 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!21 days 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!21 days 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!27 days 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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maozai831 month ago

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

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burkelashell (author)  maozai831 month 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

schwing28 days 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)  schwing28 days 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).
aiannar9741 month 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)  aiannar9741 month 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
aiannar9741 month 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)  aiannar9741 month 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!1 month 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.

Updated Electrical Wiring.jpg
burkelashell (author)  fly-fast1 month 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!1 month 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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burkelashell (author)  solarmax1 month ago
Very nicely done. That round steak looks perfect.
timsk made it!2 months ago

I decided to do this using a cooler, and I'm very pleased with the result. :)

Parts list (with links for buying them in the UK):
• cooler: £19.99 if you don't already have one http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B0001MQ8E4
• 4mm acrylic sheet big enough to cover your cooler: ~£14 http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/200980451609
• cup boiler: £13.75 http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B007OVCSSU
• digital temperature controller with thermocouple: £10.18 http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/171472800127
• project box: £3.75 from Maplin
• 4W submersible aquarium pump: £5.99 http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00LZNM770
• Sugru: 2 x 5g blue + 1 x 5g white to make colour-matched corner blobs that help the acrylic sheet to sit snugly on top of the cooler; and 1 x 5g white to hold the cup boiler in the hole in the acrylic sheet. http://sugru.com/

Total cost: ~£75. So not the "under $15" that some have claimed, but the £75 does include the price of a cooler, and you might be able to find some of the parts cheaper elsewhere. Good luck!

Method

Put the acrylic sheet on top of the cooler, draw round the top using a Sharpie, then use a jigsaw to cut out the shape.

Use a 36mm hole saw (e.g. http://www.screwfix.com/p/titan-holesaws-15-piece-... to make the hole for the Cup Boiler, then fix the Cup Boiler in place using white Sugru. Put four big blobs of Sugru near the corners of your acrylic sheet to hold it snugly on top of your cooler. Leave it all for 24 hours for the Sugru to cure.

Meanwhile, connect up the electrics. The pump should run continuously, while the Cup Boiler should be controlled by the thermostat.

I also fixed the project box to the acrylic sheet by replacing the box's four corner screws with longer ones that go through the acrylic.

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burkelashell (author)  timsk2 months ago
Very nicely done. I really like the addition of the submersible aquarium pump. Great work!

Great idea and great lesson! Thanks,

Especially the techniques used to get the odd holes cut. Really useful! And if any of you haven't tried sous vide you gotta try it! Juciy tender results and dead easy to do.

sharpstick2 months ago

If you are concerned about running a device above the rated current, you can indeed use a relay. You could even use two or more on different breakers, or a higher current, 220 volt device.

I use a "bucket heater" designed to keep horse water troughs from freezing. The interface of that controller was annoying.

I've also burned out a couple even with nothing above their current limits. I now use a Johnson temp controller(I also use it for brewing, to cool a fermentation box.) It has simpler up down controls

I've used a large cooler with an airstone placed beneath the heater, later replaced with a water pump to distribute the heat evenly.

Some temperature probes are not waterproof. I've killed a couple oven probes in hot water. Either make sure the probe is waterproof, or put in in a thermowell of some sort. Most thermometers and probes are not capable of the accuracy required for sous vide. I highly recommend Thermoworks thermometers to calibrate your system. They're supposedly certified to be accurate, and I trust them.

cristiann2 months ago

I got all the parts but the pump. Has anyone used and external pump? something like an "Air-Stone" for aquariums . I was thinking that should do the trick...

Fabri4 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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rehpotsirhc Fabri2 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.

hussmanne made it!5 months ago

Tried it out for the first time last night. Salmon came out great! Thank you for sharing. I have a project box that I'll be putting it in.

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Hey! I think i have the same temp controller as you, can you help me with the wiring... I am a noob at this type of stuff and I am having problems understanding the wiring...

Hi there, this worked best for me:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SrdOpk10MkE
Had to keep pausing/rewinding the video, but got it eventually
johnniedoo3 months ago

I have known about sous vide for a long time, but only in name. Never used or worked with anyone who actually used it. This is a great how to or diy, I have it bookmarked. I dont think I would have ever tried it were it not for this. I am not sure I would be willing to wait for my steaks to get to 130° though and see a grey slab, then put into a beurre noir or noisette to put color and flavor on the outside. I have just opted for rare and stuck with that since long before they attached temp ranges for the done-ness categories. And, not sure what happens to all the fat that might get rendered out inside the plastic. I might use it for fish though and very lean meat. It is like the whole hot dog and sausage idea brought to the 21st century.(natural casings) water, not smoke.

thanks for these great tips-->and Xannadu's experiments with great pix too.

john

rehpotsirhc3 months ago

I'm definitely going to check this out for my own cheap sous vide setup. Seeing you test this with a light bulb made me think that this would be neat to use to build an easy bake oven with a halogen bulb.

Xannadu4 months ago

Mine's been running great and I love it! Beef, Salmon, infused booze, and even a Beef Tongue for Tacos de Lengua came out wonderful. I'd like to take it to the next level and try racks of ribs in a beer cooler. This will obviously require a heat source and my guess is one larger in power than the internal relay could handle. My questions are:

A) Is it possible to rig up a Solid State Relay to a similar controller used in this build?

or

B) Would 600w of immersion heaters be up to the task of holding a decent size cooler to temp as to allow me to use the internal relay?

or

C) I will need a new build using a PID controller with a Solid State Relay output.

As a side note I've found when using my slow cooker with this build, it is MUCH quicker to heat a pot of water on the stove, then pour into the cooker and let the controller handle normalizing the temp to your setting rather than letting the cooker do the heavy early heating.

burkelashell (author)  Xannadu4 months ago
Xannadu,

That's awesome! It sounds like you're getting some great results.

The controller should handle a 600w immersion heater. Double check your controller specs, but the specification sheet on my controller says the relay contract capacity is 10 amps.

volts*amps=watts

Flipping the equation, watts/volts=amps

So, 600w/110v=5.5a

My concern would be about circulating the water. If you don't have some sort of pump to circulate the water, you will have hot spots and cold spots in the cooler. Do a search for "water pump sous vide" and you'll find lots of options. For example, here's on on Amazon shipped for less than $20. http://www.amazon.com/temperature-15GPH-Water-Pump-grade/dp/B004HHW0FU/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top

Give it a try and let us know how it works. Take lots of pictures. If it works well, create your own "ible" so we can learn from your experience!

--Burke

Got my cooler version up and running. I used three Nopro 559 immersion heaters from Amazon I had seen in other DIY sous vide setups. I cut a piece of acrylic to fit the inner lip of my cooler, cut holes to feed the heaters through (tip: cut off the excess rubber around the heater plugs to make them fit through a hole small enough for the heaters to sit into nicely) and zap gooed (like a fast drying silicon) them into place. Then all it took was a plug splitter (power strip would work fine too) to attach to my controller and voila!

This setup allows me to cook larger/more items at once, comes up to temp faster than the crockpot, and due to the insulation holds temp VERY well. In testing I brought it up to 145 degrees and unplugged the heaters. After 2 hours the temp was only down to 143 degrees.

Thanks for all the help Burke I've been loving the sous vide experiments. I think I'm up to 6 controllers I have to build for people for xmas gifts :) Everyone else is getting Orange-Cherry Bourbon, Apple Pie Whiskey, and Limoncello all made using this controller! Now I'm off to make duck carnitas!

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burkelashell (author)  Xannadu4 months ago

Thanks for posting. I'm sure others will benefit from the "cooler version". Very nicely done. I love the acrylic.

I did build mine with a duplex receptacle with one switched and one constant hot so I could run a submersible pump I picked up for $7 from Amazon. In an alt build for a large container version the creator used three 300w immersion heaters through a Solid State Relay and PID controller. I am a bit afraid to run 900w into the controller's relay as it's getting really close to it's 10 amp limit. Do you think 2 300w (600w total) heaters will hold the temp for a large amount of water in a cooler? Also, here's my pics!

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