Sous Vide on a Budget

Introduction: Sous Vide on a Budget

About: im a nearly 50 year old construction electrician with a passion for cooking and gadgets and a tenacity that does not wane when presented with a project im interested in.ive never been beaten yet and am not sta…

this is my test setup, i bodged it together to see if it could work

Step 1: Buy Equipment

I bought a plastic storage box from Wilkinsons for 3 pounds, got a polystyrene box for free from the local fish spa (where freaks have their feet nibbled by fish yeuch) its a tight fit so insulates well. I got a PIC controller off ebay for a tenner comes with a thermocouple accurate to 0.1 Celcius its a Willhi WH7016E, I got a fishtank heater 300W from pets at home and rigged it to be on all the time (there is an intructable for this as i followed it) so the pic controller switches it on and off this voids the warranty but it wont work otherwise cost 10 quid again, my daughter keeps goldfish and had a spare (new) filter pump to circulate the water, this is a work in progress but works perfectly as i tested it on some rudolf steaks and they were beautiful

Step 2: Make the Controller Module

to make the controller module you will need basic electric skills or have a friend who does, get a pic module such as the willhi described earlier just search temperature controller on ebay they are about 10 pounds from china and come with a probe, find a suitable project box then cut out for the controller mine was 70mm by 28mm, remove the orange clips fit in the hole and slide them back on, wire the controller according to the diagram in the instructions you will download as the ones that come with it are in chinese, there are plenty of download sites just type the model number into google. you can either add a standard socket onto the box or for a bit of style like mine add a simple proprietry socket and make a lead detailed here, also I put a switch on it for completeness, remember not to use heaters with massive wattages as the pic controller will die above 3 amps I either use a modified 300W aquarium heater or plug in my trusty morphy richards slow cooker

Step 3: Heater and Circulator

modify the heater (aquarium) as described in someone elses instructible (always on aquarium heater) some piccies here but I dont want to steal his glory I jammed a piece of brass against the thermostatic bimetal strip to stop it actuating, if you understood that well done otherwise just do it in the knowledge you need to, so you control when it heats not itself I.e. its always on. Be VERY careful with this as the glass can break and cause very bad lacerations

Step 4:

fill the container with kettle and jug to approximately the correct temperature using a thermometer of some description to check (I used a home brew one) this is to avoid the whiny alarm going off on the controller while it heats up when the water bath is at the required temp. time to lid up and switch on till its all stable (make sure you set the controller to the right temp too) while thats happening time for the next bit.

Step 5:

vacuum seal your meat using your sealer (mines a jml pic 4) I put salt and pepper in the shin beef pic 2 and chinese salt and pepper mix in the beef ribs pic 3 the timings and temperatures I got from the book in pic 1 I got this from amazon its useful but thinner than id have liked mostly pointing you at the internet for more ideas. When up to temperature in this case 57.2 degrees C I put the bags in the water bath for 48 hours for the shin beef and 72 hours for the ribs. From experience I know both will be tender as hell when I take them out, the shin will be chopped up (still pink) and mixed with mushrooms and a rich gravy and put in some ready rolled puff pastry for an amazing pie, the ribs the following night will be glazed with honey and blowtorched to give some char and enjoyed with new pots carrots green beans and sprouts mmmm

Step 6:

Step 7:

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    Too much trouble! For someone on a real budget, just use your stove and a big pot of water. I do it all the time, and the sous vide comes out beautifully. With very little monitoring and a $14.95US wireless cooking thermometer, I'm able to keep the water at 140F (+/- 2F) for up to 20 hrs. I start out with hot tap water around 140F. Then I put the vacuum sealed food in with the thermometer's probe tied to the bag. Cover with a lid and turn the stove on the lowest flame possible and monitor it for the next 30 mins.

    To increase the heat, raise the flame a bit. There are two ways to lower the heat: 1) Open the lid partially, and adjust as needed. 2) Move the pot further away from center of the flame. That allows some of the heat to escape away from the pot. With very little effort, you should be able to stabilize the temperature within 30 mins. Many electronic thermometers have an alarm to tell you when it's reached a certain temperature. Set that at about 2F higher than your ideal temperature. If it beeps, you know to lower the heat -- but it rarely happens. It also helps to have a cordless thermometer. I keep the remote next to my bed as I sleep if I cook overnight. As for evaporation, because sous vide occurs at such a low temperature, very little water evaporates so you shouldn't need to add water unless you cook for days.