Author Topic: Temperature-controlled water bath on the cheap  (Read 8677 times)

Loundry

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Temperature-controlled water bath on the cheap
« on: January 13, 2010, 11:02:45 AM »
Far from the days of deriding it as "the gentlest poaching of them all", I'm pretty interested in "sous vide" cooking nowadays.  I put it in scare quotes because that appellation only describes the first, and frequently most expensive, part of the cooking method.

1. Put contents in a plastic bag and remove all the air ("sous vide").  The cheapest device I've found for this is $1,100.  I'm talking about a real chamber vacuum sealer, not one of the FoodSavers that will gleefully suck out all the liquid as well.

2. Put bag into a precisely-temperature-controlled water bath.  This is accomplished by the calculusey temperature controller ($1,000) and a stainless steel tub ($?).

Now there is a consumer model for this kind of cooking, but only the water bath part.  NOT for the chamber vacuum sealer, which is the more interesting device.  Heston Blumenthal uses it to great effect in his Fat Duck Cookbook recipes, and not all of them end up in a water bath.  The consumer device is reviewed here:

http://www.seriouseats.com/2009/12/new-sous-vide-supreme-machine-review.html?ref=se-bb1

$449.  Hmm.

But what interested me more than the review is one of the comments in that same page.  She writes:

Quote
So my especially creative boyfriend "made" me a sous vide cooker for Christmas. Included is: a vacuum sealer set; bags; a bound, printed Practical Guide to Cooking Sous Vide by Douglas Baldwin; a crockpot and a sort of electrical current controller/ temperature gauge. How it works is you plug in your crockpot to this controller, set your temp. on the controller, a temperature sensor goes into the water in your crockpot and if your water gets too hot/ too cold, the controller shuts off or turns on the power on your crockpot. He did EXTENSIVE research and thinks this set up will work just as well as the $400 cooker you've reviewed here. I will be sure to let you know how my renegade sous vide set up works. I told him "worse comes to worse if I stink at cooking sous vide, at least I've now got a crockpot and vacuum sealer, right?"

Super practical.  Alton Brown would make a device like the one she described.

My question: where to find the "electrical current controller / temperature gauge"?

Pie-in-the-sky question: where can I find a bona fide chamber vacuum sealer at a 90% discount?

Offline Jmolinari

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Re: Temperature-controlled water bath on the cheap
« Reply #1 on: January 13, 2010, 11:38:28 AM »
I've posted about this long ago on AC when i made my home built temp. controlled water bath.
The easiest method is to use a line voltage temperature switch, like the ones from here:
http://www.dwyer-inst.com/Products/Product.cfm?Group_ID=125&sPageName=Ordering

You can also get a PID even cheaper than that on ebay, which will control better, but require a bit more wiring as you'll have to use a relay.

I've heard the new food savers with the pulse vac. option do better with liquids..but still not a chamber style machine.

Offline Mike GadgetGeek Stock

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Re: Temperature-controlled water bath on the cheap
« Reply #2 on: January 13, 2010, 12:25:45 PM »

Far from the days of deriding it as "the gentlest poaching of them all", I'm pretty interested in "sous vide" cooking nowadays.  I put it in scare quotes because that appellation only describes the first, and frequently most expensive, part of the cooking method.

1. Put contents in a plastic bag and remove all the air ("sous vide").  The cheapest device I've found for this is $1,100.  I'm talking about a real chamber vacuum sealer, not one of the FoodSavers that will gleefully suck out all the liquid as well.

2. Put bag into a precisely-temperature-controlled water bath.  This is accomplished by the calculusey temperature controller ($1,000) and a stainless steel tub ($?).

Now there is a consumer model for this kind of cooking, but only the water bath part.  NOT for the chamber vacuum sealer, which is the more interesting device.  Heston Blumenthal uses it to great effect in his Fat Duck Cookbook recipes, and not all of them end up in a water bath.  The consumer device is reviewed here:

http://www.seriouseats.com/2009/12/new-sous-vide-supreme-machine-review.html?ref=se-bb1

$449.  Hmm.

But what interested me more than the review is one of the comments in that same page.  She writes:

Quote
So my especially creative boyfriend "made" me a sous vide cooker for Christmas. Included is: a vacuum sealer set; bags; a bound, printed Practical Guide to Cooking Sous Vide by Douglas Baldwin; a crockpot and a sort of electrical current controller/ temperature gauge. How it works is you plug in your crockpot to this controller, set your temp. on the controller, a temperature sensor goes into the water in your crockpot and if your water gets too hot/ too cold, the controller shuts off or turns on the power on your crockpot. He did EXTENSIVE research and thinks this set up will work just as well as the $400 cooker you've reviewed here. I will be sure to let you know how my renegade sous vide set up works. I told him "worse comes to worse if I stink at cooking sous vide, at least I've now got a crockpot and vacuum sealer, right?"

Super practical.  Alton Brown would make a device like the one she described.

My question: where to find the "electrical current controller / temperature gauge"?


Jason's idea is probably a better price for someone that knows about wiring and all that, but.................  I do not   :'(

The unit, though not inexpensive is the Raptor from BBQ Guru, you have to have one of their units for it to work though and the round-trip price on it might be more than doing that same job some other way, but you would have a draft controller for your Primo as a bonus.  The link is here..   (you would have to buy a fan, to use the controller on your Primo too)...

http://www.thebbqguru.com/categories/Power-Raptor-for-Electric-Smokers


Pie-in-the-sky question: where can I find a bona fide chamber vacuum sealer at a 90% discount?

I tried to buy an 8 year old commercial Vacuum sealer that I found in one of the used restaurant supply shops and they wanted $3500.00 for it, but it was fairly large and almost unused..  If you find one at that price-point, let me know, we will buy two, at least?

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Finding offense where none is intended is a form of selfishness.

When facts change, I change my mind.  What do you do?

It's a poor craftsman that blames his tools.

Loundry

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Re: Temperature-controlled water bath on the cheap
« Reply #3 on: January 13, 2010, 09:28:43 PM »
This seems like the best write-up for a "fuzzy logic" all-purpose temperature controller.  I'd use this for making the water bath.

http://www.susanminor.org/forums/showthread.php?t=315

Loundry

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Re: Temperature-controlled water bath on the cheap
« Reply #4 on: January 13, 2010, 09:33:34 PM »
Speaking of chamber vacuum sealers, gg, how about this one?

http://www.qualitymatters.com/ProductDetails.asp?ProductCode=QMVP-210&click=21247

$1,033.99

Offline Mike GadgetGeek Stock

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Re: Temperature-controlled water bath on the cheap
« Reply #5 on: January 14, 2010, 12:28:41 AM »
This seems like the best write-up for a "fuzzy logic" all-purpose temperature controller.  I'd use this for making the water bath.

http://www.susanminor.org/forums/showthread.php?t=315

My eyes glazed over while I was almost-looking at the directions..  This is not for me, it is fine, and would work wonderfully I'm sure, but this is for a different hobby, hobbyist than I am. 

Now if you wanted to build me one, and give me what I thought was a fair price, I'd probably go for it..?

I am truly into plug-and-run...

.
Finding offense where none is intended is a form of selfishness.

When facts change, I change my mind.  What do you do?

It's a poor craftsman that blames his tools.

Offline Mike GadgetGeek Stock

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Re: Temperature-controlled water bath on the cheap
« Reply #6 on: January 14, 2010, 12:32:52 AM »
Speaking of chamber vacuum sealers, gg, how about this one?

http://www.qualitymatters.com/ProductDetails.asp?ProductCode=QMVP-210&click=21247

$1,033.99  

That is a good find, at one time, I would have bought that one today.

If we lived close, I'd share one with you.   But considering that I JUST bought a new same-ole/same-ole, vacuum sealer, I'm going to hold my guns.  If I was doing Sous-Vide more than 8 times a year I would choose a different system, but for now I'll have to stick to slow braising and for the occasional sous-vide, I'll stick to this sophomoric system I have.

What do you think?  

.
« Last Edit: January 14, 2010, 12:34:56 AM by Mike GadgetGeek Stock »
Finding offense where none is intended is a form of selfishness.

When facts change, I change my mind.  What do you do?

It's a poor craftsman that blames his tools.

Offline BBQgeek

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Re: Temperature-controlled water bath on the cheap
« Reply #7 on: January 16, 2010, 08:36:42 AM »
I purchased the Sous Vide Supreme and have been cooking with it for a month.  It works wonderfully and exactly as advertised.  I also use a FoodSaver (the one at Costco) for vacuum sealing my food.  It works great for anything that is being cooked dry.  If you intend to sous vide with a wet marinade, the Foodsaver isn't a great match.  It will work in a pinch, but you have to manually work the vacuum via the pulse function.  My cooking results have been great so far and it has been a lot of fun.  My only complaint is that it is a little too easy.  Cooking proteins is always the same.  Bag, sous vide, sear.  I've noticed the best results on short ribs and pork tenderloin.  I don't think I"m going to continue cooking steaks sous vide.  Chicken comes out nicely.  I'm launching a blog this weekend (I swear!) called www.sousvidegeek.com that will simply document my experiments with the sous vide supreme.  As for the budget methods out there, you want to be careful.  The heating elements in rice cookers do not recover at a quick enough rate to ensure accurate cooking.  I've never seen the SVS deviate by more than a degree.  When you are talking about cooking at these kind of low temps, you want accuracy to avoid the potential for pathogens.  If you are interested in the SVS, Richard Blais has a promo code "Blais" that you can enter when you order the device and it will save you $25.  Richard has endorsed the unit and is doing promo stuff (videos, appearances, etc).  Overall, I'm not sure how long my interest will hold in sous vide if I can't find a way to enhance the basic process.  It's not as fun as BBQ for sure.  But it's a new avenue to explore and I like that.

Loundry

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Re: Temperature-controlled water bath on the cheap
« Reply #8 on: January 16, 2010, 11:13:54 AM »
Steve reminded me that we have one of these:

http://www.amazon.com/Refrigerator-Freezer-Thermostat-Temperature-Controller/dp/B000EXROSE

That we use to control the temperature of our (currently defunct) freezer.

Will it work in the slow-cooker?  We're going to give it a try.

Offline Jmolinari

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Re: Temperature-controlled water bath on the cheap
« Reply #9 on: January 16, 2010, 01:55:59 PM »
Won't work well. The on/off limit islike 4 or 5 deg. F. It will work, but not for very accurate temp.

Offline Jmolinari

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Re: Temperature-controlled water bath on the cheap
« Reply #10 on: January 16, 2010, 01:58:49 PM »
Hysteresis, that's the word i'm looking for!
 

Offline LizR

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Re: Temperature-controlled water bath on the cheap
« Reply #11 on: January 16, 2010, 07:30:35 PM »
This is a bit of a stretch, but it occurs to me that if you really wanted a bargain way you could use the FoodSaver even with wet items. Just freeze the item first, then vac-pac it in the "sous fide" FoodSaver bag and go for it.

For the past three years I have given my mom bunches of frozen meals packed this way for Christmas. Not that she slow cooks them, but the freezing before vac-packing works fine.

Be careful of getting even a little bit of liquid in the FoodSaver. I once tried cooked cauliflower and they had to send me a whole new unit (it was under warranty). I am now super careful that everything is frozen solid before I vaccum it.


Offline Jmolinari

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Re: Temperature-controlled water bath on the cheap
« Reply #12 on: January 16, 2010, 09:36:49 PM »
Liz is exactly correct. That's how the food saver people do sous vide. Freeze the liquid first.

Offline BBQgeek

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Re: Temperature-controlled water bath on the cheap
« Reply #13 on: January 16, 2010, 10:00:07 PM »
Whew.  Blog is finally launched.  www.sousvidegeek.com .  Not a ton there yet, but lots more to come.  No ads.  No big pimpin'.  Lots of aesthetic work to do.  And to the comments about liquids, I agree that freezing is the way to go with the foodsaver.  It's way better than the pulse nonsense.  The only downside is the way the bag will loosen up as the contents warm up and change state.  I just don't like to pull out a bag that's gotten all loosey-goosey.

Loundry

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Re: Temperature-controlled water bath on the cheap
« Reply #14 on: January 17, 2010, 07:14:40 PM »
Liz is exactly correct. That's how the food saver people do sous vide. Freeze the liquid first.


It would keep the liquid from being sucked out of the bag, certainly, but freezing meat and vegetables also causes ice crystals to form which puncture cells and cell walls, leaving foods mushy.

That is, unless you have a blast chiller or access to liquid nitrogen.  I know Alton Brown has suggested using dry ice to quick-freeze fruits.  I wonder how well that works.

 

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