A couple weeks ago I described my experiment with the “poor man’s sous vide” technique using a cooler and a probe thermometer. It turned out great, but I had to heat water a few times on the stove to hold the temperature above 140°, my desired cooking temperature for the steaks. During the GeekDad podcast (Episode #88), we were talking about this and our fearless leader Ken suggested that we should challenge our readers to come up with a cheap, easy, do-it-yourself sous vide oven that actually controlled the temperature accurately. We were discussing whether it would be possible to hack an aquarium heater to go a bit hotter.
Well, poking around the Internet revealed two pretty great hacks that have already been done. One is by Jeff Potter, author of Cooking for Geeks, and involves hacking a slow cooker so that it maintains a chosen temperature. It runs about $100 for materials plus the cost of a cheap slow cooker. The second, pictured above, was featured last year in MAKE Magazine and not only heats the water but also circulates it — plus it can be moved to another container for large-volume cooking. This one comes in at $75, though it seems to require a bit more know-how.
Color me impressed. I’m not very good at DIY projects in general, so I’ll probably stick to my cooler for now. How about you? If you’ve got a great idea for an on-the-cheap sous vide cooker, let us know in the comments or send me an email, especially if you think you can beat the $75 price point!
[Ed. Note: For a little more, $150 on Amazon, I wonder if you could drop your vaccuum sealed food in this water heater at the 140° setting?]
Originally posted 2011-04-14 13:13:15.