To start cooking sous vide at home, you need to invest in either one of two crucial pieces of equipment, a water bath, or an immersion circulator.
The one that is right for you will depend on a number of factors, such as what you’ll be using the machine for, how much you’re going to be cooking, your budget and kitchen space.
Thankfully, sous vide technology has become much more affordable in recent years, so chefs have much more choice over whether they opt for a water bath or circulator, but we’re going to break down each to see which one might be best for you.
Firstly, you’ll have to decide how much space you’re going to require for your sous vide cooking.
Water baths come in varying capacities, and here at Sous Vide Tools we stock baths from 9L up to 56L.
In reality, a home foodie probably won’t need that much capacity as they generally won’t be cooking for large numbers of people at once, and a 10L water bath will usually be enough.
On the other hand, in a smaller commercial kitchen, one of our larger water baths may be more appropriate, as you know you’ll be catering for much larger numbers on a regular basis, and should have a lot more counter space to keep the machine.
Whether at home or in a professional kitchen, if you do want more capacity, however,, this is where the immersion circulator really comes into its own.
This is because immersion circulators can simply clip onto any container, whether it be a normal cooking pot, one our own specialist sous vide containers or anything else your food will fit into really. We’ve even seen drinks coolers used to sous vide with an immersion circulator clipped onto the side!
Either way, when estimating what kind of capacity you’ll require, bear in mind that you’ll need to leave some space between your vacuum packed bags for the water to properly circulate.
We recommend only ever leaving your bath or container about half full, so this is something to bear in mind.
The precise control of temperature is exactly what makes sous vide so effective, so you need to ensure that the temperature of your water can be controlled right down to a fraction of a degree.
Looking firstly at water baths, their immediate advantage is that they have a lid, which reduces water evaporation, and provides better insulation than an immersion circulator, which will usually be used in a pot or container which will provide no insulation (although you can solve this problem by purchasing a container with a custom cut lid).
On the downside, water baths can develop hot and cold spots in the water, meaning an uneven cooking temperature, which compromises the sous-vide method, whereas a circulator will constantly pump warm water around the container.
However, for commercial chefs, there are self-stirring sous vide machines which eliminate this problem.
Available Worktop Space
No matter whether you’re a home chef or a pro, kitchen space always seems to be at a premium, and it’s important that you make effective use of the space available to you.
This is one of the main disadvantages of a water bath, as they’re bulky products, even if you’re only using a smaller one.
In addition, they still take up a lot of space on the counter, even when they’re not in use, whereas an immersion circulator is a lot smaller, and can be stored away when you’re not using it.
Being able to attach your circulator to a normal cooking pot is another big advantage, meaning that they probably make more sense in a home kitchen, where you don’t have as much space, however there’s no denying that
While both water baths and immersion circulators are becoming more and more affordable, the price is still an important consideration.
Here at Sous Vide Tools, our water baths range from £250.00 to £399.98 for home machines, and £323.99 to £1,199.99 for commercial grade versions, and our immersion circulators range between £99.00 and £149.99 for home and £395.99 to £659.99 for professional thermal calculators.
Due to the fact that immersion circulators are more affordable, they’re definitely a more appealing choice for home chefs if the cost is a big factor in your decision, but for a more experienced chef or a commercial kitchen, the extra outlay for a water bath may be worth it, depending on what your needs are.
There’s no simple answer as to whether you’d be better off buying a sous vide water bath or an immersion circulator, but for first timers and home chefs, while a small water bath will probably serve your needs, there are also plenty of reasons to go for a circulator, whether it be the price, the versatility to use different containers depending on how much you’re cooking, and the fact that it will evenly distribute heat around the container.
For professional chefs, a larger water bath may be suitable, but if you’re cooking in really large quantities, a circulator and a large container may be the best route to go down!
It all depends on what you’re going to be using the sous-vide machine for, but both options have their qualities!
Don’t forget that we’re here to help! If you need any assistance in selecting the right products; why not give us a call on 0800 678 5001.