The best sous vide cooker, tried and tested by experts

Sous vide (the phrase means “under a vacuum”) is the process of cooking food that’s been sealed in a plastic bag slowly in a temperature-controlled water bath. First developed for institutional use, the method offers incredible precision, and over the past few decades it’s become more and more popular with ambitious home cooks interested in getting perfect results when preparing delicate and expensive proteins such as seafood or premium cuts of meat.

We tested ten of the most popular sous vide cookers, preparing a wide variety of proteins, vegetables and more over the course of several months to find the best sous vide immersion circulator for your money.

Best sous vide circulator overall

The Inkbird ISV-200W offers the best balance of features, build quality, performance and value of all the sous vide immersion circulators we tested. Whether you’re a veteran or just experimenting with the technique, it’s a great choice.

Inkbird ISV-200W

  • Power output: 1,000 watts
  • Warranty: 1 year

Honestly, when we began this process of evaluating sous vide devices, we expected that one of the bigger and more established brands would get top honors here, but as it turns out, the inexpensive Inkbird ISV-200W has the best combination of features, build quality, and functionality for the money.

The Inkbird has a 1000-watt heating element so it has quick water bath temperature recovery, an easy-to-use and read main control display, the manual touch button controls are simple to set target temperatures and timers, and the clamping mechanism for attaching to pots is straightforward, and ergonomically sensible.

You can manually set temperatures and timers with the Inkbird Smart App (available for iOS or Android) to support all its home automation and smart controller products. With it, you can create presets for frequently used temperatures and timings and pick/modify from 14 preconfigured recipes (such as “ultimate carrots”).

So what is not to like? Frankly, not much. It’s true that Anova and some of the others on this list that are more expensive are smaller, sleeker and have fancier displays, but from a basic functionality standpoint, they don’t actually cook any better, and most of them have lower-wattage heating elements, meaning slower heating.

Inkbird’s current model is the ISV-200W; it is nearly identical to the older ISV-100W save for a few minor changes. The 200W also has a slightly lower temperature range and a food burn protection function that shuts the unit down if the water completely evaporates in the cooking pot. For the time being, the ISV-100W is still available for around the same price and we think you’d be happy with either unit.

Sous-vide cooking can let you achieve perfect doneness with meats that would be difficult or impossible with other methods.

The sous vide cooking technique — in which you cook food by immersing it in a water bath that remains at a constant temperature rather than over a heat source — was developed in France during the early 1970s, and became popular when it was used in the first-class kitchens on the SNCF, the French national railway system, during the 1980s. Institutions and fine dining restaurants in Europe and the US adopted this efficient, tidy cooking style shortly thereafter.

The advantage of the process was that it could easily produce identical, precision-cooked meals for large numbers of people in institutional settings and restaurants, where there was a need to prep food hours before service was needed.

But home cooks who sampled food cooked using the method began finding ways to get the same results at home, first turning to commercial devices and ultimately taking advantage of smaller models designed for home use.

While circulators used to cost thousands of dollars (they were designed for institutional large-scale cooking setups), the price has come down as sous vide circulators meant for home use have proliferated. The method became broadly popular in the mid-2010s, and today miniaturized sous vide circulators — small wand-shaped appliances that attach to the side of a stock pot or large plastic container — are widely available.

A classic sous-vide application is to cook a steak perfectly in the immersion bath, and then finish it in a pan to give it a crust.

Sous vide circulators may seem techy, but the process is quite simple. Whether you’re using a large device meant for commercial kitchens or a home wand circulator, all sous vide circulators work and cook the same way, and you’ll get identical results. The bigger, more expensive units may come up to temperature slightly more quickly and are more robust for professional kitchen dependability, but you’ll get identical results from any sous vide with a little practice.

Sous vide circulators work by cooking food that’s been sealed in a plastic bag (you can use traditional zipper-seal bags but most enthusiasts use a vacuum sealer to do this — the term “sous vide” translates as “under a vacuum” after all) slowly at a stable, controllable temperature giving you finer-grained control over doneness than you can get with other methods (you get much greater stability than you would by monitoring the temperature of a simmering stockpot with an instant-read meat thermometer, for instance.

To get this level of fine control, sous vide techniques take advantage of water’s capacity to hold heat. You immerse the circulator wand in a water bath along with the food to be cooked (typically a protein, though you can sous vide almost anything) sealed in a plastic bag; the device uses its heating element to bring the water bath to the desired temperature, circulates it with a pump, and maintains the temperature using a thermocouple sensor and PID (like in an espresso machine), all controlled by an onboard computer (that in turn may communicate with an app). There’s no pressure involved as in a pressure cooker — basically your food takes a very precisely controlled warm bath for as long as it takes to cook to a perfect doneness.

After cooking in the water bath at the desired temperatures and for the appropriate amount of time, your dish is ready to eat, or the protein (such as a steak or fish filet) can quickly be finished by searing in a pan (to create a crust) before serving.

The timing of sous vide immersion depends on the size, weight, type of food being cooked, and the desired level of doneness. A protein cannot “overcook” in sous vide in the traditional sense because its internal temperature cannot exceed the temperature of the bath itself. However, if you cook a protein for too long (for several hours exceeding the target doneness time), you’ll get food with a mushy texture.

sous vide cooking in small stockpot underscored


First, take a piece of meat – like a beef filet or an individual steak – and place it in a waterproof bag, adding seasonings or marinades as desired. You can’t do anything with the ingredients once they are in the bag and in the bath, so this is the step in which you can add flavors.

Next, you’ll want to seal the bag so it can withstand the cooking process. Vacuum bags are perfect for sous vide cooking. Most of the bags we tested for our review of the best vacuum sealers can withstand 70°C (158°F) for up to 12 hours and at 80°C (176°F) for a maximum of 6 hours before a heat seal failure, making them very well suited to the sous vide process. You can also use zipper-lock style bags, though we recommend using freezer bags since they are more durable.

Preheat your water bath to your desired cooking temperature using the immersion circulator — you can even start with hot water from the tap without worries, since the water doesn’t actually touch the food (for any other sort of cooking you should use cold water since hot tap water can contain more dissolved metals). Immerse the sealed bag of food into the water bath, and set the device to circulate.

A vacuum sealer is a perfect partner for a sous vide cooker.

Once the bag is in the bath, you can adjust temperature as needed or the recipe requires, or let it remain at a stable temperature for the duration. From that point, sous vide cooking is very much a passive experience — more along the lines of using a slow cooker. Once your food is sealed in the bag (along with marinades, seasoning, and fats), the bag is placed into the circulating hot water, and you walk away until the timing of the cook is complete.

There are many recipes online, and most devices come with time and temperature guides on their apps or in provided instructions. But as an example, if you want a perfect medium rare steak, set it to 126 degrees Fahrenheit, along with the required time, such as 90 minutes, depending on the steak’s thickness. Doing so will ensure the meat reaches and stays at your desired doneness.

Once your ingredients are done, you have the option of finishing with other methods. For example, while steaks emerge from the bath perfectly and uniformly done, they’ll lack the char or crust that marks a perfect traditionally prepared steak. All you have to do before serving is give it a quick sear (with cooking oil or butter) to brown the outside.

You don't need to limit yourself to steaks; all kinds of proteins (like these perfectly-cooked scallops) and vegetables lend themselves to sous vide cooking.

While sous vide devices became popular for cooking meats, you can use a circulator for cooking anything that you might have poached in the past with less mess and effort.

Salmon or other fish filets can be cooked perfectly medium rare and served hot from the circulator with their juices or chilled for a lovely brunch dish.

Do you want to jump on the ”jammy egg” trend? Eggs don’t even need to be removed from their shells or placed in a plastic bag. Just follow restaurateur and cookbook author J. Kenji López-Alt’s tutorial on this subject; he has already done all the experimentation to get perfect eggs — whatever doneness is perfect for you.

Turkey works great sous vide. This past Thanksgiving we cooked boneless breast sous vide at 150° F for 3 hours. All we did was season it lightly. After it had chilled, we opened the vacuum bag, sliced off the turkey breast, removed the excess juices to contribute to the gravy, and resealed the turkey slices. On Thanksgiving itself, all we had to do was reheat it again with the immersion circulator, and it was the most tender and juicy white meat we’ve ever had.

Vegetables are amazing cooked sous vide. Just add a tiny dash of salt, and a teaspoon of butter when sealing your prepped veggies. Only the smallest amount of fat is needed because when it melts; there is no air in the bag to get in the way of it surrounding the vegetables.

Do you love grilled chicken wings but want to cut down on the fat? Season and vacuum seal your prepared raw wings. A good tip is to make extra divided into meal-size portions, each in its own sous vide bag. Cook the wing bags in a sous vide water bath to 160°F for several hours. Chill in an ice bath when they are done. Now, when you want chicken wings for dinner, you only need to open a bag and grill them to crisp the skin. If you want them coated, toss the crisp wings in sauce and put back on the grill to caramelize. You might notice a lot of juices inside the bag. Drain that off, but save it! This is a delicious, concentrated broth that will gel hard when cold.

You can even use your sous vide circulator for tasks beyond food. For example, mixologists are using immersion circulators to extract flavors into alcohols for custom liqueurs, and you can infuse olive oil with herbs using sous vide as well.

All of the sous vide immersion circulators we tested performed well, and gave us identical results. This is great, because it means that you can choose based on features, and it’s great for the technique because it means that the tools have matured to the point where they are basically a commodity. Everything we looked at had plenty of power and plenty of pump capacity to tackle the recipes a home cook is likely to attempt.

The cookers we tested differed primarily in design, build quality, and food service grade certifications (an important consideration in commercial-grade units), as well as total heating element power output, circulator pump variable flow rate (again, more of a consideration for commercial units) and also the sophistication of their smartphone apps,

The heating element’s wattage rating determines how quickly the water bath can be brought up to the desired cooking temperature — this is important because when you add cold food to the hot water cooking medium, the water temperature may drop – especially if you add a large chunk of refrigerated meat. A unit with a higher wattage heating element (we think a 1,000 watt unit is fine for home use) will recover temperature more quickly.

Apps are not typically required for operation on most units (the Breville Joule is an exception in our test group; it only works via an app) but can make things easier for beginners. We preferred to have the option of an onboard display and manual controls. Sous vide apps will usually incorporate remote monitoring and manual control (view current bath temperature, set timers, and set temperature) and also the ability to pick food cooking programs from a list, such as a medium-rare strip steak, or a salmon filet, to ensure foolproof cooking for novices.

Most of the immersion circulators we tested have a large, hinged, clothespin-like clamp (secured by a tension spring); we preferred them for ease of use and ergonomics. Anova uses an older design, an adjustable screw mechanism, which we found harder to use and felt might be more difficult for anyone with dexterity issues..

We dedicated an area of our home kitchen to test these devices, immersing in 8 and 16-quart stock pots filled with water to the top fill indicator of each unit, with a variety of manufacturer vacuum sealers, vacuum bags, and test proteins, including beef, chicken, and pork.

First and foremost, we wanted to see how well each product performed in cooking our test proteins. Every sous vide device we looked at could cook our test proteins within the allotted time periods with no interruption.

We looked carefully at the materials each unit and its accessories were built with, and how well designed and constructed each device was, assessed how easy each circulator was to set up and to operate, and looked at ergonomic considerations as we tested. We also looked at warranty coverage, and assessed how easy it was to contact the manufacturer with questions or concerns.

Anova Precision Cooker

  • Power: 1,000 watts
  • Warranty: 2 years

Anova is the most well-known brand in home sous vide cookery, and its Precision Cooker was important in popularizing the technique in 2014 and there’s still quite a lot to like about the device. With 1000 watts of power, it can handle just about every immersion cooking task that a typical home cook can throw at it; and it has an excellent industrial design, featuring a bright, white, circular LED with large numbers that make it very easy to read. It’s also a product with excellent build quality and feels very durable.

So why didn’t it top our list when it sits at the top of so many competing product evaluations at other outlets? It’s now expensive for what it is, given that other products on the market now effectively do the same thing for less. We also don’t like the screw-style clamps on their circulators that potentially present issues for people with dexterity issues (such as the elderly or disabled); it’s the only product right now in the segment that uses them, and they’ve used the same design for years.

Anova Precision Cooker Pro

  • Power: 1,200 Watts
  • Warranty: 2 years

Anova’s Precision Cooker Pro is a slightly larger, more powerful model, and an excellent product with a somewhat larger rectangular white-on-black LED display, but it is probably overkill for most home cooks and if you’re interested in Anova, the smaller model should work just as well.

Anova Precision Cooker Nano

  • Power: 750 watts
  • Warranty: 2 years

The Nano is the smallest in the Anova Precision Cooker lineup, with a maximum heating element power of 750W. It’s an app-controllable device, but only with Bluetooth, so it you can’t keep an eye on things if you leave the house. The display and control layout is similar to the Precision cooker, but it uses a lower-cost LCD component that isn’t as bright.

At this price we think the Inkbird or Instant Brands units (which support Wi-Fi) are more useful and a better deal.

Breville Joule

  • Power: 1,100 watts
  • Warranty: 1 year

The Joule brand was, like the Anova, a key device in the popularization of home sous vide cooking. And there’s a lot to like about the current Joule, now a Breville product: it’s small, at 1.3lbs (20.8oz) with an ultra-sleek design; and has excellent power output for its diminutive size — a whopping 1100W, putting it in the same category as the Anova Precision Pro. It’s also probably got the best smartphone app in the industry, with a wide array of recipes and guidance.

But at $245, it’s expensive, and the only way you can operate it is with the app: it’s completely headless with no manual controls. That’s something you need to be comfortable with as a home cook — on all of the other circulators we tested, app control is an extra rather than a requirement. Would it have been a big deal for Breville to integrate a simple control head on the Joule? Perhaps even a removable one? At this price point, it should have.

Breville Polyscience HydroPro CS700

  • Power: 1,450 watts
  • Warranty: 2 years

If you are the type of home cook who has professional aspirations, find yourself preparing large cuts of meat on a regular basis, or just want the best, then look no further than the Polyscience HydroPro, which is a commercial-quality sous vide circulator designed for restaurant or catering use.

From an industrial design perspective, the HydroPro is impressive. In terms of materials alone, you know you are working with something designed for a professional kitchen environment, as it weighs 67.2 oz and is made almost entirely of stainless steel, with an IPX7 water resistance rating, an NSF Food Equipment Certification and cUL commercial ratings for use in professional environments. The large, full color TFT display unit is covered with impact-resistant Corning Gorilla Glass (the stuff used on high-end smartphones), and the device can even be completely disassembled without tools for extended cleaning. The clamp is extremely heavy-duty with a very strong spring, so you’ll never need to worry about it slipping and requiring adjusting. It also has a professional carrying case made of padded black nylon.

The heating element boasts a whopping 1450W of power so you can throw the most demanding cooking loads at it, with very little concern for temperature recovery time and water bath heat stability. It also has three selectable circulation speeds, up to 17L per minute, and a companion mobile application called “Sous Vide Toolbox” provides recipes tailored to the thermal conductivity of the food, with choices for animal proteins, eggs, vegetables, fruits, legumes, custard, and yogurt.

Vesta Imersa

  • Power: 900 watts
  • Warranty: 2 years

Vesta Precision, a Seattle-based company known for its sous vide and vacuum sealer kits, has taken a different approach to immersion circulation cookery than the rest of the vendors on our list, with a focus on food safety. All of their sous vide units require the user to start the timer when the water bath reaches temperature manually.

For example, if you set your bath to 165F, with a two-hour cooking time, the timer will not actually start once the target temperature is reached (which was the case with the other units we tested). Instead, it notifies the user by beeping at the device and notification via the app that the target temp has been reached.

We asked their customer service about this because at first we thought this was a fault in the device. But Vesta reasons that they feel having the timer start automatically means it is more likely a user would put the food into the water bath during the pre-heat stage, which could potentially be a safety issue.

Feature-wise, the Vesta Imersa is middle-of-the-road, with a 900W heating element, Weighing in at 40 ounces, it is about the same size as the Inkbird, and looks much like the Anova Precision or Instant Brands units, with a bright white-on-black LED display, prominent controls and a large and easy to use tension clamp. The app allows for both manual programming and picking from recipe lists and is fairly straightforward.

Vesta thoughtfully supplies a quality set of laminated sous vide temperature guides organized by type of food that are held together by a metal ring, which is nice to have to keep in a drawer if you want a quick reference guide to cooking temperatures for proteins. We wish Vesta sold this for anyone to purchase, not just as a freebie with its products.

Vesta Imersa Elite

  • Power: 900 watts
  • Warranty: 2 years

The Imersa Elite is a bit of an odd duck, as it eschews the wand-style design of all the other units on this list with a squared-off upside-down u-shaped design that eschews the clamp – the display half of the unit is oriented so it faces outward from the stockpot on a swivel mechanism as the circulator half is immersed into your water bath.

It uses the same app as the Imersa Precision, and as with that unit it prompts the user to start the main cooking timer when the bath reaches the target temperature instead of doing it automatically. It even has the same 900W heating element as the wand version. The main reason why we aren’t recommending it is that we felt that it was especially sensitive to overfill, and we ended up tripping the error sensor when we had it filled just to the max line and rotated the pot to see the display, causing vigorous water movement in the pot.

Instant Brands Accu Slim Sous Vide Precision V2

Instant Brands Accu Slim

  • Power: 800 watts
  • Warranty: 1 year

The Accu Slim V2, from Instant Brands (famous for the Instant Pot pressure cooker and the Vortex air fryer) is as uncomplicated as sous vide circulators get, with clean lines, simple touch button controls, and a bright white-on-black LED display with large numbers for easy readability. It’s considerably smaller and lighter than the Inkbird (it weighs 29 oz. versus. the Inkbird’s 40 oz.) but is slightly less powerful at 800 watts, so it’s a better choice for somebody preparing smaller portions in a smaller stockpot — say two chicken breasts or fish filets at a time rather than a whole roast.

The Accu Slim is not Wifi or Bluetooth-controlled, so there’s no app to worry about– just set it from the onboard controls and walk away; it’s as easy to deal with as these devices get. The large tension clamp is easy to attach to any pot you choose, the water fill line on the heating element/circulator pipe is prominently marked, and we had no issues with overflow that could cause the device to enter an error state. We used it during Thanksgiving to reheat a large vac-sealed bone-in turkey breast that was precooked to target temperature at a relative’s house in a 12-quart stockpot, and it worked like a champ.

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