November 9

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The Best Sous Vide Immersion Circulators

By trk

November 9, 2016


Updated for 2020!

Sous vide cooking just keeps getting better. Costs have come down, designs have gotten more streamlined, and the add-ons, like WiFi and Bluetooth, have brought sous vide cooking to a whole new level of fun.

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Because sous vide is such a truly excellent way to cook, and such an easy-to-use, no-muss-no-fuss kitchen tool, we want all home cooks to discover its wonders. It may seem like a luxury, but once you have it, you'll know just how useful and practical it really is.

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Here, we review the best sous vide products on the market: the most popular immersion circulators and the techno-geek high-end circulators.

Our recommendations are based on a background in engineering and chemistry, many hours of hands-on research, and years of experience cooking with sous vide. 

If you’ve researched sous vide, are excited about the possibilities, and have decided to take the plunge (yes, that is meant to be a bad sous vide pun), then you’re ready to look at the best sous vide immersion circulators on the market.

See also these related articles:

Why Cook with a Sous Vide Circulator? Here's Why​

Why Every Kitchen Needs a Food Vacuum Sealer (and the Best Ones to Buy)

Sous Vide Time and Temperature Tables for Proteins

6 Ways to Minimize Plastic Use with Sous Vide

The Best Sous Vide Circulators Under $100

The Winners at a Glance

Here's a quick look at our favorite immersion circulators. (Scroll down or click in the Contents section above for detailed reviews.)

Sous Vide Immersion Circulator 

Features

Best Rated/Best Bargain:

Accu Slim by Instant Pot 

see it on Amazon

The Best Sous Vide Immersion Circulators

800W

Temp range: 104-195F (40-90C)

+/-0.4F accuracy

72 hr. run time

Digital control panel

Screw clamp attachment

1.6lb

1 yr warranty

Made in China.

Most Popular:

Anova Culinary AN500-US00

see it on Amazon

The Best Sous Vide Immersion Circulators

1000W

WiFi enabled

Unlimited run time

Flow rate: 8L/min

1.6lb

Screw clamp attachment

2 yr warranty

Made in China.

Best Design/Best App: 
Joule

see it on Amazon

see it at Sur la Table

The Best Sous Vide Immersion Circulators

1100W

Temp range: 68-208F (20-98C)

+/- 0.2F accuracy

Controlled by remote smart device only

Clip attachment

1.3lb

Unlimited run time

Variable flow speed 3.6-6L/min (per water temp)

Made in China.

Made in USA/Commercial Grade:
PolyScience Sous Vide
Professional Classic

see it on Amazon

see it at webstaurantstore.com

The Best Sous Vide Immersion Circulators

1100W

+/- 0.09F accuracy

2-level adjustable flow

Flow rate: 12L/min.

9.0lb

Unlimited run time

3 programmable pre-sets

Commercial-grade 

Made in USA.

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Sous Vide is used in professional kitchens all over the world.

Immersion Circulator Vs Water Oven: What’s the Difference?

An immersion circulator is a pump you can attach to any vessel. It has a computer-controlled temperature sensor that heats the water while circulating it to keep it at a constant temperature. (Note that an immersion circulator can't cool water, it can only heat it--so don't start with water that's hotter than the cooking temperature.) It looks like this:

The Best Sous Vide Immersion Circulators

A water oven is a self-contained heater-and-vessel unit. They have a computer-controlled temperature sensor and an insulated cooking area. Most water ovens rely on convection currents to equilibrate temperature (no pump). A water oven looks like this:

The Best Sous Vide Immersion Circulators

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About Sous Vide

Sous vide has exploded in popularity since we first wrote this article more than three years ago now, so we probably don't have to tell you what sous vide is. What we will include here are some ideas about what sous vide is great for and maybe some ideas for using it you haven't thought of yet.

What Can I Use Sous Vide For?

You can use sous vide for so many things, it's like having an extra oven or cooktop. 

Besides proteins, here's a list of just some of the things you can use it for:

  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Yogurt (making from scratch)
  • Eggs (poached, soft boiled, hard boiled, and omelets)
  • Creme brulee, flan, pots de creme, and other custards
  • Cheesecake
  • Heating leftovers (they stay moist, don't burn, and reheat perfectly inside a vacuum bag)
  • Thawing frozen food (again, just toss the vacuum bag in the water)
  • Beans, legumes, and rice
  • Pasteurization.

We've even seen recipes for cakes and cookies, believe it or not. And sous vide coffee is also a thing--we haven't tried it, but people claim it's the best cup of coffee you'll ever have (no bitterness from too-hot water).

Is Sous Vide Cooking Safe?

If you follow a few simple rules, sous vide cooking is extremely safe. There are no hot burners, no flame, no dangerous fumes. Since the cooking is done at low temperatures, the most important consideration is the Danger Zone--the temperature at which food can spoil if left in it too long. The Danger Zone is 40-140F, and there are strict rules you have to follow to ensure food safety. Since many foods are cooked at temps lower than 140F, it's important to understand Danger Zone rules. (Medium rare steak, for example, is around 130-135F.)

You can read more about sous vide safety in our article Is Sous Vide Cooking Safe?

What Are the Benefits of Sous Vide Cooking?

Sous vide cooking has many benefits. Here are a few of the biggest ones:

Perfectly Done Proteins. This one speaks for itself, and is the major appeal of sous vide: restaurant quality steaks and other perfectly cooked proteins every time.

Hands-Off Ease: You can literally put your food in the sous vide bath and walk away. No worries about burning or even drying out or overcooking. The doneness window is so large you don't even have to set a timer most of the time. Your food is ready and waiting when you're ready to eat.

Texture: You can manipulate the textures of proteins by cooking at different temperatures and for different times. This is very useful for tough cuts of meat because you can get them moist and tender without drying them out--soous vide retains moisture extremely well, too.

High Nutritional Value: Low cooking temperatures retain more nutrients than high cooking temperatures, so sous vide food is naturally more nutritious than traditionally cooked food.

Are There Any Drawbacks to Sous Vide Cooking?

The biggest drawback of sous vide cooking is all the plastic you go through. You need containers to sous vide, so there's not really a way around this. There are ways to minimize your plastic use, though, and you can read more about this in our article 5 (Or so) Ways to Minimize Sous Vide Plastic Use.

Another drawback is that you need to invest in some new infrastructure. Experts disagree on just what you need to buy. Some firmly believe you need a dedicated covered container while others (we're in this camp) believe all you need is a stock pot and some aluminum foil. Some think you need racks, weights, a torch, and various other tools for the complete sous vide experience.

The one thing we think  you need, other than an immersion circulator, is a vacuum sealer. You can sous vide perfectly fine without one, but having a vacuum sealer will change your kitchen life. It's such a useful tool you'll wonder how you ever got along without one.

For more info, see our article Sous Vide Accessories: What to Buy, What to Skip. And if you're interested in learning more about vacuum sealers, see our article Why Every Kitchen Needs a Food Vacuum Sealer (And the Best Ones to Buy).

What Else Do I Need for for Sous Vide Cooking?

Again, see our article on Sous Vide Accessories

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What's Important In Choosing a Sous Vide Circulator?

As  with any product, it’s important to get past all the marketing jargon and know what to look for. If you're new to sous vide, it’s even more important. These are the important factors to think about.

Accuracy (Ability to Hold Temperature)

Above all, a sous vide immersion circulator needs to hold a constant temperature because this is the whole point: the constant temp is what makes it impossible to overcook a steak, cook eggs to the exact degree of doneness you desire, and perform countless other precision temperature tasks.

Most sous vide circulators do this very well. Some, like the PolyScience Pro Classic, which was originally designed for laboratory use, can hold a temperature to within a few hundredths of a degree. But that's not really necessary. Plus or minus one degree is all the accuracy required for kitchen use.

The only exception to this is if you want to hold a temperature constant when very close to the Danger Zone. Most bacteria grows between 40F and 140F (the danger zone), so if you want to cook food at, say, 140F, a large temperature fluctuation (i.e., greater than 1 degree Fahrenheit) could mean the difference between deliciousness and food poisoning. If you're sous-viding at this temperature, be sure to not leave the food in the water bath for more than two hours. 

Power (Heating Speed)

Power, measured in wattage, is also an important consideration. First of all, all of these immersion circulators are standard 120VAC units, which mean they plug into a standard wall outlet and can have a maximum power output of 1800 watts. (None of the circulators we review here are that powerful; the highest is 1100 watts and the lowest is 800 watts.)

Higher power doesn’t necessarily make one sous vide circulator better than another one. What more power does do is increase the rate at which the water comes up to temperature. So, a circulator with more power (higher wattage) will reach temperature faster. And the differences in speed can actually be quite large.

A circulator with 1100W is a lot faster than a circulator with 800W. While results will vary based on several factors--initial water temp, amount of water, pump strength, how hot the water needs to get--the 1100W circulator can be almost twice as fast as an 800W circulator. If you're starting from frozen when you get home from work, this can make a big difference in how quickly you'll be able to get a meal on the table.

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User Interface

All the best sous vide circulators are easy to use, but there are differences in the interfaces. Some displays are larger than others; some show both the set point and the current temp and some require switching the display; some are read from the top, some are read from the side, and some are read an angle. If the circulator connects to the Internet, you can check it from your phone; in the case of the Joule, you can only check it from your phone (though it does have an indicator light, so you can tell from across a room that it's running). 

Probably most important is that some have dials (or scroll wheels) to adjust and set temperature, while some have a digital interface with Plus/Minus keys. In our testing, the results were a no-brainer, and all of us found the dial easier--and faster--to use.

Manual controls (dials, knobs, and scroll wheels) are usually found on commercial-grade equipment (not just sous vide circulators, but other equipment as well), while digital interfaces are found on consumer-grade products. Why this is, we're not sure. Maybe digital interfaces are cheaper to produce. 

The old Anova (now discontinued) had a scroll wheel, which was fast and easy to use. They've "upgraded" to a digital design on the new models. We much preferred the scroll wheel. 

It takes longer to set a temperature digitally than manually, but not all that much longer. So while a manual control is preferable, it's not that big of a deal for immersion circulators. For the most part, they're easy to set no matter what the interface.

We describe the controls of each immersion circulator below in the reviews.

Noise

Sous vide immersion circulators overall are pretty quiet. Most of them make a quiet hum slightly louder than a computer fan (unless there’s something wrong, like a low water level). So unless you have very sensitive hearing, regular operating noise shouldn’t be an issue.

The exception to this is the Anova Precision Cooker, which makes a high-pitched whine while operating. It's not horrible, and whether it drives you crazy or not depends on several factors, how sensitive you are to noise probably the main one. You can read more about it in our review below.

More important might be the beeps and alerts a circulator makes to let you know what it’s doing. Some beep when they reach temp, some don’t. Most will beep before shutting off if there’s a problem (such as a low water level), but not all of them. Some have alerts that beep continuously until you press a key (though none of the circulators we review here do that).

You get to know the sounds and what they mean. They are generally quick and helpful, and not too annoying.

Price 

How much do you want to spend? The “new generation” circulators have come down in price a lot, and you can find them for $50 or even less now. You can also spend significantly more if you want a laboratory-precision instrument. 

The truth is, a sous vide immersion circulator is a simple device. It heats water and pumps it around a vessel. So you probably don't need to buy a super high-end one. However, if you want one made in the USA, PolyScience is one of your few options, and it's significantly more expensive than the gaggle of circulators made in China. (Yes: even Anova and Joule are made in China.) 

Our reviews of the best sous vide circulators under $100 will give you a good idea of what you can get in that price range. 

There's no right or wrong answer here, and the choice is yours. If you're going for low price, you can get a good circulator (and you should click over to the other review). If you're more interested in design, brand name, long-term durability, or made-in-the-USA products, one of the circulators reviewed here is a better bet. 

Capacity

Capacity refers to the amount of water a sous vide immersion circulator can efficiently heat. For most, this is around 5 gallons, which should be more than enough for most home cooks (even if doing a pork butt or whole turkey in a large container).

The capacity rating of a circulator isn’t all that important because it doesn’t really tell you much. First of all, because you’re rarely going to need to use more than 5 gallons of water. But also because many factors affect a unit’s capacity, including ambient air temp, how much food is being put in the water, whether the container is covered or uncovered, etc. So don’t worry too much about it.

Timer

Some immersion circulator models have timers and some don’t, and some of the timers just let you know when a cooking time has elapsed and keep running, while some timers turn the unit off. 

You don't really need a timer, and using one kind of misses the point of sous vide cooking, and what makes it so great. Because one fabulous aspect of sous vide, as Nathan Myhrvold so eloquently put it, is to "free cooks from the tyranny of the clock." If you forget about a steak, it’s not going to get overdone; the water bath will simply hold it at the exact doneness temperature until you’re ready to take it out. You don’t want to test this by leaving it in there overnight (the texture will change eventually), but an hour or two (or three) is just fine. 

Of course, there are sous vide applications that require precise cooking times. Fruits and vegetables, for example--if you let them go too long, they’ll turn to mush. And fish is also delicate and shouldn't be left sitting much after the cook time. So yes, a timer on your sous vide machine can be useful, especially if it turns the circulator off when done. Although in this case, there are worries about food sitting at Danger Zone temps, so you have to think about that, as well. (For example, don't shut your sous vide off in the middle of the day if you won't be home until after work.)

As sous vide grows in popularity, different schools of thought evolve on how to use it. So if a timer is important to you--most crucially, if you want the sous vide machine to switch off when the cooking time is up--then be sure to get a model with a timer. But consider the fact that sous vide's precise temperatures allow you to be imprecise with cooking time. You can err an hour or two past the finish point, and will still have a delicious meal waiting for you.

Connectivity

Many sous vide immersion circulators now offer Internet connectivity, including both WiFi and Bluetooth. You have to download a free app to use it, but once you have it, you can control your device remotely.

This could mean being in another part of the house or another part of the city. It’s cool, and some people really like being able to operate their circulator from their smart phone. But don't forget about the pathogen issue: you can’t leave food sitting in room temperature water all day, then turn on the sous vide 2 hours before you get home from work. This could be risky even if you start with frozen food and ice (though much safer). But it may be worth it to you to have your food cooked and ready to go when you get home. 

The Joule is operated completely by a remote application from your cell phone (or smart home device like Alexa) and has all sorts of online recipes and easy-to-follow instructions that make sous vide pretty much error proof. Anova is following in Joule's footsteps and have really upped their online game with their newest circulators. 

Also, even if you're not interested in operating your sous vide circulator remotely, you can find some great recipes on these websites. Since the apps are free, you generally don't need to own the circulator to use its website. 

Attachment Design

“Attachment design” refers to how you secure the sous vide immersion circulator to a vessel, and as of now, this will be either a clamp (such as Anova) or a clip (such as Joule). Here's a clamp design:

The Best Sous Vide Immersion Circulators

Here's a clip design:

The Best Sous Vide Immersion Circulators

This is more important than you might think.

Sure, you want durability, but it goes further than that. What type of vessels will you be using? What if you want to do a pork butt or turkey, and you want to use a large vessel such as a cooler--is the clamp or clip wide enough to fit over walls that thick? (Some of them aren't.) And how high does the water level need to be in order for the circulator to work? Because if you want to sous vide something in small jars (such as creme brulee, yogurt, or cheesecake), you need a model that will allow the unit to operate in fairly low levels of water (although you can also solve this problem with a rack or shelf, but that requires more infrastructure).

Overall, a clamp is the most durable, most versatile design. It tends to allow for the widest range of vessels. The Joule (see our full review here) has both a clip and a magnetic bottom. If you're not using a magnetic vessel, the small clip can be a disadvantage, though it will hold just fine to any thin-walled vessel (e.g., stock pot or plastic storage container). 

A clip, though, is super easy to use. If you're always going to use a stock pot or other thin-walled container, you might prefer a clip. It's not as durable (most of them are plastic or at least partially plastic), but if you attach it with care, it should be fine.

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Best Rated/Best Bargain Sous Vide Immersion Circulator:
Accu Slim by Instant Pot

The Best Sous Vide Immersion Circulators

See Accu Slim price on Amazon

The Accu Slim is made by the Instant Pot people and designed to work with the 6 quart or 8 quart Instant Pot. But you don't need an Instant Pot to use it. It will work in any vessel you can attach it to. The Accu Slim is an updated version of Instant Pot's first sous vide circulator, the SV800, which was larger and had a slightly different design. Accu Slim is smaller and more streamlined. At only about 1.5 pounds, it's a great unit for small spaces and people who will do mostly small cooks. We hated that you have to set the timer to run it, and that the default time is 4 hours--so if you forget to set it, the circulator will shut off after 4 hours. And, that there is no prompt to help you remember to set the timer; it just defaults to 4 hours without letting you know you forgot to set it.

If that isn't a concern for you, then this is a nice little circulator with a nice design at a nice little price. Instant Pot is a Canadian company with a reputation for quality and good customer service, and this circulator gets rave results on Amazon, with an astonishing rate of 94% positive reviews. If small and lightweight is what you're looking for, and you don't care about Internet connectivity, the Accu Slim is a good option.

Operation

The Best Sous Vide Immersion Circulators

Controls: Operation of the Accu Slim is easy. Start it by plugging it in, then pressing the Start/Stop key. The default setting is 135F/4 hours. 

To adjust the setting, first press the M key to toggle between Temperature and Time. You can't run the circulator without the Timer, unfortunately. The only workaround we figured out is to set the Timer for 72 hours, the max running time. 

You can adjust temperature or time at any point during the cook by selecting the Mode you want and using the Plus/Minus keys to increase or decrease the setting. When it reaches the temperature set point, the Accu Slim beeps to let you know, then starts the timer.

When the time has elapsed, the Accu Slim shuts itself off and the display will show "End."

IMPORTANT: The timer defaults to 4 hours, and the AccuSlim shuts off after the time elapses. If you want to do a longer cook, you have to remember to change the timer.

Error Codes: The display can show several error codes to help you troubleshoot if something goes wrong. These are explained in the user manual.

​​Water Level:​​ The max/min water level has a window of 2 inches. This is fairly small, so if doing a long cook, be sure to cover the vessel to minimize evaporation.

While the Accu Slim sous vide circulator will work in larger vessels, the ideal size is 2-3 gallons. The most important thing is to keep the water level between the Min and Max lines. 

Heating Power: The Accu Slim sous vide circulator can heat room temperature (70F) water to 130F in about 33 minutes, and can heat 130F water to 150F in about 13 minutes. These times are similar to other 800W circulators.

Attachment: Sturdy screw clamp attachment adjustable to 8 inches high. The clamp is rubberized to avoid scratching pots and to avoid sliding around.

Cleaning: The stainless housing is removable for easy cleaning.

read accu slim reviews on amazon now

Specifications

The Best Sous Vide Immersion Circulators

Material: Polycarbonate and stainless steel

Power (Wattage): 800W, (standard 120VAC plug-in).

Accuracy: +/0.4F/0.2C.​​

Temperature Range: 104-195F (40-90C), 1F/0.1C increments.

Size: 2.6x12.9 inches, 1.65 lbs.

Connectivity: No Internet connectivity.

Heating Time: 33 minutes from 70F to 130F. 13 minutes from 130F to 150F.

Controls/User Interface: Digital control panel.​​

Flow Rate: Not given

Max Run Time: 72 hrs

Max Bath Size:  Though not specified, Accu Slim is meant to be used with 6-qt or 8-qt Instant Pot. Up to 12-qt vessels should be fine.

Min/Max Immersion Depth: 2.5 in./4.5 in.

Attachment Design: Adjustable screw clamp with a max opening of about 1 inch and a max height of 8 inches.

Timer: 1 minute up to 72 hours, with auto shutoff when time elapses. Defaults to 4 hours if not set.

Warranty: 1 year manufacturer warranty.

Made in: China.

Internet Connectivity

The Accu Slim does not have Internet connectivity.

Pros and Cons of the Accu Slim Sous Vide Immersion Circulator

Pros and Cons of Accu Slim Sous Vide Immersion Circulator (by Instant Pot)

Pros
  • Small and lightweight
  • Made by Instant Pot
  • Excellent reviews
  • Durable screw clamp attachment
  • Great manual with detailed cooking time chart.
Cons
  • Have to set timer to use circulator (shuts off after 4 hrs if you don't)
  • Smallish temp. range (104-195F)
  • Slowish heating time (only 800W)
  • No Internet connectivity.

Recommendation

If you want a small, lightweight immersion circulator and don't care about Internet connectivity, the Accu Slim is a good option. At 800W it's not as powerful as we like, but it makes up for that at a lower price point. 

buy the IP Accu slim on amazon now:

Most Popular Sous Vide Immersion Circulator:
Anova Culinary Precision Cooker (AN500)

The Best Sous Vide Immersion Circulators

See Precision Cooker on Amazon

Anova is probably the best known name in sous vide immersion circulators. They were one of the first companies to produce an inexpensive (compared to first generation lab circulators like the PolyScience reviewed below) circulator geared to the consumer market. Anova has discontinued their early Precision Cooker models and have now come out with three new models. Their current model lineup is the Nano (750W/$99), the Precision Cooker (1000W/$200), and the Precision Cooker Pro (1200W/$399). This review is for the 1000W Precision Cooker.

The new 1000W Precision Cooker has all the features of the original Anova Precision Cookers, with a few improvements: it's more powerful, it's smaller, and it's water and steam resistant. 

Anova has also upped their Internet game, with improved connectivity, though there are still a lot of complaints in the reviews about it, and we also had trouble in our testing.

To be completely transparent, Anova is not our favorite brand of immersion circulator, despite its huge popularity. We're including the Anova Precision Cooker because it's well-liked by most users. Anova has had ongoing quality issues since their earliest models, with wonky water level shut offs, intermittent shutoffs for no apparent reason, and really abysmal Internet connectivity. Though they have made some improvements, there are a number of issues with the new Precision Cooker (we have not tested the Nano or the Pro).

Here's what we didn't like. First of all, it's noisy, with a somewhat high-pitched whine while running. One negative review compared the sound to a crying baby, and that's pretty accurate, though not quite that loud. It isn't unbearable, but it is the loudest and the least-pleasant sounding circulator of all those we tested. If you are sensitive to high-pitched noises or have an open concept kitchen/family room layout, the noise might just be a dealbreaker for you.

Second, the connectivity is still wonky, especially if you're using Apple products. These devices do not pair easily like other bluetooth devices. And if you have an iPhone, you may not be able to get it paired at all. Anova has good customer service and will help you, but don't expect the process to go smoothly. Also, be sure to check for updates before trying to pair, as sous vide apps are updated frequently. (Updates are in the Settings menu.) 

It will also unpair from your bluetooth frequently and for no understandable reason. Unless you keep your smart device in close proximity to the Precision Cooker all the time, expect to have to re-pair the device often.

Third, we dislike that Anova got rid of the scroll wheel, which made the discontinued models super easy and fast to set. This was probably necessary to make the circulator water resistant, which is a great feature, but we really miss that scroll wheel. (For this reason alone, our testers plan on keeping their old Anovas and not switching to the newer model.)

Finally, we had issues with temperatures over 170F. It took more than half an hour to get from 170F to 185F, and then it wouldn't go any higher. It's a weird issue, and only one of the negative reviews mentioned it, so while uncommon, we weren't alone in this. It's hard to say if it's a rare problem or that most reviewers simply haven't tried to heat water to these high temps. But if you want to do vegetables, fruits, or custards, you will need the unit to get up into the 180F range. 

If you're a fan of Anova and loyal to the brand, you will probably be happy with this circulator, especially if the connectivity isn't a big issue for you. But at a price point of $200, we prefer the Joule, which is more powerful, has a more reliable app, and none of the issues we found with the Anova Precision Cooker.

Operation

The Best Sous Vide Immersion Circulators

Controls: Plug it in to power it on. Select the mode (time or temperature) and use the Plus/Minus keys to set. Press the Start/Stop key to start pump/timer countdown.

You can also use the app to start the circulator remotely (it has to be plugged in, of course).

You can adjust temperature or time at any point during the cook by selecting the Mode you want and using the Plus/Minus keys to increase or decrease the setting. 

Error Codes: The display can also show several error codes to help you troubleshoot if something goes wrong. These are explained in the user manual.

​​Water Level:​​ The max/min water level has a window of 3.4 inches. This is pretty good, but always cover the vessel if you're doing a long cook. If you have an older Anova Precision Cooker, note that the new models are smaller, with shorter wands, so the water window is smaller and requires more attention than the with the older, larger circulators.

The AN500 has a low water sensor that shuts the circulator off if the water level goes too low to operate properly.

Heating Power: The Anova AN500 immersion circulator heats room temperature (70F) water to 130F in about 25 minutes. It heats 130F water to 140F in about 8 minutes. This is pretty standard times for a 1000W circulator. 

Some Anova circulators (including the AN500 we tested and some older Precision Cooker models we've tested) have trouble reaching high temperatures, i.e., above 170F or so. They can either take an extremely long time to come to temp, or they may never get there. Anova hasn't addressed this issue as far as we know, so we don't know why some circulators have this issue. But we weren't able to get our AN500 circulator to heat above 185F. 

Attachment: Adjustable screw clamp attachment. 

Cleaning: The stainless housing is removable for easy cleaning.

see Anova precision cooker reviews on amazon now

Specifications

Material: Polycarbonate and stainless steel

Power: 1000W (standard 120VAC plug-in)

Accuracy: +/- 0.2F

Temperature Range: 32-197F (0-92C)

Size: 2.2 in. x 12.8 in. x 3.1 in., 1.6 lbs

Connectivity: Has Internet connectivity and smart app with remote controls and recipes

Heating Time: 26 minutes from 70F to 130F.  8 minutes from 130F to 140F.

Controls/User Interface: Digital display with Plus/Minus keys, Start/Stop key.

Flow Rate: 8L/minute.

Max Run Time: Unlimited run time.

Timer: Yes, settable in minutes/hours in Timer mode.

Max Bath Size: 8 gallons.

Min/Max Immersion Depth: 2.5 in./5.9 in.

Attachment Design: Screw clamp attachment with 1.1 in. max opening.

Warranty: 1 year manufacturer warranty.

Made in: China.

Internet Connectivity

According to the Anova website, the connectivity is WiFi 802.11 b/g/n 2.4GHz. It has apps for iOS and Android.

Pros and Cons of the Anova Precision Cooker Sous Vide Immersion Circulator

Pros and Cons of the Anova Precision Cooker (AN500)

Pros
  • Water resistant case
  • 1000W 
  • Smaller and lighter than earlier models
  • 2 year warranty and good customer service.
Cons
  • Noisy
  • Lots of connectivity issues
  • We miss the scroll wheel on the discontinued models.
  • Issues getting the circulator above 180F.

Recommendation

While Anova enjoys a ton of positive reviews on their products and is a hugely best selling sous vide circulator on Amazon, it's not our favorite circulator. It's noisy, it can have issues reaching high temperatures, and it still has wonky connectivity issues (one of Anova's ongoing problems). If you find it on sale, it may be worth a try, but at $200, the Joule is a much better option.

The Best Sous Vide Immersion Circulators

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Best Design/Best App Sous Vide Immersion Circulator:
Breville Joule Sous Vide

The Best Sous Vide Immersion Circulators

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See price at Sur la Table

The Joule has been on the market since late 2015. It's made by Chef Steps, which was founded by Chris Young, a co-author of Modernist Cuisine. Breville bought Joule in mid-2019. Other than introducing an all-white model at a slightly lower price than the white-and-stainless original, they've made very few changes to the original design (other than frequent updates to the interface).

Joule is a compact, powerful device controlled exclusively by a remote app. It has only an indicator light to alert you to its operation (described in more detail below); otherwise, you use your smart device to control Joule, and Joule uses your smart device to alert you to changes in the cooking process.

It's an interesting idea, and one that appeals to lovers of high-tech gadgetry. It's also insanely popular, especially considering the price point is higher than most other consumer grade circulators. The sleek design and compact size is a great leap forward in immersion circulators.

On the other hand, using an app to do little more than heat water might be seen as overkill; do we really need a "smart" device for this? 

Where you happen to fall on the answer to that question will determine if you love Joule or hate it. But regardless of what you think about it, Joule is certainly an attractive piece of equipment: sleek, minimalist, powerful. It is small enough to fit in any kitchen drawer (even in its case), yet powerful enough to compete with commercial grade circulators (including the PolyScience we review below). No one can argue with the beauty and efficiency of this design.

Operation

Controls: Plug Joule in to power it on. You must download the Joule app to use the circulator. Follow instructions in the app. Once running, the indicator light will display a green light to indicate good operation or red to indicate there's a problem.

The Joule app will alert you when the water reaches cooking temperature and you can add your food (though you can drop your food in at any time before reaching temp without any negative effects).

You can adjust temperature or time at any point during the cook through the app.

Indicator Lights: Joule somewhat makes up for not having a display with a sophisticated indicator light system that tells you many things. Here's a chart from the Chef Steps site:

The Best Sous Vide Immersion Circulators

Error Codes: The indicator lights largely replace error codes, but your app will also alert you if something goes wrong with Joule. The website is very helpful for troubleshooting, and you can also contact support and get help that way.

​​Water Level:​​ The max/min water level has a window of 6.5 inches, which is great. It's one of the best on the market. Joule can operate in less then 2 inches of water--pretty impressive. Even so, you should use a covered container for any cook longer than a few hours.

The Joule has a low water sensor that shuts the circulator off if the water level goes too low to operate properly.

Heating Power: Joule has the fastest heating time of all the consumer-grade circulators we tested. 

Timer: Yes. If you run Joule in manual mode, you can select any time. If you use a recipe from the Joule app, timing is automatic. Joule will shut down when time has elapsed.

Attachment: Clip attachment.

Cleaning: The stainless housing is removable for easy cleaning.

Specifications

Material: Polycarbonate (this model) or polycarbonate and stainless (this model).

Power: 1100W (standard 120VAC plug-in)

Accuracy: +/- 0.2F (0.1C)

Temperature Range: 68F-208F (20-98C)

Size: 1.85 in. in diameter x 11.0 in. tall, 1.3 lbs

Connectivity: Yes. Joule can only be controlled remotely from a smart phone or other smart device. System requirements are iOS 8.0 or higher or Android 4.4 or higher.

Heating Time: 20 minutes from 70F to 130F. 7 minutes from 130F to 150F.

Controls/User Interface: Remote control by app on smart device. Indicator light on unit (red/green).

Flow Rate: Variable from 3.6-6L/minute (faster at higher temps)

Max Run Time: Unlimited

Max Water Capacity: 10 gal (40L)

Water Level Sensors: Thermal, high current protection (shuts off if water level goes too low).

Min/Max Immersion Depth: 1.5 in./8.0 in.

Attachment Design: "Universal" clip attachment, max opening 0.75 in. Joule also has a magnet on the bottom to stabilize in steel cooking vessels.

Warranty: 1 year.

Made in: China.

Internet Connectivity

The Best Sous Vide Immersion Circulators

Joule has arguably the best Internet connectivity in the world of immersion circulators. Since Joule can only be controlled by a remote smart device, this is an essential part of operation. 

There's good and bad about this design. The good is that not needing controls makes Joule considerably smaller and sleeker than other immersion circulators. It's as powerful as the PolyScience circulator reviewed below, in a package that's a fraction of the size and weight.

The bad is that you are dependent on the Internet, or your bluetooth connection, to use Joule. The app is pretty easy to use and very helpful for people new to sous vide, but we find it a little unnerving. It's a lot of infrastructure just to heat a vessel of water.

The app can also be a bit of a pain. When all you want to do is turn on a circulator and drop a package of steak in, walking through several screens of an app can be a pain. You really have to love the sleekness of the gadget, or you may get really tired of doing this.

Whether you love or hate this design is probably dependent on how technical you are. If you are highly technical, you will love the Joule. If you're more old school, you'll probably hate it.

Pros and Cons of Breville Joule Sous Vide Immersion Circulator

Pros
  • Powerful (1100W)
  • Sleek, compact design
  • Fast heating with powerful pump
  • Quiet
  • Good app for beginners.
Cons
  • No temp display on device
  • Must have Internet or bluetooth to operate Joule (and Internet is required to download app and updates)
  • Using app can be cumbersome. If you need to make changes to a cook, you pretty much have to start over (don't forget how much cook time is left!).
  • Clip attachment may be too narrow for thicker-walled containers.
  • Made in China.

Recommendation

If you're a techy person that loves the Internet and gadgets, you'll love Joule, with its remote-only smart device controls. Joule is also a good choice if you're new to sous vide--the app walks you through recipes, making them extremely easy to follow. 

If you're not a techy person and don't love the Internet and gadgets, Joule is not for you. 

The Best Sous Vide Immersion Circulators

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Made in USA/Best Commercial Grade Sous Vide Immersion Circulator: PolyScience Professional Classic

The Best Sous Vide Immersion Circulators

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See it at webstaurantstore.com (usually the best deal!)

This is the original circulator--the one that started it all! This is the immersion circulator people bought before there were Anovas or Joules, much less the Anova and Joule knockoffs that have now flooded the market.

The PolyScience Professional Classic Sous Vide Immersion Circulator is overkill for any home chef, as it's designed for restaurant and other professional use. It weighs a little over 9 pounds, and all the immersible parts are stainless steel. You can tell the instant you look at it that this circulator is made for commercial use.

So no, you don't need this circulator for home use. But even so, it's an amazing piece of equipment. It's fast, it's quiet, and it's super durable. It's designed to essentially run all the time, forever.

You'll never have to worry about long cooks crapping out while you're sleeping again. This circulator is as dependable as they come.

PolyScience makes a few other high-end circulators for home use that cost less than the Pro Classic, but we didn't like any of them. There were issues with build quality and dependability. So our recommendation is that if you're going to take the commercial grade plunge, go all-in and get this bad boy. It will run forever and last forever.

compare PolyScience sous vide circulators here

The stainless steel cage is bulky, but it's removable, and you can run it without the cage, if you needed more room in your container.

We've found that webstaurantstore.com usually has the lowest price, but check Amazon, too, because that could always change.

see more polyscience culinary tools here

Why Buy a Commercial Grade Immersion Circulator?

Here are a few reasons why you should spend 10 times the cost of a consumer grade circulator:

  • Can stand up to constant, heavy duty use
  • Handles large batches of food better
  • ​Laboratory-level temperature precision
  • You can calibrate them (precision is a priority)
  • Made in the USA 
  • You're a kitchen geek
  • You can afford the best.

You don't need one, but if you want one and can afford one, you probably won't regret the purchase. 

Operation

One of the best features of commercial grade products is that they're easy to operate. The PolyScience Pro Classic is no exception. There are no Plus/Minus keys that require multiple presses; just a big, easy-to-read backlit display and a dial to set it.

Here's a diagram from the instruction manual showing all the important parts, both front and back:

The Best Sous Vide Immersion Circulators

When you first power it on, it displays the water temperature.

To set the temperature, push the dial in to change the display to the set screen, then twirl it until you reach your desired temp. That's it! You don't have to press or select anything; it accepts the display as the new setpoint. 

After a few moments, the display reverts to the water temperature so you can watch it heat up.

You can save up to 3 temperature settings with the programmable preset keys. If you use this feature, you just have to power the circulator on and press the correct Preset key.

There's a high/low switch on the back for flow rate, and also a main power switch/circuit breaker (so if the main power is off, the Power key on the front won't switch it on). 

There are other controls, as you can see in the diagram, but these are all you need to know to operate this circulator.

There's no timer or Internet connectivity. There aren't even any beeps or indicator lights to alert you to temperature changes. You just look at the display to know what's going on.

Calibration: Unlike consumer grade products, this laboratory circulator can be calibrated. This short video shows you how:

Why is calibration important? Because you can make sure your circulator is holding the correct temperature, and you can re-set it if it isn't. If a circulator does not have this feature and you discover that it's not holding the correct temperature, you will either have to send it away for repairs, or throw it away and buy a new one.

Specifications

Power: 1100W (standard 120VAC plug-in)

Accuracy: +/- 0.09F

NOTE: The PolyScience Pro Classic can be calibrated to maintain temperature accuracy--see the video above for more information on calibration.

Temperature Range: n/a-200F (There is no lower limit on the temperature, however, note that the circulator can only heat water; it can not cool it.)

Size (in.): 7.375 x 3.875 x 14.125, 9 lbs.

Connectivity: No Internet connectivity.

Heating Time: 23 minutes from 70F to 140F. 5 minutes from 130F to 150F.

Timer: No.

Controls/User Interface: Backlit LCD digital display, dial to set temperature, 3 programmable temperature pre-sets, adjustable flow rate.

Flow Rate: 2 level adjustable with max rate of 12L/minute.

Max Run Time: Unlimited run time.

Max Bath Size: 8 gallons.

Time to Heat Room Temp Water to 140F: 23 minutes.

Time to Heat Hot Tap Water to 140F: 5 minutes.

Min/Max Immersion Depth: 3 in./7 in.

Attachment Design: Screw clamp.

Internet Connectivity

The PolyScience Professional Classic sous vide immersion circulator is not equipped with WiFi, bluetooth, or Internet connectivity of any type.

Pros and Cons of the PolyScience Professional Classic Sous Vide Immersion Circulator

Pros and cons of the PolyScience Professional Classic Sous Vide Immersion Circulator

Pros
  • Powerful, fast, and quiet
  • Extremely durable with stainless housing
  • Can be calibrated
  • Quiet
  • Made in USA.
Cons
  • Large, heavy, and bulky
  • No Internet connectivity
  • No timer
  • Expensive.

Recommendation

The PolyScience Professional Classic sous vide immersion circulator is definitely a want, not a need. There are many circulators that cost far less than this one that will get the job done. However, if you want durability, or want a product made in the USA, this is the most dependable option. You'd think that you could get similar quality in other PolyScience circulators, but the Pro Classic is the toughest, most dependable PolyScience circulator they make.

The Best Sous Vide Immersion Circulators

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Final Thoughts

Sous vide immersion circulators are everywhere now, as sous vide has taken over the culinary world. Our recommendations cover a wide range of needs, desires, and budgets, so there should be something here for everybody. Once again, here are our picks:

Best Rated/Best Bargain: Accu Slim by Instant Pot

Most Popular/Most Reviews: Anova Precision Cooker

Best App/Best Design/Smallest: Breville Joule

Made in USA/Commercial Grade: PolyScience Professional Classic.

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The Best Sous Vide Immersion Circulators

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