If you're looking for the best sous vide circulator under $100, we've got the information you need to buy the right machine.
Even if you're not on a budget, you may want to consider one of these inexpensive circulators, and here's why: The higher-priced name brands are made in China, just like the lower cost circulators: this includes Anova and Joule. The quality of the higher-priced name brands might be better, but it's hard for sure that's the case.
Immersion circulators are simple devices: all they do is move water around and hold it at a set temperature. There's really not a lot to them, so there's no reason to believe that paying less for an off-brand product will result in a huge reduction in quality.
It's entirely up to you, but we think there are a lot of great options for sous vide circulators under $100; there are even some decent models under $50.
We look at all the models on Amazon under $100 and do a micro-review of each; an asterisk indicates a recommended circulator. We also discuss the features in a sous vide circulator that are important to look at, including power, accuracy, user interface, size, attachment design, noise, Internet connectivity, and more. So if you have different criteria than us, you can find a model that best fits your needs.
Unfortunately, off-brand circulators can go in and out of stock frequently, so we apologize in advance if a product we link to is not available.
For more on sous vide cooking, see:
Sous Vide Time and Temperature Tables for Proteins
Why Have Prices on Sous Vide Circulators Fallen?
Just like other technology that catches on, what was once a spendy proposition is now quite affordable. Sous vide circulators have dropped from a high price of around $1000 down to $100-200. Now, you can find many immersion circulators under $100, and even under $50.
What's driven prices down? Primarily competition. Just a few years ago, you had only a few options: Anova, Joule, and a few others that we reviewed a couple of years ago. If you were willing to spend more, you had some other options as well (PolyScience, for example).
Today, there are hundreds of immersion circulators on the market, and the prices have dropped to reflect the competition in the market. Even the big makers, Anova and Joule, have introduced lower-priced options--but as far as we know, none of the brand names offer an option under $100. The one exception is the Instant Pot Accu Slim, which gets great reviews but is only 800 watts; for reasons we'll explain in a minute, we like circulators that are at least 1000 watts.
About Sous Vide
Sous vide has become hugely popular in recent years, and with good reason: it's an easy, inexpensive way to upgrade your cooking game. It makes perfectly cooked steaks easy, tough proteins a thing of the past, and creme bruleé one of the easiest desserts imaginable. Visualize perfect, crisp-tender veggies and easy homemade yogurt. Never eat a dry chicken breast again.
Sous vide is a French term that translates as "under vacuum." The original sous viders vacuum-sealed food to cook and easily keep ready at serving temperature. Sous vide was initially used in institutional settings such as hospitals and prisons because it simplified the task of serving hundreds of people at a time.
In the 1970s, some professional chefs began to adopt the method for many of the same reasons: it was an easy way to prep food for many people at once and to hold it at serving temperature until it was needed; it also makes it easy to keep food at the perfect doneness temperature. The method was used exclusively in professional settings until the 2010s, when Nathan Myhrvold released his Modernist Cuisine books, which began as a text on how to sous vide. Myhrvold was a layman chef (and a literal rocket scientist) who became interested in the sous vide technique. When he couldn't find helpful literature on the method, he decided to write his own. (The books became quite a bit more than just sous vide, they became a treatise on modernist cooking. But according to Myhrvold himself, their foundations are in sous vide.)
Sous vide has since grown into a hugely popular cooking method. People love the hands-offedness of it and the ease of creating delicious, foolproof, near-perfect dishes. Sous vide is not a fast method--in fact, it's been called the new "slow cooking," which is accurate--but because it requires almost no monitoring (even less than a slow cooker), you can go off and do other things without any worry of burning or drying out your dinner, even if you leave it in the sous vide cooker for hours longer than you planned.
Today, there are different schools of thought on how to sous vide. People have adapted different ways to use the technology, and they all work. Our particular lineage--Nathan Myhrvold's--is that sous vide "frees you from the tyranny of the clock" (a quote from this article). But if you have different interests, there are plenty of ideas out there for you.
For this reason, we're a little disappointed that most of the new generation of immersion circulators come with timers, and a few even require that you use a timer when setting up your cook. Apparently, sous vide has grown far beyond Myhrvold's vision of it. But the truth is that watching the clock is only necessary for a few dishes, while for the vast majority, you only have to worry about the minimum cook time, which frees you up in a lot of ways. As great as sous vide results are, we think that this is the true beauty of sous vide cooking.
Is Sous Vide Easy to Use?
Sous vide is extremely easy to use. There are two primary tools for sous vide: the immersion circulator:
And the water oven:
Both provide a way to heat water and hold it at a precise temperature. For example, you can heat the water to 131F for a perfectly medium rare steak, and the steak will stay at that temp no matter how long it sits in the water bath (it can't overcook--though the texture can change if it sits for several hours).
Immersion circulators are currently winning the technology battle, probably because they're smaller, cheaper, and easier to use--you just have to supply your own cooking vessel.
This article reviews immersion circulators only.
Sous vide immersion circulators are simple tools, and so are also pretty simple to use. All you really have to do is set the temperature, the timer if desired (or necessary), drop your food into the water (bagged, of course) and let the circulator do the rest. When it's done, you finish most foods with a quick sear--if you have a grill to do this, you won't even have a pan to wash.
What Can You Use Sous Vide For?
The early appeal of sous vide was that it made tender, juicy, perfect proteins. This is still the primary reason people buy sous vide machines, but you can use sous vide for many other things, including:
- Creme bruleé and other creamy desserts (e.g., flan, pots de creme)
- Beans, legumes and rice
- Heating leftovers
- Thawing frozen food
As popularity grows, people find new and interesting ways to use their sous vide cookers. We've even seen recipes for cakes and cookies. 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).
What Are the Benefits of Sous Vide Cooking?
Sous vide has numerous benefits:
Hands Off Ease: Since you can't burn or overcook food--it will never go above the set temperature--you can drop your food in the water bath and go do other things, whether in the kitchen or out. Some foods are more delicate than others--you don't want to leave shrimp in the sous vide cooker overnight--but almost all foods have an extremely large window in which you can let them go. As long as you go the minimum time, you'll be fine. So if you get sidetracked and forget about your food for a few hours, you're almost certainly fine.
Moistness: Because there's nowhere for moisture to go, sous vide food retains moisture extremely well; probably better than any other cooking method.
Manipulating Texture: While most foods are done within a couple of hours, you can use the water bath to manipulate texture. This is most useful for tough cuts of meat, which become soft and tender with long cooks without losing moisture or flavor or getting overcooked. Also, since you're cooking to a specific doneness, you can achieve tenderness while keeping the cut a perfect medium rare. This is not possible with any other cooking tool. Here's an image of 72-hour sous vide short ribs (courtesy of the Oliso website):
High Nutritional Value: High temp cooking methods destroys some nutrients. Cooking at low temps locks in nutrients.
Is Sous Vide a Safe Way to Cook?
Yes, sous vide is safe, as long as you follow a few simple rules that require you to keep cooking temperatures high enough to kill bacteria. For more information, see our article Is Sous Vide Cooking Safe?
What Else Do You Need for Sous Vide?
For best results, you do need a few pieces of equipment. These include a sous vide container, a lid for long cooks, and a way to brown your food before you eat it (not necessary for everything, but essential for proteins, which are by far the most common way to use sous vide). We also recommend getting a vacuum sealer, which makes sous viding infinitely more simple--as well as helping you save money and making food prep simpler.
Aside from the vacuum sealer, you probably already own everything you need.
Sous Vide Container: You can buy a dedicated sous vide container, but it isn't necessary. The easiest way to sous vide is to attach your immersion circulator to a stock pot or large Dutch oven. Or, if you own a large plastic container, that works too. (It doesn't even need to be food grade because the food is completely sealed.)
For large cooks, some people like to use a cooler--but if you're going to do this, make sure your circulator has an clamp or clip large enough to attach to the cooler (many do not, especially those with clips).
If you do want to buy a dedicated sous vide container, be sure that it's designed to work with the immersion circulator you own. In most cases, this means buying a container compatible with an Anova circulator. Those compatible with Joule are too small for most other sous vide circulators. And some circulators are too large to fit into any hole designed to work with Anova. (This is an important reason to pay attention to the size of the circulator you buy.)
Lid for Long Cooks: If you use a stock pot for sous vide, obviously the lid isn't going to fit with an immersion circulator sticking out of it. Again, you may think you need a dedicated container with a lid customized for sous vide, but you really don't.
If you use a stock pot, simply cover the top with aluminum foil. That's all you need to solve that problem.
You don't need to cover the vessel at all unless you're doing a long cook--anything more than 5-6 hours. High temperature cooks, which are necessary for fruits and veggies, also evaporate water faster, so they should be covered, too, especially if you're not around to monitor the cook.
And if you're cooking overnight, you definitely have to use a lid--it's a terrible feeling to wake up to a beeping circulator and a pot of meat in tepid water.
Another inexpensive option is to use ping pong balls. They're useful for large containers that are hard to cover another way (like coolers). They do a surprisingly good job, and have become so popular that you can buy bags designed specifically for sous vide use (such as those at the link given here). However, they're a bit of a pain to use because you have to dry them and store them. Again, we've found that a sheet of foil is the easiest way to reduce evaporation.
The point here is that if you don't want to spend the money on more sous vide infrastructure, you don't need to: a stockpot and aluminum foil work just fine. But if you do want to invest, there are several options available.
Weights: Sometimes, sous vide bags fill with air during a cook--usually from gases inside the food expanding from the heat. When this happens, you need to solve the problem because a floating bag isn't going to cook evenly. You can re-bag the food, or you can weight it down so it stays completely submerged. You can buy special sous vide weights for this:
However, you almost certainly already own something you can use instead: a big coffee mug, a small heavy pan, a cast iron trivet, an enameled cast iron Dutch oven lid; many things will work.
Although air in a bag can result in an uneven cook, keeping the bag submerged will often solve the problem (for those of us too lazy to re-bag).
Searing Tools: When you take your proteins out of the water bath, they don't look very appetizing. They'll be gray and soggy looking. This is because there is no browning with sous vide. Since browning adds flavor as well as color, you will want a way to sear most of your proteins before eating. (There are some exceptions, such as salmon and shrimp, but for most meats you're going to want a sear.)
You can sear your proteins a number of ways: you can use a torch or sous vide torch attachment (propane or MAPP gas is best), you can throw them on a screaming hot grill for a few minutes (no longer than this or you lose the perfect doneness), you can broil, bake, or pan fry, you can even deep fry (deep-fried sous vide steak is a real treat!).
The easiest way to sear is probably in a hot cast iron skillet: get that pan as hot as you can and quickly sear the protein, turning it to brown all sides. It doesn't take but a couple of minutes.
If you don't want to wash a pan, you can use your grill--or place your protein on an outdoor grill and torch it if you don't want to go to the trouble of getting your charcoal going (though a gas grill makes searing super easy!).
Again, the point is that you almost certainly already own everything you need to finish your proteins. You can invest in more sous vide infrastructure (like the Searzall), but you don't have to.
NOTE: One problem with searing, particularly with a fatty cut of steak like rib eye or NY strip, is that it's hard to get the fat fully rendered. To do this without further cooking the interior, you have to use the highest heat method possible. So whether it's a grill, torch, or cast iron pan, get that thing as hot as humanly possible for best results.
Vacuum Sealer: In the desire to sell a lot of immersion circulators, a lot of folks are telling you that you don't need a vacuum sealer; that the water displacement method works just fine. Even though "sous vide" literally means "under vacuum," you do not need a vacuum sealer. Against the recommendations of almost every other sous vide site on the Internet, we suggest that a vacuum sealer is the one piece of infrastructure that you do need.
Sure, you can use the water displacement method and get decent results. Reusable silicone bags will also produce decent results (and use less plastic, as well).
But what about meal prepping? What about having a freezer full of seasoned meat you can just pop in the water bath for an easy dinner? What about saving hundreds of dollars a year by being able to buy in bulk and freeze proteins with no worries about freezer burn?
There are myriad reasons you need a vacuum sealer in your kitchen: foolproof sous viding is only one of them. Check out our vacuum sealer archives for more info.
Are There Any Disadvantages to Cooking Sous Vide?
All cooking methods have disadvantages, and sous vide is no exception. Here are a few issues with the sous vide method:
- You have to be careful about the Danger Zone and keeping temps at safe levels.
- You use a lot of plastic (though there are ways to reduce, reuse, and recycle sous vide plastic)
- You have to plan ahead because sous vide is easy, but it is not fast.
- You need to sear most proteins after cooking sous vide (an extra step).
- You may miss the smell of roasting meat.
Important Features of Sous Vide Circulators (What to Look At)
The features we consider most important are power, accuracy, size, controls, attachment design, plus a few other less critical features such as a timer, heating capacity, and Internet connectivity. If you want Internet connectivity, a timer, or think you'll need to heat huge containers of water, then be sure to look at all of the specs before buying; Internet connectivity, in particular, isn't very common on the lower-priced sous vide circulators.
We also looked at the model's Fakespot adjusted rating. This isn't a foolproof way to determine how accurate the reviews are, but it is a helpful tool.
(Note: Not all specs are available for all brands, but we list as many as we can.)
Power refers to the wattage of a circulator, and it determines how fast a circulator will come up to temperature. Coming to temperature quickly is perhaps the most important trait of an immersion circulator.
You may think, "Who cares how fast it is? I'll use hot tap water so it doesn't matter." But if you become a frequent user of your sous vide machine--several times a week is common among sous viders--you'll likely get into the habit of leaving a container full of water on your counter.
This is easier than refilling a pot several times a week, and it also conserves water. But it means that you're often starting from room temperature, so it's going to take longer for that water to reach the set point temperature than if you start with hot tap. Depending on the wattage of your immersion circulator, maybe considerably longer.
You may not think there's a big difference between 800 watts and 1000 watts, but in practical terms, it can mean the difference of a half an hour or more in the speed of heating from room temperature--maybe even more if you're doing fruits or veggies that require temps up around 180F (high temperatures, above about 165F, require much more energy and take longer to reach).
In our tests, we were not surprised to find that a 1200W sous vide circulator was about twice as fast as an 800W circulator. This held true for room temperature water heated to a cooking temp of 131F and for hot tap water heated to a temperature of 150F. While heating time varied among brands, high wattage models (1000W and up) were consistently faster than low wattage models (below 1000W).
Keep in mind that your results may vary as there are a lot of factors that are hard to control for.
It's not all about wattage, as different circulators are designed differently, so some heat faster than others of similar wattage. But in general, more wattage means faster heating--and by and large, you will appreciate faster heating under most circumstances.
Another consideration: You may want to use a dedicated outlet (i.e., nothing else plugged into it when you're using your circulator) for high-wattage circulators as you may trip power breakers if you don't. Even 800W is higher than many kitchen appliances. We don't see this as a reason to go with lower wattage unless your kitchen has wiring issues and you've had problems with blown circuits. Using a dedicated outlet will greatly lessen the chances of tripping a power breaker.
A sous vide circulator really only has to do 2 things: 1) heat water, and 2) hold it at a steady temperature.
Thus, most sous vide circulators aren't going to fall short in this category, and all of the models we tested were able to hold water temperature within 1F. This isn't quite as impressive as it sounds, because most circulators promise accuracy 10 times better then that (i.e., +/- 0.1F).
But 1F is good enough.
Somewhat surprisingly, not all circulators can hold water to a precise temperature, especially in the under $100 category. (Just read some of the negative Amazon reviews to see what we mean.)
If you buy one of our recommendations and it's not able to hold the water temp within a degree, you should return it--it's a lemon.
For most people, a good size for a sous vide circulator is "small." The Joule was innovative because it was half the size of the other circulators on the market at the time--small enough to fit in any drawer. And as nice as this is, the sacrifice is that the Joule can only be controlled remotely, through an app on a smart device. If you're over 40, this may not appeal to you (and maybe not even if you're younger than that). This can be problematic because it creates an unnecessary dependency: if you have connectivity problems in your home, the Joule is unusable.
Our pick for the best small circulator under $100 is the Instant Pot Accu Slim. The design isn't as sleek as Joule, but it's small enough to fit in most drawers and it still has a control panel (making it still not as small as the Joule, but pretty close).
The sacrifice you make with choosing a small model is that it's usually not as powerful as some of the larger ones. You'll have to settle for 800W instead of 1000W or even 1200W, which can make heating water significantly slower (see our discussion above about power).
A small circulator is nice, though, and we understand why people would want one. But be sure you can live with the lower power before you buy.
If you don't mind a circulator that's a little larger, you have several brands to choose from, and most of these are going to be more powerful than 800W (if they're not, we do not recommend them).
Here, we looked at which circulators were easiest to use. Now, "easiest to use" is subjective, because people differ on what kind of controls they prefer. In our testing, we found that what makes a circulator easy to use is a scroll wheel (instead of a touch screen control panel).
The AICOK has a scroll wheel to change temp/time:
This emulates the original Anova design. (Sadly, Anova has moved away from the scroll wheel and has gone touchscreen only with their new devices.)
Many under $100 sous vide circulators have Plus/Minus keys for adjusting temperature (and time, if the unit has a timer):
So you have to consider: Would you rather press a key repeatedly or scroll with a wheel to adjust temperature? Which provides more tactile feedback? And which is faster?
In our testing, the scroll wheel won, no contest.
How you set the device may not be a priority for you, and if so, that's fine. In the bigger scheme, you'll be happy with whichever circulator you buy regardless of how you control it.
But if you are someone who prefers manual controls--because they're faster and easier to use--you should buy a model with a scroll wheel control.
Here, there are two options, clip and clamp:
The screw clamp is our choice. It's more durable, and in most cases it allows for use with a wider range of vessels.
Many clips have too narrow an opening to work with, say, a cooler. And clips made of plastic, which is most of them, can break.
Clips can also hold poorly, sliding down the side of a vessel. This can be a serious problem because most circulators won't work properly if they're resting on the bottom of a pot. (It's an easy fix, though: just glue some rubber or other "high-grip" material on the clip's grippers so it will hold the circulator wand in place.)
So we prefer screw clamps, but a clip is not a deal breaker if the circulator you want has one. If the vast majority of your cooks are going to be in a thin-walled vessel (e.g., a stock pot or dedicated sous vide container), the attachment type isn't all that important.
Water level is probably the most important operating feature that you'll have to monitor. Immersion circulators have a set water level range in which they can operate, indicated on the immersion shaft:
This is important because if the water level falls below the minimum level, the circulator can't work properly, and it will shut itself off.
If this happens in the middle of the night, while you're sleeping, your food could be ruined by the time you discover it.
Circulators have a range of operation from approximately 2 inches up to about 5 inches. A larger range is nice, especially if you'll be doing long cooks. However, you can work with any range as long as you know your circulator's limitations and are careful about not letting the water level get too low.
Just know that if you buy a circulator with a smallish operating range, you will need to monitor it more frequently, and should consider keeping it covered to avoid evaporation--especially for long or high temperature cooks.
Other Considerations (Not as Important)
Sous vide temperature range really only needs to be from around 100F to around 200F; you don't need to go below this, and you don't want to go above boiling point for safety reasons (plastics can begin to break down).
You may want to use a cooler temperature than this for, say, defrosting frozen food. The thing is, a circulator can't cool water; it can only heat it. So if for some reason you want a water bath near freezing, you're going to have to use ice to get it down that low. But since this is a cooking device, you'll probably never need to do that.
One circulator we looked at even had a "wine chilling" function, which is kind of a neat idea. And several have a temperature range that goes down to 32F. But many have ranges of about 100F-200F, and that's where you'll do the vast majority of your sous vide cooking; a larger range isn't necessarily a plus.
You will find a lot of different temperature ranges among sous vide circulators, but as long as they're wide enough to cook fish (115F) and vegetables (195F), you'll be fine. So temperature range is not a critical specification, but it is something to be aware of when shopping for an immersion circulator.
We at TRK are kind of old school with sous vide, preferring circulators with no timer at all, and here's why: With the huge window of acceptable cooking times--larger than with any other cooking method--sous vide makes a timer largely unnecessary. If you err an hour or even two over the cooking time, the worst that will happen is that your protein might be a little mushy--but it usually takes several hours in a sous vide bath for this to happen.
This is not the case for everything: fish, for example, will degrade rather quickly if left in a water bath too long. But for most foods, a timer is simply not necessary, and you do not need the circulator to shut itself off when the food is "done." In fact, if the circulator shuts itself off and the food then sits in room temperature water for too long, you may have to toss it--this is the Danger Zone where bacteria can ruin food and make it unsafe to eat.
You're better off--even with delicate foods like fish--if the circulator runs indefinitely, keeping the food at safe-to-eat temperatures.
A timer can be helpful on the other end, with minimum cooking times. But do you need a timer for that? Can't you use the timer on your stove or microwave? Or for that matter, just look at your watch or smart phone to see what time you started cooking?
Most new immersion circulators come with a timer, including those under $100. And many, we're sorry to say, require that you set the timer to use the device. We find this ridiculous. It's antithetical to the whole philosophy of sous vide, which, in the words of Nathan Myhrvold, "frees you from the tyranny of the clock."
We understand that some people do not want to be freed from the clock. They want the security of a timer, of knowing that the circulator is watching out for you and taking care of everything. We get it. But if you are one of these people, we encourage you to try it our way: to see sous vide as, more than anything, a relaxing way to cook, with huge cooking windows and no severe consequences if you leave your food in the water bath for longer than you planned.
We started out having "no timer" as a requirement to earn a recommendation from us, but timers are so common now that it weeded out too many otherwise great circulators. If you don't want a timer, you can figure out a workaround on most circulators, such as setting the timer to its max time (often 99 hours).
Water Flow and Circulation
Water flow refers to how fast the circulator can pump water. Water circulation refers to which direction the circulator pumps the water.
Flow is important because a circulator has to move water at a rate fast enough to keep the temperature even throughout the water bath; uneven heating results in unevenly cooked food. A higher flow rate will also adjust to temperature changes faster.
Flow rate is measured in liters per minute (LPM) or gallons per minute (GPM). In general, all sous vide circulators have a flow rate fast enough to maintain a temperature consistent enough to cook food evenly. Unless you're looking for a high capacity circulator to cook large amounts of food routinely, flow rate isn't a large concern.
Circulation refers to the direction(s) in which the pump disperses water. The vast majority of modern sous vide circulators have 360 degree circulation, which is as fully circulating as you can get. However, as long as the circulator moves the water, it should work just fine.
Heating capacity refers to how much water a sous vide circulator can heat, i.e., how large a water bath you can use it with. Like water flow and circulation, heating capacity is similar amongst consumer-grade circulators. Most circulators can heat a few gallons of water without a problem. In fact, pretty much any circulator will do an okay job even if you use it in a vessel larger than its rated capacity. (We're not telling you to do that, but if you ever have a need to, you aren't likely to have any major problems. It just may take awhile to get up to temperature.)
If you need something with a large heating capacity, you'll have to spend considerably more on a commercial/laboratory grade circulator like the PolyScience Laboratory Circulator, which is rated to heat several gallons.
Although some reviewers complain about sous vide circulators being loud, we haven't really noticed this with any of the models we've tested. The one exception was the Anova AN500, which had some noise issues that have (we hope) been fixed by now.
If you are very sensitive to noise, then be sure to opt for a quiet model. But we've run everything from $50 cheapies to $1000 lab circulators, and haven't really considered the running noise an issue on any of them. If your circulator is louder than a dull hum, there's probably something wrong with it.
Some circulators, particularly on the low cost end, can have a lot of annoying alerts. Some will alert and stop, which is great because you know when it came up to temperature or was done cooking. Busy t some will continue to beep until you press a button. This is the case with the NutriChef 1200W sous vide cooker: you have to press a key to get it to stop beeping. We hate this feature of an otherwise really nice, powerful circulator.
The thing is, you'll learn how to operate the one you buy, and while having to press buttons to stop beeps may be annoying, you'll get used to it--but do try to buy one that runs quietly and doesn't have too many annoying and unnecessary alerts.
Many new circulators are rated completely waterproof (most with the label "IPX7"). While this is not a requirement for good operation--$1,000 lab circulators are not waterproof--it's a nice feature. We don't think it's a necessary feature, and probably not worth a higher cost. But there are several great options that are powerful and waterproof.
The quick thing to know is that most sous vide circulators under $100 do not have Internet connectivity. And of those that do, the apps tend to get pretty poor reviews--so if Internet connectivity is important to you, you should probably buy a Joule.
Since Internet connectivity is a popular feature on immersion circulators, we gave it its own section.
About Internet Connectivity
Internet connectivity allows you to control your sous vide circulator remotely from a smart device. Some immersion circulators, like the Anova Nano, have Bluetooth connectivity that allows you to operate the circulator from anywhere in your home. Others have Wifi with full connectivity that allows you to control the device from anywhere there is an Internet connection. The apps can very greatly in their ease of use, with Joule definitely being the easiest to use by far.
How Connectivity Aids Sous Vide Cooking
How would you use this connectivity? A number of ways. For one, you could put your meal and some ice in a water bath before you leave for work in the morning, start the circulator in the afternoon, and voila, you've got dinner 80% done when you get home from work; 95% done if you're not making any sides.
You can also get alerts on your smart phone if there are errors in the cook, such as low water level or a power outage. This is convenient, and may save you the expense of having to toss out an entire meal.
Some apps (Joule is one) can walk you through a recipe step by step, complete with pictures to show doneness levels. This is helpful if you're new to sous vide (although, let's be honest, sous vide-ing is not that hard to learn without an app--most people know what "medium rare" means).
Other circulator apps are more limited. They let you turn the circulator on and off, monitor the cook, adjust settings, and maybe a few other controls.
Most apps also have recipes and cooking guides that aren't interactive. These provide step-by-step preparation instructions. Even if you don't care about controlling your circulator remotely, these apps can be good resources for sous vide recipes and cook times.
You can download many of these apps, even if you don't own the circulator they're meant to be used with.
Is Internet Connectivity Worth the Extra Cost?
According to polls we've done and other research we've seen, the sous vide community is split about evenly on Internet connectivity: some people love it and use it all the time, while others have never bothered to connect their unit even if it has Internet capability.
Our opinion on connectivity is mixed, as well. We like the idea that an app can be helpful to people finding their way with new technology. However, the idea that you have to use an app is abhorrent. These devices heat water, for gosh sakes. Being required to connect to the Internet to heat water is a bit over the top.
There's also the whole privacy thing. Smart devices are constantly listening, and this is true whether they're on or off, whether you're actively using them or not. From your Siri to your Alexa, you probably have a number of devices in your home that are listening to everything you say...in other words, spying on you. (Check out this article if you don't believe us.)
This may make us Luddites...but we're not wrong about the listening.
Also, you have to supply a lot of personal information to use most sous vide apps. If your privacy is important to you, you may not want to do this. (Although most of us have a huge amount of personal information on the Internet already, so sharing information with one more company may not be a big deal for most people.)
Probably the biggest problem with immersion circulator connectivity is that so many of these apps just aren't very good. They don't do what they're supposed to do. Either they don't connect, or the connection is intermittent, or once connected, it doesn't control the device the way it's supposed to.
Just browse the one- and two-star Amazon reviews on the Anova and Joule to get an idea of some of the connectivity nightmares people have experienced (but especially Anova).
So, is Internet connectivity worth the extra cost? Eh. If it's important to you, you should spend the extra money and get the Joule, or possibly the Anova, as they continue to improve their app (though for our latest update in early 2021, we see that reviewers are still complaining about it not working very well). None of the sous vide circulators under $100 that have connectivity are getting high marks for it.
Are Sous Vide Circulators Under $100 as Good as More Expensive Circulators?
Now a whole new batch of newer, less expensive circulators has flooded the market. But are they as good as the Anova or the Joule?
The truth is, a sous vide circulator is a simple device. It heats water and holds it at a set temperature. And most immersion circulators are fully capable of doing that. Even if you buy the cheapest circulator you can find, it will probably be able to heat water and hold at to a constant temperature (constant enough, anyway).
In that sense, these circulators are as good as Joule or Anova. But still, buying in this category, you make some sacrifices. For example, a no-name brand may not have very good customer service. And the internal parts may not be quite as durable--although we suspect that the build quality is very similar to that of Anova and Joule, both of which are made in China. To get improved build quality, you probably have to spend hundreds more on a lab-grade immersion circulator like this PolyScience model.
The quality difference between the PolyScience circulator and the Anova or Joule is palpable. The quality difference between Anova or Joule and an under-$100 circulator? Probably not all that much.
We can't tell you with total certainty that under $100 circulators are going to be as good as an Anova or a Joule, but we do believe that many of them are very close, and are worth purchasing.
In fact, unless you want specific features, like the Joule's superior Internet app, there's probably no reason to pay more than $100 for a sous vide circulator.
We may change our minds, but this is how we see it today.
Sous Vide Immersion Circulators Under $100
Here's our list of circulators under $100. We give the name and a product link, plus the important specifications. If you're not sure what to look at, see the section above on Important Features (What We Looked At).
Here, we give wattage as that's what tells you how powerful the circulator is, which controls how fast it will heat water and how much water it can heat, etc. We also talk about reviews and whether or not the circulator has any connectivity features.
If Internet connectivity is important to you, then be sure you buy a model that has it. However, other than Joule, most sous vide connectivity technology is pretty disappointing--the technology isn't there yet (this is maybe more true at the under $100 price point).
Remember, many of these circulators go in and out of stock frequently. So we apologize if one isn't available. We tried to include enough specifications that you can find another model that works for you.
NOTE: A high Fakespot rating (they grade from "A" to "F") does not mean an item is good quality. It only means that the reviews are mostly accurate. This could mean good accurate reviews or bad accurate reviews. So, Fakespot was only one tool we used to gauge these circulators--when you're dealing with unfamiliar brands, a tool like Fakespot is a huge help in determining quality.
AICOK: 1000W, "C" grade on Fakespot with adjusted rating of 3.5 stars. It has a scroll wheel for a nice user interface, but probably not a great choice given that the ratings may be deceptive.
AICOOK: 1000W, waterproof, no ratings yet. This is the same 1000W waterproof circulator sold by other brands like VONRED, Kitchen Boss, Biolomix, and more. If you like the waterproof design, be sure to buy the cheapest circulator that is identical to this one. (Right now that looks like the VONRED.)
AnchorChef: No ratings yet.
Anova Nano w/Bluetooth: 750W, water resistant, 5 gal. capacity, "A" grade on Fakespot. A compact circulator that gets good reviews and has limited connectivity that doesn't get high praise. This circulator was $99 (which is why it's on this list) but is currently going for $129--a little high for a circulator with only 750W.
*Aobosi: 800W, "A" grade, 4.5 stars on Fakespot. Screw clamp attachment, 2 yr. warranty, under $60. Not super powerful, but a well built little circulator with excellent ratings at an excellent price. All digital controls.
AOSNTEK: 1000W, no ratings yet.
*AuAg: 950W, "A" grade on Fakespot with an adjusted rating of 4.5 stars. For just under $40, this is a great deal and an excellent way to get into sous vide for a rock bottom price. The good: Inexpensive, with a unique "scroll wheel" top that rotates to adjust the settings (pretty cool). You can set temp and time, or select from 30 presets for specific types of food. When cook time is done, the cooker holds the water temp for 2 more hours rather than shutting off the unit (very cool). The bad: All plastic parts, including the shaft. You have to use the timer to operate. We really like this circulator despite its shortcomings.
Aukuyee Sous Vide Machine: 1100W, "D" grade on Fakespot with adjusted rating of 2 stars.
Barsetto: 800W, Not enough ratings for Fakespot grade. With 1 1-star rating on Amazon, this doesn't seem like a good buy.
*Belle Cuisson: 1100W, "B" grade on Fakespot with adjusted rating of 4 stars. The good: powerful and extremely low price (about $55). The bad: Big, all digital controls, flimsy screw clamp attachment. Overall it gets good ratings and is a powerful circulator at a great price. Worth a try.
Biolomix: 1000W, waterproof. Not enough ratings to get a Fakespot grade. This circulator looks like several other 1000W waterproof circulators, including Kitchen Boss, Vonred, and this AICOOK so if this one is lower priced, probably okay to buy it.
Bonsenkitchen: 1200W, "A" Fakespot grade with 4 star adjusted rating. It's also waterproof (which means all digital controls). It has a clip attachment but the clip is big and sturdy. We like this circulator, but it has too many 1 star reviews and not enough 4-5 star reviews for us to recommend it.
BOSSLIFE: 800W, "A" Fakespot grade with 4.5 star rating. Great ratings, but at only 800W there are more powerful options available at this price point.
Brentwood: 1100W, no ratings yet. Seller has a caution, so we don't recommend.
*Chefman: 1000W, "B" Fakespot grade with an adjusted rating of 4 stars. This circulator is identical to the AICOK (above), so if you like that one and it's not available, go with this one. With 10% 1 star ratings, it's on the bubble of what we like to recommend. But it's probably worth a gamble if you want the power, like the design, and want the scroll wheel.
Crux: 1000W, "F" grade on Fakespot. With only about 20 reviews it's hard to gauge how accurate the reviews are. But we don't have enough information to make a recommendation on this circulator.
*Culinya Sous Vide Immersion Circulator: 1300W, "B" grade on Fakespot with adjusted rating of 4.5 stars. Gets mostly positive ratings but a few complaints of not working and poor customer service. We don't like that the controls are on the top face of the unit, meaning you can't see them from across a room, but the scroll wheel control and 1300W make this circulator a good gamble.
Dash Chef Series: 800W, "D" grade on Fakespot. Some neat features like "wine chill" mode, but with this low Fakespot rating, low power, all-digital controls, this isn't a good choice.
DORINI: 1000W, "A" grade on Fakespot with 4 star rating. Sounds great--but this cirtuclator has more than 20% 1 star reviews, so it would be a big gamble. This is a case of Amazon reviews getting a high Fakespot grade for being accurate, but not very good.
Emeril Lagasse Sous Vide Cooker: 800W, "B" grade on Fakespot. All-digital controls and low power, so we don't recommend this circulator. We do like its sturdy mounting clamp.
ETRONIK Sous Vide Cooker: 1000W, "A" grade on Fakespot but only 3 stars. Plastic clamp, all-digital controls.
FEBOTE Sous Vide Precision Cooker: White, square, 1000W, "F" grade on Fakespot with adjusted rating of 0 stars. Not recommended based on Fakespot rating.
Gourmia GSV115: 800W, with a "B" grade on Fakespot and an adjusted rating of 3.5 stars.
HadinEEon: 1000W, "C" Fakespot grade with an adjusted rating of 3.5 stars. The good: powerful, waterproof, small, great price (just over $50). The bad: All digital controls (no scroll wheel), small control panel, could have deceptive reviews. If the ratings adjust over time, we will give this one a thumbs up.
Homevolts: 1000W. "D" Fakespot grade with adjusted rating of 1 star.
IKICH Mini Sous Vide Cooker: 1000W. With an "F" rating on Fakespot and a 0 star adjusted rating. Don't like the all-digital controls or the clip attachment. Not recommended.
*Inkbird ISV100W WiFi Sous Vide Cooker: 1000W, "C" rating on Fakespot with adjust rating of 3.5 stars. This circulator gets great reviews on sous vide cooking forums, which is why we recommend it. (We suspect the ratings will adjust over time.) All digital controls, but pretty easy to operate.
*Inkbird ISV200W WiFi Sous Vide Cooker: 1000W, "D" rating on Fakespot with adjusted rating of 2.5 stars. As with the ISV100W model (above), we're giving this a recommendation based on enthusiastic support on sous vide forums. It that's not enough to convince you (and we understand if it isn't), there are other models this powerful with better ratings, including the other Inkbird model (above).
*Instant Pot AccuSlim SSV800: 800W, "B" rating on Fakespot with adjusted rating of 5 stars. It's not very powerful, it has an all digital control panel, and you have to use the timer to run it. It also has a rather small min/max water range. However, it's the smallest circulator we found, and it gets a ton of love from Amazon reviewers. It even has a durable screw clamp attachment. If you want a sure thing and don't care that it's not all that powerful, go with the Instant Pot folks and get this circulator.
NOTE: You do not need an Instant Pot to use this immersion circulator--it will work with any container it can attach to.
Jadpes: 1500W, no ratings yet. (Looks like same model as Sevenmore, also no ratings yet.)
Joerid: 1000W, "B" Fakespot grade with an adjusted rating of 3 stars. Waterproof, all digital controls, controls on top of unit (no angled panel), which can make it harder to use. With only 3 stars, we think there are better options out there.
*Keenstone: 1200W, "A" Fakespot grade with adjusted rating of 4 stars. A unique design with the option of standing it in a pot. The good: powerful, waterproof, good ratings. The bad: Small control panel, all-digital, must set timer to use it. For just over $60, this is a great, powerful little circulator.
**Kitchen Boss Sous Vide Immersion Circulator: 1100W, waterproof, "B" rating on Fakespot with adjusted rating of 4.5 stars. A powerful circulator with some cool features. Unfortunately it requires that you set a timer to run the circulator, which we hate--but it's something you can probably live with if you want a powerful circulator at a great price.
*Kitchen Gizmo Sous Vide Immersion Circulator: 800W, "B" rating on Fakespot with adjusted rating of 4 stars. Things to like: Scroll wheel control, super low price, great rating. Things to dislike: Cheap plastic clip attachment, only 800W. But at a shade over $50, a great "starter" circulator.
**Klarstein: 1300W, "B" grade on Fakespot with adjusted rating of 4 stars. The good: powerful, waterproof, and has a sturdy screw clamp attachment, great price (about $70), large temp range (32-194F). The bad: All digital controls, have to set timer to use. This looks like a high quality, powerful, well made sous vide circulator.
*LOVISIDA: 1000W, "A" grade on Fakespot with adjusted rating of 4.5 stars. Could be the same as several other OEM circulators with the same specs, but it looks a little different, so we're not sure (it could just be a different color). With only 55 ratings and 10% 1 star ratings, this circulator is on the bubble. But the price is great, so we think it's worth a look. The good: Powerful, waterproof, excellent price (about $60). The bad: Small, all-digital controls, timer required, 10% 1-star ratings is a little high.
MALAHA: 1000W, not enough ratings for a Fakespot grade. With 3 stars on Amazon, this is probably not a good buy.
Master Culinary Sous Vide Cooker w/WiFi: 1100W, "D" rating with adjusted 2.5 star rating. Things to like: Powerful, super low price, color-coded running lights that make it easy to operate. Things to dislike: All digital controls, clip attachment, terrible ratings. If the ratings change over time, this one will win a recommendation from us.
Mispo Sous Vide Cooker: 1000W, Insufficient number of reviews to provide an accurate rating.
*Monoprice: 1100W/800W (2 models available). B rating on Fakespot with rating of 4.5 stars. The 800W model is under $100 and has a scroll wheel--looks just like the old, discontinued Anova models (no connectivity, though). The 1100W has a digital control panel. Durable screw clamp attachment. The design and good reviews wins this circulator a recommendation.
Monoprice/Zakarian/Hampstead/Baulia/Gramercy/INORS/Forsous/Baulia: 800W. Looks like an OEM model sold by numerous Amazon storefronts. These all look just like the 800W Monoprice (above), which looks like a discontinued Anova model. These may all be out of stock permanently, especially if they're leftover Anovas being sold by other companies. If you find one for a lower price than the Monoprice, it's probably a good buy.
MorningStar: 1100W, "D" grade on Fakespot with 2 star rating. (Don't buy this circulator.)
My Sous Vide Immersion Cooker: 800W, one of the lowest priced circulators on Amazon. "B" rating from Fakespot, with an adjusted rating of 4 stars, which makes this circulator a maybe if you want to go low end. Gets mixed reviews on accuracy and customer service, and at 800W, not very powerful.
Newkiton Sous Vide Immersion Circulator: 1000W, "A" rating on Fakespot with adjusted rating of 2 stars, but not really enough reviews to be accurate.
NutriChef Sous Vide Cooker: 1200W, "B" grade on Fakespot with adjusted 4 star rating. With 14% 1-star reviews, we can't recommend this model, even though we like the NutriChef company and a 4 star rating is pretty good. The good: Powerful, with scroll wheel adjustment. The bad: Confusing operating instructions (lots of press-and-hold), have to set timer to operate, clip attachment (but a big, sturdy one), a lot of annoying beeping, and many lukewarm (or downright bad) reviews. We do actually like this circulator, but it's hard to ignore the 14% 1 star reviews.
NutriChef also makes a 1000W circulator that looks a lot like the Chefman (above) and gets terrible reviews.
OMORC Sous Vide Cooker: 800W. At one point this product had several hundred reviews. It was either re-listed or reviews were removed by Amazon. With an "F" rating on Fakespot and an adjusted rating of half a star, we can't recommend this sous vide circulator.
OSTBA: 1000W, "B" grade on Fakespot with an adjusted rating of 3.5 stars. Seller has a caution because of mixed reviews. This circulator is powerful and waterproof, but the controls are on the top of the unit (which we think make it harder to use), some of the controls are not intuitive, and you need to use a timer to operate it. Because of the seller caution, we think there are better options out there.
*Partu Sous Vide: 850W, "B" rating on Fakespot with adjusted rating of 4.5 stars. Scroll wheel adjustment, waterproof, but not very powerful, and kind of a big, clunky design. However, with a rating this high, we can recommend this one if you don't mind the low wattage and somewhat goofy design: it's actually kind of cute.
Redmond SV005: 800W, "D" Fakespot rating with adjusted rating of 2.5 stars. There are more powerful, better-rated circulators out there.
*RODONI Ultra Slim Sous Vide Machine: 1000W, "A" rating on Fakespot, with adjusted rating of 4 stars. A straight-up Joule copycat but with controls on the circulator. The good: Powerful, small, excellent price (esp. for 1000W model). The bad: All-digital controls and a small control panel, smallish clip attachment, have to use the timer.
*Saki w/WiFi: 1100W, "B" Fakespot grade with an adjusted rating of 4.5 stars. Powerful, great price (about $70). The app gets terrible reviews, but the sous vide function gets rave reviews. If you don't care about WiFi, this is a great deal on a powerful circulator.
SEANN: 1200W, no ratings yet.
Secura Sous Vide Cooker: 1000W, "C" rating on Fakespot with adjusted rating of 2.5 stars. We wanted to love this one because we like this company, but unfortunately the data doesn't support it.
Segulah: 1100W, no ratings yet.
SousVide Art All-in-One: 1000W, "D" Fakespot rating with adjust rating of 2 stars. Too bad, because this looks like a nice circulator for about $75, with a powerful motor and a generous accessory package. Looks like an updated model of the 800W model (below). Because the old one got a good rating, we think the ratings on this one might adjust over time. If you're willing to take the risk, we like this sous vide circulator, but we can't recommend it at this time.
*Sous Vide Art Immersion Circulator: 800W, "A" rating on Fakespot with adjusted rating of 4 stars. Small, Anova Nano competitor with good accessory package. If you don't mind the low wattage and all digital controls, this is a decent model.
Souvia Sous Vide Immersion Circulator: 1100W. "C" rating on Fakespot with adjusted rating of 2 stars. Powerful, has Internet connectivity, but we can't recommend this circulator with so many bad reviews.
S Smautop: 1200W, no ratings yet.
SUNAVO Sous Vide Cooker: 1000W, WiFi. "B" rating on Fakespot with adjusted rating of 3.5 stars. May no longer be available.
Surfit Sous Vide Cooker: 1100W. "B" Fakespot grade with 3.5 star adjusted rating. May no longer be available, but looks like a dead ringer for the Monoprice 1100W above, which we like.
Tayama ELE-01 Sous Vide Immersion Circulator: 1000W. "B" Fakespot grade with adjusted rating of 3.5 stars. With 23% 1-star reviews, we can't recommend this one. However, the price is low, at just over $60 (and you may be able to find it even cheaper). It seems to have too many quality issues to recommend.
Veken: 1000W, "B" Fakespot grade. A Joule knockoff that's as big as the Anova. All digital controls, plastic clip attachment. 2 year warranty. It's reasonably priced, but there are other 1000W circulators at a good price with better ratings.
Vesta Imersa II: 900W, not enough reviews for a rating. Vesta makes sous vide circulators, water ovens, and vacuum sealers at different price levels. They're essentially a smaller, lesser known Anova. So this is probably a well made circulator, but at about $90 for a 900W unit, it's probably overpriced. Go with an unknown name and get more wattage for less money. We may change our minds on Vesta in the future, but for now this is our recommendation.
VONRED: 1000W, "B" grade on Fakespot with adjusted rating of 4 stars. There are a number of circulators that look like this one, all 1000W and all waterproof. With 17% 1 star ratings, we don't recommend this circulator. If it changes as it gets more reviews, we will update it but for now, we suggest you keep looking.
*VPCOK Sous Vide Cooker: 1000W. With a "B" Fakespot grade and an adjusted rating of 4.5 stars, this is a nice, inexpensive sous vide circulator. The good: Powerful, low price, good customer service. The bad: All digital controls, clip attachment.
VPCOK Small-but-Mighty Circulator: 770W, "A" grade on Fakespot. With less than 20 ratings, it's hard to say if this is as good as the ratings would suggest. At only 770W and almost $100, we think there are better options--but if you don't mind the low wattage, it's a good quality circulator.
Wancle Sous Vide Cooker: 850W, "B" grade on Fakespot with adjusted rating of 4.5 stars. The good: Scroll wheel interface, great ratings. The bad: Not very powerful, big clunky design, a little high-priced for only 850W, have to set timer to use.
**Wancle Waterproof Cooker: 1100W, "A" rating on Fakespot with rating of 4.5 stars. With thousands of ratings and a Fakespot rating this good, highly recommend this circulator. The good: powerful, waterproof. The bad: All-digital controls, plastic clip attachment, must use timer to operate. This might be the same circulator as the 1100W KitchenBoss--so buy the cheaper one.
WONGKUO: 1000W, WiFi enabled. With an "F" grade on Fakespot and an adjusted rating of 0 stars, we can't recommend this circulator.
Yedi Infinity: This looks like a newer, re-dsigned version of the Yedi Total Package below. At $99 it just barely makes this list. It has a "D" Fakespot grade and an adjust rating of 3 stars. Not great, but even so this circulator gets mostly positive reviews. It's powerful and it has a generous accessory package that includes a pump, several bags, bag clips, and a recipe book. We really want to recommend this circulator, but with the possibility (maybe even probability) that the reviews are deceptive makes it impossible to do so.
Yedi Total Package: 1000W, "C" grade on Fakespot with adjusted rating of 3.5 stars. This is a large circulator but it comes with an impressive accessories package including a vacuum pump and several bags, bag clips, and a handy "cheat sheet" that you can use to easily learn the cooking times of different foods:
*YISSVIC: 1000W, "B" Fakespot grade with 4.5 star adjusted rating. With 10% 1 star reviews and 83% 4-5 star reviews, this circulator is on the bubble of what we like to recommend. But it's really a cool circulator, and there are a lot of things to like about it. The good: powerful, waterproof, and a great control panel with some preset keys so you don't have to scroll for time/temp if you don't want to. There's also a slide setting which is easier to use than Plus/Minus keys. Also, you don't have to set the timer if you don't want to--and if you do, the machine does not shut off when the time is done (this is a great feature for sous vide to ensure your food isn't sitting in Danger Zone temperature water). The bad: All digital controls (but really, really nice ones), a higher percentage of 1-star reviews than we like to see, and many of them are because the circulator stopped working after only a few uses. We recommend this sous vide circulator--for about $65, we think it's worth the risk.
Final Thoughts on Sous Vide Circulators Under $100
You can spend more on a sous vide circulator, but you don't have to. For less than $100--there are even some good options for less than $50--you can get an immersion circulator that can do everything more expensive ones can do. They were able to hold a constant temp and turn out moist, nutritious, delicious foods.
There are even a few under $100 sous vide circulators that have WiFi and/or Internet connectivity, but most of the apps aren't easy to use--so if you want that feature, we suggest you go with the Joule, whose apps are far better than those of other circulators.
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