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This article was written on 27 May 2012, and is filled under Food, Projects.

DIY Sous Vide Immersion Cooker on the cheap

Ok, half-truth there, not that cheap.

Inspired by this article ‘$75 Sous Vide Immersion Cooker‘ from Make: Magazine. I set out to create my own for US$75, which works out to be about S$100… not too bad, considering the fact that ToTT sells the Sous Vide Supreme for about $600 here.

My first conscious taste of sous vide was from Ember at 1929. It was a salmon dish and I was struck by how perfectly cooked the fish was and ever since then I have been reading up fervently on this mad technique. I had to build my own immersion cooker.

I was so caught up in it that I splurged on a S$109 vacuum sealer from GMarket. Talk about conserving my budget. Doh!

Enough about that.

The immersion cooker is essentially a souped up crockpot with a little more intelligence in maintaining the temperature of the water. By keeping the water at a consistent temperature, you can cook food evenly from edge to edge. It consists of a PID module and a relay that switches on and off based on the arcane (to me) logic of the PID. Initially, I was looking to build a PID controller with the Arduino microcontroller, but I soon found out that ebay sold quite a few ready made kits for about $50 sgd.

To house the controller, I opted to have a custom acrylic box laser-cut and assembled by the crew at Plixo based on some artwork that I did in Adobe Illustrator, and after a few initial prototypes, we had a case!

The laser cut acrylic case

On closer inspection, I noticed that some of the panels were assembled the wrong way around. After considering my options, I decided to break out the dremel and drilled some holes to shift the components and use the box on its side. :(

From here, it was just a matter of assembling the PID controller, power plugs, relay and sensor to the case. I also wired up a smaller orange LED for the front plate to up the cool factor whenever the relay was turned on.

I used the PT100 sensor with 2 wires, I was expecting 3. A problem easily solved with a jumper cable.

Here are some pics of the box completed! Very happy with the results except that the white socket sticks out like a sore thumb. Mental note to get a black socket the next time.

The first thing I did was to cook eggs. 64 deg celcius and 20 mins in the water bath.

I hooked the unit up to a crockpot that I had lying around, stuck the probe into the water and everything worked fine. The crockpot being a slow cooker had some problems getting up to the operating temperature. I boiled some water on the side and poured it in till it reached 61 deg c. It took a few minutes to stabilise and when it did, I put the eggs in.

After 20 minutes, the eggs were ready!

The eggs were seasoned with some pepper and soya sauce for taste. The yolks were perfectly smooth and custardy, whilst the albumen was the consistency of pudding. I might dip the eggs in some simmering water to get the whites to stiffen a little more when I next do this.

Guess what’s next? Stay tuned!

 

 

11 Comments

  1. [...] DIY Sous Vide Immersion Cooker On The Cheap [via Make] [...]

  2. Mikey Sklar
    May 29, 2012

    Sweet Build. I like the case and the shiny crock pot finish.

    I use a similar setup to you and also pre-boil the water to bring the unit up to temp. Passing the egg test is a big deal because making just about anything else is easier.

    YATC – http://screwdecaf.cx/yatc2.html

    • admin
      May 29, 2012

      Hey Mikey! Thanks for dropping by.

      I have done an exhaustive search for DIY Sous Vide machines and definitely remember your setup. It is one of my favourites and inspired me to get a higher level of finish with my project.

      Have subscribed to your site for more updates!

  3. Lisa
    May 30, 2012

    Whoa, this is love. Probably the most beautiful DIY sous vide we’ve ever seen. So impressive!

    • benjy
      May 30, 2012

      Hi Lisa, thank you so much. It’s an honour to have you visit my site. I have been to your blog countless times and its an invaluable resource on the web. Am thinking of what to cook up now.

      I have a beef brisket sous vide-ing for the past 12 hours and am keeping my fingers crossed for the results.

  4. Lisa
    May 31, 2012

    Dude, your brisket will be perfect.

    Btw, the French Culinary Institute did a test on how to salt when sous viding and in a blind taste test it was voted on that you should salt AFTER taking the ingredients out of the bag— unless of course you were doing a brine before.

    It just tasted better, the salt inside the bag kind of dried the ingredient out a little too much.

    Can we be friends on Facebook? I’m Lisa Qiu my team members are Abe Fetterman and Wipop Suppipat.

    • benjy
      May 31, 2012

      That figures. Felt that the brisket was a little dry when it was done. I cheated and didn’t wait for the entire 36hrs though.

      Please add me on Facebook, I’m Benjy Choo.

  5. Bert
    June 23, 2012

    M8. This is a fantastic build. I was looking into this, and found your page. Would it be possible for you to share the costs for fabrication by Plixo?

  6. Claes
    March 25, 2013

    Nice build!

    I also built my own using the same controller, but with a built in relay.

    http://www.lindens.nu/http_projekt/sous-vide/en.htm

  7. Leigh Jones
    August 22, 2013

    Interesting. The hinged top of the box differs from the box I started with. I also hadn’t planned the outlet plate at the back of the PID controller. For me this meant that there was only one place where the PID controller could go, at one of the the ends of the box, so I could get a screwdriver onto the terminals to assemble it. But I tested it before assembly…

    Testing turned up an unexpected problem. My JLD612 PID controller didn’t go 24 hours before it shut off the first time. No matter, it started up right away and ran to the end of the weekend. Odd, the clock on the microwave reset, too. Happens about once a month — a quick power interruption less than a second long… About once per month. And the PID controller doesn’t recover from it! I’d lose about 3% of my meals at that rate.

    I risked it, and learned the truth of it. Several superb sous vide meals into my first month with my sous vide cooker I came home to a rotten roast and a guilty PID controller. I went looking for an alternative, a back-up controller that would apply power whenever the PID controller dropped the ball.

    I bought a Johnson Controls A419 thermostat and tried to find a way to make it kick in when the PID controller dropped the ball. Couldn’t work it out, and eventually, with much testing, I changed over to using the A419 alone. Testing. I pulled a corner of the ZipLock bag out the top of the CrockPot and slid a meat thermometer through the unzipped corner into a chicken breast.

    As I watched the water bath oscillate through a couple degrees F of overshoot and hysteresis, the interior if the breast stayed at a constant temperature — at the set point of the thermostat. Remarkable!

    More testing — roast after roast came out perfect. Pink edge to edge! Perhaps not appropriate for eggs (not my goal), but superb results with meats. I’ve never looked back.

    I admit that the A419 has an unnecessary 1 degree F hysteresis. But it has several advantages over a PID controller. The water in the water bath comes back up to temperature after the cold meat is dropped in faster than with a PID controller because it doesn’t work so hard to avoid overshoot. Circulation from the aquarium air stone warms the meat faster than uncirculated water. This makes it safe to cook larger pieces of meat — you don’t have to cut the meat up into 6 ounce pieces like one water bath maker recommends.

    And the warm side walls mean that larger pieces of meat fit nicely with no need for separator racks. More room in a smaller space. Less worry.

    And the stoneware is so easy to clean. A few drops of lemon juice and a paper towel removes the hard water stains that would stay on stainless steel for years.

    If I hadn’t discovered the benefits of using a CrockPot for sous vide, I’d still cook sous vide. Having my meats perfectly cooked through when I come home from work is the only way that I have time to cook meals at home. It’s an elegant way to cook — I come home from work and don’t notice that I put dinner on the table without ever taking off the coat and tie I wore at work. And I rarely find anything I enjoy as much at a restaurant as much as what I cook at home, and when I do it’s obviously sous vide, too…

  8. Ryan M.
    September 12, 2013

    I really like the enclosure, could you share more about the design? Do you have a template?

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