• ChefSteps Joule

  • How We Tested

  • What You Should Know About Sous Vide Cooking

  • Other Immersion Circulators We Tested

  • More Articles You Might Enjoy

  • Related content

ChefSteps Joule
Credit: Reviewed.com / Jackson Ruckar

ChefSteps Joule

Best Overall
ChefSteps Joule

When we tested for the ChefSteps Joule for our first sous vide roundup, we were impressed by its sleek, minimalist design, easy-to-use app, and precise temperature control. But we were hesitant to award a product with zero physical controls our best overall badge—other immersion circulators weren’t so smartphone reliant.

But after retesting the Joule, which has since been acquired by Breville, and three new competitors in 2020, we’re confident that this immersion circulator is the one to beat. With new voice control integration and an ever-improving app available across many platforms, using this beautiful device is simpler than ever, and the core product is still excellent at heating water quickly and evenly to turn out perfectly-cooked food.

In testing, the Joule was able to cook a thick boneless ribeye to a lovely medium-rare with little fanfare and no hiccups. It’s magnetic base stays firmly in place throughout cooking and means you don’t need a clip to hold it to your pot. The lack of a display on the Joule itself might make the less tech-savvy among us pause, but the app is very simple to use—and it means the device is the only one we’ve tested that should fit comfortably in any kitchen drawer.

If you want to best sous vide tech on the market and don’t mind cooking with an app or voice controls, the Joule is your device.

Pros

  • Sleek design

  • Fast heating

  • Very accurate

Cons

  • No controls on the device

How We Tested

Testing immersion circulators
Credit: Reviewed.com / Kori Perten

Tiny devices tracked temperature in the vacuum-sealed bag of steak, near the surface of the water bath, and at the bottom of the water bath.

The Testers

This article is a joint effort by Kori Perten, former Reviewed editor and sous vide expert, and Cassidy Olsen, current kitchen editor and sous vide skeptic.

Kori has been cooking since childhood, and has written and edited countless articles about food. She first tried cooking with an immersion circulator in 2015, and since then has tried out most of the mainstream immersion circulators on the market to really get a handle on what makes a device like this great.

Cassidy was new to the world of sous vide before starting at Reviewed in 2018, but has since gotten deep into the data to find the most precise devices available. (She even gifted her boyfriend one for the holidays and now steals it to meal prep).

The Tests

We tested the top sous vide immersion circulators on the market, rating each device for how quickly it reached the set temperature, how accurately it matched and maintained that temperature, and how its design affected ease and pleasantness of use.

Our technique? Well, we cooked a lot vacuum-sealed ribeye steaks at 132°F. And I do mean a lot of vacuum-sealed ribeye steaks. Over 15, to be exact—and of course, we monitored temperatures the entire time.

It's important to keep in mind that, when it comes to accuracy, the best of these devices are only separated by fractions of degrees. As a result, most home chefs probably won't notice the difference in their food if one device is slightly more accurate than the other. Our rankings are holistic decisions that combine this hard data with price considerations, build quality, and more subjective factors—but the decision about which is right for your kitchen is ultimately up to you and your cooking priorities.

What You Should Know About Sous Vide Cooking

You've likely heard the term 'sous vide', but what does it actually mean? In simple terms, sous vide is a method of cooking that involves vacuum sealing food in a plastic bag or a jar and then submerging it in water in a sink or stock pot. Your food will need to stay submerged for a long period of time in water of a consistent temperature to slowly cook. The best way to keep the temperature of the water your food is cooking in at a stable temperature for hours on end is to use an immersion circulator.

Immersion circulators heat a water bath and keep it flowing, which allows food to cook at a precise temperature over a long period of time. This keeps food tender and juicy, and all but eliminates the possibility of accidental overcooking or undercooking. It’s this lure of repeatable perfection—along with the convenience of slow-cooking—that’s led a massive growth in demand for immersion circulators.


Other Immersion Circulators We Tested

PolyScience Creative Series Immersion Circulator

Cooking is a science—a fact you’d be hard-pressed to forget when looking at the PolyScience Professional Creative Series. The chunky, clunky immersion circulator looks like lab equipment, but it performs like it too. It’s not a tool that will win any prizes for beauty, but it will heat your water bath quickly and hold it to your desired temp with above-average accuracy.

PolyScience Culinary is a longtime provider of innovative culinary tech for both home and commercial kitchens, so we can almost overlook its steep price tag. While it lacks some of the conveniences of the newer Joule and Anova, it offers the credibility of a more established brand with a focus on food science.

Pros

  • Heavy build

  • Accurate cooking

  • Heats up water quickly

Cons

  • The appearance isn't appealing.

  • Expensive

Anova Precision Cooker Pro

When we first tested sous vide cookers, we loved the 800 watt first generation Anova with WiFi, as well as the 800 watt Anova with Bluetooth. But both of those products have since been discontinued, leaving just three Anova products on the market—the standard Anova, the Pro, and the Nano. The standard and the Pro connect with WiFi, while the Nano is Bluetooth only.

The Pro is the strongest performer of the three, with a very quick ramp-up speed, a durable, stylish exterior, and a whole 1200 watts of power. The Pro also maintains a consistent temperature, and it didn’t overshoot its target of 132°F by more than half a degree.

The Pro is bigger than other Anova models, with a larger, squared control panel, and it’s also waterproof and drop-resistant for accident-prone kitchens. While we were impressed with its performance, it currently retails for about $300, making it twice as expensive as the Joule.

If you want a device that’s built to last and can heat water very quickly, the Anova Pro is a solid option—but we don’t think it's worth the price for most home chefs.

Pros

  • Durable

  • Fast time to temperature

  • Accurate

Cons

  • Expensive

Anova Precision Cooker

Like the Anova Pro, the standard Anova is an attractive, WiFi-compatible immersion circulator with a mixed stainless steel and matte black design. It’s also the immersion circulator I have in my own kitchen. It can be controlled directly from its rounded touchscreen or via the Anova app, which is easy to use and full of compatible recipes. While we still think it’s a good product, this Anova doesn’t maintain as consistent of temperatures as older Anova models.

In our testing, this Anova took 34 minutes to bring a pot of tap water to 132°F, compared to the Anova Pro’s 22 minutes. There was also slightly more temperature variation between different parts of the submerged bag as we cooked the steak. However, the end result was still impressive—medium-rare steak, just like we asked.

The new Anova is a solid immersion circulator—and the touchscreen is very convenient if you don’t want to fuss with an app or voice controls. But for an almost identical price, we think the Joule currently has more to offer.

Pros

  • Simple to use

  • Moderately accurate

  • Well-designed

Cons

  • Not as accurate as previous models

Anova Precision Cooker Nano

After three separate rounds of testing two different units of the Nano, we're sad to say it's an unpredictable machine. While its compact design and all-plastic exterior make it less expensive and more accessible than other Anova models, it’s also much less precise.

The times to temperature were fast, but varied wildly between tests—the first took 42 minutes, the second took 46, and the last took 38, all with comparable starting temperatures. While the temperature of the meat actually exceeded the desired 132 degrees in the second test, it never reached the 132 mark in the third round.

In the end, this variability didn’t seem to have a negative effect on the meat—each steak came out medium to medium-well and perfectly edible, with the typical tenderness you’d expect from sous vide. The Anova app also continued to work well, and the Bluetooth connectivity was convenient (although it didn’t extend all the way from the testing area to my desk on the other side of the building).

The Anova Nano will get the job done, but because precision and consistency are key to cooking sous vide, we just can’t give it higher marks.

Pros

  • Bluetooth compatibility

  • Compact and lightweight

Cons

  • Inaccurate temperature readings

  • Lacks consistency

Kitchen Gizmo Sous Vide Immersion Circulator

With almost 100 positive reviews on Amazon, it seemed worth giving the Kitchen Gizmo sous vide immersion circulator a try. But while it’s downright affordable, the device is the epitome of “nothing special.” Slow to heat and not particularly accurate or stable in temperature, the Kitchen Gizmo really has nothing going for it. Even its appearance is boring.

It’s not the worst immersion circulator on the market, sure—but we think you can do better.

Pros

  • Nice appearance

  • Positive Amazon reviews

Cons

  • Average performance

Gourmia GSV130 Immersion Circulator

Smaller, lighter, and cheaper than much of the competition, we really wanted to like the Gourmia Digital Sous Vide Pod. But low cost alone does not make something a good deal. We ran into trouble right away, with a power button that at least 8 of our 10 testers were unable to operate without consulting the manual.

Once you jump the hurdle of actually turning the thing on, it gives a rough performance: During cooking, the water stayed about 2°F above the temperature we set it at. When you're dealing with such precise temperatures, that kind of fluctuation is not ideal.

You could do worse for $129.99. But if you ask us, a $100+ piece of kitchen equipment should do what it’s supposed to, and the Gourmia simply doesn’t.

Pros

  • Affordable

  • Compact and light

Cons

  • Difficult to use

  • Inaccurate temperature control

avoid
PolyScience Chef Series Immersion Circulator

If you thought the PolyScience Pro Creative Series was hefty, try the PolyScience Sous Vide Professional Immersion Circulator Chef on for size. It’s large, boxy, and loud—all qualities we’d sooner seek in a 90’s-style boombox than a cooking device. And at $799.95, it’s one of the priciest models on the market.In fact, the only thing we liked about the Chef was the masterful control it offers over water bath temperature, which fell second only to the Anova during testing.

An ability to precisely control water bath temperature is what matters most when it comes to sous vide, but only if you can keep the food you’re cooking submerged. The Chef allows you to adjust flow pressure for larger baths—but when we used the recommended highest pressure setting in our home-size water bath, the force of the water circulation constantly pushed our food to the surface or propelled it into somersaults. Entertaining, yes, but not exactly what we had in mind. As an extra bonus, the overzealous flow means you’re likely to end up with hot water splashing out of the container.

For these reasons, we’d recommend giving the Chef a hard pass unless you've got a commercial kitchen. It does a great job with temperature, but the Anova does better. And if you want the PolyScience branding or enjoy that bulkier design, the PolyScience Pro Creative Series has both for half the price.

Pros

  • There's nothing we can find

Cons

  • Large, boxy, and loud

  • Can't keep food submerged in bath

avoid
VacMaster SV1 Immersion Circulator

Like PolyScience’s immersion circulators, the VacMaster SV1 has a boxy, almost industrial style. But looks can be deceiving. The device is easy enough to use, but never managed to meet the set temperature during testing. In fact, it was pretty significantly off base, failing to reach even 129°F when the set temperature was 132°F. That becomes an issue of food safety at worst or too-rare steak at best.

For this reason, we recommend avoiding the SV1. At this price point, you’d be better off with pretty much any other immersion circulator.

Pros

  • There's nothing we can find.

  • Industrial look

Cons

  • The device never reached the ideal temperature

  • Too expensive

Related content

Meet the testers

Kori Perten

Kori Perten

Former Editor, Home & Outdoors

@Reviewedhome

Kori began her journalism career as a teenage fashion blogger and has enjoyed covering a wide variety of topics ever since. In her spare time, she’s an amateur poet, avid reader, and gluten-free cake baker extraordinaire.

See all of Kori Perten's reviews
Cassidy Olsen

Cassidy Olsen

Editor, Kitchen & Cooking

@olsencassidy

Cassidy covered all things cooking as the kitchen editor for Reviewed from 2018 to 2020. An experimental home chef with a healthy distrust of recipes, Cassidy lives by the "Ratatouille" philosophy that, with a few techniques and key tools, anyone can cook. She's produced in-depth reviews and guides on everything from meal kits to stand mixers and the right way to cook an egg.

See all of Cassidy Olsen's reviews

Checking our work.

We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.

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