Ever since I tasted my first bite of sous vide steak, I knew that this new cooking technique was not just a fad. No, I firmly believe that sous vide is revolutionizing the way that we cook meat. Sous vide machines are the fastest growing kitchen appliance as foodies are trying to recreate dishes they see on Masterchef and Top Chef. Over the past few years, there have been many different companies creating sous vide appliances for the home cook. These devices range from the way they function, their internal specifications, performance and price.
Polyscience was one of the first companies to develop a sous vide immersion circulator for the home cook. The concept of this device is that it clamps onto a container that is filled with water to create the bath. This allows many containers, including pots, coolers and other food containers, to become a sous vide water bath. These immersion circulators are great as well for people who do not have a lot of counter space, since this can be packed away when not in use. This particular immersion circulator heats the water to a preset level and circulates it throughout the container.
The design of the Creative Series is sleek, clean and simple. The outer casing is made of a durable plastic. The power switch is on the back, next to the power cable and just above the clamp. The unit has an 1100 watt heater and has a maximum temperature of 210F (99C). This recommended volume capacity is 20 litres (5.3 gallons), which is more than enough water to prepare a sous vide feast! The pump for the machine cycles 6 litres (1.6 gallons per minute).
The bottom of the unit has slots to allow the water into the device to be heated and then circulated throughout the water bath. You can see the heating coils at the bottom of the device.
On the front of the sous vide immersion circulator, there is both the min and max lines for water volume. It is important to make sure that the water does not go above the max line even after the vacuum sealed bags have been added. If there is not enough water the machine will not work and will display an error on the screen.
The clamp is both large and solid, allowing the immersion circulator to be attached to many things that can hold water. I often use a large stock pot, but a rectangular cooler or a polycarbonate canister will work as well. Just make sure that the clamp is on tight so the machine does not wiggle during operation.
To test the PolyScience Sous Vide Professional Creative Series out, I filled my large stock pot with water and set the machine for 135F.
The control panel on the unit is easy to use. There are 5 buttons, with the middle button a little lower than the others. The middle button cycles through the options (setting the temperature in Fahrenheit, setting the length of cooking, setting the temperature in Celsius). The + and – raise or lower the setting. The play button starts the machine and the stop button stops it. It is that simple.
The LED screen shows the actual temperature of the water, the temperature setting, the timer setting and there are little icons showing if the heater is on or the water pump is on.
My first test was pork chops. Pork chops are so moist and tender in the sous vide. I buy a large pork loin roast and slice them nice and thick chops, about 3/4 to 1 inch thick.
Season the pork chops with a little salt and pepper. Throw them in a food safe bag with a tablespoon of butter. Vacuum seal the bag and the chops are ready to go in the water bath.
Using a stock pot is easy. It can hold a lot of water and therefore, a lot of meat. But, there is a downside with the stock pot – the bags of meat can get piled on top of each other. You can purchase racks that can help to divide the bags, allowing sufficient space in between for water flow, but those do not really fit in a stock pot. That is where polycarbonate canisters or coolers work well.
The pork chops take a couple hours in the water bath, but the wonderful thing about sous vide cooking is that the meat can stay in the water bath for even up to 8 hours and not be over-cooked. Really, it is impossible to over-cook the food if you set it at the proper temperature.
I gave the pork chops a quick sear in a cast iron skillet. This is to brown the outside and give the meat an enhanced flavor. The pork chops were delicious and just cutting into them showed how moist they were. They were so tender that the meat could easily be cut with a butter knife.
As much as the food tasted great that I made using this sous vide machine, that does not fully show its performance capabilities. I wanted to test it out, so I filled the stock pot with 18 litres of water. I then brought the water to 100F. I wanted to see how long it took to bring the pot of water up to 150F. Also, I placed a thermometer just next to the immersion circulator. I figured that this might be one of the spots where water might not stay at the same temperature – so this was a good way to test the pump circulation.
It took 28 minutes for the temperature to go from 100F to 150F. Considering it was a whole 18 litres, I was pleased with how quickly it came reached the temperature.
During the time that the water was being brought up to 150F, the thermometer seemed to be anywhere from 4-6F below the temperature reading on the sous vide machine. That is a pretty minimal variance. Once the water reached 150F, the thermometer also came up to match and stayed there as long as the machine was going and the water was circulating.
The Polyscience Sous Vide Professional Creative Series machine is really good machine. I was impressed with how quickly it brought the stock pot up to temperature and it held it consistently. The water pump was excellent and it cycled the water very well. I have used some other immersion circulators and there can be cool pockets of water, particularly below the machine. Not with the Polyscience device. I believe that the strength of the water pump helps to heat the water more quickly and ensures that there are really no cold water pockets.
This immersion circulator is retailing right now for $399. This is in the middle of the pack where some are as low as $199 and some as high as $800. For the price, this machine is great and performed very well. It is an excellent choice for anyone wanting to get into this modernist form of cooking!
Pick up this, or other products by Polyscience, at their website.
Disclaimer: Polyscience provided me with the Sous Vide Immersion Circulator. They did not pay me for this review and the views expressed above are my honest reactions after trying the product.