Sous-vide has been on my radar for a while, but there is no way I am going to spend $500 for a new kitchen toy, nor have I been terribly excited about the do-it-yourself projects that I've seen over the last few years. Now I see a plug-n-play unit that's reasonably priced (not to mention cutely named) dorkfood, so I'm looking at sous-vide again. I notice that many of the more expensive units are "circulators", others are "ovens". Is the circulation just a way to heat water as it passes through the heating unit, or does movement of the water affect the cooking process? If it does have an effect, what is it?

  • I would recommend you have a look at the Sansaire Sous Vide Circulator, instead of the dorkfood temperature controller. Though twice the price, it will give you far better control and regularity of the temperature. Preorders at sansaire.com. Full disclosure: I backed the kickstarter, but am otherwise not affiliated with Sansaire.
    – razumny
    Commented Oct 20, 2013 at 13:21
  • Don't be a devil on my shoulder! I have a serious kitchen toy addiction. That does look like a nice unit though. I think for now I'm going to get the Dorkman. If I find that I enjoy it, I'll get the Sansaire sometime down the line, then I'll be able to have two temps going at the same time.
    – Jolenealaska
    Commented Oct 23, 2013 at 9:58
  • Sounds like a plan. When I get mine, I will tell you how it fares.
    – razumny
    Commented Oct 23, 2013 at 12:04

1 Answer 1


Since temperature control is so vital to sous vide cooking, the circulation serves to make sure that all of the water is moving and of an even temperature. If you just had a heating element submerged without a circulator, you would get some convection currents, but there would be hot and cold spots in your water bath. If these differences were even just a few degrees, you could end up with proteins not hitting their coagulation temperatures, connective tissues not softening, pectin not broken down, etc. All in all, it would defeat the purpose of this cooking method!

As for the differentiation between "circulators" and "water ovens", there may not be one. Frequently the actual thermal unit and pump is referred to as the "circulator" and the whole assembly with a vessel and water is referred to as the "oven", but I'd check the specs of each model to see whether it has all the parts you're looking for.

  • I would use a slow cooker and/or a rice cooker, so while temp might vary slightly from one part of the unit to another, I wouldn't expect dramatic hot spots. I suppose I could look at that with a thermometer before I consider the controller. What do you think of something like an aquarium bubbler to keep the water moving?
    – Jolenealaska
    Commented Oct 18, 2013 at 22:54
  • 1
    An aquarium bubbler or a small fountain pump would probably work. I think the main risk of hot spots would be with a single submerged heating element. In something like a rice cooker or slow cooker, the risk should be reduced a lot.
    – SourDoh
    Commented Oct 18, 2013 at 23:18
  • @Jolenealaska Sous-vide in a slow cooker has already been discussed: cooking.stackexchange.com/q/32309/1672
    – Cascabel
    Commented Oct 18, 2013 at 23:38

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