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In June 2014 we bought a sous-vide cooker, and I'm still trying to understand it. This page serves as a repository for my discoveries.

Sous-vide cooking is intimately tied to cooking temperature, which should be the same as the temperature of the cooked food. In particular, temperature control is very exact. Unfortunately, there's a lot of bad information out there. My unit came with a temperature table recommending 75° for chicken breast. That's far too high; it seems that 63° might be better. And then there are chicken thighs, which prove to need more. Others again, like this one, seem to miss the point: “sous-vide” eggs cooked at 75° for 15 to 18 minutes, during which time they reach a temperature of 64.5°—maybe. That's what you do when you cook them for 6 minutes at 100°.

The information I've found so far is:

The ALDI sous-vide cooker

My cooker comes from ALDI. It has some interesting design features. In passing, it's interesting to note a few quirks of the cooker. It has a timer, but it's not clear what good it is. Clearly it needs to come up to temperature before you can even start the timer, and it keeps that temperature regardless of whether the timer is on. So you don't need the timer to cook. What good is it? After it's finished, it beeps and turns off the cooker, but the water temperature stays relatively constant, so it doesn't stop cooking. I suppose you could consider it a marginal energy saving device.

I have found it completely useless. I don't bother turning it on at all (which requires setting a time; by default, it only cooks for an hour). With or without the timer, though, the unit will turn off after 24 hours, shorter than many recipes want. After that, you have to turn off the power, turn it on again and set the temperature again. It will overshoot the temperature by about 2° before settling.

The other oddness is the temperature display. When you turn it on you set the temperature, to the nearest degree, but when you turn on the heating it switches to a time display (static until you turn on the timer). To see the temperature, you need to press the “Function” button, and then it shows the temperature for a couple of seconds before switching back to the time display again.

But the temperature display is wrong! Or at least, that's the way I see it. Every time I tried, it showed a temperature of 50° or 51°, though the infrared thermometer showed 53°, and a meat thermometer in the meat after completion showed 52.6°:
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So my best guess is that the temperature probe that measures the displayed temperature is not the temperature probe that controls the temperature.

Cooking times and temperatures

These are values that I have established. Watch this space.

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