Crock pot as Sous Vide?
April 28, 2012 12:48 PM   Subscribe

Would a crock pot with a dimmer switch work as sous vide machine?

Crock pot temperature settings don't allow for the low settings (135-145) degrees F that work well for sous vide cooking. Would plugging the crock pot into a dimmer switch work after trial and error using just water?
posted by boby to Food & Drink (12 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
This might be of service:
posted by farishta at 12:51 PM on April 28, 2012

Response by poster: farishta
Excellent link! Thanks.
posted by boby at 1:21 PM on April 28, 2012

Yes, assuming your crock pot is non-digital and the dimmer is rated for the load.

However, you can buy a cheap PID temperature controller, a solid-state relay (SSR), and a thermocouple on eBay for $30 or so. Wire them together in a box with a power outlet (I used an old UPS that already had one in the back) and you are set with much less fussing around needed.
posted by ssg at 1:26 PM on April 28, 2012

Keep in mind that good sous vide machines work in part by circulating the water, which no crock pot will do. This may not make much of a difference, but you will get different layers and different heat areas in a crock pot.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:47 PM on April 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

This thread is chock full of ideas, tips, tricks and hacks. It can be kind of overwhelming but there are ways of doing sous vide on the cheap.
posted by karlos at 2:09 PM on April 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I use this method with short cook times but checking the temperature constantly can be a drag. Anything longer than an hour or more is a hassle.
posted by boby at 3:28 PM on April 28, 2012

Not sure if it was covered in the thread karlos posted, but a cooler can work as an excellent sous vide device.
posted by skittlekicks at 4:27 PM on April 28, 2012

Best answer: I haven't tried it, but there are a number of sous vide hacks written up on, involving or not involving crockpots.

Here's a search to try.
posted by spbmp at 9:43 PM on April 28, 2012

I own a fancy Sous Vide Supreme machine. It is quite good. It's also pretty expensive and, honestly, doesn't do anything that fancy. Its sole job is to hold water at a precise temperature, +/- 1 degree F. If you can hack a crock pot to hold temperature that precisely, it'd work just as well. I don't think for the meats we cook exact precision is essential; I bet +/- 3F would be just as good. If you want to get an egg just so, though, maybe 1F matters.

I think a straight dimmer would cause problems; it's going to confuse the thermostat and a dimmer is a lousy way to moderate heat on a resistive heater. But there are a variety of crock pot based hacks for sous vide machines, most involving turning the element off and on, and I think one of those could work well.
posted by Nelson at 9:53 PM on April 28, 2012

Response by poster: I think I'll try the light dimmer plugin switch first. It's the least expensive one and doesn't require messing with electricity. Love cooking sous vide but hate the high price of a "real" Sous Vide appliance. Thanks for all the helpful tips!
posted by boby at 1:20 AM on April 29, 2012

Do be careful! Even though you aren't messing with wires directly, you are still messing with electricity. If you are just going to use a dimmer cord, there is a good chance it isn't rated for the load of a crock pot. There could be too much heat generated in the dimmer.
posted by ssg at 10:55 AM on April 30, 2012

I've wondered the same for a deep fat fryer... because it does have temperature control. I have no idea how accurate it is.
posted by sagwalla at 4:11 AM on May 1, 2012

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