Kitchen Hacks: Sous Vide builds don’t need to cost an arm and a leg

It’s not that we haven’t seen inexpensive Sous Vide builds. It’s just that we enjoy the fact that [Kelvin's] Sous Vide machine gives new life to unused things. The cooking vessel is a crock pot which he acquired for just $3. He housed it in a large Styrofoam box which he got for free through his local freecycle program. The circulation pump is a $0.99 fish tank part that pushes about ten gallons per hour.

He even hunted around to find the best prices on the control circuitry. The PID controller is obviously the most important part, as it will regulate the cooking temperature. He found a greatly discounted module that set him back just over $30. It even has a self-learning feature that sounds like it’s handy (not sure if all of these have that though).

Check out the video after the break. We like the use of his old RAM heat sinks to help dissipate heat from the solid state relay that drives the heating element. Since that SSR is inside of the foam box we could see heat becoming an issue. This way it’s dissipated, but not wasted.

Comments

  1. hojo says:

    What’s a “cock pot”? :-)

  2. Will says:

    “…vessel is a cock pot which he acquired…”

    DOH!

  3. redneckJoe says:

    I don’t wanna know what a cock pot does..

  4. Philippe says:

    Can you smoke it?

  5. macona says:

    The self learning is called Auto-Tune. Most decent PID controllers have this option built in.

  6. Tim says:

    Styrofoam is pretty flammable, I would suggest placing the PID, SSR and any other uninsulated high voltage electrical components in a metal box. No way I would leave that powered on and cooking for 2+ days in my house.

  7. Jimmacle says:

    How did he acquire something like that for $3? Great bargain :P

  8. kanchoblindside says:

    Came to laugh at the COCK POT comments, leaving satisfied.

  9. Wm_Atl says:

    Nice to see a off the shelf PID temperature controller being used. I have worked with many. My favorites are the ones that can learn. I usually get some really tight control over the heat. The one thing that concerns me with his build is everything in the same box with the cooker. These little controllers don’t like moist environments. Also I would recommend adding an thermal switch to kill the power in the event that the solid state relay where to fail causing the crock pot to get to hot for the foam. I find the outside of my crock pot gets real hot to the touch. Also if you have alarm outputs available you can take advantage of these as well.

  10. aztraph says:

    I can seed it lasting through two or three uses, then have to rework it, maybe one. It’s a good idea, but the execution looks a little unstable.

  11. HurpDurpington says:

    cock pot

  12. Taylor Alexander says:

    FYI To everyone,

    Bed Bath And Beyond gives out 20% off coupons like candy, and they sell the Sous Vide Supreme and Sous Vide Supreme Demi on their website. You can take a coupon into a store and they can apply it to web items. They also don’t care if the coupon says it is expired, and they have an indefinite return policy.

    I bought a Sous Vide Supreme Demi there for 20% off when no one had them on sale anywhere. On a $400 item, thats a big deal! They still charge tax and shipping so mine came out to like $380 our the door, but its still a good deal.

    -Taylor

  13. Hamtaro says:

    Interesting solution.

    “The cooking vessel is a cock pot which he acquired for just $3.”

    I think you’re looking for a crock pot (a trademark gone generic). Although, I personally like the ‘cock pot’ idea better.

  14. jimmythecow says:

    This is Kelvin, the creater of this project. I can safely say that it has been OVER a year and i have used it dozens and dozens of times. with NO issues at all. I do leave the cover slightly ajar as the unit cooks to dissipate moisture.

    The foam has been working 100% as the foil works as an excellent heat reflective element.

    thanks for the comments, and keep asking questions. Im always happy to answer them

  15. El_AMPo says:

    …just as a note for the curious builder of this type of machine:
    Raw meat + a day or so on the 30-70C range = microorganisms partying all day long.
    So PLEASE be careful with the temperature settings. Don’t assume it will work because you set it at the right temperature, use a failsafe thermometer just in case.

  16. bob says:

    So he has one pot that worked for a year.
    NOT smart, these pots are designed to dissipate heat externally to ensure the internal wires do not overheat.
    Most of this crap only has PVC cable for the internal wiring (element excepted)
    Aged PVC cable is only good up to 80 deg, so he better ensure he has a fire extinguisher handy, ESP. with that poly box.

    • Wm_Atl says:

      I suspect that at the temp he is cooking at overheating is not going to be a problem. In this style cooking you never reach the boiling point of water more like just a hot water bath around 70C or 158F. So unless there is a failure that cause his temp to run away all should be fine.

      • Wm_Atl says:

        Just checked my slow cooker. The cord is rated for 105C. Which by the way I am not happy about. Would like to see a higher rating for any heating device. 80C is more acceptable for lamps and fans. Since the wire is rated for only 105C the transition to high temp wire should occur pretty soon after entering the unit otherwise it will melt under normal use. That shell get real hot. But you bring up a good point. If you are working with heating devices use the correct wire for your application. I never buy any project wire under 105C except that one roll or lamp cord I use for speaker wire.

  17. zrzzz says:

    Hack-a-day should focus on nothing else but sous vide builds from here on out. Let’s be honest, it’s over guys. Humanity has reached the pinnacle with souse vide cookers. Any further attempts at innovation will only fall flat.

  18. DeKay says:

    For anybody looking at putting together their own Sous Vide setup, check out Auber Instruments (http://www.auberins.com/). They have proper water-immersible PT100 probes, cheap PIDs with great performance, and really good prices on SSRs. Not affiliated with them in any way: just a happy customer.

    My setup holds temperature to within 0.1C, no problem. Everyone should have one.

  19. monopole says:

    Neat build, but… Really a bad case of false economy.

    The controller build is fine except as previously noted it would be much safer if it was in a separate waterproof box. I use a solid non metalic box myself. Also a dirt cheap inline fuse is a really really good idea. I also use a ground fault circuit interuption (GFCI) outlet as an extra layer of safety for mains circuits in the presence of water (I used a close copy of the unit described at http://www.eggchowfun.com/ ).

    In addition unless you are aiming for long (>24 hr) cooking times too much insulation is problematic since cooling is very slow and heating is the only control hence a very slow return to target temprature

    Finally the fountain pump is problematic, it will melt pretty quickly. A used aquarium air pump with a little high temp silicone tubing and a sintered airstone is much more durable.

    This does add ~$30 to the build cost at most (much less with a lot of scrounging) but the safety and reliability is increased immeasurably.

    One of the primary goals with a sous vide system is an inherently safe design.

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