- Lightweight and Powerful
- Compact Size - Half as big as other circulators
- Great recipes and customer support
- Cannot be used without a phone
- No onboard controls
Heard a lot about the sous vide method of cooking, lately?
Well, if you’ve decided it’s time to try it in your own kitchen, ChefSteps is one brand you’ll definitely hear plenty about. Their Joule sous vide immersion circulator has received quite a bit of attention due to its post-modern looks and high-tech simplicity.
But … does it really deserve all the hype?
Keep reading, our unbiased review will help you decide if the ChefSteps Joule is the best sous vide machine for you.
ChefSteps Joule Review / Rating
Founded in 2012, this Seattle-based company, is into two things – food and technology. According to its mission statement, the company is “dedicated to putting the kitchen back in the heart of the home.”
Previously focused on online education, recipes, tips and techniques, ChefSteps branched out into kitchen hardware with Joule – a savvy undertaking.
The Sous Vide Method
Sous vide cooking involves sealing plastic bags (traditionally vacuum-sealed) and cooking it in water that is held at a precise and constant temperature. Since the temperature of the food cannot rise above the temperature of the water, there is no danger of overcooking it.
Sous vide machines come in two types: immersion circulators – like Joule; and all-in-one water ovens. The method can be used for a wide variety of foods, including meat, vegetables, fish, eggs and desserts.
Meat cooked via sous vide will never be over-done and can be quickly pan-seared to add a delicious and attractive Maillard crust.
The cylindrical ChefSteps Joule is 11 inches tall, 1.85 inches across and weighs just 1.3 pounds. It has a power rating of 1100 watts and should only be used with 120-volt outlets.
Our Joule test unit was able to hold a steady temperature to within 0.2 degrees Fahrenheit. An impressive feat for such a relatively inexpensive appliance. (For example, immersion circulators like the ones used in high-end restaurants like the French Laundry can cost upwards of $1,000 each.)
The device’s magnetic base and integrated side clip allows you to easily attached it to the pots and containers you already have in your kitchen. Plus, the Joule Big Clamp accessory (available from ChefSteps’ website) makes it easier to clip Joule onto big containers like coolers.
While a vacuum sealer is highly recommended, it is not absolutely essential. The “water displacement method” can be used to push out excess air of your plastic sous vide bags in a pinch.
One vacuum sealing appliance that makes a great pairing with the Joule immersion circulator is the Vacuvita.
This sous vide circulator is both durable and waterproof, made with stainless steel parts in a seamless design.
You can use Joule in water depths of just 1.5 inches and it will also retain its functionality in up to 8 inches or 10 gallons of water.
While some may label it an inherent design choice or flaw, the Joule doesn’t ship with the most important accessory of all: a smartphone. Due to it’s lack of external controls, the Joule Immersion Circulator can only be controlled via the Joule app on your iOS or Android smartphone.
What we really liked
Joule’s app has you covered if you are new to sous vide. It includes attractive pictures and lively videos that go with the numerous recipes and guides available. It’s extremely helpful in getting you comfortable with the idea of sous vide cooking and how to utilize it properly at home.
Joule can also be voice-controlled using the Amazon Alexa digital assistant – making the device virtually hands-free.
It’s reliance on other technology for its operation is a double-edged sword.
On the one hand, it is convenient that it functions through your phone or smart home assistant, but on the other hand those are the only ways to fire up this device. Should you break your phone earlier in the day and still want to use your Joule at night for cooking – you will be out of luck.
The popular Anova WiFi Precision Cooker falls around $50 below the Joule’s price range. Power-wise, the Anova’s maximum output is 900 watts, a little less than the Joule.
In terms of size, the Anova is bigger at almost 15 inches tall and nearly 3 inches across. Its 2.5-pound weight makes it heavier than Joule by over one pound.
It’s not nearly as avant-garde in its design or execution, but in function its been given good reviews by many in the cooking blogosphere.
Like Joule, it too has Wi-Fi or Bluetooth and iOS or Android app connectivity. Unlike Joule, however, it has an LED display screen and onboard controls – which means “no phone … no problem!”
The Joule is a well thought-out, incredibly intuitive appliance. At first, we were a bit worried that its reliance on the smartphone would become an annoyance. But after using the Joule over the past few months, we’ve come to really enjoy it.
Updates to the unit’s firmware are done over the wifi on your cellphone, two separate updates have been applied to our Joule since purchase, and while I don’t know exactly what is being tweaked, the unit has never malfunctioned.
If you are okay with the fact that Joule has no on-board displays or controls, then this is certainly one of the sous vide immersion circulators you should be looking at for your home.