The Compact, Easy ChefSteps Joule Sous Vide

Cooking can feel pleasantly, almost soothingly, old-fashioned. Part of the fun of the holidays can be the routine, the traditions, the open fires and roast turkeys and recipes passed down from generation to generation. But the nostalgia loses meaning if you can’t put your own stamp on the meal, put a signature twist on some dishes, and maybe even find a new way to prepare them.

The ChefSteps Joule is the simplest and easiest-to-use sous vide appliance that we’ve seen. It’s smaller and more compact than others, at just eleven inches tall and a bit over a pound. For those with experience in sous vide cooking, there is a lot to like here, but there is even better news for those who are new to the method. Basically, the sous vide technique is a way of giving your food a hot water bath, immersing your steak, fish, or vegetables by placing them first in an sealed bag and then into a pot filled with water. Heat at a consistent, fairly low temperature for quite awhile, and enjoy some of the best fish you’ll have ever tried.

Some systems want you to use big tubs, and require a lot of water- what’s nice about Joule is that you can use your own pots and don’t even need to use much H20. Thanks to a magnetic base and clip, it takes only a moment to setup- and with 1100 watts of power the Joule heats up fast too and sticks to a precise temperature level, down to 0.2 degrees F or 0.1 degrees C. You’ll need to download their free app to your smartphone (Android or iPhone) and connect to your Joule unit- but then you can even use your voice thanks to Amazon Alexa integration and technology they call ‘Conversational Cooking’.

The downside, of course, is that there isn’t aren’t direct controls or a visual readout on the Joule itself. You might not need their suggested recipes, but the visual doneness indicator is nifty and the notifications helpful. We used vacuum sealed bags with seasonings inside, but you definitely don’t have to, and we typically seared items briefly but that is also optional. The sleek white Joule sous vide cylinder from ChefSteps is available online and in stores, for around $199- the perfect gift for a budding chef, and an ideal way to make your mark on holiday prep.

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