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Joule sous vide by ChefSteps

Pros: Size, restaurant-standard results, convenience, handy companion app, easy to store.

Cons: Short power lead, constantly circulating water makes a noticable noise, app can be glichy.

Star rating: 4/5

Buy from Amazon (£229)

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Joule sous vide

What is a Joule sous vide?

At just 28cm tall and with a circumference of 16cm, Joule, from US-based ChefSteps, is one of the smallest sous vide machines available. It works by heating water to a predetermined temperature and keeping it there for as long as you need, cooking food that you’ve sealed in a plastic bag to the doneness you prefer. This method of cooking is called ‘sous vide’ which, in French, means ‘under pressure’.

How does a Joule sous vide work?

In effect, the Joule turns any cooking pot into a water bath, and then tells you exactly what to do for perfect results. It works by heating and circulating water in a pot or pan until it reaches the correct temperature for cooking your chosen food.

Why buy a Joule sous vide?

Convenience and restaurant-standard results. The sous vide method of cooking may seem rather scary to many home cooks, but since trying a SousVide Supreme Demi – a countertop water bath – I've never looked back. I batch-cook economical cuts of beef, pork and lamb, chicken and fish for my family at the weekends, then chill the vac-packs in the fridge to reheat in the evenings. My kids now do it for themselves.

Joule sous vide cooking salmon

The downside of the SousVide Supreme Demi – measuring 28cm high, 28cm wide and 31cm deep – is that it takes up a lot of counter space, so the long, slim Joule is a great space saver. And the end results from the Joule match those of the bulkier product. In addition, the accompanying app gives foolproof, hand-holding instructions, so whether you’re cooking for your family or want to impress guests for a dinner party, the Joule is a great piece of kit to have in your kitchen armoury.

How to use a Joule sous vide

The Joule is very easy to use, but you do need to download the Joule app. Once you have, just plug the Joule in, fill a pot or pan with enough water to cover the food you want to cook (but not too much, or it could splash out), then pop the Joule into the pan (it has a magnetic base, so will stand up without support – or you can use the clip on the side of the Joule to attach it to the pan) and switch it on.

Use the app to connect to the device via WiFi or Bluetooth, then follow the on-screen instructions to select recipes, the temperature you want to cook at and the length of time you want to cook for. The app sends you alerts when the water in the pot is at the correct temperature, when to add your food, and when your food is done.

Joule sous vide with phone connected

The best parts of a Joule sous vide

Size is its main advantage over other sous vide machines. Measuring just 28cm tall with a circumference of 16cm and a width of 5cm, it’s as slimline as a stick blender so it’s very easy to store.

You can also use it to cook anywhere in the home, as long as you’re near a plug socket – just make sure you position your pot on a heatproof mat or trivet to avoid burning your table or countertop.

We also loved the simple to use Joule app. The app has click-along step-by-step instructions, with videos of a few seconds each to illustrate the steps.

What we didn’t like about the Joule sous vide

The Joule is a pleasure to use, but there are some annoyances:

The power lead is rather short (roughy 92cm) so you need to be close to a socket to use it.

The constantly recirculating water from the device was a little distracting – like having a water feature in whichever room you’re using it (although, for some, that might be quite relaxing!).

The app wouldn’t connect to home WiFi, despite six frustrating attempts (however, the Bluetooth connection worked a treat).

Although easy to use, the app falls short on delivery on general sous vide times and temperatures, beyond the ingredients in the featured recipes. For example, we wanted to cook pheasant legs sous vide, but as there are no pheasant recipes on the app, we had to search another sous vide app for guidance.

Joule is made by the US company ChefSteps, and thus uses American terminology for the various cuts of meats. For example, ‘fillet steak’ in the UK is ‘tenderloin’ on the app while ‘sirloin’ in the UK is ‘New York’. However, the app helpfully shows photos of the cuts, so it’s easy to identify your steaks.

Some of the suggested recipes may be too inaccessible for some, such as elk in smoked cherry reduction and squirrel confit-stuffed banh mi.

Joule is suitable for cooking food sous vide for a couple of hours, but for longer times, the pot loses a lot of water due to evaporation. Manufacturer ChefSteps recommends partially covering the top of the pot with foil or clingfilm to minimise water loss.

Joule sous vide being taken out of a box

Where to buy a Joule sous vide

The Joule is very popular on the ChefSteps website, but it has only recently become available in the UK. At the time of publishing, Amazon was the sole UK online supplier.

Buy from Amazon (£189)

Joule sous vide recipes

At the time of testing, the Joule app had a database of 137 recipes: 29 for beef; 22 for pork; 15 for chicken; six for game; four for lamb; 10 for seafood; 20 for vegetables; 15 for desserts; and 16 ‘other’, including yogurt, beluga lentils, veal osso buco, poached eggs, eggs Benedict, strawberry jam and more.

Joule sous vide ultimate steak recipe test

We tested the Joule using its ultimate steak recipe. After downloading the app, plugging in the Joule and connecting the two, the Joule is immersed in a pan of water. The app calculates a cooking time based on the size and thickness of the steak. It recommends searing the steak, so we brown it in a frying pan before bagging it up with herbs, garlic and olive oil. The cook time calculated was 1 hour 30 minutes.

The Joule brings the water up to optimum temperature (which takes around 30 minutes) after which the bag of food is lowered in. When the alarm sounded to tell us it was ready, we carefully lifted the steak bag from the pot.

Steak in a bag in a pan of water with sous vide clipped on

It contained a lot of meat juices – three times more than the pan juices we added – and the steak looked rather unappetising: brown-grey and flabby. But it was hot to the touch and felt super-tender when pressed it with a thumb. We heated a frying pan until searing hot, patted the steak dry with a kitchen towel, drizzled with oil, seasoned with salt, then, as instructed, seared for a minute each side before removing to rest on a warm plate for 5 minutes.

How did the finished steak compare to a steak cooked in a frying pan on the hob?

For comparison, we cooked a double-thick sirloin steak in the more traditional way, using the Good Food perfect steak guide. We cooked it for 3¼ minutes on each side for medium-rare results, inserting a digital thermometer to ensure the internal temperature of the steak achieved the same temperature as the Joule sous vide-cooked steak (54C).

Sous vide steak finished and cut into slices

Although the sous vide steak was beautiful and had a pleasing crust, it didn’t have the thickness of crust that resulted from cooking the traditional way. And because much of the umami flavour is in the crust (due to the Maillard reaction), this made the pan-fried steak tastier and more saliva-inducing than the sous vide-cooked steak.

However, we were able to chill one of our sous vide-cooked steaks to pan-sear on another occasion, which was certainly more convenient, especially when entertaining guests.

We also tried…

• Chicken thighs: We cooked skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs using instructions for boneless chicken thighs (at 65C for 45 mins). We then removed the thighs from the vac-pack, patted them dry, drizzled with oil and seared them in a hot pan for 1 min to crisp up the skin. Result: Fantastic – the chicken was incredibly juicy but cooked all the way through.

• Pheasant legs: There is no recipe on the app for pheasant and no guide for how to cook any kind of game bird, so we did some research online and found instructions for sous vide-cooked pheasant confit, which we modified. After ‘curing’ the pheasant legs overnight, we rinsed, dried and sealed them in a vac-pack with 2 tablespoons ghee (clarified butter). We cooked at 75C for 18 hours and browned them once time was up. Result: The meat was soft and succulent and easily pulled away from the bone, plus we made a sauce from the juices.

Joule sous vide stood up in pan

Results for Joule sous vide machine:

Ease of set-up 3/5
Ease of use 5/5
Design 5/5
Value for money 4/5
Finished result of food 5/5

Overall star rating: 4/5

Buy from Amazon (£229)

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