The Kickstarter for the Sansaire sous vide device has taken the world by storm. It’s far surpassed its funding goal and now will include the “reach” of a 220V version, a reference towel included in orders, and a choice of colors for the display. A lot of the love in the culinary community is derived from the fact its inventor is Scott Heimendinger, the Seattle Food Geek who’s now part of the Nathan Myhrvold skunkworks and showed us how to make a sous vide device for $75 with readily available components.
You may remember I did some experimentation earlier this year with the SideKIC, a similar device invented by Duncan Werner (who, yes, was inspired by the $75 plans from Seattle) and reported on my own early efforts. The device has proven reliable and interestingly, our most regular use is to sous vide eggs so they are safe enough to be eaten “raw” in a Caesar salad or can be quickly turned to poached or uniquely fluffy fried eggs.
The Sansaire and the SideKIC work the same way: each hangs over the side of a water-filled container (which can be a cooking pot or a Coleman cooler—the bath never reaches a temperature which would affect the plastic). An electric coil heats the water and a fan circulates it to create an even temperature. The third and final element is a thermostat. That, plus vacuum sealable bags, is all you need for various magical preps in which food is held at a precise temperature for a long time until taste and chemical transformation occurs.
Sansaire has something the SideKIC doesn’t: a cool lighted LED display. (The SideKIC has an old-school color LCD.) It DOESN’T have something that both the devices could use: a timer that will turn it off when you direct. (Update: SideKIC inventor Duncan Werner said it was a design decision; “it’s generally safer to keep the temperature up then to let it drop. If for some reason you left something for an extra hour or so, it might overcook; but it would still be safe. For some things, like eggs, this might ruin it; but better safe than salmonella (so to speak).”)
Sansaire costs $200 and will be available in October-November. SideKIC is available now, from FatLaundry, for $170. Sansaire admits on its Kickstarter site there are still lots of QA and regulatory hurdles ahead. SideKIC is a proven product with a track record of a couple of years. I’m sure mine will give out eventually and then I’ll take a look at Sansaire but for now, I’m sticking with SideKIC.
UPDATE: Scott Heimendinger contacted me to point out a difference I missed: the Sansaire has a 1000W heater vs 300W for the SideKIC. “300W is not a lot of power – it’s just enough to maintain the water temperature in a smaller container, but it’s not quite enough to heat and maintain the temperature in larger vessels. For reference, it’s the same wattage as one of those immersion heaters you’d use to warm up a single cup of coffee. The Sansaire, by contrast, uses a 1000W heating element that can heat and maintain up to 6 gallons of water.”
Actually, I don’t use the SideKIC to heat my water because that seems inefficient. I use the stove to get it near the proper temperature then fine tune it with the thermostat on the device. 1000W seems a lot for a home electrical system. I’ve asked Scott to comment here if he likes… stay tuned.
P.S. In updating my knowledge I ran into this Reddit Q&A with Duncan Werner. Worth a read.
ANOTHER UPDATE: As of January 2015, inventor Duncan Werner may have stopped supporting the SideKIC. It’s no longer available on Amazon or FatLaundry, and the SideKIC website looks not to have been updated in a while.
My SideKIC still works fine and I’ll continue using it till it kicks the bucket. But if you want to buy a Sansaire or another sous vide device, be my guest.