I’ve written about a kitchen robot, and all kinds of food gadgetry but but I’m always interested when I hear I can cook perfectly tender food, with little oversight and minimal effort. That’s the premise of cooking with Joule Sous Vide, now owned by Breville and known as Breville Joule Sous Vide. I had the opportunity to get hands on with this device and test it out in my own kitchen to see if it’s really any good. Read on for the full Breville Joule Sous Vide cooker review.
What is Joule Sous Vide cooking?
Sous Vide cooking is a technique that uses a hot water bath to cook food to a precise temperature. More accurate than steaming and not as bland as boiling, sous vide is a whole different method of cooking food.
My hands-on video review
Cooking sous vide involves sealing food inside a watertight bag, and immersing it in precisely controlled hot water for an extended period of time. The word “sous vide” translates to “under vacuum”, and when cooking sous vide, professional chefs and serious home cooks will use vacuum packing machines to seal the food inside. Frequently the food is seared after sous videing to give it a bit of colour, since while it’s cooked under water to a perfectly uniform temperature all the way through, the finished meats can look a little pasty.
What are the benefits of joule sous vide?
- You can cook proteins, and other food to within half a degree; because you pre-set the temperature, and the sous vide cooker holds it exactly there, there’s no danger of overcooking.
- You can leave food unattended, without worrying about overcooking it. Most sous vide machines have connected apps that allow you to monitor time and temperature from a distance.
- Temperature and doneness is uniform all the way through the meat. If you’ve ever tried to cook a perfect medium steak, you know you can get it medium in the centre, but the outsides are cooked more thoroughly. Because your target temperature is precise, and because the meat stays in the water bath until it’s cooked all the way through, you can make an entire steak that is the perfect medium temperature throughout, not just in the centre.
- You can also hold food at temperature; in some cases for hours. If guests are late, or you’ve mis-timed the cooking time on your side dishes, you don’t have to worry. The breville joule sous vide app will let you know for exactly how long it’ll keep.
- Cooking sous vide is stress-free. Because you can leave the food alone for a long period of time, and it will never cook above your pre-selected temperature you don’t have to worry.
- By prepping food in bulk you can save time later. Buying a large pack of chicken breasts or a half salmon, for example, then sealing it in bags with some compound butter or herbs and putting the packets in the freezer lets you pull out only what you need. Since you can sous vide from frozen, you’ve got minimal work for dinner.
How to set up Joule Sous Vide
Setting up Joule sous vide is easy. You’ll download the free Joule app, and create an account. Once logged in, the app walks you through pre-set cook options and there’s also a variety of recipes to choose from. You can input your own custom time and temperature settings too if you prefer.
There are no dials, knobs or display screen on Joule, unlike some other sous vide machines. You’re meant to use this with your smartphone or device. Joule is also significantly smaller than any other sous vide cooker, making it both portable and easy to store.
The white Joule cylinder has a small metal clip which is fixed on the side of the body; it’s immovable, which is not ideal for some sizes of pot, but Joule’s base is magnetic, which provides some stability if clipping it isn’t an option. The magnets are powerful enough to keep it steady when while the water is cycling.
Choose a proper surface & pot
You don’t need to use Joule on the stovetop, but you will need to make sure you have a surface and a water vessel that can handle heat, because the device and your water vessel, and thus what they’re sitting on, will get hot.
How to use Breville Joule Sous Vide
Operating Joule is easy. From the main screen you can select your protein or vegetable. If it’s chicken, the app will then ask you which cut you’re using: breast, thighs etc. Then you’ll set your target temperature: for chicken you can choose from different levels of doneness, according the the Joule app:
60 degrees: “a little pink and chewy”
65 degrees (Joule fave): “Juicy and tender, just the way we like it”
70 degrees: the poultry equivalent of a medium steak
75 degrees: “Not as juicy as we’d like but we wouldn’t kick it out of bed for eating crackers”
80degrees: “Decidedly less juicy but still mighty delish”
After choosing what you want the finished product to look like, you’ll select whether it’s fresh or frozen (which will change the total cook time) and how thick it is. With the data put in, you’re ready to sous vide!
Joule Sous Vide is loud, but sounds like a spa
The Joule sous viwill begin to heat the water, and it works quickly. Within about 10 minutes, the water is ready and the app will prompt you to drop in your meat. The water intake is at the bottom, and is drawn in through the base, heated and then an outlet gushes water back int the pot. It is loud and a bit splashy, but it sounds like a water fountain running, so it’s not unpleasant.
(*Important note: you must put food into some kind of bag or container–you can’t put food directly in the water in contact with the machine. Ziplock bags work well if you squeeze out the air, while small vacuum packing units are available from Amazon or Walmart for about $100-$200.)
Notifications are weak: Audible alerts would be a nice option
When the cook is done, Joule will send a push notification to your phone.
If I have a complaint about this device it’s that it appears I am unable to change the alerts. I’d prefer an audible alarm or more persistent notification, but I couldn’t find a setting where this is an option. As a result you’ll need to keep one eye on your phone to see when your food is done. The water will stay at temperature and Joule will keep running until you turn it off. Because your food can sit in the bath for a significant amount of time once the cooking time is over it won’t overcook if you miss your push notification.
How to set up a manual cook with Joule Sous Vide
If you’re a sous vide pro, or want to cook from recipes that aren’t part of Joule’s extensive database, you can. The app will allow you to dial in a precise temperature to within half a degree.
I cooked a variety of foods over several weeks with Joule, using Joule’s pre-set recipes, and my own selections:
- trout in compound butter
- chicken breast
- sous vide egg bites
- pork chops
- infused vodka
Yes, infused vodka. Because the vodka is heated only to the perfect temperature to extract flavour from your addition (think lemon, lemongrass, blueberries, raspberries) it doesn’t boil off the alcohol or cook your fruit and make it bitter. It’s also much faster than just soaking fruit in vodka, which can take days or weeks to absorb enough flavour. Sous vide infused vodka is ready in as little as two hours. Just pour vodka into a Mason jar and cap it, add your infusion and immerse in the water.
Sous vide egg bites are another fave. They’re made by mixing eggs with cottage cheese and cream, then the mixture is poured into Mason jars, and immersed for about 20 minutes. They make perfect little breakfast egg puddings, and you can reheat them in the morning in the sous vide bath, or microwave them on low.
Fish cooked sous vide is a favourite. Baking salmon it’s all too easy to overcook it, and pan searing it often leaves it underdone or unevenly cooked. With sous vide, it’s the same doneness all the way through, and perfectly flaky.
Using Alexa with Joule Sous Vide
Joule’s website says you can automate your Joule by linking it with Amazon’s Echo assistant, Alexa. Unfortunately, that skill doesn’t seem to be enabled for use in Canada yet, so I was unable to try it. If others have used this feature, please let us know how it works.
Overall Breville Joule Sous Vide cooker Review
I’ve really, really come to love sous vide cooking. Full disclosure: my husband bought us a different sous vide machine a couple of years ago before I really understood the power and ease of sous vide cooking. Since then, we started enjoying food cooked this way, and I’ve tried more an more options.
Sous vide food is more tender, juicier and more flavourful. It also allows you much more flexibility and creativity with your food.
The Joule is easy to use and the built-in recipes and instructions were easy to follow and turned out very good. Because some of the pre-set cooks have different options you can choose your level of doneness, which is convenient. I did find, however, that many of Joule’s ‘Joule Fave’ settings were a tad underdone for my personal taste. So moving forward, I chose the slightly higher temperature option.
I love how compact Joule is compared to other sous vide cookers. It’s easy to store anywhere, unlike the other machine I have.
I found the metal clip to be largely useless for most pots and vessels I was cooking in, but fortunately the magnetic base holds the machine well, and is a nice touch.
Things I didn’t love about Joule? The lack of configurable and audible alerts was disappointing. I also think the price is a tad high. A digital display would also be nice, especially at the higher price point.
Joule sells for about CAD $229-349 on Amazon (pricing varies by retailer) or $249CAD from Joule’s website, compared to $129-199 for the competitor.
In all, I definitely recommend Joule if you’re looking to launch yourself into the addictive world of sous vide cooking.
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