I'm constantly getting asked what type of sous vide circulator someone should buy. This used to be an easy question to answer because there were only one or two reliable machines but now there are several options, all of which are generally comparable and can get the job done.
I decided to put together this article to help people quickly get an overview of the top circulators. I've focused on the major deciding factors I think are important such as heating power, how loud it is, and the price.
To help with this, I reference a few of our sous vide benchmark tests such as Heating Power (how fast the circulator can heat the water), Sound Level (how much noise does the machine make), and Power Consumption (how much power does the machine use).
I mention if a machine supports WiFi or Bluetooth, which you can learn more about do you need WiFi on your sous vide machine.
All of the following circulators did very good in our Temperature Variability tests, which is the most important criteria for a sous vide machine. They were also all very close in the amount of power they used.
If you are just getting started with sous vide and don't have any specific desires, just buy the recommended circulator below that is currently on sale for the least amount of money, or the one you think looks "coolest". If you want WiFi, just choose from the machines that have it.
The only caveat is if you are in a professional kitchen. If so, you most likely want to look at the PolyScience Sous Vide Professional. It's a great machine and PolyScience has been helping professional chefs take advantage of sous vide for years.
Whatever circulator you pick should work great for you, and once you've used it for a few years you'll know more about what you are looking for in the long term.
Here's my top circulators listed in my personal order of preference, any of which I would highly recommend, followed by a few more reputable brands.
The Joule is a very popular machine by the great website ChefSteps. They took a relatively novel approach to designing a circulator and made a very small one that is only controlled by a smartphone app.
The Joule did very well in our tests, coming in the top 3 in both the Heating Power, Power Consumption and Sound Level tests. It also can easily fit into kitchen drawers because it is so small, so if you have limited counter-space it can help alleviate that problem when it's not in use.
The design of the Joule is very sleek and modern. The unit itself is also well made and sturdy.
The Joule is WiFi enabled, but has to be controlled from your smartphone. The associated app is currently the best sous vide machine app available and is pretty intuitive to use. The Joule is usually more expensive than our other top picks, but it can be usually had for under $170. They also offer a "White" version that removes the stainless steel from the cap and base, for about $20 less.
If you don't feel strongly about having a physical interface, and you don't mind spending a little more money, then I highly recommend the Joule as your circulator.
Anova was one of the first low-cost immersion circulators and they are now on their 4th machine. They are known for having decent machines that are inexpensive.
The Anova performed poorly in our Heating Power tests but once it got up to temperature it had almost no variability in the temperature and cooks just fine. They also finished tied for last in our Sound Level tests, which may or may not matter to you. Their latest update to the 900 watt machine does increase the cooking power, but it is still among the slower heating machines.
While Anova machines seem to break occasionally, their customer service is generally very good at replacing them. They also are one of a handful of companies that currently produce a WiFi version as well as their less expensive bluetooth version though their app is generally considered somewhat confusing to use.
After testing a dozen machines, the Anova is the one my Dad still uses at home, while I use the Joule. It's a great machine if you want to save some money or really want a physical interface.
The above circulators are the ones we have tested, use ourselves, and recommend above all others. However, there are several we have tested and used that we still feel are good circulators and we recommend. I want to share them with you since if you are interested in one, it will probably work just fine for you.
PolyScience makes fantastic circulators which are designed mainly for professional kitchens. If you're the type of person that likes using well-made professional equipment, it might be worth the extra cost to pick up one of their circulators.
Gourmia is another provider of circulators that are designed to be inexpensive and just get the job done. It is consistently the least-expensive circulator unless the others are on sale. It is the fastest heating circulator we have tested and I also provided the recipes for the accompanying recipe book and smartphone app.
I used the Sansaire Circulator for years until I recently switched to the Joule due to the smaller size. It's a little outdated now but if you can find one for cheap, it's worth picking up!
There are many, many other circulators out there, but those are the ones we feel very comfortable recommending. To see all the machines we've testing and reviewed, you can view our Sous Vide Machines section.
What sous vide machine do you use? Let me know in the comments!