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We do our best to keep our readers informed about new modernist cooking-related products. This often includes equipment such as sous vide machines and containers. In this review we are looking at a type of sous vide accessory we haven't seen before, an insulated sleeve for your water bath. It is the, "Sous Vide Container Sleeve" by SO-VIDA and the company provided us with the product so we could do some testing and a review.
The SO-VIDA Container Sleeve (Sleeve) is designed specifically to be used with the Rubbermaid 12-Quart container. The Sleeve covers all faces of the container except for the top and is constructed from 5mm neoprene (wetsuit material). This provides two primary functions: the first is to help keep the heat of the water in the container and thus reduce the amount of energy required during the sous vide cook. The second is to protect the work surface your sous vide container is sitting on, due to the prolonged heat transmitted from the base of the container.
I used the Sleeve for several cooks, and also ran a detailed heating and power consumption benchmark test on it. Below are my thoughts on both the positives and negatives of the SO-VIDA Sleeve.
The Sleeve's construction is high quality. All of the seams are nicely finished and appeared to be quite strong. The Sleeve also fits snugly around the Rubbermaid container, never sliding down the sides.
In my opinion, the greatest advantage of the SO-VIDA Sous Vide Container Sleeve is its esthetic appeal. This feature will be most important to those of us who leave our circulator and water bath setup all the time and ready to go. It simply adds a little more "class" to the kitchen.
The blue piping adds just enough contrast to convey a classy image, while at the same time provides a good-looking finished edge around the top and handle openings. Since many circulators have black on them, they match nicely with the black color of the Sleeve. The "SO>VIDA" logo is reasonably understated.
Since I don't empty my water bath after each cook, occasionally it gets looking a little less than "pristine". So having a cover and the Sleeve on the water bath is a definite improvement to the ambience of my kitchen!
As mentioned above, I ran a detailed heating and power consumption test and the Sleeve did reduce the amount of power consumed during our benchmark cook by approximately 25%. There are two factors to keep in mind, however, associated with this advantage. The benchmark pretty much represents the maximum power savings you might experience and it shows a savings of a little more than 1 kWh. Shorter cooks at lower temperatures will have much smaller power savings.
And in general, sous vide cooking is relatively low powered. Moreover, the average cost per kilowatt-hour in the US is about $0.12, so don't expect the Sleeve to pay for itself anytime soon.
The presence of the Sleeve does decrease the amount of time it requires the water bath to reach the target temperature. But as you can see from the heating and power consumption test, the decrease is in the order of 1 to 3 minutes, depending upon the lid that was in place. On those days where you are in a rush, this difference might be important to you, but typically it's not a huge deal.
This advantage depends heavily on what you have your water bath sitting on. There are certainly some work surfaces, especially those with laminated wood, that could degrade over time due to exposure to lengthy periods of high temperatures and many manufactures suggest not sous viding directly on marble or Corian countertops. In those cases this could be an important advantage provided by the Sleeve.
SO-VIDA provides a Risk-Free Satisfaction Guarantee on the Sleeve. So if it looks interesting to you I would recommend giving it a try to see how it works and looks in your kitchen. Since the review rating on Amazon is currently 4.8 stars on 69 customer reviews, I'm guessing the vast majority of folks are happy with their purchase.
Clearly there are other ways that we can achieve the same advantages that the Sleeve provides. In some cases they are less expensive and more effective as well.
For example, simply using towels to insulate the water bath you can provide even better insulation. Unfortunately, as you can see from the picture, this approach does not have the aesthetic appeal of the Sleeve.
The SO-VIDA Sous Vide Container Sleeve is a unique and useful accessory for your Rubbermaid 12-Quart water bath container. The presence of the Sleeve on the water bath does reduce the amount of power required, especially on a long and high temperature cook. It also decreases the amount of time it takes to get the bath to the target temperature. However, the impact is relatively small when the entire cook is taken into account.
So for me the major benefit of the SO-VIDA Sleeve is the impact it has on the aesthetics of the water bath in the kitchen. If you're like most cooking enthusiasts, when you have friends in for an amazing meal you also want your kitchen to look impressive. The SO-VIDA Sleeve will definitely help you accomplish that goal - but I'm afraid you will still have to wash those dirty dishes in the sink!