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SO-VIDA has introduced a couple of new products similar to the Sous Vide Container Sleeve we reviewed earlier. These SO-VIDA Sous Vide Insulation Bands and Mat are designed to cover standard cooking pots that are being used as a sous vide water bath container. The manufacturer was kind enough to provide me with both the 4" and 5.5" versions of this product for free for this review.
The insulation bands are constructed from a 5mm black neoprene (wetsuit material). The mat uses 7mm black neoprene to provide extra protection for the work surface. The edges of the neoprene are nicely finished with a blue binding material, which gives each piece a clean and classic look.
The bands are available in two heights, 4" (10 cm) and 5.5" (14 cm), to fit a variety of pot sizes. The bands are 37" (94 cm) long, allowing them to fit round pots with a diameter of approximately 11" (28 cm). I believe the band will fit the vast majority of pots, with the possible exception of very large stock pots.
On one end of the band is a strip of Velcro, covering the entire height of the band and approximately 2" (5 cm) wide. This is the "hook" part of the Velcro and it can "grab" anywhere along the entire length of the band. This allows the band to be easily installed on the pot.
The circular mat is 11" (28 cm) in diameter, which is large enough to handle the maximum pot size the band fits. It is thick enough to insulate the work surface, without making the pot sitting on top wobbly.
I placed the insulation bands and mat on numerous types of pots and performed a sous vide cook in one of the configurations. Below are my takeaways regarding the SO-VIDA Insulation Bands and Mat.
This could be the most important advantage of this product to you, or possibly a don't care. It all depends on the work surface that you typically put your sous vide water bath on. Especially if you are using some sort of metal pot as your water bath container, it can radiate a lot of heat to the surface that it is sitting on for long periods of time. In many cases, this can have a detrimental effect on that surface and degrade it over time. To be on the safe side, you might want to consider this relatively inexpensive purchase, which would protect your work surface and provide other benefits as well.
Obviously, the design of this product is not rocket science, but the construction of the two components is high quality. The edges of the black neoprene are finished off nicely with a blue fabric piping. The level of "grab-ability" of the Velcro on the band is perfect - it holds quite well when in place, but is easy to disconnect when removing it from the pot.
I did not run a specific set of tests on the SO-VIDA Insulation Bands and Mat. However, if you are interested, you can review the SO-VIDA Sleeve Heating and Power Consumption Test to give you a basic understanding of the amount of energy saved by this type of insulation on a water bath.
I would actually suspect that the amount of energy saved by the insulation band and mat is probably higher than the 25% saved by the Container Sleeve in the above test. This is because a metal pot would typically lose more heat through the sides and bottom than a polycarbonate container, which is a slightly better insulating material. Please keep in mind that sous vide cooking requires a relatively low amount of power, so we're not talking about large financial savings.
Similar to the SO-VIDA Sleeve, the Insulation Band and Mat will have a minor impact on the amount of time it takes the water bath to reach its target temperature. Depending on the starting temperature and the target temperature this decrease is probably in the order of 3-5 minutes.
Unlike the SO-VIDA Sleeve, which fits one specific container size, the insulation bands and mat fit a wide range of potential water bath containers. Therefore, if you do not have a "dedicated" water bath container for doing your sous vide cooking, this flexibility could be an important factor in your purchasing decision. It would allow you to use a variety of your pots, depending on which ones are not in use for traditional cooking, when you need to sous vide. I was able to use the insulating band and mat on a variety of pot types including: a pasta pot, a pressure cooker pot, and both 4 and 6 quart saucepans.
In fact, if you have a really large pot, you could even insulate it by connecting two insulation bands together end-to-end!
SO-VIDA provides a Risk-Free Satisfaction Guarantee on the Insulation Bands and Mat. So you may want to give it a try to see how it works and looks in your kitchen - you can always return it with no questions asked.
You can certainly achieve similar results using other methods such as towels or other insulating materials. These would typically be less expensive and in some cases, more effective. But normally these DIY solutions are not near as attractive as the SO-VIDA insulation bands and mat.
The SO-VIDA insulation bands and mat are a unique and useful sous vide accessory if you use metal pots as a sous vide water bath container. The addition of this product will protect your work surface from degrading, slightly decrease your energy use and time to reach the target cooking temperature, and it looks good in your kitchen as well.
If the SO-VIDA Sous Vide Insulation Band and Mat sounds like something you would like, you can get one on Amazon.