Joule Sous Vide Review
Since 2009, I have been cooking sous vide twice a week, sometimes even more. There’s no other cooking method that can guarantee nearly perfect results every time. We’ve done extensive reviews on some of the most popular sous vide machines: Nomiku, Anova, Sous Vide Supreme and the Oliso.
For the past month, we’ve been testing the ChefStep’s new Joule Sous Vide gadget. We received a beta version to test.
What is Sous Vide?
Sous Vide is a French term that describes cooking food in a sealed bag, immersed in water that is kept in the exact temperature that you set. That means steak is never over cooked, chicken is always tender and briskets are fall apart tender.
If you want more information on what is sous vide, here’s an excellent video:
Below is my review of Joule, with both PROs and CONs.
Joule is Tiny
PRO: Joule is so light! At 1.28 pounds and is about the size of a pepper grinder. It’s something I can carry in my bag, stick in a shallow kitchen drawer. I appreciate its minimalist design – pretty, soft white polycarbonate and stainless steel with a fun orange rubber foot that’s magnetized. There’s only 1 small indicator light and just one button (the stainless steel top that you can push down.) It’s beautiful, simple. All the detailed functionality is controlled by the Joule app.
The magnetic orange rubber foot is genius. No need to clip it to the side of the pot. The unit will stand by itself – the rubber keeps it from slipping, the magnet will stick to bottom of induction friendly pots.
The unit is also waterproof – the entire thing can be submerged. This is an improvement over the Nomiku or Anova – with those devices, you have to be careful not to let water level go above a certain point, otherwise the circuitry will get wet.
Because Joule is so small (less than 2″ in diameter), I can use a very small pot. Sometimes I just want to heat up leftover steak and don’t want to use a gigantic pot and waste time and energy heating up a lot of water. Which is what I have to do in order to use the Oliso or Sous Vide Supreme. Even the Anova and Nomiku needs a decent sized pot because it clips onto the side of the pot.
CON: For the size and weight – really, none. Lighter and smaller is better. The only drawback with the hardware design of Joule is that the power cord is not long enough. I’m really limited to cooking very close to a power outlet.
But is it Powerful?
PRO: Size would be an issue if that meant less power. But the Joule features 1100 watts of power – 100 watts more than the Nomiku and Anova. The 100 watt difference isn’t that much, but impressive because Joule is so much smaller than the other two products.
Serious Eats had previously tested the Nomiku, Sansaire and Anova in a side by side water test – how long would it take the until to heat water from 80F to 140F?
Nomiku – 23 minutes, Sansaire – 16 minutes, Anova – 20 minutes.
Our test of Joule – exactly 10 minutes. Wow.
Tech savvy users will have no problem with Joule. It connects via bluetooth and wifi. App is available in iOS and Android.
PRO: Software updates, which happens via wifi, will improve the capabilities of the unit. The app is also continually updated with new recipes, new cooking videos and training. The app is beautifully designed, with short little animation snippets of each step. I like that I don’t have to push “play”, wait for video to load, or worse yet, be redirected to Youtube for the video.
All the controls happen on the app, other than the On-Off button on Joule.
CON: Sometimes simplicity and minimalism is even more complicated! What does the flashing red light that turns yellow mean? One tap or two taps on the button? Why is it blinking at me? What temperature is it currently at?
In order to figure out what to do, or what the lights meant, I had to return to the instruction manual or to the app. In fact, Joule won’t work without a smartphone and the app. A couple of times, I got caught saying, “WHERE IS MY PHONE????” when I needed to control Joule, check temperature or check on the timer.
The connection and app is still buggy (Joule is still in beta right now) Update 5/30/17: I’ve tested the non-beta version of Joule and LOVE IT. All the bugs have been worked out, the unit performed perfectly with no glitches.
I’ve had trouble keeping connected to Joule, especially if I walk out of the room, and then walk back into the kitchen, or if I leave the house and then come back.
It was difficult to connect again, the “Try Again” button didn’t work. I had to power down Joule and restart the app for it to connect again. But when I did that, I lost my timer and temperature setting.
The unit is still in Beta, and Joule won’t ship for another 6-8 weeks, and hopefully they’ll fix the issues.
CON: Those not tech savvy might have a tough time with Joule. This isn’t the device that I would recommend to my parents – lack of controls and display on unit would just be more difficult for them.
Also, because sous vide cooking usually takes longer, (the shortest recipe I’ve seen is 30 minutes, but usually I sous vide for 4-24 hours, depending on what I’m cooking), what happens if I start the cooking, but ask my husband to finish cooking? His app can connect to Joule, but then the time/temp resets. If I’m unavailable, then how will he know how long its been cooking and how much more time?
I’d say that Joule is perfectly priced. It’s smart technology, beautifully designed — the team at ChefSteps really thought of everything when they created Joule. I’m not at all worried about the app or connection glitches – I know they’ll get them fixed.
Why do I trust ChefSteps?
- Their recipes ALWAYS WORK. I’ve cooked at least 23 of their recipes.
- Their video cooking lessons are absolutely amazing. I finally learned how to make macarons.
- Rock Star team: chefs, scientists, photographers, engineers, programmers, writers, videographers. Chris Young co-authored the definitive book on modern art and science of cooking, Modernist Cuisine
Would I recommend Joule?
Yes, but only to tech savvy people who don’t mind tinkering with an app to use Joule.
If you’re on a budget, I’d wait for Anova to be on sale again – or get the all-white Joule for $149 (the stainless steel is more expensive at $199. Both units perform exactly the same. Having the stainless steel accents increases the cost.
If you LOVE sous vide and consider it an essential appliance to your everyday cooking — and if you have an extra $500 and you have a giant kitchen, then get the Oliso. I haven’t tested the Sansaire yet. Nomiku is great, but at the same price as Joule, I vote for Joule.
If you have patience for new gadgets, great! As you can see from my review, there are still some bugs to be worked out.
Update 5/30/17: I’ve tested the non-beta version of Joule and LOVE IT. All the bugs have been worked out, the unit performed perfectly with no glitches.
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Joule Sous Vide Giveaway