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$250 Rice Cooker Sous Vide Set Up. How to Get Everything You Need to Cook Sous Vide Without Spending a Lot!

Updated on October 9, 2010

2 Great Reads on Sous Vide

Under Pressure: Cooking Sous Vide (The Thomas Keller Library)
Under Pressure: Cooking Sous Vide (The Thomas Keller Library)

This brand new book by Thomas Keller of the French Laundry is full of some pretty inspiring and amazing recipes and is about the most comprehensive source of sous vide information in print today. A Solid book!


You have to see what Grant Achatz is doing at Alinea to believe it. Incredible stuff.


the only way to rare but tender beef short ribs!

After reading through the 78 pages of forum posts on E-gullet about sous vide cooking, I have at long last procured all the equipment needed to perform these feats of kitchen magic – and although you can spend many thousands of dollars to gear up your kitchen "laboratory style" I managed to get up and rolling for about 250$. Here's how I did it.

A brief disclaimer – I do not claim to be the originator of any of these techniques or information. I write this post only after completing a lot of online research over a period of years and getting myself all set up and sous videing'.

What is Sous Vide?

To cook sous vide, you vacuum seal food in plastic and cook it at very precise and stable temperatures in water…fancy boil in the bag dinners!

The major advantage of sous vide cooking is the precision of the methodology – and you can achieve some great results with sous vide that cannot be replicated with any other technique. Although few home cooks are familiar with the technique, many if not most better restaurants in America are using sous vide cooking in their kitchens.

What You Need to Get Started

You can spend tens of thousands of dollars on professional chamber vacuum sealers and laboratory style water baths. You can also get nearly (but not quite) the same results by spending less than $300.

To do it on the cheap you need:

  1. A PID temperature controller
  2. A large rice cooker
  3. 2 sizes of zip lock baggies


A PID temperature controller is a very sophisticated instrument that controls the electricity going into a heating appliance in order to control achieved temperatures very precisely.

Normally, a rice cooker or other heating appliance will cycle on and off, causing fairly wide temperature fluctuations. To avoid this, you plug your rice cooker into the PID controller and in turn plug the PID controller into the socket. The PID controller has a thermo-sensor that is inserted into the rice cooker water. You set the PID device to a certain temperature, and the PID will control the amount of electricity that activates the heater, thus keeping the water temperature at a constant.

MY PID device was 159$ and it will keep a large pot of water at + or – 1 degree for up to 99 hours.

Rice Cooker

Although other heating appliances can also work, the simple rice cooker seems best suited to work with the PID device for sous vide applications. You will want to get a rice cooker that has enough space to hold a number of bags without crowding. The 7 liter version is a good starter size and can be purchased for less than 100$. You must buy a rice cooker that has a mechanical on and off switch. If you see digital display, it will probably not work with the PID. Most rice cookers are mechanically switched.

Zip Lock Bags

Although you might want to invest in the $100 or so that a vacuum sealer such as the Foodsaver would cost you, you can achieve a sufficient vacuum for sous vide with only 2 sizes of zip-lock bags.

Get 1 quart and 1 gallon bag sizes. Place the food to be cooked inside the 1 quart sized bag and close, removing as much air as possible.

Place the 1 quart sized bag inside the 1 gallon sized bag and submerge the bags in a tall pot of water, so that the quart bag is completely under water, but the top of the gallon bag is above the water line. Do not close the gallon bag.

Once the quart bag is completely submerged, work out any air bubbles that remain, and then close the bag well through the larger bag. Take out of the water and you will have achieved a vacuum seal.

Heat your rice cooker up to your desired temperature and drop your bag in to cook.

And that's it – sous vide on the cheap!

Have fun experimenting with what is truly a revolutionary cooking technique…and also a whole lot of fun!

See a similar set up on video

Sous Vide in Action

Is molecular gastronomy a fad?

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    • John D Lee profile image

      John D Lee 8 years ago

      Thanks for the comment, Jean-Francois.

      I very much like your blog site as well. Interesting, my experience with the famed sous-vide egg has been similar to yours! but other than that, it rarely lets me down!

    • profile image

      Jean-François 8 years ago

      I totally agree with you you can definitly cook sous vide with a cheap equipment. I also experimented this technic with a halogen stove and it was not so bad.

      But I also had the opportunity to try sous vide with an immersion circulator and this is realy an amazing cooking appliance! Prices are now going down and you can now find manufacturer that proposes a thermal circulator for less than 500 euros. This is still a lots of money but this is one more step to sous vide at home.

    • profile image

      C. C. Riter 8 years ago

      I'm giving it a go for sure. thanks

    • John D Lee profile image

      John D Lee 8 years ago

      Thanks very much C.C Riter - I am having a lot of fun experimenting with what sous vide can do - and I think it's a great technique for home cooks - a technique that almost no one is using!

    • profile image

      C. C. Riter 8 years ago

      aanother great informational read. thanks a lot.