Sous vide cookers are still floating to the top of many a professional kitchen’s equipment list, with technological advances coming thick and fast. To help dealers wade through what they should take note of, we asked sector manufacturers to details their latest updates.
For instance, Clifton Food Range now offers a series of integrated water baths that can be installed into the kitchen countertop or range. Available in three different sizes, the chambers can be selected as single or duobath (two chambers allowing two different temperatures) options.
The units use the same precision controller found on all Clifton products for accuracy, while heaters and temperature sensors are concealed under the tank. Plus there is an easy to use control panel which allows temperature to be set rapidly, with a push button control.
If the water in the tank drops below the recommended minimum level or the unit is inadvertently switched on without being filled with water, a ‘fill’ message appears on the display as a visual alert to give run-dry protection.
The controller and tank are pre-calibrated as a matched pair. To assist installation, all electrical and temperature probe connections are clearly marked and fitted with plugs and matching sockets.
Clifton marketing manager Charlotte Cross detailed: “The integrated baths free up countertop space where it is at a premium in a busy kitchen. Food wastage is reduced through accurate portion control.
“To save operators time, Clifton Duobaths provide flexibility as the two separate chambers can be used either for slow cooking (i.e. overnight) or during service to regen two different food items at different temperatures.”
In terms of the units’ sustainability, she emphasised: “Using intelligent temperature controllers, energy consumption is minimal. For example, the Clifton 14litre water bath costs approximately £0.05 to run for a total of 6 hours, when set and stable at 60°C. This test data is based on our current tariff rate 2020.
“Slow cooking can be performed overnight, when many conventional cooking methods may not be permitted. This gives a strong benefit to using the sous vide cooking method instead, along with minimal energy consumption over extended cooking periods.”
Quizzed about current industry requirements, she responded: “There is distributor and operator demand for high quality and reliable products, which is typical of British-manufactured products. People buy British as they know they are getting good quality items at affordable prices.
“Clifton water baths are easy to use, which is another demand from dealers. Chefs want products that are straightforward to use and all Clifton products feature a control panel where temperature can be easily and rapidly set using the push button controls. Countertop Clifton baths are pre-calibrated to international standards and ready to use, straight from the box.”
Clifton offers a choice of size and style water baths for different applications: for example, compact baths have controls placed on the narrow end so that the whole unit can be run from ‘front to back’ on the countertop. There is also a range of accessories (partitions, immersion grids and lids) to complement the sous vide baths.
Cross added: “All water baths have low energy consumption compared to conventional cooking methods. Clifton offers excellent technical support for both product and sous vide cooking techniques.”
Over at Sous Vide Tools, the firm has added two products to its range of thermal circulators – the iVide Plus and the iVide Plus Jnr.
The iVide plus is claimed to be the first waterproof sous vide cooker for the professional kitchen and turns any suitable vessel into a temperature-controlled sous vide water bath, while using wifi technology for remote operation. It is designed to be clamped to any round or flat stainless steel/polycarbonate container or kitchen vessel with a minimum depth of 16.5cm and maximum capacity of 8 itres.
The iVide Plus Jnr has a 1.5kW heating element to heat the water quickly. The compact unit, the second waterproof device from Sous Vide Tools, can likewise be clamped to the side of any suitable container of up to 50litre capacity, to create a temperature-controlled sous vide water bath.
Both units can be wifi operated remotely via the iVide app, and can also be programmed using the high resolution touch screen, offering what is designed to be precise temperature control. Several cookers can be operated at once from a single app for flexibility. The app sends notifications to confirm when the water is at temperature, and when the food is cooked.
Using a timer that can be set between one minute and 99 hours, the units will notify the user with an alarm and display indicator when the cooking time is up, whilst the app should hold the food at the optimum temperature. The app also accesses over 600 recipes, and offers a recipe memory, stored cooking history, a sous vide calculator, and a multi-language control function. The stirrer technology is designed to eliminate hot or cold spots so that both units heat the water to a working temperature of 5°C to 99°C, with an accuracy of 0.07°C.
Both units can withstand immersion in up to a metre of water for up to 30 minutes, which should avoid damage from accidental spills or submersions. Other safety features include low a water level protection system that shuts off the circulator and sounds an alarm if the water level drops below the required minimum level.
Sous Vide Tools MD Alex Shannon commented: “The fact that these new units will remain waterproof for up to 30 minutes when immersed in water means that they are much less susceptible to operational issues caused by water damage. This makes them far more reliable and this is a big step forward.
“Another big advantage of these units is the fact that they can be pre-programmed using the app. This means that once programmed they produce consistently excellent results, which is of particular benefit to operators who are using them to create menu items across multiple sites.”
On general dealer feedback, Shannon reported: “Q4 of 2019 was a record quarter for us so demand is clearly still strong. And although it may be true to say that sous vide is no longer a secret we certainly feel that as yet not all those operators who could benefit from it are doing so.
“As we see it, the biggest untapped markets are the casual and fast casual sectors, both of which could benefit massively. Whilst the quality of food cooked sous vide is well documented, other benefits such as increased yield, batch cooking, better holding and flexibility of preparation are less well known. It is these attributes that could really benefit casual and fast casual operators.”
Looking ahead, Shannon revealed: “We are currently looking into wireless probes to go with our range of sous vide equipment and are about to launch a probe kit that will allow the operator to test the core temperature of sous vide food during cooking without compromising the vacuum seal.”
Elsewhere, Foodservice Equipment Marketing (FEM) has the PrimaVac range, made by Hamilton Beach Commercial, in its portfolio.
The unit’s heat seal closing system is designed to ensure that 99% of air is evacuated and contents are kept in a sterile, hygienic environment – so even if stored in the fridge, the food can last for weeks at a time.
FEM commercial director Mark Hogan emphasised: “Vacuum sealing is essential for chefs who want to sous vide their menu items. However, the PrimaVac units also allow chefs to vacuum seal food for tasks such as marinating and storage – including in the freezer.”
Meanwhile the PrimaVac pouch selection, which is BPA-free, comes in a range of sizes and a choice of 3mm or 4mm thickness – so they should be suited for all types of food, wet, dry or bone-in.
The PrimaVac models are made from a durable stainless-steel housing. Both the heat seal bar and the filler plate are removable, and the control panel can be wiped clean, which should make the units easy to keep hygienic.
Plus the PrimaVac has a sealing pump featuring an adjustable ‘soft air’ function, so that foods are protected during the sealing process. The largest of the three models in the range, the HVC406, also offers the option of gas flushing, whereby an inert gas can be introduced into the pouch after the air has been sucked out, to provide a cushion for delicate produce such as baked goods or leafy vegetables.
Rational believes its multifunctional Rational VarioCookingCenter appliance can boost flexibility for caterers, who could be able to take advantage of the multifunctional capabilities to provide varied menus including dishes that require sous vide cooking.
Rational UK MD Simon Lohse said: “The VarioCookingCenter is able to replace large pots and pans, boiling kettles, bratt pans, planchas, fryers and solid tops.
“It is not just a sous vide bath, it can be used for a range of cooking processes. Chefs can use them to sous vide, confit, slow cook and pressure cook. They can also be used as a deep fat fryer, griddle, boiler and bratt pan. This flexibility makes it extremely useful in the kitchen.
“Kitchen space is getting squeezed and by replacing so many other appliances, the VarioCookingCenter allows chefs to offer extensive menu choices from a compact footprint.”
He continued: “Rational’s ConnectedCooking feature enhances this ‘sous vide + multifunctionality’ even further, since it allows users to monitor operation of the VarioCookingCenter over the internet.
“For example, a chef could check how a sous vide process is going, from their smartphone or PC. ConnectedCooking also allows chefs to update automatic cooking processes and programs – thus a sous vide program could be added to a single Rational appliance remotely, or to multiple Rational appliances across a whole estate, simultaneously.”