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 Beer Cooler Sous Vide 
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Joined: August 9th, 2014, 11:21 am
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Post Beer Cooler Sous Vide
Okay, so tonight I'm doing something a little different: I'm trying to cook sous vide in a beer cooler.

I've seen this done in a few places with people DIY'ing the much more expensive gear. The up side about using a cooler instead of a pot or something is multi-fold:
  • For 1 you don't have use as much power to keep the water hot. A cooler can be a "heater" just as well in the sense that it doesn't transfer heat energy well. This is nice because running tons of power in a vehicle can be problematic.
  • For another you can get "dry" box coolers that keep water in/out and latch tight. Using one of these you could be cooking literally on the trail and not worry about getting hot water all over everything. This is actually important because most of the cook times are 1.5hrs and above.
  • And lastly, I don't know about you guys, but I like good food on the trail. It just makes all the work during the day all the more worth it.

SO, why is this in the "Project Buildups" section? 'Cause I'm going to do a build. Of a trail sous vide box!

For the moment, however, I'm just doing research with a regular cool I had around to make sure this stuff works. If it does then I'm going to go into full blown build mode.

Here's some background info on what I'm talking about and where I'm taking inspiration:

http://www.seriouseats.com/2010/04/cook-your-meat-in-a-beer-cooler-the-worlds-best-sous-vide-hack.html - explains the basics of sous vide and why a beer cooler is actually an ideal cooking vessel.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=21&v=Ub8OaUtiNB8 - same thing in video form.

http://www.chefsteps.com/activities/cook-sous-vide-tonight-insulated-cooler-method - super simple step by step

https://s3.amazonaws.com/chefsteps/static/ChefSteps-SousVideReference.pdf - sous vide timing/temp guide

http://makezine.com/projects/make-25/sous-vide-immersion-cooker/ - DIY sous vide immersion cooker. This is where I'm taking my build inspiration. All these parts are available in 12V versions, and if you combine this with a "dry" cooler you should have a trail-worthy sous vide. The equipment this guy used was around $75. Add in a $50 Engel dry box cooler and you're in around $125. Not cheap, but there is literally nothing on the market that's even close to similar, and the commercial sous vide immersion heater is $200+. So I consider it a cheap solution.

So, what do you guys think? :shock:


April 9th, 2015, 5:47 pm
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Joined: February 5th, 2015, 10:01 am
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Location: Hercules, Ca
Post Re: Beer Cooler Sous Vide
Very interesting! Itll be an interesting set up. Im bringing some liquid nitrogen on the trail for instant beer cooling lol.


April 9th, 2015, 6:19 pm
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Post Re: Beer Cooler Sous Vide
Okay, so that test was a fantastic success! I cooked 2 filets at 130 degrees in a $12 Target cooler in ziploc bags. I only put a little olive oil, salt and pepper in with them. I cooked them for 90min and only had to add a bit of boiling water once to raise the temp from 125 after about 30 minutes.

The carrots and potato had to be at 185 degrees for the same time so I did those in a pot on the stove. That had to have the heat turned on often as the temp dropped quickly.

Image

So, here's what I learned:

  • This method of cooking rocks! The meat was amazingly tender, the carrots and potato were soft but not squishy.
  • The cooler absolutely makes a huge difference. The amount of heat loss can probably be largely attributed to heating the meat, so in all likelihood the amount of energy required for the heating elements would be minimal after initial heat-up.
  • Cleanup is incredibly simple: throw out plastic bags and wash a plate. Or use a paper one and toss it in the fire.
  • Perfect excuse to bust out the propane torch!

Next step is to assemble a parts list and get them ordered up!


April 9th, 2015, 8:09 pm
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Post Re: Beer Cooler Sous Vide
https://www.amazon.com/registry/wishlist/VGOXVCU30S40/ref=cm_sw_r_it_wl_o_uF2jvb1YAPSEY Amazon parts list.


April 9th, 2015, 10:07 pm
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Joined: September 25th, 2006, 8:46 pm
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Post Re: Beer Cooler Sous Vide
aaronvogel wrote:
And lastly, I don't know about you guys, but I like good food on the trail. It just makes all the work during the day all the more worth it.


Totally agree. It's probably part of my heavy trail pig downfall but I bring a lot of good food and like cooking on the trail.

aaronvogel wrote:

So, what do you guys think? :shock:


100% awesome :thumb:

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April 10th, 2015, 7:17 am
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Joined: August 9th, 2014, 11:21 am
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Post Re: Beer Cooler Sous Vide
Bench tested today. Everything seemed to work okay. Next step will be to make up a mount put put it all in or on a cooler.

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April 21st, 2015, 9:30 pm
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Post Re: Beer Cooler Sous Vide
Sweet. What did you cook and how did it come out?

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April 22nd, 2015, 7:12 am
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Post Re: Beer Cooler Sous Vide
I didn't actually cook anything this time around, I was just testing the functionality of the wiring and each of the components - the thermocouple, PID controller, solid state relay and heating elements.

The battery jump box was dead-ish so I charged it overnight. I can report that this morning I turned it all on with a full charge and after a while (not sure how long because I left to get ready for work, but less than an hour) the water in the bowl had been raised to 40C (104F). In that time though the battery had been drained to just about nothing, so this will definitely be something that has to be used with the car running.

On the other hand, that was in a steel bowl in my cold ass garage, so I imagine once a cooler gets up to temp it'll draw far less often to maintain that temp.

Next step will be to order up the cooler I want to use and figure out how to cleanly install this stuff in it.

Biggest problem at this point is where to put the non-waterproof items - the SSR and the PID controller.


April 22nd, 2015, 8:06 am
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Post Re: Beer Cooler Sous Vide
custom waterproof box!


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April 22nd, 2015, 8:19 am
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Post Re: Beer Cooler Sous Vide
Those 4 snap sides that come in packs of 3 at bed bath and beyond and my favorite storage containers. I just looked for them but counldn't find them online. They're like these http://www.bedbathandbeyond.com/store/p ... 1042273608 but obviously glass is overkill

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April 22nd, 2015, 3:26 pm
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