Hello Dork family! Welcome to the new Dorkfood Blog. Since we get so many questions from prospective Dorks about what types of appliances can be used in conjunction with the Dorkfood DSV, we thought it would be fitting to focus our first blog entry on those appliances. This information should help get future Dorks up and cooking and, even if you are a current DSV aficionado, maybe this post will fan the flame of that experimental foodie we know is inside every Dork.
Before we delve into those appliances, we have to make sure they will work with the DSV. We have devised a method for testing whether that appliance will work with the DSV called the “plug test:”
- Plug your appliance into an ordinary outlet and turn it on until it starts heating.
- Unplug it without pressing any switches or changing any settings.
- Plug it back in.
If the appliance continues heating after step 3 (without any additional user input), it will work with the DSV.
Types of Appliances
Why don’t we start with the main appliance that the DSV plays well with: the slow cooker. Now, not all slow cookers are made the same and not all slow cookers will work with the DSV. The fancy slow cookers (usually the digital ones) will most likely not pass the “plug test” and therefore, are not compatible to work with the DSV. I have even come across a slow cooker model that uses a manual knob, but requires the user to select one of three different size settings before heating up. This additional step in the process means that this model of slow cooker will also not cooperate with the DSV.
While this sounds limiting, the slow cooker remains one of the best appliance options to use with the DSV for sous vide in the home. A good thing to keep in mind is that those simple knob slow cookers are far less expensive than the pricier digital kind. Another advantage is that slow cookers are made with a ceramic tub that is heated by the metal bowl it sits in. This heating method ensures that heat is distributed evenly through the food, and for our purposes, water bath.
Because of this heat distribution, the fact that the ceramic tub won’t usually get hotter than the temperature you want, and there won’t be random cold or hot spots, it is ideal for the DSV. With the lid on, water loss through evaporation is minimal, and circulation is almost never needed. It really is a simple plug-and-play situation. The home chef can vacuum seal their desired meal, place it in their preheated water bath in the slow cooker (set to high and using the DSV), and let it go for the required amount of time.
The rice cooker is another popular appliance for use with the DSV. Again, the stress for these should be on the simple models. Most simple, non-digital models of rice cooker rely on a weight shift mechanism for cooking the rice. This means that you put rice and water in the metal tub and set the lever to “cook.” As the rice cooks it will absorb some of the water and some of the water will be lost to evaporation. Once enough water is gone from the tub, the weight shift kicks in and the rice cooker switches operation from “cook” to “warm.” As a sous vide water bath won’t be absorbed by a grain, and lower temperatures minimize evaporation, your rice cooker should not shift to “warm” during the water bath cook time.
You may run into problems if your rice cooker is a thermostat shift model, so it is always good to conduct that handy “plug test” from above to make sure it will work with the DSV. Do bear in mind that rice cookers have a more powerful heating element. So, while your water bath will heat up faster, it may cause problems where the DSV cord rests on the lip of the water bath tub. A simple solution that many Dorks use is to keep the cord wrapped loosely in aluminum foil at the point of contact with the tub.
Let’s move on up to the much more powerful appliance – the roaster. Many of our Dorkfood family members have found that roasters are good for larger amounts of food and will heat up far faster than the slow cookers and rice cookers. Here, again, your preferred appliance must pass that “plug test” in order to work with the DSV. We have found that those roasters with simple dials that indicate either actual temperature or high/low have the best chance of working for you.
Like the rice cooker, the point of contact on the lip of the bath may be a problem spot for the DSV probe cord. Keep in mind the above advice about the foil and just make sure that the cord is not in contact with any of the metal of the water bath. This includes the probe that is inserted into the water. You want to be sure that the probe is not touching the sides or the bottom of your roaster as these are likely to get way hotter than the max of 200˚ F and you may end up with a melted cord, which is no fun for anyone.
Because of the more powerful heating element and the larger water bath, you may find the need to use circulation when cooking sous vide in a roaster. To determine if this is the case, we recommend getting your bath up to temperature and then stirring it – if the temperature changes by more than a degree, the bath will benefit from circulation. In those cases we recommend using an aquarium bubbler – even a small one (“200” series) can introduce enough agitation for sufficient circulation. You can also simply stir the water every now and then to break up those hot and cold spots, but this requires more attention.
Finally, we have the smoker. A bunch of Dorks use their DSVs with a smoker for both a sous vide water bath and for “cold smoking” meat and fish, though probably not at the same time. The same rules apply to the smoker as the roaster. Protect your cord on the lip and make sure that the probe doesn’t touch the sides or bottom. And, of course, your smoker must pass that “plug test.” (I promise that is the last time I will mention “plug test” in this post).
“Cold Smoking,” as defined by The National Center for Home Food Preservation, is a process of smoking meat and fish “that is done over a much longer period of time, e.g. 12-24 hours…Since foods are held in the temperature danger zone, rapid microbial growth (40-140°F) could occur. Therefore, only those meat products that have been fermented, salted, or cured, should be cold-smoked. Most cold-smoked products should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160°F before they are eaten. However, not all cold-smoked foods are treated this way, e.g., smoked salmon and cold smoked mackerel, which are very delicately smoked for a long period of time and remain raw even when eaten.” Because of the dangers involved, please be aware of the microorganisms that may latch on to your food and read the guidelines over at the FDA before attempting this.
Those are our big four appliances. Our Dorfood family uses these slow cookers, rice cookers, roasters and smokers to make some amazing meals. Hopefully this list will have inspired Dorkfood Nation to get cooking with their preferred appliance and maybe try out a new appliance they didn’t know they could use.
Happy cooking, everyone!