Review: INKBIRD Sous Vide Cooker ISV-100W – From Good Grub to Glorious Gourmet
Over the years, I’ve watched countless cooking shows. Way before Guy Fieri was all over Food Network, I was videotaping (yes, videotaping… as in VHS) cooking shows by chef celeb OGs like Graham Kerr, Ming Tsai, David Rosengarten, and Emeril Lagasse. Back then, the internet wasn’t much of a thing yet and you kept all your recipes on 3”x5” index cards.
So, yeah. I’ve been cooking for a while.
But here’s the thing — I’ve never had the chance to try sous vide. It’s been that one thing that I have always wanted to try but wondered if it’d live up to the hype. So when I finally got my hands on the INKBIRD Sous Vide Cooker ISV-100W, I couldn’t wait to put it to work.
Was it the game changer that I hoped it would be? Let’s find out.
Before I go on, I should explain what “sous vide” is.
Sous vide is a cooking technique that involves putting your desired food (such as a steak) in a vacuum-sealed bag. Next, you immerse it in a water bath kept at an exact temperature by using an immersion circulator, such as the one I’m writing about today. This method of cooking allows one to cook food to precise temperatures (medium-rare does not equal medium-well) every time. Because it’s cooked in a vacuum-sealed bag, all the flavors of the food (um, steak) stay right there all cozy-like. The result: Juicy-not-dry food cooked perfectly. Guaranteed. Every time.
Let me tell you, I was excited when the INKBIRD Sous Vide immersion circulator (let’s just call it a “sous vide machine” from now on) was finally delivered. I’ve done my share of reviews, but this one was more personal.
What Was and Wasn’t In the Box
A little instruction booklet and a warranty card accompanied the boxed sous vide machine. I had hoped that there would have been a recipe book or something like that. Something else I had hoped to see but didn’t was a vacuum bag; at least one. Do you know how you get all excited about a gift only to find out that the “batteries are not included”? Not a deal breaker, but It was a little disappointing.
In INKBIRD’s defense, however, this wasn’t advertised as a “sous vide kit” or anything like that. Still, just one disposable vacuum seal cooking bag would have been great. Since I had no bags, my excitement was quickly deflated. No worries though, some quick research for the best reusable sous vide bags led me to the Stasher, a reusable, sealable food-grade silicon bag on Amazon. One click and that baby showed up the next day. Thanks, Amazon! Here’s the exact one I got… it worked great.
The Actual Sous Vide Cooking Machine
The machine itself is bigger in real life than in the pictures. (This isn’t a bad thing; it felt heavy duty. Made me look like I know what I’m doing in the kitchen. How ya like me now, Bobby Flay?) The controls are displayed on a black solid-feeling housing. It has a giant, sturdy black clip that allows you to fasten the machine to whatever pot you’ll be doing your sous vide thang in. The actual immersion cooker part looks like a big stainless steel wand. The temperature control range is from 25°C – 99°C (77°F – 210°F), with an accuracy of 0.1°C (1°F). You can set this to work for as long as 99 hours and 59 minutes.
Now that we’re ready to go, let’s get cooking!
From Good to Glorious in 60 Minutes
I’ve waited a long time for this.
What do think I chose to cook for my very first sous vide experience? That’s right, steak; a nice nearly two-inch thick, one-pound organic ribeye. Go big or go home. I also had a second identical steak which I would cook on the stove the old-fashioned way as my control. I’ve been told I make a pretty mean steak, so this would give the INKBIRD Sous Vide Cooker a run for its money.
As I let the seasoned steaks sit out at room temperature to settle (tip: cooking cold steaks causes the muscle fibers to tighten up and make it harder to cook evenly), I broke out the little instruction book. Yes, I read manuals before using new things. It was short, so it didn’t take long.
The INKBIRD Sous Vide ISV-100W can be controlled via the LCD or through an app. Installing and using the app was quick and easy. It’s a new experience for this old fogey to cook using his cellphone. Being able to know exactly what temperature the water was at any given time was mind-blowing to me. After I researched the temperature and duration for cooking a medium-rare 2-inch ribeye, I realized that INKBIRD already did the research for me as it was as easy as selecting it from the menu. Nice.
Now the Fun Begins
I don’t have a vacuum sealer yet, which would explain why I had an issue with vacuum seal bags. But no problem, I had a work-around; a culinary hack, if you will.
Once the water was at the right temperature (131°F / 55°C), I used the water immersion technique to get the air out of the bag containing my steak before I sealed it shut. I held the bag open as I submerged the steak. The pressure from the water pushes the air surrounding the steak out as the bag dips deeper and deeper. By the time the top of the bag was an inch or so away from the surface, most of the air had been squeezed out and I sealed it. I propped the bag in such a way that the top remained dry above the water line as the steak cooked for the next 45 minutes.
The machine is super quiet. It was weird to think that I was “cooking”. There was this barely perceptible hum (you had to listen for it) and a pot of water on the stove with a bagged steak in it. The burners were off. The overhead fan was off. No aromas, no smoke, and no noise except for the clacking of my keyboard as I worked on my laptop at the kitchen table. This was me cooking. Crazy, right?
45 minutes later, I turned off the machine and took the steak out of the bag. By feel, I could tell it was medium rare. While, at this point, the steak was technically 100% cooked, it wasn’t quite ready to eat. It was… well… let’s just say it wasn’t a pretty sight. The steak was sort of gray in color. It did not look good at all. Thankfully, I was expecting it to look like this as I have watched many “someday I’m gonna try sous vide” videos and so I knew that this was quite normal. Even though it was as ugly as heck, it looked soft, and juicy. So far, so good.
Sear You Later
The next step would be where I roll up my sleeves. It was time to caramelize both sides of the steak. I added a generous amount of ghee to a heavy pan and got the temperature up as high as possible. The sound of sizzle was music to my ears as I seared both sides. I basted the top of the steak before and after I flipped it with the buttery juices that collected in the pan. (I only flip once.) Now, the kitchen was filled with the heavenly aromas, the smoke, and all the noise that comes with cooking at high temps in the kitchen.
What’s cool is, since sous vide brings your food to the perfect temperature, I didn’t have to worry about trying to cook the steak on the stove or adjusting the temperature very much. All I had to worry about was the sear itself. I had to remind myself of this to prevent myself from accidentally overcooking it. By the time I was done, I had a great-looking steak with a perfect sear on it. Gone was the nasty gray mess that I originally pulled out of the bag. Thank goodness.
Don’t forget, I also had a control steak, which I cooked the way I usually cook it. With both steaks crying out “Eat Me!”, it was time for the taste test. It’s a tough job, but somebody’s gotta do it.
Finally, the Taste Test and Verdict
Ooh Look, Pretty
Side by side, the steaks looked nearly indistinguishable at first glance. However, the sear looked a little better (but just a little better) on the control steak. This makes sense, however, if you think about it.
This was my first time cooking with sous vide. I’m used to placing a raw steak on the stove, not a completely cooked one. Knowing that it was cooked made me a little overly cautious. I could have seared it longer on each side, but I didn’t because I didn’t want to turn my medium-rare into medium. I should have seared at a higher temperature, but, in my defense, my stupid extremely sensitive smoke detector kept going off, which scared my dogs and forced me to bring the temp down.
Plus, each side of the control steak had more contact time with the pan as it was raw to begin with and so needed to cook through to the center. So I’ll take a mulligan on this. The negligible difference in sear quality was simply based on newbie inexperience. (For the record, I just had another sous vide ribeye a few hours ago. With my lessons learned, I seared this latest steak perfectly.)
Great No Matter How You Slice It
Slicing the two-inch steaks open is where the differences start to show. My control steak, which was properly cooked to a medium rare, was browned on the outside and pink inside with a slightly redder gradient towards the center. Beneath the browned outside of the sous vide steak, on the other hand, was a consistent pink throughout. The transition between brown and pink was much more defined. Also, there was more brown, more doneness, with the control steak. In other words, from a visible standpoint, the sous vide steak was better cooked, even with my experience in regular cooking and the lack of experience in sous vide. Both looked amazing, but the stark contrast in coloring gives one point for looks to sous vide.
Both steaks sliced like butter, but once again, the point goes to sous vide. It sliced a little easier. The texture of the sous vide steak was a little more broken down than the control. The longer you sous vide, the more time the enzymes have to break down the proteins. I cooked the sous vide steak for the pre-set 45 minutes. However, next time, I’m going to cook it for one to four hours to soften it up a little more.
OMG The Taste! How Does It Taste, Man?!! Let’s Get On with It!
Now, for the climactic taste test. Drum roll, please.
The control steak tasted great. The seasoning, the juiciness, the texture. Très bon! Eagerly moving on to the sous vide steak, as I took that first bite… I have but one word to describe it. Glorious. The flavors and juices burst in my mouth and I think my eyes must have rolled in the back of my head as I moaned a happy moan. It’s hard to explain… the flavors were a little better; it wasn’t like it was twice as flavorful. However, the little enhancement in flavor paired with the more tender texture (imagine if I cook it for an hour next time!) and a significant increase in juices made this bite an ultimate umami party in my mouth.
Grass-Fed, Grass-Finished, Potato, Potahto
I neglected to mention that these steaks were grass-finished. “Grass-fed” means the cow eats only grass except for the end stage before slaughter, where they are fed grains which cause all that yummy marbling that makes ribeyes so succulent. “Grass-finished” means there were no grains introduced into the diet, resulting in very little to no marbling. In my effort to eat healthier, I hesitatingly opted for grass-finished.
To be honest, I expected to be disappointed in the lack of fat… but with sous vide, wow was I wrong! These were as juicy as the fattest all-grain-fed ribeyes I’ve ever had. So, when it comes to taste (and, more accurately, eating experience), sous vide takes it for the win. Now I’m thinking that I’ll try some tougher, less fatty meats and see if sous vide can satisfy my ribeye addiction without the ribeye price. If it goes as well as I hope, ten bonus points for sous vide there.
The Good, the Bad, and the Tasty
The negatives are very minor. I hope that someday, INKBIRD will add at least one disposable vacuum bag to cook with, as well as a recipe book or something that can help you start with the very best sous vide experience possible without having to comb through hours of YouTube videos. I wish the instruction booklet had a little more info. For example, the booklet says I can calibrate the machine. But, when do you need to calibrate? This would be helpful information.
As for positives, there are many. Aside from the said benefits of sous vide cooking, the actual device is heavy, sturdy, and screams quality. Its interface as well as the INKBIRD app are both very easy and intuitive to use. It’s quiet when it runs and can maintain its assigned temperature accurately. The ultimate positive is the praise you are sure to receive from people you have over for dinner. Just don’t forget to invite me.
If you want to up your home cooking game, the INKBIRD Sous Vide ISV-100W is the machine for you. Sous vide allows you to always have the same foundation to work with for your dish so you can focus on the finish and push that dish over the edge. In other words, it levels up your culinary craft. Yes, the food tastes great. But it’s more than that. Precision, consistency, and control are the true benefits that make this device a secret weapon that many Michelin Star and James Beard chefs swear by.
If you’re ready to take a giant leap in your culinary skills, you need the INKBIRD Sous Vide Cooker ISV-100W. Please don’t consider yourself a chef until you’ve at least tried to cook using the sous vide method. It will seriously turn your good grub into glorious gourmet. You can get the machine over on Amazon with free Prime shipping for just $87.99. (Yes, you read that price right… you’re getting fancy next-level cooking equipment with a fancy French name for half the price the pros pay.)
Up until now, my favorite review has been the Segway eMoped C80. But now… sorry Segway, there’s a new contender in town and its name is INKBIRD.