With so many innovative cooking appliances in the market, choosing what to add to your kitchen is more challenging than ever. For instance, if you are into set-and-forget devices, you’ll likely compare sous vide vs a slow cooker. Which one is easier to use and worth your budget?

Both sous vide machines and slow cookers are excellent kitchen appliances, but they also have pros and cons. The choice mainly boils down to your preferred cooking style and favourite meals.

Are you into restaurant-style cooking, or do you think no-fuss home cooking is more practical?

Let’s define the similarities and differences between the two. Hopefully, at the end of this comparison guide, you can tell them apart and choose which fits your needs and skills better.

Sous Vide VS Slow Cooker Mechanisms

What are sous vide machines and slow cookers, and how do they work? Let’s briefly answer these questions first to compare them better later.

Sous vide cooking works through a device called an immersion circulator. To set it up, attach the circulator to a water-filled pot and set the temperature.

The heat coils within the machine should now start warming the water based on your setting. While waiting for the water bath to reach temperature, prepare your food for sous vide by sealing it in a plastic vacuum bag.

When ready, place the bagged food into the water bath, then set the timer. Circulators can cook at 43°C to 87°C, so expect sous vide cooking to take several hours.

On the other hand, a slow cooker looks like an oval pot with a built-in electric heating element at the base. The slow cooker pot is usually ceramic or porcelain and removable for easy cleaning.

Slow cookers work by cooking your food at low-temperature settings, usually 93°C to 148°C for 3 to 8 hours.

The enclosed cooking environment and constant temperature of a slow cooker allow you to cook fall-off-the-bone meat dishes and stews. It also keeps cooked food hot for longer.

Slow Cooked Meal on the Table

Similarities between Sous Vide and Slow Cooking

Based on the sous vide vs slow cooker definition above, we can draw the following similarities between these cooking devices:

  • Long hours of cooking. Both usually require a minimum of 3 hours of cooking time, making it suitable for people who want to cook early and have it ready by lunch or dinner.
  • Excellent meat tenderisers. Because of the enclosed and extended cooking setup, sous vide machines and slow cookers are reliable for turning tough meat cuts into tender dishes.
  • Low heat generation and consumption. While it takes a long time to sous vide or slow cook your food, both methods require less energy than oven or stovetop cooking. The low cooking heat also lessens the risk of kitchen accidents or injuries.
  • Hands-off cooking technique. Both methods are perfect for multi-tasking mums and home cooks. Once you start cooking with a sous vide machine or slow cooker, you can walk away and do something else.
  • Reliable meal prep partners. If you batch cook or cook meals in advance, either device can help you cook food in volume because of the large or adjustable capacity. Also, they can work in tandem with your oven or stovetop, letting you cook several meals at once.

Differences between Sous Vide and Slow Cooking

Both cooking methods sound great, but the question of which one is better remains. So, let’s continue with this sous vide vs slow cooker comparison guide and identify their most distinct features.

1. Cooking Liquid

Sous vide machines and slow cookers need liquid for cooking but for different purposes.

With sous vide, plain water is necessary to create a hot bath for cooking food sealed in a vacuum bag. The cooking water does not come in contact with the food and is not part of your meal.

On the other hand, slow cooking needs water, broth, or sauce to cook the other ingredients of your dish. The slow-cooking liquid is part of the meal.

This difference highlights the cooking style and outcome of a sous vide machine and slow cooker.

Sous vide is best for dry dishes or food served with sauce on the side. Slow cooking suits liquid-heavy dishes like soups, stews, braised meats, and chillis.

2. Ease of Use

Slow cookers are more user-friendly because the prep work is like conventional cooking. Chop your ingredients like usual, add the cooking liquid, and let the appliance do its magic.

It doesn’t require extra prep and cooking steps, and when your slow-cooked meal is ready, you can enjoy it as is.

Sous vide is as straightforward but needs some getting used to. A vacuum sealer and plastic bags are necessary to sous vide any food.

After sous vide cooking, you would likely need the oven or stovetop to finish cooking your meal.

For instance, sous vide steaks look bland and unappetising after sous vide that you would have to reverse sear them for colour and flavour.

Different ingredients would have to be sous vide cooked separately as well.

Generally, slow cookers are best for people who want regular one-pot meals, whereas sous vide machines fit those who prefer precise results and do not mind the extra work.

Immersion Circulator Attached to a Plastic Container

3. Temperature Precision and Control

The ability to cook with precision is perhaps the biggest sous vide vs slow cooker difference. If you look at a slow cooker, the temperature knob would have low, medium, and high settings.

An immersion circulator, however, has a thermostat displaying temperature settings in exact degrees. This feature allows you to cook with more control and precise results.

Also, because of its wide temperature range, its easier to adjust the settings of your immersion circulator based on the ingredient you are cooking.

Home cooks who like no-fuss cooking would probably choose slow cookers over sous vide machines. However, those who value meals that are easy to reproduce would benefit from immersion circulators.

4. Overcooking Possibility

There is a higher possibility of overcooking your food in a slow cooker than in a sous vide water bath.

Because your food cooks directly with the heating element and pot, there is a chance for the cooking liquid to dry out and burn your dish.

On the other hand, the water bath of your sous vide setup can evaporate. Too low water level can result in an undercooked but not overdone or burnt dish.

Sous vide gives you more wiggle room to rescue your food, which also explains why this method suits expensive items like steaks, salmon, scallops, or tenderloin.

5. Baking Ability

If you do not have an oven at home, don’t worry. You can still bake cakes, breads, puddings, or fruit crumbles in a slow cooker.

You probably need extra tools and steps to start slow baking, but it is 100% possible. Slow cookers generate higher temperatures than sous vide machine, making them ideal for home baking.

Start with baking recipes created for slow cookers for optimum results, and put a rack at the bottom to avoid a burnt crust.

It is challenging, if not impossible, to bake food with an immersion circulator. However, you can sous vide desserts in jars.

Slow Cooker on a Kitchen Countertop

6. Appliance Cost and Long-Term Expense

Slow cookers have been in the market longer than sous vide machines. So it’s easier to find more affordable slow cookers.

You can purchase budget-friendly immersion circulators nowadays, too. Still, you’ll likely need a vacuum sealer, plastic bags, and other sous vide accessories when you buy this appliance.

Buying resealable bags or reusable jars for sous vide is more economical, but slow cookers are generally cheaper.

Should You Get a Sous Vide Machine or a Slow Cooker?

Here’s a table summarising the sous vide vs slow cooker discussion above:

Cooking Liquid Needs plain water to create a hot bath for cooking vacuum-sealed food Needs water, broth, or sauce to directly cook the ingredients in the pot
Ease of Use Requires extra prep work and cooking to finish or assemble a dish Cooks one-pot meals that you can eat and enjoy as is
Temperature Precision and Control Has a thermostat and wide temperature range for precise cooking results Has limited temperature options but more straightforward operation
Overcooking Possibility Low possibility due to indirect heat contact with food Higher possibility due to direct heat contact with food
Baking Ability Not for baking but can be used for making desserts Can be used for baking but requires extra tools and proper recipes
Cost and Long-Term Expense More expensive appliance that require extra accessories to use More affordable appliance that works on its own
Best For Steak, porkchops, vegetables, fish Stews, soups, curries, pulled pork


From this side-by-side comparison, it’s easy to see that a slow cooker is perfect if you like rustic, home-cooked meals that do not require extra steps.

It’s excellent for busy individuals who don’t have the time for tedious cleanup or extensive prep work.

However, if you are a passionate cook who enjoys making gourmet meals at home, sous vide is your best match.

With an immersion circulator, you can impress family and friends with restaurant-style dishes that may take time to cook but are not as costly.

Final Thoughts

This sous vide vs slow cooker comparison clearly showed how distinct these cooking methods are. While they apply the same slow-cooking technique, they provide different results.

Specifically, a sous vide machine applies precise temperature and time for cooking vacuum-sealed food.

On the other hand, a slow cooker uses direct heat and ample liquid to turn a pot of ingredients into one delicious meal.

Both promise delightful and easy cooking, but ultimately, it’s up to your preference of which appliance to buy. Make sure to consider your kitchen space and budget when choosing, too.

My reviews on the best immersion circulators might help you decide whether sous vide fits you.