The benefits of sous vide cookers are widely publicized, ranging from the flavor and quality of the meals they produce to the health benefits of cooking sous vide.
However, there’s a less widely discussed benefit; The sheer ease of cleaning and maintenance that sous vide machines offer. Because there is no direct contact between the food and the sous vide machine itself, cleaning is simple and quick.
Even the best sous vide cookers will benefit from a little TLC to keep them in prime condition. It’s important to know how to clean your trusty kitchen tool.
Mineral deposits from water can build up in immersion circulators, which can affect the performance of the machine. Periodically, descaling the machine can greatly prolong its life.
In this article, we cover all the techniques you need to know to keep your sous vide circulator clean and working as efficiently as the day it was unboxed.
How to Clean a Sous Vide Cooker
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I have broken this down into three sections. The first section contains the most basic and simple instructions to perform after every cook.
In the second section, there is a step-by-step guide of the cleaning steps to perform periodically. The third section contains instructions to perform if those of the second section have not produced the desired results.
Before we start, two quick warnings to always follow: (1) never rinse or immerse the electronic head of an immersion circulator in water, or any liquid; (2) always unplug the immersion circulator before performing any cleaning. These will keep you from serious damage, whether to the unit or yourself!
Sous Vide Cooker Basic Cleaning
Gently wipe down the machine (all parts – head, stainless steel skirt, etc.) with a clean absorbent cloth. If the sous vide isn’t wet from use, make sure the cloth is damp.
Sous Vide Cooker Periodic Cleaning & Descaling
When there is excess grime (e.g. from a leaky sous vide bag) or it’s been a long while since you did more than wipe down the machine, this section applies.
Furthermore, if you have hard tap water, perform these steps more often than you otherwise would, as it will descale the circulator. If you see any signs of mineral buildup, or excess grime, perform the steps below to keep your machine working efficiently.
You will need:
- White vinegar – to create a vinegar and water solution
- A small container for the vinegar water bath and the sous vide machine
Step 1 – Wipe down the machine (all parts – head, stainless steel skirt, etc.) with a damp clean absorbent cloth
Step 2 – Mount the immersion circulator in a container for the vinegar bath. The container should be as small as possible, as this cuts down on slow heating times and the amount of vinegar required.
Step 3 – Fill the container with a 50/50 mix of white vinegar and water
Step 4 – Set the temperature for 140° F (60° C) and switch the immersion circulator on
Step 5 – Leave the immersion circulator running for at least an hour.
Step 6 – Once completed, empty the water/vinegar mix from the container and replace it with fresh water
Step 7 – At the same temperature, run the circulator for a few minutes in the clean water. I tend to overdo this just to be on the safe side and usually run it for 15 minutes.
Step 8 – Using a clean cloth, dry the machine off, and check to see that the mineral deposits are removed.
If you have a machine that dismantles, you can also clean the components with a toothbrush to remove build-up that may have softened, but remained. Take care not to damage the impeller shaft and other parts during this stage.
Sous Vide Cooker Heavy Duty Cleaning
Can I Use Cleaning Products?
Most of the time, the use of any cleaning products is unnecessary. However, if the vinegar solution from the previous section has failed you, then add some mild dish soap to water in place of vinegar and repeat the steps above.
If stubborn mineral build up is the culprit, a 9:1 ratio of water to CLR cleaner can be put to work in extreme cases. I would avoid resorting to this if possible.
Always avoid harsh chemical cleaning products and bleaches that contain scouring materials as they can scratch the exterior finish.
Sous Vide Equipment Cleaning Tips and Tricks
- Regular Cleaning – A simple wipe down after each use keeps the sous vide machine sparkling
- Descale Regularly – Learn how often you need to do this by watching for mineral build-up. This varies depending on use frequency and hardness of the water.
- Seal the Sous Vide Bags Properly – Always use high-quality bags. Don’t overfill them and make sure they seal properly. A burst bag ends up in brown water and spoiled food.
- Stubborn Descaling – In cases where vinegar doesn’t remove mineral build-up, a heavily diluted commercially available descaler like CLR Remove (Calcium, Lime, and Rust Remover) can be put to use.
Last update on 2022-10-05 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
If you’re looking to clean and reuse sous vide bags, check out the article.
Sous Vide Machine FAQs
Yes, you should clean your sous vide equipment. This helps to prolong the life of the sous vide cooker and keeps it hygienic. Removing mineral build-up keeps it running accurately and efficiently.
In models where the sous vide coils are accessible, clean them with a toothbrush and mild soapy water. When doing so, be careful not to damage the immersion circulator heating coil and other internal components.
Anova sous vide machines are easy to clean. The Anova Pro sous vide precision cooker cleans simply with a damp cloth. For a deeper clean, you can access the internal components and gently wipe with a soft cloth. For awkward corners, use a toothbrush. If needed, you can use a gentle cleaning agent like dish soap.
Before using descaling solution, I would recommend first using an equal parts solution of white vinegar and water to remove mineral deposits. If the vinegar water solution doesn’t remove the mineral deposits, try descaling solution.
No, you can’t put the Breville Joule in a dishwasher. The electronics in the head of the unit will be incur serious damage, probably beyond repair. Similarly, never rinse or submerge the head in water.
Yes, a deep clean will help with heating issues, whistling noise issues, and heavy-scale buildup. A build-up of mineral deposits in the sous vide machine can affect water flow. That can cause inaccurate temperatures, and the disrupted water flow can cause a whistling noise.