Thermal Circulating Water Bath

The other heavy duty way to regulate water temperature in sous vide cooking is through the use of a thermal circulating water bath. These devices are similar to the thermal immersion circulators except they come in their own enclosed container for holding the water.

Updated Content

This information has recently been updated, you can view the new information in my guides to Sous Vide Machines or my reviews of Inexpensive Immersion Circulators.
Also like the immersion circulators, water baths were originally developed for the scientific lab where maintaining precision temperatures can be critical.

This information, as well as over 100 recipes, is available in our book Beginning Sous Vide which you can get at or as a pdf download.

How A Circulating Water Bath Works

A circulating water bath is similar to a crock pot or slow cooker but it is designed to maintain an specific temperature over long periods of time. A normal water bath consists of a lidded container of water with a built in thermal immersion circulator. The container holds the water, and in sous vide cooking the food, while the immersion circulator regulates the temperature of the water to the specific temperature you have set it at and removes all hot and cold spots.

Every circulating water bath has it's own margin of error for holding the temperature. Most low-end circulators will hold the water at a +/- 1 degree Celsius, while some high-end circulators can hold the temperature to within +/- .01 Degrees.

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Benefits of a Thermal Circulating Water Bath

Since the circulating water bath has a sealed container it can help reduce evaporation during very long sous vide preparations, such as short ribs or tough cuts of beef. They also keep the temperature of the water more easily throughout the sous vide process since it is enclosed.

Depending on the type of circulating water bath you get, they can regulate the heat from within 1 degree celsius to within .01 degree, either are more than adequate for sous vide cooking.

Negatives of a Circulating Water Bath

Much like the thermal immersion circulators the largest issue with circulating water baths is the expense of them. They are also in the $800 to $2,00 range for new equipment.

If you have the money then you'll be more than happy with a thermal immersion circulator like the Lauda MS or a good circulating water bath but we'll discuss some alternatives for the average home cook. As more and more people get into sous vide cooking some companies are responding to the demand by coming out with lower cost alternatives to the more expensive immersion circulators and water baths.

Thermal Circulating Water Bath Tips

There are several places to get cooking specific water baths. PolyScience makes well known thermal water baths. Instanta also makes water baths. As does Gramt Instruments.

You can also look for used thermal water baths on eBay and sites that resell scientific lab equipment.

If you do buy a used thermal water bath, be sure to clean it well since you never know what chemicals were used in it previously.
Jason logsdon headshot This article is by me, Jason Logsdon. I'm an adventurous home cook and professional blogger who loves to try new things, especially when it comes to cooking. I've explored everything from sous vide and whipping siphons to pressure cookers and blow torches; created foams, gels and spheres; made barrel aged cocktails and brewed beer. I have also written 10 cookbooks on modernist cooking and sous vide and I run the website.
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