sous vide in a dehydrator

In the Getting Started with Sous Vide Forum
Since sous vide is cooking under time, temperature and pressure consider this. I have a dehydrator that is used to dry meats. It is capable of a temperature setting well within the sous vide range. It is also capable of holding that temp for hours on end. If you vacuum seal a meat then place in the dehydrator set at the desired temperature wouldnt that be the same as a water bath? Its all about maintaining the temp isnt it? The vacuum seal is the same in water or air the way I see it. Simple food dehydrators are infinitely cheaper than sous vide machines. This is not really a theory as I have already done this twice. I cooked london broil for eight hours and a strip steak for 12 hours at 130 degrees. As you can imagine the meat came out rare to medium rare. I knew that going in so that was acceptable. The meat had a slight metallic taste but was otherwise cooked. I then seared the meat to give it a crust. I could not tell that anythig was any tenderer but I guess there are limitations to the ability to tenderize a tough cut. So, any thoughts on this? thanx

6 Replies So Far

For the vacuum sealer I just use an older FoodSaver. I'd just go on Amazon and read some reviews as the quality of each model is all over the place. I tend to use Ziploc freezer bags for most of my cooking now though since I'm too lazy to vacuum seal and they work just as good for most things.
That's a pretty ingenious way to do it. The biggest concern would be whether it really stays at the set temperature of if it fluctuates.

For instance, an over set at 350°F really fluctuates by 25 - 50 degrees since it warms until it hits 350°F then turns off as the temperature goes above it, then cools to below it before the heating mechanism turns on again. It's these swings in most devices that make sous vide unsuitable in the.

So if your dehydrator can maintain the temperature within a degree or two the whole time then it should work just fine. The easiest way to tell would be to put in a corded meat thermometer and monitor the temperature, checking it every few minutes or 1/2 hour for an extended time. You'd be able to tell pretty quickly how much it fluctuates.
I'd be somewhat dismissive of it compared to water given that the thermal transfer properties of air and water are quite different.

e.g. stand in 20 degree c air feel comfy

immerse in 20 degree c water and feel flippin freezing and continue to cool.

I would therefore propose that there will be some differences in the temperature accross the meat over shorter periods of time, and considerably more fluctuation over the surface.

Might work though but the above are probably why there aren't sous vide air ovens, which as you say would be somewhat cheaper.
The dehydrator provides moving air. It is far superior to still air when heating or cooling an object. Air is not as dense as water and would take longer but when cooking for eight or more hours that is sufficiently long; wouldnt you agree? The dehydrator is enclosed and provided the thermostat is accurate it should have no difficulty in maintaining a set temperature. I did not check the temp over time , just once with a digital thermometer to determine that it was at 130 degrees. So, do you agree that moving air in an enclosed environment over extended time (eight or more hours) would provide the same effect? Thanks to all and please share your thoughts.
I quite agree that theoretically, for extended cooking times this should work. Technically, a dehydrator is not an enclosed environment as the air is circulated from the outside through the machine. Having tried this a few times with my dehydrator, which prompted more raised eyebrows from the wife, it didn't provide the control needed at shorter cooking times. Similar sized eggs came out at different consistencies, I suppose one can infer from that the temperature distribution is not entirely even. Lamb over 6 hrs was ok, though a little off the doneness I would have expected. I hope you get on well with it, please keep us posted with your results. In the meantime, the dehydrator goes back to it's regular duties as a biltong maker!

Best of luck
After further research it appears that to more accurately maintain a set temperature it might be advisable to "densify" the air in the dehydrator. One person suggested stuffing it with solid objects so that they could attain the set temp. The packing would stabilize the ups and downs of temperature better than air. I would imagine that any dense matter would work and will pursue this line of thought. The trouble will be finding enough density in small objects that will fit into the separators in the machine. I now know that I am not the only one that has thought of this and that hurts! I thought that I was a genius! LOL

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