ChefSteps Joule Review: Beautiful, Refined, and Powerful Sous Vide

ChefSteps Joule review

  • 10/10
    Performance - 10/10
  • 9/10
    Ease of Use - 9/10
  • 10/10
    Design - 10/10
  • 10/10
    Features - 10/10
9.8/10

Summary

Joule exceeded customers’ most wild wishes; surprisingly powerful while also incredibly small, beautiful Apple-esque design, and impressive features and reliability.

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ChefSteps CS10001 Joule Sous Vide Review

ChefSteps is a Seattle-based food and tech company that aims to help people cook smarter. And judging by their newest introduction to the sous vide industry, Joule, the smallest sous vide immersion circulator on the market, they did precisely that. After ChefSteps announced planned development, Joule went down in history as one of the most anticipated sous vide tools ever. And how could it not? Compact and contemporary, Joule promised to wow us even before we saw it. Customer demand surged as pre-orders piled in and lucky first-comers posted pictures on social media of their Joule in action. We finally got our hands on a Joule sous vide machine and put it to the test. We didn’t miss the opportunity to compare it to other sous vide machines we reviewed while we were at it. Let’s see if this gadget lives up to the hype!

A Quick Overview of the Main Features on the Joule

Before diving into our review, let’s go over some of the main features that make the Chefsteps Joule a standout product in the sous vide marketplace. After all, when shopping for any new product, including an immersion circulator, having a list of specs and features is a great place to start, particularly if you are doing comparison shopping. So here goes:

  • The Joule measures 11 inches tall and 1.85 inches wide
  • This immersion circulator weighs a mere 1.28 pounds
  • Temperature accuracy is 0.2°F (0.1°C)
  • Maximum water temperature is 208°F (98°C)
  • Maximum bath volume is 10+ gallons, which is 40+ liters
  • Minimum water depth is 1.5 inches, while maximum water depth is 8 inches
  • Safety features include thermal cutoff and high current protections
  • Line voltage is 100 to 120 V AC
  • Frequency is 50 to 60 Hz, single phase
  • This product does come with a 1-year limited warranty, which is definitely nice

Also, it’s important to bear in mind that this is a high-tech sous vide cooker, so you will need your mobile device to be running iOS 8.0 or later, or Android 4.4 or later. And you will need to have internet access in order to use some of the product’s features.

Unboxing

Similar to Anova, ChefSteps crafted a sleek packaging design to protect their devices. It gives you the feeling like you’re unboxing one of the latest tech gadgets. Which, essentially, you are doing, so it makes sense. When ordered online, there’s a brown box that says Joule on it, but if you purchase it at a brick and mortar store, you’ll see the regular orange and white Joule box. Don’t let the difference between boxes confuse you: both hold the exact same Chefsteps Joule inside.

Once you pull off the sleeve there is a black box, which holds the device securely in place. Once I took the Joule out of the box, only to realize that it was all that was there to take out. It was a surprise at first, as there was no paperwork or manuals. But  I realized this was a great branding move for the ChefSteps, as it only enhances the overall modern, digital, minimalistic feel of their product. Instead of the manual, you’ll find the instruction to download the Joule app at the the left side of the box. We’ll dive into more details on the Joule smartphone app below, but essentially, the app controls everything so it makes sense tutorials/how-to’s are on there.

Unboxing Joule
You may be surprised when unboxing the ChefSteps Joule. It comes with the sous vide machine and that’s it! No manuals or papers, just instructions on the box to download the app.

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Design

If you’ve read any of our previous sous vide machine reviews, you already know we’re suckers for great product design. More often than not, you’ll be able to know just how good a device after just one glance- it’s rarely that an impressive design hides a poor performance. ChefSteps hit a home run with the Joule design, plain and simple. From aesthetics to function, it’s absolutely perfect. When first holding the Joule sous vide tool, it feels solid, well-made, and reliable. First impressions gave an Apple-esque feeling – perhaps it’s the white and silver color or the sleek and elegant size.

 

Joule button
Joule uses just one button located on the top of the device

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Side note: It is worth noting that, although we received the white and silver, or “stainless steel” option, the ChefSteps Joule is also sold in “white polycarbonate,” which features an all white design that is actually a bit more affordable. So, when you shop for the Joule, be sure to choose the color that you like best.

Starting from the box to the device itself, it’s obvious that minimalism is the Chefstep’s preferred theme. The top of the device has one button, which will sync your Joule sous vide machine to the app when pressed. Right below it, there’s a LED status light. The bottom of the device has a magnetic base, which is also one of the most popular features of this immersion circulator. The magnetic bottom enables you to forego clips and clamps that attach to container walls and simply place your sous vide cooker in the center of the pot- the magnet sticks right to it.

Of course, not everyone who cooks sous vide will be thrilled by this design. For instance, our first impression of the magnetic base was that it wouldn’t be too useful, since we personally use polycarbonate sous vide containers as our primary water bath of choice. However, we found that there’s solution for everything if you’re crafty enough! After an epiphany, we placed a standard cookie sheet under our plastic sous vide container. Not only does the Joule magnet work with our container now, but we also have a bit of protection between our hot water container and our countertops to help prevent any potential damage from long cooks. Genius, right?

 

Joule magnet bottom
The bottom of the Joule has a strong magnet which can secure the device to stainless steel pots.

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And if you prefer not to jury rig stuff in your kitchen, you’ll be happy to know that Joule also has a standard clip on the back. With it, you can attach this immersion circulator to ANY water bath without having to modify anything. And once again, Joule designed this flawlessly. This is our favorite clip out of any device for using with plastic containers or pots. Which is kind of ironic, since the cooker where the clip is optional has better design than some in which it’s the only option! However, if you use a plastic cooler or a vessel with thicker walls, Anova’s adjustable clamp will work better for you.

chefsteps_joule_clip
The secondary clip on the back of the Joule works great, but can’t open wide enough to fit thicker containers such as the edge of a cooler.

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Features

ChefSteps proven, once again, that they’re the masters of their market. They managed to create the world’s smallest sous vide immersion circulator but equip it with a ton of impressive features. From Alexa voice integration to an innovative app-enabled Visual Doneness guide, one thing is for sure. Joule surely offers unique features that you won’t see in any other sous vide machine.

1100 Watt Water Heater

The ChefSteps Joule has an impressive 1100 watt heater which ensures that the temperature of the water rises efficiently and quickly. For comparison, Gourmia GSV140 boasts 1200 watts. The PolyScience CHEF Series has 1100 Watts, and Anova Bluetooth keeps it modest with 800 watts. What’s even more impressive, they managed to squeeze in a powerful 1100 watt heater into a device half the size of many other sous vide machines out there.

That alone is an impressive feat, not to mention Joule’s other nifty features. But don’t let the power of the heater make you think this compact circulator is loud! It runs quiet, which will be a huge bonus once you do a long sous vide cook. There’s no cooking roast if your circulator is noisy. Take a quick listen to the video we recorded of the heater in action:

Powerful Circulator

Although we might sound repetitive, it’s just the way it is: Joule impresses again. This time, it’s the circulator that leaves us in awe, as it can effectively circulate over 10 gallons of water! This is particularly useful if you plan on cooking large batches of food, but that’s not the only benefit. This immense circulation power comes in handy when cooking small amounts of food as it ensures an even water temperature no matter what.

The minimum depth of water is just 1.5 inches, which is significantly lower than other devices.

Many other sous vide machines are in the 3-4 inch range. So how did ChefSteps pull it off? Joule is able to achieve this by drawing in water from the base of the circulator and launching it out the hole in the front of the device. If you have 2-3 inches of water, you will notice the water shooting out from above. This is perfectly OK, but be warned: it does add to the noise level. In this short video you will see the Joule circulator in action.

Bluetooth and WiFi

Today, it’s all about connectivity and smart tech, and ChefSteps didn’t disappoint on this front, either. Joule comes with both Bluetooth and WiFi compatibility. This is great because you can pick and choose whatever is more convenient at the moment. For instance, you can use Bluetooth when home without worrying about a WiFi connection, or use the WiFi to control your Joule while you’re away. Just think about it: before leaving work, you get on the Joule app and set it to cook previously prepared food, and you’re greeted with a perfect steak once you’re home. Doesn’t get better than that!

Also, we were curious if you could choose between which to use, so Ellen Kutscher of ChefSteps cleared this up by saying: “Joule works only with a WiFi or Bluetooth connection. You can cook without WiFi via Joule’s Bluetooth connection, but your phone or tablet needs internet connection while pairing with Joule.”

Joule App for Android and iPhone

The Joule app is, hands down, the best sous vide app available. Good thing, too, since the sous vide machine itself can only be controlled from this app. In addition to your usual set of controls meant to help you operate your Joule, the free smartphone app comes packed with step by step recipes for scrumptious meals. Another feature we love is the ability to submit support requests and view their status directly from the app.

Inside the Joule app you will also find your cooking history and an array of impressive training videos to get you started, including the following:

  • Getting Started with Sous Vide
  • How to Sear Like a Boss
  • Tips for Sous Vide Superstardom
  • Caring for your New Friend Joule

Joule with Amazon Alexa

How awesome is this? Joule now works with Amazon Alexa to use operate the sous vide machine with your voice. If you already have an Amazon Alexa in your house, it’s all ready to go! Just open the Amazon Alexa app, search for Joule, and enable the skill. Once you set this up, you can simply say “Alexa, ask Joule to heat water to 150 degrees F.” No more fiddling with your phone to set the time or check on the temperature while you have sticky hands! Take that, Apple’s fingerprint recognition software that denies access to greasy fingers.

Joule Performance

Long story short, Joule performed flawlessly during our review. We shared our impressions of  the circulator earlier in the review, so let’s take a dive into other aspects, such as the heater and temperature accuracy. To test these two functions, we filled a water bath with 6 liters of water at 75 degrees F, placed our Joule in the water, and set the target temperature to 135 degrees F. It took Joule just little over 12 minutes to reach the temperature. Wow! This is absolutely impressive given how small the device is compared to others in the category.

As another comparison, our Gourmia GSV140 review had the same set of parameters for testing; 75 degrees Fahrenheit as a starting temperature which rose to 135 degree F target temperature in a little over 13 minutes. The most surprising part? The Gourmia GSV140 has a 1200 watt heater while Joule only has 1100 watt- yet Joule still took the victory in this part of the review.

Temperatire test using Joule
We started at 75 degrees. Joule reached our target 135 degrees F in just over 12 minutes.

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OK, while this is admirable, we wanted to take it further. Our goal was to test the accuracy of the temperature by setting the device to 135 degrees to cook a roast. About 10 minutes after the device reached the target temperature, we tested it with a digital and infrared thermometer.

According to our equipment, the temperatures came approximately 0.8 degree F lower than what Joule said; however, we didn’t’ put much faith in the accuracy of the thermometer itself. After all, this test is to ensure the temperature is within a degree or so, which is the level of accuracy that’s far out of this thermometer’s league.

Temperature test using Joule
Our thermometers read aproximately 0.8 degree F below Joule. However, I usually test the water to ensure it is within a degree or so.  The accuracy of these thermometers may vary.

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Handy ChefSteps Accessories That You Can Purchase for Your Joule

ChefSteps has also released a line of accessories that are made for use with your Joule. These are certainly worth considering to take your sous vide cooking with this product to the next level.

One accessory that we really like is the Big Clamp. It makes attaching your Joule to farmhouse sinks, Cambros, coolers, and more a snap. Use it when hosting a big party to cook a lot of food. If you are going to be cooking for a lot of people and you want to let Joule do all of the hard work, the Big Clamp will be there to help. And all you have to do to attach it to your cooker is remove the standard clip and replace it with the Big Clamp. Slide one off before sliding the other one on, and you’re good to go!

Another noteworthy accessory for the ChefSteps Joule is their Flip Top. This super helpful tool is easy to place on top of the pot that you’re using to cook up your meal. It helps prevent the water from evaporating while your immersion circulator is working, and it can also help boost the cooker’s energy efficiency by as much as 70%, particularly during those longer cooking sessions. This accessory was specifically made for use with your Joule, as it has a custom cutout for a perfect fit, yet it is also designed to fit nearly every pot in your kitchen that you’d use the Joule in.

Final Thoughts of ChefSteps Joule

All things considered, we can safely say that Joule deserves to be at the very top of our list of best sous vide machines. This immersion circulator outperformed every other device we’ve tested to date. And having in mind that we reviewed some pretty powerful sous vide cookers, that’s saying a lot. The design is immaculate, the simplicity of the lines giving off a luxurious impression.

Even though the compact size of this immersion circulator might make you think different, there are tons of unique features are packed into this tiny device. Lastly and most importantly, the performance of ChefSteps Joule was absolutely perfect.

The only thing keeping this from a perfect 10 out of 10 is because we personally are hesitant of only being able to control the machine with your phone. While it’s cool to be able to make the most out of smart technologies, sometimes you need something “touchable” to be sure you can always use cook with it, regardless of your other gadgets. A few controls on the device itself would be great, perhaps something like a rotating dial such as Sansaire uses. The design would still be minimalistic and modern, but there would be hands on controls on the device. Either way, a 9.8 out of 10 should be a good indication that this device rocks. ChefSteps Joule is the real deal.

16 thoughts on “ChefSteps Joule Review: Beautiful, Refined, and Powerful Sous Vide

  • January 15, 2017 at 6:45 pm
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    It’s nice and pretty and slim… but it only sells in the US so their loss I guess. Just got an Anova and I probably will not buy another circulator for years. Too slow, Chefsteps.

    Reply
    • April 14, 2017 at 7:18 am
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      I’m afraid it’s you that is missing out. I’ve tried them all and the Joule is so far & away above the others it’s comical. Add to that the fact is is the smallest, best designed & most powerful & it’s a no-brainer. My brother purchased the Anova a year prior to the Joule coming out. We both used our circulators together during the Christmas break & he promptly ordered the Joule while sending his Anova with his son in college.

      Reply
  • August 6, 2017 at 1:11 pm
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    I agree that to be able to drive without a phone is the only thing hindering my buying. I get the app – no more need to look for tables and checking time remotely is cool but some times I just want to put something in the water at 131 deg and go. I know my time and dont want to mess with a discharged phone:)

    Reply
    • February 21, 2019 at 7:05 am
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      Agreed, but I was thinking that it also helps seal the unit from steam intrusion. Any time there is a display or a button, designers have to also figure out how to seal that from water or dirt. Without any buttons, except the one on the very top, steam probably has a harder time getting in.

      Hopefully.

      Reply
  • August 20, 2017 at 8:25 am
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    where is the 240 volt model for the rest of civilization?

    Reply
    • August 29, 2017 at 4:55 pm
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      Hey Gary, good question… I actually reached out to a rep from ChefSteps a couple weeks ago and they mentioned that they are actively working on creating international models.

      Reply
  • September 18, 2017 at 5:37 pm
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    “The bottom of the Joule has a strong magnet which can secure the device to stainless steel pots.”

    Magnets don’t stick to stainless steel (at least, not good stainless steel). They’ll stick to regular steel, or cast iron. Seems like this would mostly be relevant in a dutch oven or something like that, or possibly a thin-bottomed vessel on top of a steel surface.

    Reply
    • September 18, 2017 at 6:34 pm
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      Ferritic stainless steel is magnetic while Austentic stainless steel is not; nonetheless, both are stainless steel. Ferritic is typically lighter weight, so you’re right, it will often be the cheaper stock pots and pans that are magnetic. I have quite a few of each.

      Another quick trick is to place a cheap baking pan under a polycarbonate container. Or, just use the clip 🙂

      Reply
    • February 21, 2019 at 7:03 am
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      The joule should stick to anything that is induction compatible. That simplifies it pretty much. Then, there’s always ways to make it stick using a sheet of steel/iron or for that matter, additional magnets under the pot, etc.

      Reply
  • October 24, 2017 at 12:41 am
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    I was excited about this machine, having heard a review on “Splendid Table”. I was entirely disillusioned when I found it could only be controlled via its’ app. which will not load on my BlackBerry Z30. My smartphone still does everything very well and is a long way from being ready to retire, so I will have to return the Joule I ordered on it…

    Reply
  • December 25, 2017 at 11:05 pm
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    Steve, read the disappointing results from the past two weeks on Amazon (from actual purchasers.) There are some QC and app issues that are disturbing. I am in the market to replace my first generation Sansaire, which is quite literally falling apart, and after reading these reviews and the comparative reviews on your site, will probably opt for the newer Anova 900 watt, despite the lower power. Thanks.

    Reply
  • February 19, 2018 at 10:23 am
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    My first generation Anova has been superb. No Wifi, no Bluetooth – superbly simple to set and forget.

    Now I am up for a replacement and I see reports, from users all over the web about the blue tooth versions turning off if they loosed connectivity and blue tooth has a very limited range and the Wifi ones having pairing issues.

    Yes they can be set manually, but looking at the instructions for that its a faf. (Hold button down for 8 seconds in step one).

    I don’t want a toy with bells – I want a robust and reliable kitchen tool.

    Reply
  • January 21, 2019 at 11:40 am
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    Joule is junk. Died after seven months and terrible dribbling support.

    Reply
    • March 18, 2019 at 5:54 pm
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      Hey Tom! Sorry to hear about that. Was it at least covered under warranty? Joule’s should last for about two years before needing servicing or replacements. Hope you were able to troubleshoot the issue.

      Reply
    • May 29, 2019 at 7:47 pm
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      I agree Tom. I Purchased one for my birthday and I’m sorry I did. It worked fine for a few times, but then for my birthday it ruined $136 of prime ribeye steak. After firmware update, the WiFi stopped working for me and it would not let me to set the timer until the water was up to temperate because it said it was not connected via Wi-Fi. But when I looked in settings, it showed it was connected to my network. I’d disconnect the Joule, and followed their troubleshooting to no avail. There’s no live support. So we left for the cabin in the mountains and the steaks were put in to cook at 129° for an hour. I wasn’t too worried about the timing and spent time enjoying the company with my friends outside. About an hour later I walk in to check on the steaks in the Jewel has a red light flashing. The app is locked up, so I closed it and reopened it and it said the water level is low, and the temp was now 162! I quickly unplugged it and could smell something like plastic burning from the Joule and couldn’t even hold it because it was that hot to the touch

      The steaks were ruined and that really put a damper on my birthday. I tried the Joule a few days later when I got home and when I plugged it in while partially immersed in water, it started boiling the water as bubbles shot out of it and the temperature quickly soared upwards.

      That’s enough of that and it went back to Costco! I’ve read a number of not so good reviews on Amazon about this product. Also take a look at the app reviews from the App Store because you won’t find many positive reviews there. I’m not a happy Joule customer and will be buying something else.

      Reply
      • September 18, 2019 at 10:55 pm
        Permalink

        Hey Gary – sorry to hear about how things went with the Joule. To be honest, I actually favour plug-and-play sous vide immersion circulators/ cookers. We’ve reviewed a few of these so far. One that I found to be pretty reliable was the TINVOO SVC150, but depending on what build-materials you prefer I’m sure there’s something out there for you!

        https://sousvideguy.com/review-tinvoo-svc150-sous-video-immersion-circulator/

        Reply

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