Review: Chefman Sous Vide Cooker

Chefman’s precision cooker ticks a lot of what, by now, are sous vide standards. It has wi-fi on-off functionality, which, for someone like me who enjoys keeping things simple in the kitchen, is a plus.

Even so, there are a few issues that lead to some hesitation in giving the Chefman Precision Cooker a ‘must buy’ rating.

With that said, if you’re reluctant to drop $200 on a new kitchen tool the Chefman Precision Cooker might be for you.

Although it has several quality of life improvements that I would like to see, it still made an amazing meal – just one that came at the cost of a few twists and turns.

Specifications

The Chefman Precision Cooker features many of the sous vide design standards. It compares favorably with other medium-large immersion circulators. Chefman, like Anova, also offer an in-app cookbook and remote start options for their precision circulator.

  • 1.63 kg
  • 3.5” x ”3.5 x 15.6”
  • Hybrid materials – stainless-steel and ABS Plastic.
  • Both blue-tooth and wi-fi connectivity.
  • LCD display.
  • Scroll wheel for temperature selection.
  • Four stage in-app cooking guide.

Build Quality

The first thing I noticed about the Chefman Precision Cooker was its combination of plastic shelling around electronics and stainless steel for circulation. This is a common design choice with immersion circulators. The idea is that heat is retained in the stainless steel with minimal transfer to the plastic.

The sealing between plastic and metal feels very secure. After a test-run in a water bath set to 167F I was able to safely remove the circulator via its plastic shell after cooking without noticing substantial heat transfer. It was a little warm to the touch, but nothing anywhere close to unbearable or scalding.

The real problem is the Chefman Precision Cooker’s clamp system at the back.

At first glance the Chefman is off to a great start. Its rubber grip is notched, allowing for better control over how high or low in the water the circulator will sit. As we discussed in our review of the TINVOO SVC150, this is a pretty big deal. Although I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the SVC150 its lack of an articulated clamp made it a bit cumbersome. In theory the Chefman will fit a much wider range of water bath sizes than the SVC150, which needed a substantially larger bath to fit comfortably.

The issue with the Chefman lies not in its flexibility, but in its stability.

During warm up the precision cooker lilted sideways three times. After the second time I readjusted the clamp to the highest rubber rung in an attempt to stop slippage.  Even then it still had a tendency to move about. During cooking itself, it actually slipped down a few notches.

This is something I only noticed because of the dramatic change in pitch when one circulation fan became partially blocked – which is something we’ll discuss in more detail under the next section.

Form

Despite some build inconsistencies the Chefman Precision Cooker is a sleek looking machine. It looks like it would run jet-engine quiet – from its matte black packaging, to the careful cook-guide instructions literally on the lid.

I was surprised to find that the Chefman ran substantially louder than several other immersion circulators I’ve tried. The best precision cookers can run so quietly that you have to check to see if they’re still on.

During cooking I had no doubt that the Chefman was running near constantly.

As mentioned under Build Quality, I was able to tell that the exhaust had been blocked when the clamp slipped on the lip of my water bath. During the test cooking I felt compelled to get up more than once after hearing a pitch change to adjust the Chefman’s clamp.

When I was setting up the Chefman I also found that the temperature set dial had a tendency to skip intervals of ten degrees very easily. One second I would be moving from 160 to 167. The next I would have accidentally hit 185 or 190. This was a minor annoyance, but one that stood out as something that could easily become very annoying over time.

Functionality

I’ve already outlined some of the quality of life missteps above. One thing that we haven’t discussed is the Bluetooth and wi-fi connectivity. This is all done through a free app you can download from the Google Play Store on Android or App Store on Apple.

As someone concerned with privacy and technology I found it interesting that the Chefman app collects:

  • Location data
  • your Device ID plus phone number.

Even odder, you there are some reports that you need to have your GPS turned on in order to connect to wi-fi.

Stranger still, the Chefman app also tracks whether you have an incoming call, then records this number. I’m not sure why this is or what it adds to the app, but I did want to flag it for any interested buyers.

The app itself has a clean user-interface, which welcomes you in with a quick introductory video. It’s easy to navigate through in-app recipes to find what you’re looking for. With that said, Chefman’s app strongly favours meat-based dishes. If you’re looking for vegetable recipes there’s surprisingly little to choose from.

In addition some of the options under the calculator tab were identical even if different options were selected. As you can see below, there was no difference in terms of frozen versus fresh cook times or temperatures.

It also advised a whooping 20-hrs of cooking time for dark duck-meat. This is despite the fact that the box, and a number of online resources, suggest you can cook them for 3-6 hours for tender meat and between 10-20 hours to confit the duck.

On release some people reported that the Chefman’s immersion circulator had difficulty connecting to their network. Personally, I didn’t have any issues connecting my Chefman with my wi-fi network or Bluetooth.

Verdict

Success in the sous vide market place isn’t only just about delivering a functional product. The Chefman Precision Cooker has all of the ‘must-have’ features checked off on the tin. That doesn’t resolved some questionable design choices and weird cyber-security hiccups.

With that said, the Chefman offers the same functionality as more costly options. Just know that the difference in price absolutely comes at the cost of certain quality of life luxuries that Anova or Joule users might take for granted.

  • 7.8/10
    Performance - 7.8/10
  • 7/10
    Ease of Use - 7/10
  • 6/10
    Design - 6/10
  • 8.5/10
    Features - 8.5/10
7.3/10

7.33/10

Despite ticking a number of all important features the Chefman Precision Cooker disappoints in terms of quality of life improvements. The one big advantage to the Chefman its sub $100 price point, while still competing in functionality with the $150-$200 bracket, although at the cost of ease of use.

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