How to Hack your old Slow Cooker into a Programmable Crock Pot or Sous Vide machine

| April 28, 2013 | 27 Comments More

SlowCookerHeader Timers3

You can convert your old Slow Cooker into a Programable cooker for under $10.

Just plug your old slow cooker into one of these basic lighting timers. You now can decide when your slow cooker will turn on and shut off.

Say you are going to be out of the house for 8+ hours and the recipe only calls for 4 to 6 hours of cooking time? You can now decide what time your slow cooker will turn on and shut off.

One of these simple lighting timers should cost you under $10. Easy and cheap! 

 

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GE Grounded Electrical Timer

 

1) GE 15153 Heavy Duty 24-Hour Timer

This $8 timer turns your old slow cooker into a programmable slow cooker and has a grounded connection.

 

 

 

 

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Intermatic Grounded Electrical Timer

 

2) Intermatic TN311 Heavy Duty Grounded Timer

Same type of unit, Does the same job with different control switches for a few bucks more.

 

 

 

 

timer200px3)  Stanley TimerMax Digi-slim Daily Digital Indoor Timer.

Works the same as the other models, yet is digital for easy reading. Under $10.

 

 

 

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What is Sous Vide Cooking?

French for “under vacuum” it is a method of cooking food sealed in airtight plastic bags in a water bath at an accurately regulated temperature. The intention is to cook the item evenly, and not to overcook the outside while still keeping the inside at the same “doneness”. I would describe it in short as the most precise method of cooking meat and eggs available. You decide what temperature you want to cook at and your protein will cook completely even at that set temperature.

If you want a steak medium rare, you set the sous vide for about 134 °F and then simply sear the steak before serving. I especially like the Sous Vide method for cooking eggs. You can cook the yolks to many different consistencies. If you highly prefer the yolks of your eggs to their whites, you’ll really love what you can do with the yolks in a Sous Vide. In the picture before, there is an egg yolk that was cooked at 151 °F for an hour. The yolk sets to a cooked, yet pliable consistency, taking on the creamy consistency of a soft cheese. How cool is that?

 

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Skirt steak topped with a 151°F Sous Vide egg yolk.

 

Why hack my Slow Cooker into a Sous Vide?

  1. Grass-Fed and Pastured proteins are expensive! If you are not a master with the grill and don’t want to risk messing up your great piece of meat, you can achieve a basically guaranteed level of doneness and make cooking idiot-proof with the Sous Vide! You simply then have to sear the outside to your desired doneness.
  2. Save kitchen space by only getting a DSV Sous Vide Controller instead of another stand-alone Sous Vide cooker that you don’t want taking up space in your kitchen.
  3. Save money. A DSV controller to pair with your old Slow Cooker is only $99. Stand-lone Sous Vide units are much more expensive. The Sous Vide Supreme Demi costs $329 and the Sous Vide Supreme is $428. I wanted to cook Sous Vide from time to time, but not at that price tag.
  4. You get to cook meat like a 5 star French chef.

 

WhatYouNeed

 

 

 

 

 

1) Any Analog Slow Cooker

This means a slow cooker that simply has an options to turn a switch from the off position to warm, low, or high settings. You need a unit that starts to warm automatically once plugged in while already set to high. To test your unit, set the switch to high and then plug the unit in. If it heats up, you’re in business and your slow cooker will work fine.

 

Silex

1) Proctor-Silex 33043 4-Quart Slow Cooker

This is your cheapest option for a smaller unit. Think under $20. It works.

 

 

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2) Crock Pot 4-Quart Oval Manual Slow Cooker

The Official Crock Pot brand Rival’s version of the above unit. The oval shape is ideal. Costs slightly more at about $25.

 

 

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3) Crock Pot 6-Quart Oval Manual Slow Cooker

A slightly larger unit that also comes with a locking lid, which is pretty cool for pot lucks and family gatherings. Costs about $30.

 

 

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4) Hamilton Beach 8-Quart Oval Manual Slow Cooker

The model to get if you’re planning to cook larger pieces of meat. Costs about $35

 

 

 

2) One DSV Sous Vide Controller 

There are articles online for how to build your own Sous Vide controller, but if you don’t want to order a bunch of parts and use a soldering iron to build yourself a controller, you can just buy one that Dorkfood already assembles for a fair price. You simply plug your analog slow cooker into the DSV controller’s outlet and place the DVS’s temperature probe into the water bath in your slow cooker. Then you simply program your DSV controller to what precise temperature you wish to cook at. It’s really that easy.

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 DorkFood DSV Sous Vide Temperature Controller

This is the unit I have. I already had two analog slow cookers in my kitchen, and had been wanting to try Sous Vide cooking. This unit is only $99 so it let me make the jump up to my own Sous Vide station without having to buy a  more expensive unit or add another large item that takes up space in my kitchen. It looks simple but it also simply just works. I have used it quite a few times, every time checking the center point of my meat after cooking with a probe thermometer. All times the meat’s temperature was within half a degree of the setting programmed on the DSV controller. That’s pretty dang accurate, and I’ve been using a $20 crock pot to get it done. My Sous Vide system cost me $119 total (plus vacuum sealer system, more on that later)

 

 

 

 

 

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I use an early 1980′s Rival Crock Pot with my DSV controller to create my Sous Vide cooker.

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3) A vacuum sealer system

Items cooked in the Sous Vide water bath must be vacuum sealed in plastic bags (that are BPA free) so that the food does not make contact with the water. Vacuum sealing ensures maximum surface area of cooking. Keep in mind that many meat packing companies already sell their products in vacuum sealed packaging. Having a vacuum system is idea because you can add herbs, spices, butter, ghee, coconut oil, olive oil, or anything you want to your cooking pouch. I went the super cheap route and picked up a tiny food saver unit and a box of their bags. The unit was about $25 and came with 5 bags.

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1) FoodSaver FreshSaver Handheld Vacuum Sealing System

If you want to keep your project on the cheap, this is your cheapest route. this unit works with a bag system. One dozen of the 1-gallon bags will cost you about $8 and the unit itself only costs about $16.

 

 

 

 

 

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2) FoodSaver FreshSaver Handheld Vacuum Sealing System

If you’re willing to pay about $80 you can get a very good unit that will work much better with a wider array of bags to use and become more efficient.

 

 

Vacuum

My cheapo FoodSaver unit.

 

 

3) Vacuum bags

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1) FoodSaver FreshSaver Sytem 1-Gallon Bags.

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2) FoodSaver 11 inch by 16 foot roll. 

3) Ziplock Brand Vacuum Starter Kit. 3-Quart Bags, 1-Pump. 

4) Ziplock Brand Vacuum Pump Refill Bags. Quart Size. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Conclusion:

I was able to set up a fully accurate Sous Vide setup for about $140, and that includes me buying a new analog crock pot, the DSV controller, and the cheap vacuum system and some extra bags. Hacking your slow cooker is pretty awesome.

 

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Category: Paleo Infographics, Sous Vide, Trending

Comments (27)

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  1. John Davies says:

    I’ve been using ZipLoc vacuum bags – http://www.ziploc.com/Products/Pages/VacuumFreezerSystem.aspx?SizeName=Quart-Size%20Bags

    When I put marinade into the bag I just seal the bag like a regular ZipLoc and freeze for a while. Then I pump out the extra air. That keeps me from pumping out the marinade and making a mess.

  2. Bob says:

    Helpful explanation with clear directions, great pictures.
    Now I can put that old CrockPot to good use again.

  3. Joanne says:

    Hello, just been reading your post and really want to try this.. I just have one question though… Where the thee monitor goes into the water in the crock pot, I presume this need to stay there the whole time to keep the temp accurate, but would having this in the water not stop the lid closing properly? And if the lid is closed wont that affect the slow cookers ability to get up to temperature?

    Thanks

    • Jason says:

      There will be a slight gap between the probe’s cable and the lid, and yes it does effect temperature ever so slightly, yet it ends up working out fine!

  4. Kervin says:

    Is it safe to leave meat in the crock pot for a couple hours before the cooking process starts? How far in advance can you set the timer before beef, chicken, pork, etc. will go bad.

    I’m thinking overnight of sleeping 8 hours but having a 4-5 hour dish ready for jarring leftovers in the morning. Can meat stay in the crockpot 3-4-5 hours before even having it turned on?

  5. Heather says:

    This is amazing, thanks alot for the tutorial. I am curious however about cooking food in plastic bags, is there any chance of leeching or the plastic melting? Sorry for my ignorance, I just have no idea :)

  6. Marla Deere says:

    a friend told me about this site…ooo, am I hooked!! re plastic and crockpots…there are now a few kinds of crockpot plastic liners — as in keeping hubby from having to scrub out the pot later. yeah, more to throw away, but worth that.
    and re starting the cooking later — you can put everything into the pot the night before, refrigerate overnight, then turn on in the am. the slow warming works well with the cold food…so 5-6 hours is more like 8 by the time you get home!

  7. Rhesa Gentry says:

    Great explanation and pictures. I love using my crockpot but was tired of over done food. I can’t wait to try this setup!

  8. Renee says:

    I’ve had a Dork Fork on my Amazon wishlist forever now. Thanks for the great article. How do I enter to win all this goodness?

    • Jason says:

      Giveaway will be announced soon, on this page and social media. It will kick off either tomorrow or a week from tomorrow. Sorry for teasing!

  9. MB says:

    Can you use a crock pot with its own timer?

  10. Elizabeth says:

    I’m intrigued with the food bags…been trying to take the air, by squeezing out of my zip/lock ones for awhile now but this looks really slick. NEED a new crock-pot too so ALL of the items would be really handy for my cooking!

    • Kristin says:

      Maybe try this method…food in ziploc, fill sink with water…with ziploc not quite sealed, submerge item in the water to get the air out. It may be tricky, but it might just work in a pinch!!!

      • Barbara says:

        I use Ziplock bags and a straw to suck the air out for freezing. I also like the suggestion of freezing for awhile to solidify any liquid then sucking out the air. I don’t think regular or freezer ziplock bags would work for the water bath method though, it’s a different kind of plastic.

  11. Karen says:

    Very cool… Thanks for the tutorial… You taught this foodie girl something new! Love your site!

  12. Sandee says:

    In March I started eating healthier. No sugar, flour, dairy or processed foods. I’m learning more everyday. Thanks for the information. Another step in the right direction. Would love to win this it would be a greatly appreciated addition to my kitchen and new lifestyle.

  13. Robin says:

    Can you explain why an analog crock pot is necessary? Mine is digital, and while it does have a timer, I don’t have to use it. I can just set it to high and let it cook. Thanks!

  14. Erin C says:

    Just got the Dorkfood Sous Vide controller for my birthday! I’ve been wanting it ever since reading your tutorial and it looks like hubby paid attention to my latest obsession. So excited to get it going!

  15. Christina G. says:

    Is there any way to make a sous vide from a digital slow cooker with a probe? Obviously not stabbing through the cooking bag that holds the meat. Using the probe to monitor the temp. and maintain the water temperature once it reaches a satisfactory temp. Sounds good but not sure. Any feedback would be great.

    • Jason says:

      I do not think so. Those models are hard wired to use that probe for one purpose, and sadly cannot be hacked. I would highly recommend against tinkering with it.

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