A couple years ago I was looking for a way to cook a whole lot of steaks at once when my family came to visit—I only had a small charcoal grill and wasn’t ready to invest in something larger at the time. I got plenty of suggestions from Twitter: sear them on the grill and finish in the oven, buy a bigger grill, and — probably the funniest — make a grill out of my bathtub. At least, I assume that was a joke.
I ended up using the poor man’s sous vide hack, suggested by fellow GeekDad Michael Harrison. Basically it involves sealing your steaks in Ziploc bags and immersing them in a beer cooler filled with 140° water. It’s not as precise as a water oven, but it’s a heck of a lot cheaper and works pretty well. Our steaks turned out fantastic, a nice even pink from edge to edge:
After I wrote up my experience, I found a couple of other sous vide hacks: Jeff Potter’s version involves keeping a slow cooker at a set temperature, and MAKE Magazine’s version uses an immersion cooker and even circulates the water. The hacks cost between $75 and $100 (not counting the cost of a slow cooker), and require varying levels of know-how, but all fall well below the $400-500 price range of water ovens.
Well, here comes a new option: Codlo. Designed by Grace Lee and Xi-Yen Tan, the Codlo is like a polished version of Jeff Potter’s hack. The Codlo sits between your power outlet and your cooking device—a rice cooker, slow cooker, even a coffee urn. You set the desired temperature and cooking time, and then drop the connected probe into the water; the Codlo automatically turns the power on and off to maintain the desired temperature, and then alerts you when cooking is done.
You can use any cooking device which will heat up water, but you do have to use something with an analog switch. For instance, my current slow cooker has a digital push-button switch: if you unplug it and then plug it back in, it resets and is no longer cooking. A rice cooker with a lever to depress or a crockpot with a dial will start cooking again if you unplug it and plug it back in—that’s what you’ll need for the Codlo.
The Codlo looks pretty slick in the photographs and videos. I haven’t gotten to try one in person, but it seems like a great option for cooks who want to give sous vide a shot but don’t want to hack their own solutions. And at the $100 price point, it’s pretty close to the cost of Jeff Potter’s hack.
The Codlo team is now raising money on Kickstarter to get it into production. They’ve got working prototypes and have a manufacturer lined up, but they need to produce at least 2,000 units to make it happen. If the Kickstarter is successful, they hope to continue selling it through retailers, but that’s a decision for later.
Whether you’ve been dying to try sous vide cooking or you’re just hearing about it for the first time, the Codlo is worth a closer look. As for me, I’ve already seen the results of a sloppy sous vide approximation, and it was pretty great, so I’m excited to put in an order for a Codlo.