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In case this is any help:
For the home front, it seems there are three players in the running:
1. (simplest) is the Sous Vide Supreme unit from sousvidesupreme.com
2. (cheapest, what I have) is getting a large rice cooker from anywhere, and Sous Vide Magic controller from freshmealssolutions.com
3. (precisest) would probably be the circulating unit from polyscience.com
A 4th, aquachef, is — I don’t know anything about it. But for about $160 total, it seems to be worth investigating.
There are probably other players out there. These are the ones I know about.
I’ve got six controllers (not all working at the moment, have to replace some electronic parts) two very large rice cookers (GREAT), an 18 qt Necco roaster, and a 6-qt electric fryer. I do not recommend the Necco roaster, because the thermal reaction is sluggish. I have an aquarium air pump to force-circulate the water, but I’ve found that it doesn’t help, so I’ve stopped using it.
For steak, I think a person can succeed with a zip-type bag and even a moderate amount of thought. I didn’t know it at the time, but they call this the “archimedes method” — fill your sink with water, push your in-bag beef into the water, then seal the bag so as to reduce the amount of air in the bag.
The point of this is that thermal transfer will be better with less air in the bag. Sure. But don’t go overboard on fussiness. Just get your meat (through the bag) in contact with the hot water.
For roasts (and this is where the sous vide method shines) you might need a better vacuum. I don’t know, because I’ve got the Vacmaster so I’ve never used a lesser vacuum as an experiment.
Roasts go 24-48 hours in the waterbath, then sear (or blowtorch) and serve. I always work hard to get a good seal, whether I’m working with the Sinbo or the Vacmaster chamber sealer. Two days in, you don’t want to be greeted by water seepage into your bag.
For steak, my plan is to start with a good sub-primal, then to get a good seal – using either machine – in a Drybag and then to age it 30 days. And then to steak it out and – wow – enjoy it.
Drybag is the way to go.