Vacuum Sealing: How to Choose the Best Food Packaging Equipment
When you work in food production, one of the most important things you will do is vacuum seal food. Vacuum sealing has a number of benefits, including increasing shelf life and allowing for different cooking methods. But it’s important that you pick the right food packaging equipment for your company.
There are a few different types of vacuum sealer that you can choose from. Read on to discover which ones will work best for your company.
How Does Vacuum Sealing Work?
Before we dive into the different types of vacuum sealers available, let’s talk some about what vacuum sealing is. A vacuum sealer sucks all the air out of a container – usually a bag – and then seals it shut, leaving the food inside in a vacuum. This can be helpful for certain kinds of cooking and freezing, as well as making food easier to store.
In general, all Gast vacuum sealers use the same basic mechanism. You place your food in a bag and then align the edge of the bag with the seal bar on the vacuum sealer. The vacuum sealer draws air out of the bag, creating a tight seal around the food, and then the sealer bar fuses the edge of the bag together, locking air out.
Benefits of Vacuum Sealing
There are a number of benefits of vacuum sealing food, beginning with food preservation. Mold and most bacteria need air to grow and spoil your food. When you remove the air and seal your food in a vacuum, your food will stay fresher for longer, won’t get dehydrated as quickly, and won’t get freezer burn.
Vacuum sealing can also be great for separating out individual portions of food and for sous vide cooking. In sous vide cooking, you put a vacuum sealed pack of food in a hot water bath and cook it at a very precise temperature. Because the food is vacuum sealed, it doesn’t absorb more water, you don’t have to worry about the air in the pack expanding, and you get a more even cook across your food.
Best Foods for Vacuum Sealing
Not every food does well with vacuum sealing, however. Meats, hard fruits, dry goods, and most vegetables are almost all great candidates for vacuum sealing. Meat and dry goods don’t require any treatment before you vacuum seal them, and most hard fruits can be vacuum-sealed as-is.
Before you vacuum seal broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, turnips, and other such vegetables, it’s a good idea to blanch them. Submerge them in boiling water for about thirty seconds, and then shock them in an ice bath to stop the cooking process before vacuum sealing them. You should never vacuum seal mushrooms or soft cheeses like ricotta and brie, as they can contain bacteria that can thrive in the oxygen-free environment.
Chamber Vacuum Sealers
One of the primary types of vacuum sealers is a chamber vacuum sealer. As the name suggests, chamber vacuum sealers have an internal chamber where the bag sits during vacuum sealing. The edge of the chamber serves as the sealer bar, and the entire interior chamber becomes a vacuum during the sealing process.
Gast chamber vacuum sealers are a must-have for anyone who plans on doing a lot of vacuum sealing or who wants to vacuum seal liquids. They also make it easier to seal large batches of food, and they offer greater overall versatility. They are a little more expensive, but if you plan on making vacuum sealing a routine part of your operations, they’re well worth the investment.
External Vacuum Sealers
If you’re not planning on making vacuum sealing a central part of your operations, an external vacuum sealer can be a great option for you. Unlike chamber sealers, this type of vacuum sealer keeps the bag on the outside, pulling air out of the bag and sealing it all through the sealer bar mechanism.
However, because external vacuum sealers require the bag to lie flat to sit along the sealer bar, they do not work for sealing liquids. They can also be a little harder to handle than a chamber sealer, which can be a hassle if you’re sealing a lot of food at a time. However, if you’re sealing primarily meat or dry goods, and you’re not sealing very often, it can be a great affordable option.
Pistol Vacuum Sealers
Pistol vacuum sealers are sort of a lite version that allows you to take your vacuum sealer to the food, rather than the other way around. They get their name from their shape, which resembles a handgun or barcode scanner. You have to have special bags made to work with pistol sealers, since the sealing process is a little different.
Pistol sealers come with a handheld sealer tool, which you use to seal the bag before removing the air from it. The specialized bags have a valve you attach the vacuum tool to, and it will suck the air out of the bag. You can remove as much or as little air as you need from the pack, making it a good option if you need more control over the amount of air that winds up in your bag.
Automatic Vacuum Sealers
Within the umbrella of these three types of sealers, there are two additional options: manual and automatic. As the name suggests, automatic vacuum sealers don’t require much manual work to run them. Simply press a button and they’ll keep sucking until all the air is out of the bag and their sensors let them know you have a perfect vacuum.
Automatic vacuum sealers are great if you’re working with hardier foods and you want to move quickly. These sealers generally take less time to run than sealers that use a timer. However, the absolute vacuum automatic sealers create can damage some more delicate foods, such as broccoli, cauliflower, and pastries.
Manual Vacuum Sealers
Manual sealers require a little more work to calibrate and use, but they also give you a finer level of control over your sealer. You can set a timer specifying how long you want the machine to keep pulling air out of the bag. This allows you to control how much pressure is put on each bag and the food within.
If you’re packaging softer foods, such as muffins or bread, you’ll need to use a manual sealer to make sure they don’t get crushed and damaged. To begin with, you can hold down a pulse button that removes air a little at a time until you figure out how long this process takes to give you the right level of air removal. Then you can set your timer and let the machine take over on the rest.
Vacuum Sealing Liquids
If you plan on vacuum sealing liquids, chamber machines are your best option. Because the chamber is contained inside the vacuum sealer, you can keep the opening of the bag elevated, keeping the liquids inside while still pulling out the air and sealing your bag. The same goes for liquid-rich foods, such as marinated meats, foods with sauces, and the like.
You can use an external sealer for liquids, but you may have to buy special attachments for the machine. You can also freeze the liquids in question before you vacuum seal them. But keep in mind that liquid expands when it freezes, and when it thaws out, you may not have a tight seal.
Vacuum Sealing for Sous Vide Cooking
If you plan to vacuum seal food for sous vide cooking, chamber machines are still your best bet. Many sous vide recipes call for meat to be marinated, making for a tricky external sealing situation. You can also get chamber vacuum sealers with multiple sealer bars, meaning you can seal more than one bag at a time.
Most external vacuum sealers come with only one sealer bar, and it may tend to be shorter than the bars on the chamber machines. And unlike with soups and stews, you may not be able to freeze sous vide recipes before you seal them. A chamber sealer is really your best option if you plan to use your vacuum sealer for this purpose.
Best Options for Commercial Use
Overall, if you’re getting a vacuum sealer for commercial use, a Gast chamber machine is going to be your best option. These sealers offer more versatility and even the ability to seal more than bag at once. They can work more quickly than external sealers, and the money you’d save isn’t worth that loss in productivity.
Whether you get a manual or automatic sealer depends on your particular application. If you’re sealing meats, hard fruits, sturdy vegetables, or dry goods, an automatic sealer will be quicker and will work fine for these foods. But if you’re planning on working with any soft foods, go for a manual sealer that will get you the right pressure every time.
Find the Best Food Packaging Equipment
Vacuum sealing can be a great way to keep food fresher for longer, an important task in food production. Chamber vacuum sealers provide more versatility than external vacuum sealers, though they are a bit more of an investment. And whether you get a manual or automatic sealer will depend on the sorts of food you plan to produce.
If you’d like to find the best food packaging equipment for your company, check out the rest of our site at RG Group. We have the brands you need and experts you can trust for all your mechanical systems. Shop our products today and start getting the best tools on the market.