Vacuum sealing proteins is the best way to ensure that air is removed from the package so that the proteins will be completely submerged in water during the sous vide cooking process. There are two types of vacuum sealers that are available for the home cook: chamber vacuum sealers and external vacuum sealers.
Don't Own a Vacuum Sealer? No problem!
Don’t worry! There’s an alternative to vacuum sealers that requires a little patience and finesse, but is much cheaper than purchasing a vacuum sealing machine. All you will need is a heavy duty ziplock-style bag, and a large, deep container of water.
Here’s how to do it:
Place your food in a heavy duty, ziplock-style bag. Squeeze as much air out as you can and seal the top all the way except for the last inch or two.
With the top of the bag slightly open, slowly submerge the bag in a large pot or bowl of water, allowing the weight of the water to push out the air. Stop submerging the bag once you are nearly to the top of the bag.
Use your fingers to move any trapped air bubbles up to the opening of the seal. When all of the air is removed seal the bag without removing it from the water.
You can now proceed with recipes that call for vacuum sealed items. To ensure that your ziplock bags remain below the water line we recommend the use of small magnets affixed to the side of the pan to keep the bag submerged.
Note: When using ziplock bags, we recommend using bags that are heat safe. Check the manufacturer’s guidelines for your bags before proceeding with a recipe.
When developing your own recipes, keep in mind that salt is more likely to penetrate foods when they are sous vide. We recommend using a little bit less salt than you normally would when sous viding.
Types of Vacuum Sealers
External Vacuum Sealers
External vacuum sealers require more specialized bags that keep their shape while the atmospheric pressure is being lowered. Unlike chamber vacuum sealers where the pressure is reduced both outside and inside the bag, external sealers only reduce pressure in the bag. This means liquids may be forced out of the bag before the seal is complete, which can be messy.
If cost is a consideration external vacuum sealers are significantly cheaper than their chamber counterparts. Even though the bags you need to use are more expensive than those used in chamber sealers the upfront cost of purchasing an external vacuum sealer is a fraction of the cost of a chamber sealer.
External vacuum sealers are often easier to use and require less set up, but that comes at the cost of a loss of control over the end product.
Chamber Vacuum Sealers
Chamber vacuum sealers work by placing a sealable bag in a chamber, lowering the atmospheric pressure, creating a seal and then releasing the pressure. Chamber sealers work well with liquid marinades, which can be a challenge for external vacuum sealers.
The main drawback to chamber vacuum sealers is they are fairly large due to a heavy duty vacuum pump, and are quite expensive.
If you plan on doing high quantities of your own vacuum sealing and are interested in using liquid marinades, a chamber vacuum sealer might be right for you.
Chamber sealers also give more control over the strength of the vacuum. Adjustments can be made to the sealing time and pressure to create a gentler vacuum for more delicate proteins.
Vacuum Sealing Tips & Tricks
Be sure to follow all safety and operating instructions provided by the manufacturer.
For any type of vacuum sealer, allow ample room between the open end of the bag and the food to ensure a proper seal and to keep any moisture from escaping. Also make sure the bag is clean and free of any food particles where the seal will be made. Be sure to fold the opening of the bag back and away from the opening to keep it free of food.
When sealing wet food, stop sealing before the liquid escapes the bag (it will start to creep out towards the opening but don’t let it escape!) You can also pop marinated foods (in vacuum bags that are yet to be sealed) in the freezer for 5 to 10 minutes to help solidify the marinade. This step keeps marinades from easily running out of the bag when vacuum sealing.
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