The Job of a Sous Vide Vacuum Sealer
Vacuum sealers are designed to seal and preserve food products. A sous vide vacuum sealer creates a vacuum by sucking out the air from enclosed spaces such as bags in order to keep the sealed product in an airtight environment. Vacuum sealing preserves your food by blocking the growth of mould, fungus and bacteria that are responsible for ruining food taste, appearance and texture.
In the sous vide method of cooking you need to vacuum seal the food you are going to put in a water bath. This is because pockets of air between the water and the food impedes the transfer of heat and can result in uneven cooking. Removing the air from the cooking pouch by vacuum sealing makes sure that the food will be efficiently and evenly cooking in the time specified. Many people do not use vacuum sealed bags, preferring to use zip lock bags instead in their sous vide cooking. Opinion is divided about whether zip lock bags are as effective as vacuum sealing given it is difficult to remove all air from the bag. That is a topic for another day. Here we will focus on vacuum sealers only.
Two types of Vacuum Sealers
There are two kinds of vacuum sealers that are likely to be of interest to at home cooks and small restaurant/cafe owners:
- Commercial vacuum sealers which have a chamber in them. These are designed for commercial and industrial use. This is where the food is placed entirely within the machine for sealing. Whilst you can use this type of vacuum sealer in a home setting, there may be other vacuum sealers on the market that will suit your needs better. And they are likely to be less expensive than commercial vacuum sealers as well.
- Compact (external chamber) vacuum sealers which are smaller and appropriate for use in your home kitchen. These are also often called “clamp” or “clamping” vacuum sealers because when you are using them the lid clamps down over the open end of the vacuum sealer bag
Key benefits of sous vide vacuum sealers
Vacuum sealed food pouches are a fool proof way to guarantee a great sous vide cook
Sous vide cooking involved immersing food pouches under water at a low temperature for a long period of time. A good quality vacuum sealer will allow you to create tightly sealed food pouches. A completely air tight bag will ensure that your food will cook evenly and stay fully immersed in your water bath. Some sous viders use zip lock bags in place of vacuum sealed bags. You can read about how that approach compares with vacuum sealing bags in our article, Vacuum sealer versus zip loc bag for sous vide cooking.
Who doesn’t want to save time in the kitchen? That was a rhetorical question of course. The great thing about sous vide cooking is that you can prepare your meals ahead of time and in bulk. Whether you vacuum seal your food prior or after sous vide cooking, you are going to experience significant time savings in your kitchen. Preparing large quantities of food at one time is called batch meal preparation. It is a super popular activity for many sous viders, especially for those with limited time on their hands during the working week. Sous vide cooking has a huge following with people following low carb and ketogenic lifestyles who often prepare their meals in advance so that they “stay on the straight and narrow” with their diet.
Using vacuum sealers bags allows you to neatly stack your airtight food bags on top of each other in your freezer. By using a vacuum sealed bag, you know that your food is not at risk of “freezer bite”. Again if you are looking to prepare your sous vide meals in advance, you will welcome the space savings in your freezer.
Here at Sous Vide Hub, we are passionate about sous vide cooking (of course!). But we also know that having a vacuum sealer in your kitchen will allow you to seal ingredients other than sous vide cooked food. Vacuum sealers are really versatile. You can also use a vacuum sealer to reseal things like fresh meat, vegetables, wine, oil and vinegar (once the seal is broken, shelf life of most liquids dramatically drops).
7 things you should look for in a vacuum sealer
Just like a sous vide machine, a vacuum sealer is not a purchase that you will make very often. Given that, here are a few things to look out for when you are shortlisting vacuum sealers to buy. As we always say, make sure you take advantage of the online reviews of other sous viders who have used specific vacuum sealers. The sous vide cooking community is certainly a passionate one. So there is no shortage of feedback from the sous vide community when it comes to their experience with a whole range of vacuum sealer brands. Here are out top tips for finding a vacuum sealer that is just right for your sous vide cooking:
1. Ease of cleaning
Vacuum sealers are made with a range of materials. You should be looking for a stain resistant housing and a vacuum sealer that is easy to wipe down. In addition, look for dishwasher safe drip-trays to save even more time cleaning up after your sous vide meal.
2. Ease to move – lightweight and compact is best
You may not want a vacuum sealer out on your counter top at all times. Consider your frequency of use. Think about how much you will be using your vacuum sealer. If it will be for occasional use, consider a smaller, compact out-of-chamber sealer. If your use is going to be pretty constant and you are looking to seal food and/or other products on a larger scale, you may want to consider a light industrial/commercial vacuum sealer.
3. Ease of operation
Look for a fully automatic simple electric plug in vacuum sealer if you can. It’s also important that any digital buttons on the vacuum sealer itself are not made with poor quality materials. The best quality vacuum sealers have soft touch digital buttons with LED indicator lights to guide you through the vacuum sealing process.
Many machines have in-built safety mechanisms. It goes without saying that Sous Vide Hub would endorse products with a healthy regard for user safety.
5. Sealing mode options
Some vacuum sealers come with a couple of modes. This allows you to choose a setting for solid food items and a setting for poached, simmered or steamed food items. This is really important sous vide cooking as often you will be putting liquids and marinades in with your other ingredients. Poorer quality vacuum sealers do not perform well when faced with sealing bags with liquids in them.
Determine the length of warranty offered and understand what it covers. Vacuum sealers have a few moving parts and this can increase the likelihood of issues. Any reputable brand will stand behind the quality of their product by offering a warranty.
7. Accessories included
Sometimes a vacuum sealer comes with additional items such as bags or starter kits to get you going straight away. There is nothing more frustrating than getting a vacuum sealer home and finding you cannot use it straight away because you don’t have any vacuum bags.
Ideally look for models that don’t require you to purchase specific bags from the manufacturer. This can end up being a costly exercise if you do a lot of sous vide cooking. Many vacuum sealer models are compatible with a range of vacuum sealer bags.
The Best Vacuum Sealer for sous vide
The sous vide cooking community is super vocal about all the sous vide products and accessories that they love…and those that they don’t. That makes it much easier for us to collate the best vacuum sealers for sous vide cooking. Here is a list of the vacuum sealers that sous viders have used and loved:
Finding the exact vacuum sealer model for you is very much a personal decision. The decision should be based on a few important factors:
Your budget – vacuum sealers do vary markedly in price. Set your budget and then refine your search to that particular price point to see which vacuum sealers you have to choose from. This is not to say that you cannot pick up a bargain every now and again for many well known vacuum sealer brands. Keep an eye on eBay, Costco, Best Buys, Amazon, Walmart and more for potential sales and offers.
How often you will use your vacuum sealer – some vacuum sealers are like work horses…others are not. If you are just sealing a few sous vide food pouches at a time, you may choose a different vacuum sealer than a chef in a commercial situation where they need to seal food pouch bags all day long.
The foods and ingredients you use in your sous vide cooking – if you never cook ingredients with marinades, oils or other liquids then you probably don’t need to buy a super complex vacuum sealer
The storage space you have – some vacuum sealers are huge. Some are more compact. Choose one that you can fit on your counter top easily and a vacuum sealer that you can stow away in a cupboard or drawer between uses.
The best sous vide vacuum sealer for food pouches that contain marinades and sauces
Not all vacuum sealing systems cope well with sealing food pouches that contain liquids. Here are two suggestions to deal with this common problem:
Solution 1: Fill your food pouch with your main ingredients plus the marinade or oil. Put the food pouch in your freezer for around 30 minutes so that the marinade or sauce partically freezes. Make sure the food pouch is placed upright so that the marinade does not spill. Remove your food pouch from your freezer and vacuum seal the bag. Proceed with your sous vide cook.
Solution 2: Consider purchasing vacuum sealer bags that contain a moisture strip. A moisture strip makes sure that the wet marinades and sauces in your bag do not interfere with the vacuum sealing process. Here is a helpful video to show you what we mean:
Check out are our top sous vide vacuum sealer picks based on reviewer feedback and satisfaction:
Here is why we like the FoodSaver Sealer System (4800 series):
- FoodSaver is a very reputable brand in the vacuum sealer system market
- It comes with moist/dry settings which is great if you are going to have marinades or oils in your sous vide food pouch
- There is a dishwasher safe drip try for easy cleaning
This vacuum sealing system comes with a starter kit which means you can get started straight away, The starter kit includes:
- (1) 11″x10′ Roll, (3) Qt Heat-Seal Bags, (2) Gal Heat-Seal Bags, (3) Qt Zipper Bags, (2) Gal Zipper Bags
Why we think the NutriChef Vacuum Sealer is a great option for sealing your sous vide food pouches:
- Compact design (for those of you with minimal counter top space)
- Has both dry and moist setting modes
- Comes with a starter kit that includes:
5 medium vacuum bags (7.8” x 11.8”) and one extra long vacuum bag roll (7.8” x 79.0”), both kinds being reusable and waterproof
- Reasonably inexpensive
- Comes in two colors: Silver (as shown) and Black
Here is a quick video of the NutriChef Vacuum Sealer in action (Video run time of approx. 2 minutes):
Why we like the Weston Pro-2300 Vacuum Sealer for sous vide cooking:
- Stainless steel construction
- Extra-long 15″ (38 cm) seal bar means you can seal a variety of vacuum sealer bags, up to 15″ across
- It’s a bit of a workhorse: some report they can seal 50-60 bags at once without this overheating
- 2 year manufacturers warranty
Here is the Weston Pro-2300 in action. We have chosen a clip with a sauce so you can see how effective it is with sealing bags that contains liquids.
From time to time vacuum sealers go on sale. Make sure you check out our Deals page just in case there is a vacuum sealer deal to scoop up right now
Common Sous Vide Vacuum Sealer Questions and Answers:
Do I have to use specific bags in a sous vide vacuum sealer or can I use other brands’ vacuum sealer bags?
It depends. Most brands recommend using their own vacuum sealer bags which makes sense given each vacuum sealer is manufactured slightly differently. The bags vacuum sealer brands offer are specifically designed to be strong enough for vacuum packaging. Some plastic bags allow air to seep through.
If you are planning to cook different types and quantities of ingredients, look for a vacuum sealer that is able to seal different sized bags.
How do I know if the plastic sealer bags I use with my vacuum sealer are BPA free?
The company should state this. Most reputable companies offer BPA free vacuum sealer bags. For example, all FoodSaver bags are BPA free and meet FDA (Food and Drug Administration) regulations
How long do I need to wait between seals?
Most vacuum sealers will need a little time between sealing your sous vide food pouches. This varies but it may need 30-60 seconds depending on the model you purchase
Can I use regular zip lock bags with a vacuum sealer?
Generally speaking, zip lock bags may not stand up to the heat of a vacuum sealer. Zip lock bags tend to be quite thin. Check out our article Zip Lock vs vacuum sealer bags for sous vide cooking if you are curious about whether you can use zip lock bags instead of purchasing a vacuum sealer and vacuum sealer bags for your sous vide cooking.
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