Types of Vacuum Sealer Machines

How Do Vacuum Sealers Work? –

A vacuum sealer machine is simply a kitchen appliance which removes the air from a food package and then seals it closed. They are sometimes called food savers or food sealers. Vacuum sealers are available in large scale, commercial-use machines and also smaller, simpler models which are more suitable to a regular home kitchen.

At its most basic, a vacuum sealer machine has an electric motor which powers the removal of air from the plastic bag or container that you are looking to vacuum seal. If using a bag, it then utilises a heating element to heat the edges of the bag to seal it closed. The vacuum within the bag or container is created in one of 2 ways:

  • You put the item that you want to vacuum seal in a chamber and the air is expelled from inside both the chamber and the item.
  • You place the open end of the bag that you wish to seal in the front of the appliance and it sucks the air out and then seals it.

Vacuum Sealer - bags of vacuum sealed fish
A vacuum sealer machine will remove the air from a food bag for storage or sous vide purposes

Types Of Vacuum Sealers:

There are three types of vacuum sealers, all with their pros and cons:

  • Chamber Vacuum Sealers
  • External or Suction Vacuum Sealers
  • Handheld Vacuum Sealers

Chamber Vacuum Sealers

First up, let me say that chamber vacuum sealers are the thoroughbred racehorses of the vacuum sealing world, but as you might expect, they generally come with high-end price tags.

With these machines, you put the food inside a vacuum sealer bag and then place it in a chamber in the appliance. The air in the chamber is then evacuated. This means that the air pressure stays equal, both inside the chamber and inside the pouch. 

One of the big pluses of this is that the vacuum is made without sucking. This means that not only can you vacuum seal solids, but you can also vacuum seal soups and stocks (and other liquids) in their liquid form. Chamber vacuum sealers also allow for some control of the amount of vacuum that is created in the bag, enabling you to be gentle with more delicate items like fish.

Although there are smaller benchtop machines for domestic kitchens like those from the Wevac and the VEVOR Chamber Vacuum Sealer, chamber vacuum sealers tend to be used in commercial kitchens rather than the home. There are a number of reasons for this:

  • They are expensive – you can pay $5k – $6k for a mid-range machine designed for a commercial setting. And I, personally, would have to vacuum seal everything I own to justify that kind of spend on my home kitchen!
  • They are big – because they tend to be for commercial food preparation and for use in restaurants where multiple things need to be packed daily. As such, they are designed for efficiency and functionality rather than easy storage.
  • They can pack multiple portions at once – again, this is important in a restaurant kitchen or catering business, but not necessarily at home.
Commercial kitchen vacuum sealer
Most chamber vacuum sealers are large and designed for commercial food preparation and storage

External or Suction Vacuum Sealers

Designed for the more modest demands of the home cook or for a smaller commercial kitchen, external vacuum sealers are smaller than chamber vacuum models and generally far cheaper. 

The sleek FoodSaver VS7850 Controlled Seal Vacuum Sealer retails at the premium end, whilst the popular INKBIRD Vacuum Sealer Automatic Sealing Machine is a budget priced option.

With external vacuum sealers, the bag containing the food that you want to preserve stays outside of the machine. You feed the open end of the bag into the front of the appliance and the air in the bag is sucked out and then sealed.

As these appliances use suction to create a vacuum, there can be problems if you want to vacuum seal liquids:

  • Much of the liquid will be sucked out of the bag.
  • Even when there is only a small amount of liquid in the bag, the edges that you wish to close can become damp and seal ineffectively as the liquid is sucked out.

The simple solution to these problems is to freeze any liquids. Once the liquid has become a solid, you can treat it as you would any other food item and bag it up and vacuum seal it. 

Again, you have full control the amount of vacuum that you apply to each bag before you close it.

vacuum sealing a leg of chicken
External (suction) vacuum sealer machines are perfect for home use

Handheld Vacuum Sealers

As with external vacuum sealers, the bags for handheld sealers stay outside the machine and the air is removed from it by suction, only this time through a special valve in the bag. This means that you need to buy vacuum sealer bags that are compatible with your machine

Another difference is that these sealers are usually cordless and rechargeable. They are also smaller than their regular external model cousins. This means that they can be kept in a drawer, which is perfect if you are space poor. 

Their size, and the fact that you can recharge them, makes handheld machines highly portable and this is great if you are a keen camper or have a caravan or holiday home, as you can take your handheld vacuum sealer with you and package items on the go.

Handheld devices are also comparatively cheap, with the FoodSaver Handheld Cordless Food Vacuum Sealer getting generally great reviews and coming in at a smidge over $100.

If your budget is very tight, please note that there are also hand-pump vacuum sealers available. These are the most basic and economical devices and offer an inexpensive method of vacuum sealing. It only takes a few seconds to hand pump out the air from the custom-designed bags and to seal them tightly for sous vide cooking or food storage. Reputable bags will have reinforced zippers ensuring an air tight seal.

Hand-pump vacuum sealer with vacuum bag

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