Tips for Using Sealer Bags –
There are three main types of vacuum sealer machines – chamber, external/ suction and handheld.
Put simply, all three are devices that remove a controlled amount of air from inside a package and then seal it closed. However, they all do this in slightly different ways and have their own idiosyncrasies.
With chamber vacuum sealers, everything goes inside the body of the machine. Put a portion of green beans into a vacuum sealer bag, then place that in the ‘chamber’ of the appliance. The air is then evacuated from the chamber and the bag is heat sealed.
For external/ suction and handheld vacuum sealers the bag containing the food stays outside of the device itself and the air inside of the bag is sucked out by the vacuum sealer and then sealed closed.
For a more detailed explanation of the different types of vacuum sealer machines, please read this post Types Of Vacuum Sealers.
For the rest of this article, I’m going to focus on external/ suction and handheld vacuum sealers as these are the machines that end up in most home kitchens. There are a few chamber vacuum sealers designed for the domestic kitchen, like the Apuro Light Duty Chamber Vacuum Sealer, but the majority are produced for the commercial kitchen and their size and cost makes them unsuitable for the average home cook.
Please read on to discover our tips for getting the most our of your vac machine, and in particular, for getting the most out of your vacuum sealing bags.
Using An External/ Suction Vacuum Sealer
The basic idea here is that you put whatever you want to vacuum seal inside a special vacuum sealer bag. You then put the open end of the bag into the front of your vacuum sealer and turn on the suction function. You now control how much air is sucked out of the bag and when you’re happy with the vacuum, you hit the ‘off’ button and move on to pressing the heating button which seals the bag closed.
It’s all pretty easy, but there are a few pointers that should help to make your attempts at vacuum sealing more successful.
External/ Suction Sealing Tips:
- Keep your vacuum sealer clean – It may seem like a no brainer, but cleaning your machine after each use will ensure that any spills or droplets of fat are wiped up and your vacuum sealer will both work better and last longer. However, if your vacuum sealer gets badly clogged with grease and gunk, don’t despair. There are ways to clean even the grottiest of sealers and if you want to know how, you can read more here.
- Use the correct vacuum sealer bag – As convenient (and cheap!) as using any old clean plastic bag would be, sadly you have to use the correct bag for your make of machine. However, this doesn’t always mean always buying bags manufactured by the same company as your brand of vacuum sealer. Check online to see if you can buy cheaper generic vacuum sealer bags to save a few dollars. Over the machine’s lifetime this can add up to be a substantial saving.
- Double seal your vacuum sealer bags – It’s just a precaution, but it could be a very useful one, especially if you want to freeze something for a long period of time. It’s particularly a good idea if you purchase vacuum sealer rolls. These are a continuous sheath of plastic that you cut yourself to make whatever size bag you need. Once you start cutting them, they won’t have a perfectly closed, factory-sealed end, so double sealing them yourself is a wise precaution.
- Place the rough side of the vacuum sealer bag at the bottom – All the brands of vacuum sealer bags that I’ve looked at have a smooth side and a textured, rough side. This texturing may be dots or stripes, though some kind of mesh/grid is the most common. The bags seal better when you have the rough side at the bottom and the smooth at the top when you feed the bag over the vacuum sealer’s seal bar.
- Wipe the open edges of the bag to make sure they clean and dry – Make sure that there is no wet or oily residue from the food that you have put in the vacuum sealer bag lurking on the edges that you want to seal. Any traces of fats or liquids may affect the quality of your final seal.
- Don’t overfill the vacuum sealer bag – Remember to leave some space at the end of the bag or you might not get a good enough seal. Also, leaving some extra room means that if you muck up the first seal, you’ll have sufficient plastic left to have another go.
- Protect from sharp or pointed items – If you are vacuum sealing bones, dried pasta or even a handful of coloured pencils, wrap them in a kitchen towel first. This will stop the sharp or jagged edges from puncturing the vacuum sealer bag and letting unwanted air in. Commercial kitchens buy specific bone puncture-proof vacuum sealing bags for this express purpose.
- Freeze liquids – I’m a fan of saving up my vegetable trimmings and chicken carcasses and then spending a Saturday afternoon watching the footy whilst baking and making homemade stock. Perfect! When I do this, I’m usually left with a couple of batches of stock that I don’t want to use straight away. The solution is to freeze it and then vacuum seal it. Attempting to vacuum seal it whilst it’s still a liquid will result with stock being sucked out of the bag and mess all over your vacuum sealer and kitchen.
- Use oxygen absorber packets – These are little bags containing non-toxic substances which absorb any oxygen remaining in your vacuum sealer bag after you seal it. If you wish to take your vacuum sealing to the next level and be absolutely sure that no excess oxygen is in your sealed food bags – even if there is a tiny hole in one of them – put a pack of these on your shopping list.
Using A Handheld Vacuum Sealer
With a handheld vacuum sealer you fit the device into a specially designed valve on the vacuum sealer bag and then suck out as much air as required. You then close the valve.
This is a simpler, smaller appliance than an external/suction vacuum sealer, but much of the same advice applies:
Handheld Sealing Tips:
- Clean your handheld vacuum sealer after each use – Drops of fat and other food residue can be sucked up into the appliance if you go too far and will affect the performance and life of your vacuum sealer if you don’t look after it.
- Use specially made vacuum sealer bags – This is obvious really, as you can only use bags with valves that match your particular brand of handheld vacuum sealer. Do some online research to see if you can find a generic alternative that can save you some money.
- Wrap jagged or sharp items – Put things like meat with exposed bones and paperclips in a paper towel before you bag and seal them. It will protect against those nasty edges tearing the bag. Professionals buy specific bone-proof vacuum sealing bags to prevent such punctures.
- Freeze liquids – Liquids may be sucked out of the bag when you apply the handheld vacuum sealer, but not if you freeze them solid first.
- Use oxygen absorption bags – If you want to be sure that all oxygen is removed from the bag, pop an oxygen absorption pack in with the item. Make sure to buy ones filled with non-toxic materials if you are vacuum sealing food.