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johnnymnemonic

vacuum sealers

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I like cooking a whole bunch of pork butt, and I always cook more than my family needs.  (sometimes I do this with other things too - chicken breasts, brisket, etc - but with pork butt it's always great b/c pork is always forgiving).  When I shred the pork, I typically put it into vac seal bags while piping hot and stick it straight into the freezer.  If I have extra time sometimes I have an icewater bath that I throw them in right after sealing bags and then into the freezer when done.

When my family wants to eat barbecue, we get bags out of the freezer.  I throw these bags in my sous-vide circulator at 145 degrees an hour or two before dinner to warm them up very gently.  The result is my bagged/frozen pork tastes almost like it's fresh off the smoker.

Often there's a lot of moisture in my bbq, so I have to use extra length in the bags so that the juices don't come all the way up to where the bag is sealing.  I've also put paper towels down in the vac seal bags as well.  Sometimes I get frustrated b/c it takes a while to get a good seal on a bag.

One question I have - is anyone else just kind of tired of having to screw around with vac seal bags?  Is there a brand of vac sealer that is like the Komodo Kamado - the rolls royce of vac sealers?  Does anyone have any tips or suggestions on how to get great seals 100% of the time on a food saver (other than the aforementioned paper towels in the bag or using extra long bags?

Thanks!

 

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I haven’t used one, but from what I understand chamber sealers are the deal. I think they’re starting in the $1200 range.


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I upgraded to a Chamber Vac machine as well and would never go back to a Food Saver style again. I ended up going with the JVR Vac100 and couldn't be happier with it. I got a solid machine but without going TOO crazy on price/size as chamber machines can get VERY heavy duty/expensive for commercial models.

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Avid Armor has a Chamber sealer for $599 and I believe there are a few more manufacturers within that price range + or - $100. They do require a bit more room, but for liquids they are superior however they do lack the ability to do large items depending on size. If you wanted to do smaller moisture laden portions you could partially freeze the contents prior to sealing and that would work with a channel sealer and possibly yours, but that does require time to freeze. A chamber sealer has the advantage also of using the cheaper clear sided bags that don't require a channel bag because they evacuate the air from the chamber not through the seal. I recently purchased the channel Avid Armor A100 and chose this for two reasons, 1 was the chamber sealer is a bit bulky and requires a bit more counter space and secondly this unit has a pulse unit for drawing air out manually by pulse in a slower fashion and then sealing the bag before too much moisture enters the seal area. It also has wider 1/4 in seal which can be set by length of time depending on moisture.  I believe the Chamber seal was a thinner double seal.  My Food saver was failing upon sealing, it would draw the liquid up and fail in one area upon sealing. Worked well with dry, however I haven't fully tested this new unit to recommend it with certainty. 

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I own a basic chamber vacuum sealer in each of two homes. The VacMaster VP210 would be the closest current model. When I replace either of these I will move up to an oil pump machine. I came from $400 external clamp machines; even the best can't begin to compete with a chamber vacuum sealer.

Get 4 mil bags, rather than 3 mil bags. The extra expense is minimal, and they puncture less often. One still needs to protect sharp bones.

Get longer bags than you think. It takes several inches of slack to guarantee a wrinkle-free seal. One can always cut bags that are too long.

A major difference with chamber machines is that one cannot seal hot liquids. They will boil as the air pressure drops, fouling the pump. For an oil pump, one then changes the oil. For a "maintenance-free" pump one sends in the machine for service.

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There's a third category of machine not to be overlooked: A $30 impulse sealer. One can easily learn to burp the air out of a bag of liquid, glomming together the sides of the bag the way one sticks a wet film to a window, then seal the bag with an impulse sealer. This is how I'll put away twenty pints of stock at a time, in pint bags. When I read in cookbooks other ways to freeze stock, I cringe. They really haven't figured it out yet, huh.

 

Edited by Syzygies
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Several years ago I moved to a chamber sealer and I do like it a lot and just as you said one must be very careful when sealing liquids. I can freeze the liquid first then seal but it is still a pain. I should brake down and get an impulse sealer. :)

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58 minutes ago, MacKenzie said:

I should brake down and get an impulse sealer. :)

Ha!  I see a KK shopping channel excuse here.  We have a chamber sealer which does liquids no problem.   Having said that, it's The Husband's job to seal up bags of stock so I will need to ask him how it works and why he doesn't have trouble with liquids.  I shall return...

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20 minutes ago, tekobo said:

Having said that, it's The Husband's job to seal up bags of stock so I will need to ask him how it works and why he doesn't have trouble with liquids.  I shall return...

My bet is that your husband has some culinary training?

It is standard in a commercial kitchen to chill all hot liquids before putting them away. At commercial scales, food takes too long to reach refrigerator temperatures, and it spoils. Not a possibility, a certainty. At home scales, one generally gets away without knowing this, and most home cooks don't know this.

When I make 20 pints of chicken stock at a time, I'm at commercial scale. I always buy ice, and chill my stock in a serious ice bath before packaging.

One might notice from my photo that I then set the stock packets in a recessed metal tray. I have a number of these that stack, staggered, in my chest freezer. The metal both conducts heat away from the stock packets, and separated the layers so that they all freeze at once.

Chilled, I could use my chamber vacuum machine to seal these stock packets. The $30 impulse sealer is much faster.

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36 minutes ago, Syzygies said:

My bet is that your husband has some culinary training?

I love a bet, particularly when I win.  Mark has no culinary training and is a marine engineer.  I asked him about vacuum sealing liquids in our chamber vacuum packer.  Golden keys:

1. The liquid sits in the bag at a lower level than the sealing lip.  You can make sure that you achieve that by taking out the white block that you see in the picture below.  

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2.  You shut the lid, which lightly grips the edges of the bag together while the vacuum packer evacuates the air from the chamber and also from the bag but without drawing out the liquid.

3. The sealer engages to seal the bag.

4. The vacuum packer lets the air back into the chamber and, under atmospheric pressure, the bag collapses a little further. 

I asked about hot and cold liquids and he could not understand why that would make a difference.  We make (he makes) about 7 litres of stock at a time and usually leaves it to cool before bagging it up in these really cool stand up bags.

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Which live tidily and conveniently in these stand up trays in our freezer.  I sometimes think @Syzygies and we were separated at birth.  

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@MacKenzie, if you want to go shopping, look out for one of these.  I found it on eBay and had it refurbished as a birthday present for Mark last year.  It is smaller than the huge pot he used to use but that means he is more likely to make stock more regularly and the tap at the bottom is a game changer when it comes to separating the stock from the bones without too much hassle   

 

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1 hour ago, tekobo said:

I asked about hot and cold liquids and he could not understand why that would make a difference.

I forgot England is flat. Do you have any Scottish relatives? Of course, some Brits go to further lengths to escape the flat:

The Boardman Tasker Prize for Mountain Literature

If one wants to be selective about reading mountaineering literature, one can do no better than the writings of Peter Boardman and Joe Tasker, two Brits who died together attempting Mt Everest by an unclimbed route.

A regular part of the ordeal of climbing at their altitudes is preparing hot food. It takes hours. As altitude increases, air pressure drops, so the boiling point of water drops. Food cooking in that water is held back by the boiling point effect from reaching a suitable cooking temperature. For example, sous vide chefs know that vegetables such as potatoes won't cook below 85 C. Above 4500 meters of altitude, the boiling point of water is below 85 C. Mt Everest and nearby peaks are nearly twice that altitude. As one might imagine, pressure cookers are popular. Just as at sea level, they can fail spectacularly. It is harder at altitude to run out and buy another.

Chamber vacuum sealers achieve a near vacuum, for these purposes. Even "warm" water will come to a boil. This is a standard warning, if one studies sous vide cooking:

Everything you need to know about vacuum sealing

Quote
  • Keep it cool - Only vacuum seal product if the internal core temperature is at or below 41ºF. The reason for this is that as the pressure in the vacuum chamber approaches zero millibar, the boiling point becomes lower. Liquids in the bag will begin to boil as this happens. This means that the water content inside of your food will also begin to boil. With products such as tomato sauce, this action may not necessarily be detrimental to the food product but may create a mess. On the other hand, the cellular membrane of products such as fish filets, steaks, or other cuts of animal proteins will rupture and lose their ability to retain moisture as the food cooks. This will result in dry food with an unpleasant texture. For more information on this topic, check out our video about it HERE.

Now, if one wants to live dangerously, one can watch a pouch come to a boil as an oil-pump chamber vacuum machine works, and press seal immediately. There won't even be an air bubble, because the steam will collapse.

Still, an impulse sealer is much faster. And, comfort is the only criteria for working hotter.

Edited by Syzygies
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1 minute ago, johnnymnemonic said:

@Syzygies I have no bead on how much of a pain it is to change the oil.

Me neither. But my next machine will be an oil pump. At least one can change the oil. And oil machines reach a better vacuum.

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12 minutes ago, johnnymnemonic said:

@Syzygies I have no bead on how much of a pain it is to change the oil.  I hate the idea of one time getting liquid in my machine and having to send it back.

 

But anyway sounds like I'm getting a chamber sealer.  I'm very appreciative of all of these responses!

Changing the oil is no big deal at all. On my machine is literally you open the machine, put a bag in a little clip area.. unscrew the oil containment area.. drain and then refill. Takes probably 4 minutes tops :)

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3 hours ago, GrillnBrew said:

@Syzygies Which model impulse sealer do you have, or is there one you would recommend?

This is somewhat a commodity market, with no brands you'll recognize. There are however differences in the quality and width of the seal. My first two (one on each coast) were $30 units that eventually broke. I splurged and spent $100 last year on this 12" model:

LinsnField Sealer Pro, Patented 12inch Impulse Heat Bag Sealer, 5mm Sealing Width

I do think 12" is worth it (the space as much as the cost) even if one's primary application will be 8" stock bags.

They all come with spare parts. Decide a permanent place to store these, and write that location on tape on the underside of the sealer. (I didn't, and I have no idea where these parts are.)

They all benefit from a warmup: press once without a bag.

There's a dial to adjust the heat. One might remember a setting for standard applications such as chamber vacuum sealer bags. They're great for sealing anything, such as half a bag of dried chiles from a Mexican grocer. The low settings do go low enough for truly sketchy bags, but one should test on parts of the bag you intend to later cut away.

For sealing bags of stock, practice with water. First goal is to not drop the bag under any circumstances. Then learn to slide the bag up and down against a counter edge. Get all the air out from below the contact point, and let the liquid above the contact point slowly drain to below the contact point. Slide down to glom the entire bag together, then move over to the impulse sealer and seal. One would think one could do this on the sealer itself (I actually built a stand once to try to get the angle right) but the "glom" is not fragile, and it really is easiest against a counter edge. Moving the bag and positioning the bag on the sealer is another chance to spill the bag onto the floor. Be generous with bag sizing (one can cut the excess later) and this is less of a risk.

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Hello all. This is Mark (aka “The husband”).  I am in charge of vacuum sealer capital equipment and consumable procurement as well as stock making.  I realize having read @Syzygies posts, of course is absolutely correct about the thermodynamics, that when sealing my stand-up bags of stock (about 700ml each), I am using the chamber machine in “impulse sealer” mode - I eliminate as much air as I can manually then let it pull just enough vacuum (about 0.8 bar) to squeeze the lid down and create a good double seal.  I do this after letting the stock cool to outdoor temp in the winter or room temp if that’s cooler in the summer - I have never had a batch spoil.

 The full vacuum treatment is only really necessary for freezing solids to prevent freezer burn or for sous vide cooking to prevent explosions.  The 420mm oil pump machine we have (bought used on e-Bay) is a multi tool for vac packing, I have even used it for crushing down wool sweaters to freeze and kill clothes moths.

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So vacuum packing our first 30 lbs of partially dried tomatoes, I improvised a funnel by cutting open a grape juice plastic bottle. I don't think in words (my grade school music teacher was dumbfounded that I could play notes without knowing what they were) so I was at a loss where I'd seen this idea. My wife recognized it as the bean funnel they use at Peet's to weigh out coffee. I found this small one on Amazon, in time for our second batch:

 CAFEMASY Green Coffee Bean Shovel

So this meter reading (just over 0.9 Bar) is as good as my VacMaster VP120 ever goes. I have the impression one can make watermelon jerky with an oil pump machine. Do they go further?

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On 7/20/2021 at 3:14 AM, Syzygies said:

So this meter reading (just over 0.9 Bar) is as good as my VacMaster VP120 ever goes. I have the impression one can make watermelon jerky with an oil pump machine. Do they go further?

My vacuum gauge obviously needs calibrating (see photo).
Just to clarify my earlier post - when sealing liquid stock I go down to about 0.8 bar pressure (or 0.2 bar of vacuum) just to ensure a good “squeeze “ on the sealing strip without boiling the liquid. 

49AC9D88-C880-4945-8CB6-FA8DDF5893C8.jpeg

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