Benefits of using a commercial vacuum sealer
Most personal kitchens now have external vacuum sealers or handheld vacuum sealers, or maybe yours has neither, and that’s even better. The major difference between these common sealers and the commercial machines is that a commercial machine either has a chamber which you put your bags into or a large slot (edge) where you feed the bag into. When your bag is ready to be suctioned and sealed, rather than having to do it yourself and not taking out all the oxygen, the entire chamber (or edge sealer) suctions out the oxygen via a pump. In the process, your bag(s) are vacuumed and sealed, and there are rarely any breaks or leaks.
Handheld sealers risk ripping a bag or not removing all the oxygen, and small rips will shorten the storage life of your food and can cost you exorbitant amounts in purchasing new seal bags all the time. Another perk you see with commercial models that you won’t with others is the quantity of bags you can seal at a time or throughout the day. In restaurant kitchens especially, where steaks (for instance) keep getting ordered, one of the quickest ways to marinate meat is by throwing a steak and marinade all in one seal bag and then vacuum sealing the two together. Another reason to quickly seal packages might be if a stormy season is coming and you’re worried about leaking or flooding in your house.
Features to consider before buying a vacuum sealer
First off, ask yourself if you’re primarily getting a sealer for food storage, cooking purposes, or for storing dry goods. Depending on the use of your vacuum sealer, you might want to consider where it’s going to be stored away (the size of the machine), how often you’ll use it (the life/repairs eventually needed), and how quickly you’ll need each vacuum seal to be done (the power, pump, cool-down time, etcetera). A chef who needs to marinate several stakes quickly should consider a vacuum sealer with a larger chamber and no cool-down time such as VacMaster VP215. Additionally, edge sealers have an excellent sealing bar for pulling a marinade into your meat; consider the Weston 65-0501-W.
Someone with simple needs and a lower amount of storing should get an affordable, easy-to-store, easy-to-use option, like NESCO VS-12.
The features which you need are what you should focus on as you’re buying a vacuum sealer because there are many different features for each machine on the market. Many of the following features are listed and explained below to help your decision along.
Type and pump
There are different types of commercial sealers, and depending on your needs you should know about each type and how it’s going to work.
Full-chamber vacuum sealers are the type in which you take your seal bag (with freshly picked vegetables in it) and place them inside an entire chamber with a closing lid. Most of these have very straightforward buttons and settings, allowing you to custom-choose the time or amount of suction applied to each bag. For your vegetables (in this example) you might want to lower the amount of time that the chamber vacuums out oxygen – or some machines even have a ‘pulse’ option which slowly takes out most of the oxygen but adds a little back in – thereby not crushing your moist veggies into a fine paste. A great example of a deep chamber sealer above is VacMaster VP215 which will not only fit larger bags, but runs on an oil-pump rather than a piston-pump (more on this below).
Edge sealers have a side bar on them with a handle that almost looks like the beginning of a chamber. However, all the edging bar is clamping down on the edge of your bag – which you feed into the bar, and then a pump inside your machine (often a dual piston pump) will remove the oxygen with the remainder of the bag there on your table. Usually, this process takes 20 seconds or less with a high-quality vacuum sealer; one such example is Weston Pro-2300 which seals a bag very tight and does one of the best jobs pulling a marinade through the muscle fiber of steak or chicken or whatever meat you’re fixing.
Different pumps will also change the specifics of your vacuum sealer. While an oil pump is quieter and requires very little cool-down time, it will need the oil changed quite frequently. Dual piston pumps, on the other hand, are great at fully suctioning a bag, but often require cool-down time between each bag unless they have a built-in fan.
Acceptable bags (Seal bar width/chamber size)
The size of your machine will directly correspond with the size of bags you can use, because although some vacuum sealers can hook to a hose, not all of them can. If you’re trying to marinate an entire chicken, you’re going to need both a bag that will fit the chicken – around a 2-gallon bag, or 15 by 18 inches. Next, you’ll need a commercial vacuum sealer, which either has a big enough chamber for your bag and bird, or a long enough sealing bar. For instance, the only above sealer which is big enough for a whole chicken is Weston Pro-2300.
However, for steaks, any 12- to 10-inch bag should provide more than enough space for both meat and marinade. Additionally, this would be plenty of room for vegetables, fruits, bread, etc. One of the best vacuum sealers which also has a long enough seal bar is LEM Products 1253 MaxVac 500 Vacuum Sealer with Bag Holder & Cutter. For bags filled primarily with liquids (soups or stews) you’ll either have to freeze your foods and then vacuum pack them or need a commercial vacuum chamber.
Put most simply, the stronger your vacuum, the quicker your bag will seal and the stronger your foods will be suctioned together. This can actually be a good or a bad thing depending on what you need, although most machines offer settings to control or limit vacuum strength. If you’re trying to preserve mostly moisture-based fruits (like strawberries) a powerful vacuum risks pulverizing your produce. One of the best options on this list with a comprehensive digital panel control is VacMaster PRO350 which will allow you to limit or increase your vacuum strength. Keep in mind that most vacuums run off a dual-piston engine, and so require some cool down after each bag, that is unless the model is equipped with a built-in cooling fan like Weston Pro-2300.
Ease of use and safety
The easiest-to-use commercial vacuum sealer on our list is NESCO VS-12, which is a very self-explanatory device that can be immediately put to use upon delivery. It’s simple and safe – sealer will not burn you and turn off after each use, though does require some cooling. Other devices are a little more complicated but offer enough options to make sure you get the right vacuum and seal every time.
With edge sealers, be aware that heat is applied to the bag within the pressed-down sealer bar. Therefore, don’t touch the inside flat surface immediately after sealing or during sealing. Other precautions to consider are when buying machines that also come with bag cutters – make sure these sealers have the capability to store the bag cutters. Additionally, the safest options for edge bar sealers are bars which lock down over the bag, totally preventing burn.
Finally, consider the warranty which comes along with your commercial sealer. You’re probably going to want time to test your sealer and make sure it works consistently. Also, make sure your vacuum sealer is suitable for the task at hand. For large purchases, you definitely want this security, especially with VacMaster VP215 which is a highly expensive full-chamber vacuum sealer. A year’s warranty or longer should be your buying limit, and nothing under a year.
If you’re purchasing your unit for a restaurant and think you’ll need multiple devices, first purchase one vacuum sealer and test it. Finally, when you do buy multiple machines for your kitchen, make sure you opt-in for the warranty.