What are the benefits of having the best vacuum sealer for sous vide?
There is a number of benefits to having a vacuum sealer in your kitchen – both for food preparation in general and for sous vide in particular.
The most common and important reason that people use vacuum sealers to contain food and to cook sous vide is to prevent spoilage. Sealing food like meat, fish, and vegetables in a vacuum bag is an excellent means of food preservation, much like canning, that does not require adding sugar, salt, or other additives that would alter the taste of your food. Using a vacuum sealer can allow you to store fresh food for long periods of time or to pack away leftovers safely, without worrying about developing mold or bacteria that could cause foodborne illness later.
Having a vacuum sealer can also be a great way to portion out your food and to plan meals. With a vacuum sealer, it is possible to simply prepare meals in bulk and then subdivide them into long-term vacuum sealed packages that can be opened individually. In the long run, this saves tons of time and money on food preparation.
For sous vide in particular, one of the best advantages of having a vacuum sealer is that you can flavor your foods with delicious marinades. When placing your food and a marinade in a Ziploc bag will suffice for some foods, vacuum sealing the marinade against the food creates a delicious mix of flavors and allows the marinade to fully percolate into your food. This rich flavoring effect is amplified even further during the sous vide cooking process, as the food opens up and allows more of the marinade in.
How do you use a vacuum sealer?
There are two main types of vacuum sealers, each of which operates slightly differently.
Bar sealers are extremely simple suction devices into which you place the open end of the bag. The bar sealer will suck all of the air out of the bag, then use heat and pressure to seal the two flaps of plastic together with your food inside. Importantly, bar sealers will suck out any liquid along with the air from your bag, so this type of vacuum sealer can only be used with dry foods.
Canister sealers are more complex but are able to handle liquids as well as dry foods. Canister sealers work by using sealed canisters rather than bags, and typically suck the air out of the top of the canister so that any liquid in the lower half of the canister will not be pulled out. These sealers are less common, although some bar sealers come with a hose to support canister sealing.
Another consideration when using a food sealer is whether you want to use bags or rolls. Bags are the easiest to use, since they look much like typical Ziploc bags – already sealed on three sides, with an opening to put food, which you are going to seal, into it. However, bags come in pre-determined sizes, which can limit your flexibility. Rolls, on the other hand, have a defined width but allow you to cut them according to the necessary bag length. When using rolls, you need to cut out your desired length and then seal one side (two sides come pre-sealed) to make your own bag before adding food.
Features to consider before buying a vacuum sealer
Acceptable bags and rolls
One of the major considerations when choosing a vacuum sealer is what type of bags and rolls it will accept. A large number of vacuum sealers are designed to only accept bags and rolls from the company that manufactures the vacuum sealer itself. However, this is not true on all vacuum sealers – some units will accept nearly any bags or rolls, while others will accept bags or rolls only from a subset of manufacturers. The more freedom you have in choosing which bags and rolls you can use, the more you will be able to shop around for the best prices when it’s time to buy new bags.
In addition, the maximum width of bags and rolls that your vacuum sealer can work with is an important point. If you find yourself sealing large chunks of food, for example, if you are preparing food for the entire family, then having a vacuum sealer that is capable of accepting bags that are 12” or more in width – like the SARKI sealer – can make a big difference in your food preparation time.
Not all vacuum sealers are created equally – some vacuums have a stronger suction than others, which can make a large difference in how long it takes to suck all the air out of a large bag. If you are preparing a lot of food with your vacuum sealer, the time spent waiting on a weak vacuum can add up. However, most manufacturers do not report the strength of their vacuums. Therefore, you have to rely largely on customer reviews and personal experience with specific brands in order to determine whether a particular vacuum sealer has the strength you need.
Size and weight
The size and weight of your vacuum sealer matters because you will likely be moving this appliance around your kitchen and potentially storing it in a cupboard when you are not in the middle of food preparation. With these considerations in mind, you might think that a smaller and lighter vacuum sealer is the best choice. However, the size and weight of the sealer is typically reflective of the size of the suction unit that is built into it. In addition, a vacuum sealer can only seal bags as wide as the bar, so you may need a particularly wide vacuum sealer if you work with large volumes of food and wide bags.
Ease of use and extra features
Ease of use is one of the most important considerations when choosing a vacuum sealer because you won’t use your vacuum sealer if it is painful to seal bags. Many vacuum sealers offer one-button activation steps, so that there is minimal work needed on your part to go from food preparation to sealed bags. Although more complicated, some vacuum sealers like the SARKI also allow you to toggle the suction mode so that you can account for whether there is a marinade in your bag (that you do not want the vacuum to suck out or for whether you want the vacuum to work gently on) whatever food you are trying to seal. While not strictly necessary, extra features such as an LED display can be nice to have if you use your vacuum sealer very frequently.
Most people purchasing a vacuum sealer expect that it will work for years to come, so having a warranty can be important in the case that anything goes wrong on the part of the manufacturer. Most, but not all, manufacturers offer warranties on the vacuum sealers that they sell, although these warranties can range in length from one year to as much as five years like for the FoodSaver FM2000.
How to make your sous vide food even more delicious
How can you use your vacuum sealer to make your sous vide food even more delicious than it will already be? The answer lies in the marinade.
Although it can be tempting, do not overdo the marinade! You only need to add enough marinade to your bag to coat the outside of your food, not to leave the food swimming in marinade. This will also make the sealing process go more smoothly since there is less liquid to cause issues.
The next step of the marinade, letting the food rest, is also critical. Whenever possible, prepare your food a day or two in advance and let it sit sealed in the refrigerator until it is time to cook. This will give the marinade time to soak into the food, helped by the pressure of the vacuum seal.
When sealing, it is also important to ensure that you leave as few wrinkles and gaps between the food and the bag as possible. This will ensure that the food cooks more evenly when it is placed into the water bath.