Back in the 70’s and 80’s vacuum sealers were relegated to the late night infomercials that screamed “Save a fortune in wasted food!” It was a call to action that motivated the frugal. Today far more inventive uses and inspiring reasons abound to invite you to explore vacuum sealer ownership.
What does a vacuum sealer really do? Vacuum packaging is used in the food industry to preserve the quality and shelf life of perishable food. Many chilled perishable foods you see in the supermarket are vacuum packaged. Standard vacuum packaging bags isolate the contents from the outside environment by blocking moisture and oxygen which can degrade food.
This just-the-facts-ma’am packaging rationale hardly sparks the creative soul–but when it comes to the kitchen, vacuum packaging opens up a whole new world of artistic and scientific cooking possibilities. The molecular gastronomers of the world would never be without their vacuum sealers.
Let’s go through the whole spectrum of reasons vacuum sealers have a place in your kitchen:
Reason 1: Preserve the quality of your food: This is perhaps the best known and the least interesting use for this versatile appliance. Food preservation begins long before you have left-overs on the table. We all know buying in bulk has both a cost advantage, but it is the quality benefits that most easily justify putting a vacuum sealer on the counter. You can preserve expensive perishable food and serve it over time by vacuum sealing and freezing portions safely protected from freezer burn. You can get some excellent quality, well-priced fresh salmon or a whole subprimal of beef in club stores, portion it off, seal it up, freeze it and thaw out just what you need when you need it.
Reason 2: Learn how to cook “Sous vide”. Food is sealed into a high temperature vacuum bag and cooked in the bag at just the right temperature necessary to bring out the best in both food and seasoning. Sous vide cooking is really about capturing the essential flavors and aromas of food. Vacuum packaging provides an isolated environment that can be used to infuse spices and aromas into the dish that is being cooked to the exact internal temperature to preserve its flavor and texture. Sound interesting? Here is a cool video that demonstrates “Sous vide” steak in vivid color: Sous Vide Steak by Chef Steps and their site is fascinating: Chef Steps
Sous Vide is also used in restaurants and cafeterias to cook several dishes simultaneously using the water bath. Sound appealing? No dirty pots to clean!
Reason 3: Dry age beef at home with UMAi Dry: This of course is one of the most interesting and creative uses for your vacuum sealer. The taste and texture of dry aged beef has, until now, been the domain of upscale and high brow venues – top steak houses that may charge as much as $40-50 for a 12oz steak. A vacuum sealer is key in the application of UMAi Dry. Dry aging at home with UMAi Dry lets you craft the best steak possible–and then put your vacuum sealer to use again to cook it to perfection Sous Vide.
Reason 4: Create home made dry cured charcuterie with UMAi Dry. Even more exciting than dry aging, this use for your vacuum sealer turns you into an artisan charcutier, able to transform a inexpensive piece of boring old pork belly, pork shoulder or green ham into delectible meat candy such as pancetta, coppa/capicola or prosciutto. The possibilities for meat alchemy are endless.
Hopefully by now you are convinced that a vacuum sealer is just as useful an appliance as your refrigerator or the microwave. Now comes the real question: What kind sealer should I get?
FoodSaver® dominates the market for counter top vacuum sealers for good reason. They offer a wide variety of models at a variety of prices. However, the various models are often hard to distinguish–lidded or not? automated or not? adapter snorkels or not? suited to canisters or not? While much of this decision has to do with how you anticipate using your vacuum sealer, the basics are the same–which models seals the material you want to use most easily and most economically.
Recently, FoodSaver® has begun to sell highly automated vertical design models. They have a smaller footprint, often attractive appearance and are activated by simply pushing the end of a rigid FoodSaver® material bag into the sealer opening. Voila! Left-overs sealed! These models are truly designed for the left-over saving crowd. However, because they require at least once inch of material to activate the automated function, they have a tendency to use excess FoodSaver® material (which is good for FoodSaver® bag sales!) SPOILER ALERT: Slick as they look,the automated vertical models like the 3800 and newly released 4800 series alsomake it difficult to adapt to other applications, such as applying UMAi Dry for dry aging or dry curing.
The tried and true 2000 series FoodSaver® models, like the V2460, V2450, V2480, V2244, etc. have a lid that you close by hand and latch in place. These are robust units that offer flexibility when it comes to sealing UMAi Dry and other uses. The more manual features allow you to make corner seals on larger bags, position the bags to best seal them, make back-up seals and operate the sealer without relying upon the exclusive features of FoodSaver® bags. In our experience, these models are reliable and versatile.
It’s no secret that we would recommend this style–since we include this FoodSaver® V2460 in our 110V UMAi Dry starter kit at a very competitive price. We trust this is the best vacuum sealer to put in your kitchen.