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Vacuum Packing

Vacuum packing is a method whereby food (or other product) is packed and then sealed in an airless environment, usually in air-tight pouches, to prevent the chemical process known as oxidation and in the case of food, growth of harmful micro-organisms. 

Unlike normal atmospheric conditions (1000 mbar), a vacuum environment has little or no oxygen, and can be held at as low as 0.5 mbar (in other words a 99% vacuum) by many but not all vacuum packing machines using vacuum pouches.  Indeed food held in an airless environment is protected from spoiling by limiting the growth of what are called aerobic bacteria i.e. bacteria that grows in oxygen, as well as mould, fungi and yeast.  In addition an air-tight pouch also prevents both the evaporation of ingredients and the cross-contamination of flavours, aromas, moisture and bacteria from one piece of food to another.

Vacuum Packing Machine In Action

How long food will remain durable after vacuum packing depends on more than just the degree of reduced oxygen.  Factors such as temperature, pH, nutritive content, degree of oxygen reduction, time (age and condition) and moisture content also control the speed and level of food deterioration.  However, it is a well established fact that vacuum packed food kept in the fridge at 3° C can keep food fresh for up three to five times longer than afforded by refrigeration alone.  In addition, cold frozen vacuum packed food does not suffer the affects of freezer burn.

It is little wonder that the vacuum packing machine has become an essential piece of kitchen kit for many chefs and caterers. The reasons for this are not only for extended shelf life and better food preservation but also other food and operational benefits, as follows:

Food Benefits

Operational Benefits

Portion Control

 Advanced preparation

Reduced Wastage

 Spread workload

Safer Storage

Sous vide or water bath cooking

 Higher standard of hygiene

 

 

Checkout our current range of vacuum packing machines in our Vacuum Packers Shop.

Water Baths

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Sous Vide

Moreover, vacuum packing has advanced over the years and has progressed from purely being a shelf life extender and portion control tool to becoming an integral part of a forward thinking cooking technique in its own right.  Sous vide or water bath cooking refers to a cooking technique in which a chef vacuum packs food with the sole purpose of poaching the pack in water or steam at a precise temperature for a given period of time.

The sous vide method of cookery is one of the most important culinary innovations of modern times and has heralded a new era of gastronomy, including new cooking times for service that keeps meat meltingly tender, fish succulent and fruit and vegetables that retain their colour and flavour while undergoing remarkable transformations in texture.  This not too mention the many benefits of slow cooking at low temperatures and possibility for cook and chill regeneration on demand.

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How does a Vacuum Packing Machine Work?

In essence the workings of a vacuum packer are very simple.  The vacuum packing machine consists of a hermetically sealed chamber from which all or part of the air inside the chamber is extracted by a pump consisting of rotating blades that absorb and expel air.  A vacuum pouch is then sealed with a heat produced by thermal strips.  In some models it is also possible to create a vacuum and seal the bag inside a box chamber (called a chamber machine) and in others it is possible to drawer a vacuum from a pouch whose open pocket is placed under a lid of a machine and heat sealed whilst under vacuum pressure (called an external suction vacuum sealer).

Most vacuum packing machines operate on a cycle time of between 20 to 45 seconds.  Some more powerful machines with larger pumps can be quicker to operate, e.g. the cycle time can be lowered to 15 – 20 seconds.  Some machines that have less powerful pumps will take longer.  Basically, the more air that needs removing the longer the process will take to reach a maximum vacuum.  High density blocks supplied with a chamber type vacuum packer will speed up the vacuum process by reducing the amount of air that there is to be removed.  

Another measure that you can take to increase productivity is increase the number of pouches to be vacuum packed by placing vacuum pouches efficiently along the thermal heat strip.  This can be done by placing pouches side by side and on top of each other.  For example, most vacuum pouches are made from co-polymers and can burn the inside of the pouch at a lower heat than the outside.  This means that they will seal the pouch without burning the pouches together.
 
 

Types of Vacuum Packer

Vacuum Packing Machine Control Panel
There are all sorts of machine types which reflect on your budget, as well as issues with regards to degree of vacuum pressure, pouch types, dimensions and speed. Essentially we offer two distinct types of vacuum packing methods: 
 
  • Traditional chamber types that create a vacuum in a pouch by placing the entire contents of a pouch within a chamber and extracting the air from the chamber before heat sealing the pouch.
     
  • External suction machines which use a vacuum pump to suck air out of a pouch from the exterior of the appliance, i.e. by placing the open end of the pouch underneath a lid, withdrawing the air and then heat sealing the pouch. 

Both methods require high power vacuum pumps and heat sealing capabilities.  Generally the chamber vacuum machine is consider to be the superior allowing you to vacuum pack with greater air pressure (0.5 mbar instead of 150 mbar) and can give you greater options in terms of preciseness of vacuum, double sealing and/or cut of seal, additional thermal sealing strips, inert gas and “softair”.  Please contact us for more details on these options.

In some circumstances it is better to use an external suction machine, e.g. in some forms of dry packaging, medical applications and in the home or small commercial application where space is at a premium and budgets are more restrictive.

To learn more about our range of vacuum packers and sealers you can either view our Comparison of Models table or visit our in-depth FAQs page.

 

Culinary Innovations recommends talking through the issues you face when choosing a vacuum packing machine before purchase.