Vacuum sealers are useful kitchen tools often used to extend the life of food or prevent freezer burn in frozen items. They also are a bit of an investment, you have to buy the vacuum sealer itself, and often buy special bags for it. However, many people wonder if vacuum sealers even need special bags.
Vacuum sealers do need special bags in order to operate correctly. Regular baggies are not manufactured to be as airtight as vacuum sealer bags. If they are used oxygen will still be able to get into the bag, which would defeat the purpose of vacuum sealing in the first place.
This article will discuss how vacuum sealers work and why they need special bags to operate correctly.
What Is A Vacuum Sealer?
Vacuum sealers are great tools to use for food preservation, but are sometimes overlooked as a necessary kitchen appliance. They can be used for two main things:
- Keeping food fresh longer, and
- Preventing freezer burn.
These can be great tools for anyone who likes to meal prep and prepare larger batches of food in advance. Vacuum sealing the prepared food and either freezing it or putting it in the fridge will allow it to last longer and preserve the flavor better than storing it in a regular container.
Another less known use for vacuum sealers is what is known as “sous vide.” Essentially this is just a type of cooking process where you seal your uncooked food within a bag and place it in hot water to cook until it reaches a specific temperature.
How Do Vacuum Sealers Work?
A vacuum sealer works by removing the air from a heavy duty plastic bag and seals it tightly. This process prevents the outside air from entering into the bag. At the same time, it also removes all of the oxygen from inside of the bag.
Removing the oxygen from within the bag is an essential aspect of the vacuum sealing process. Without oxygen, bacteria is unable to grow.
This process seems simple enough, but we still need to answer the burning question: Do vacuum sealers need special bags?
This machine has two dedicated modes — dry and moist — accessible with one-touch operation. The moist mode is particularly important if you tend to package marinated meats, oily foods like fish, or leftovers with residual moisture, since it'll help you get a tight seal regardless of any little droplets of liquid.
Can Any Bag Be Used In A Vacuum Sealer?
The short answer to this is no. Vacuum sealers need to be used with special bags in order to operate effectively. But, let’s break down why this is.
Most regular plastic bags from the grocery store are what are known as clear polyethylene and polypropylene bags. Most of these bags are not manufactured to be airtight. This means that even after they are placed through the vacuum sealer, they will still leak air and lose their seal.
The best way to explain this is that average storage bags have high oxygen transmittal rates. This means oxygen is easily able to escape through the bag and oxygen is easily able to enter the bag.
Using a regular bag would defeat the purpose of vacuum sealing and your food would go bad much quicker. There is even the possibility that a regular bag will explode due to the pressure of the sealing process.
OutOfAir vacuum sealer bags are BPA-free. They can be microwaved, frozen, re-used, washed, and boiled - which means they work great for sous-vide cooking.
Which Bags Need To Be Used In A Vacuum Sealer?
There are vacuum sealer bags at the grocery store that will be labeled as such. A popular brand of vacuum sealer bags are “FoodSaver” bags. These are heavy duty bags that are made to be airtight.
If FoodSaver isn’t available near you or you don’t want to use a universal brand, you can also look for bags that state on the packaging they are a “barrier bag.” This means there is an oxygen barrier that is actually built into the bag. It prevents oxygen from moving in and out of the back and lowers the oxygen transmittal rate significantly.
You can also look into the material of your barrier bag as this can change its effectiveness as well. In general, the three forms of barrier bags used for vacuum sealers are:
- Foil bags (or PET bags),
- Coextruded poly/nylon bags with ethylene vinyl alcohol additive, and
- Coextruded poly/nylon woven bags.
A good rule of thumb is that the thicker the barrier bag is, the better it will be at preventing oxygen from entering the inside.
What About Sous Vide Bags?
If you’re wondering about the specific bags you can use for sous vide cooking you’re not alone! The great answer is that as long as you are using a food grade bag, such as the types we already covered, you should be just fine using it for cooking sous vide!
The only thing you should make sure is that your bag is free from BPA.
Vacuum sealers do need special bags in order to operate correctly. If you try to seal a regular plastic bag using your vacuum sealer it will likely not work as intended.
The bag may immediately lose its seal or it may even explode if it is too weak to stand the pressure from the sealer.
If you want to preserve your food and make sure it stays fresh in your fridge or freezer it is best to invest in barrier bags for your vacuum sealer.
Whether you use the universal FoodSaver brand or want to pick out your own specific types, just make sure the bag is manufactured to be airtight and can withstand the pressure.
Once you have your barrier bags you can start experimenting with your vacuum sealer and maybe even learn a new cooking technique!
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