Commercial vacuum-packing machines have existed since the early 1960s. Though the first industrial vacuum packaging machines were used in large scale operations like grocery stores, they have recently surged in popularity amongst consumers and restaurateurs alike with the advent of meal delivery kit services like Blue Apron, Freshly and Sunbasket. Commercial vacuum packaging machines are usually used at restaurants and related establishments, and your usage determines the kind of machine you should buy. These appliances work by taking the air out of packaged food and depriving any microorganisms that may be present in the food, of oxygen. This makes the food last longer and stay fresh. The food packaging needs to be of an appropriate size for the machine and commercial-grade machines are able to vacuum-seal bags as large as 3’ in size. Commercial vacuum sealers for food save restaurants time and money by keeping food fresh for longer, thereby substantially reducing the need for regular deliveries for supplies. This saves you anywhere between 20-40% in operating costs. Vacuum sealed foods can also be directly cooked in their packaging by methods such as sous-vide, which involves cooking food in hot water baths by controlling the temperature. Vacuum packaging machines are used for a plethora of purposes, such as:
Marinating: Traditional marinating involves coating the food in the marinade and letting the flavors slowly seep into it. Chefs may also place cut marks on meats like chicken and steak before marinating to help flavors go in deeper. With vacuum-sealed foods, there is no such need to cut the food. When the air is taken out of the bag with the marinated meat in it, the protein fibers expand, letting the aroma of the marinade infuse into the food without damaging the meat or having to place cuts in it.
Hydroshocking Herbs and Vegetables: It is a challenge to keep herbs and vegetables fresh once they are picked. Hydroshocking is a process where the fresh-picked herbs are put on ice and doused with cold water. They are then placed in vacuum-bags and all the air is removed by running the machine a couple of times. This allows the herbs (and vegetables) to stay fresh and crisp for a few days without the need for refrigeration.
Food Preservation: Vacuum packaging food is used to preserve them for longer periods of time by extending their shelf life. This depends on the kind of food being preserved - frozen foods can last anywhere from 2-3 years, while they last 6-12 months when preserved conventionally. Likewise, sealed and refrigerated foods last somewhere around 1-2 weeks, extending their shelf life from the 1-3 days that they get when using conventional methods of preservation.
Sanitation: Whenfood gets mouldy, the mold can spread through the refrigerator to other products through spores, spoiling them as well. Vacuum-sealing gets rid of this mould problem by containing each package in its own atmosphere, eliminating the chance of food spoilage. This can also be used to store meats and vegetables together, while preventing cross-contamination. Cross-contamination occurs when the juices (and microorganisms) from meats get in touch with other foods, tainting them in the process. This problem is resolved by putting the meats and vegetables in separate vacuum-sealed bags, after which they can be stored together.
Types and Features of Commercial Vacuum Sealers
Pistol-type Vacuum-Sealers: These are light and compact handheld appliances used for operations where taking the sealer to the package makes more sense than bringing the bags to the sealer. Pistol-type vacuum packing machines work by using special bags with a valve built into them. After you seal the bags manually using the handheld sealer tool, the air is taken out of the bag through the valve by the pistol attachment. The cordless sealer takes air out of the bag in short bursts and seals them properly.
External Vacuum-Sealers: Also known as out-of-chamber sealers or suction sealers, external vacuum-sealers use perforated bags for their operation. The bags are kept outside the sealer, while their open mouths are put inside. Due to the nature of their use and perforated bags, external vacuum-sealers cannot be used to pack liquids. An alternative, instead, is to freeze the liquids first and then seal them. These vacuum pack machines employ dry pumps and have limited usability compared to their chamber-sealing counterparts. These are an excellent choice for occasional usage and best suited for light-duty tasks.
Chamber Vacuum-Sealers: These vacuum-sealers are primarily meant for commercial purposes and used to seal both liquids and solids. The bag being sealed is placed inside the chamber, where the sealer equalizes air pressure inside the chamber and the bag. The oil-lubricated pump extracts every last bit of air from inside the package in the meantime. These appliances are preferred for commercial duties because of their heavy-duty oil pumps, which can seal both liquids, as well as solids, and last a longer time. The oil inside the pump needs to be changed periodically, however. These appliances pose a larger cost upfront than the other kinds of sealers but provide you with better versatility and save money in the long run.
Factors to Consider When Buying a Commercial Vacuum Machine
Frequency of Use: The most important factor to consider when choosing a commercial vacuum-sealer is how frequently your establishment is going to use it. If it is for the occasional product and price is a factor, an external vacuum-sealer may suit your needs better. For heavy-duty use, chamber vacuum-sealers can offer better value for your money in the long term.
Sealing Liquids: External vacuum-sealers are not meant to seal liquids due to the nature of their operation. If you intend to use the sealer to package liquids as well as solid food, a chamber-style sealer is your best choice. Still, external vacuum-sealers do have a workaround for sealing liquids by freezing them first and then using the appliance.
Upfront Costs: Chamber-sealers are a more expensive purchase compared to their other counterparts. The price, however, is justified in the long run, by saving time and money if you intend to seal products on a regular basis. External sealers are meant for light-duty use and cost less than chamber-sealers. If your volume of usage is not high, it may make more financial sense to purchase an external sealer.
Automatic Vacuum-Sealers vs Manual Sealers
Manual Vacuum-Sealers: These come equipped with timers that can be set manually to determine the amount of time it would require to seal soft and delicate products like dry cakes and muffins. Such products can get damaged by a hard seal if all the air is sucked out of the package. Instead of using the pulse feature every time to seal products like the ones mentioned above, it is easier to set the timer to a predetermined number for hassle-free operation.
Automatic Vacuum-Sealers: These sealers work by sucking out all air from the package until a vacuum is created inside the bag. This process usually takes much less time than setting a timer or using the pulse setting to create a perfect seal. These are best suited for packing durable items that would not get damaged with a hard seal. Commercial vacuum-sealers that offer both manual and automatic selections combine the best features of the two.
Our Top Picks for the Best Commercial Vacuum-Sealers
Waring WVS50 Vacuum Sealing System
The Waring WVS50 Vacuum Sealing System is a pistol-type sealer with a rechargeable handheld unit that can be used to seal up to 50 bags on a single charge. The package includes 25 1-quart and 25 1-gallon storage bags and a heavy-duty charging base for the handheld pistol. This model from Waring comes with a standard 5-year warranty for the motor.
Hamilton Beach 65-0501-W Weston Professional Advantage Vacuum Sealer
This external vacuum-sealer from Hamilton Beach comes with an 11” seal bar and both manual and one-touch automatic seal modes. Included are a backlit control panel and 15 vacuum-seal bags. This model is also compatible with vacuum-sealer canisters.
Hamilton Beach 65-0601-W Weston Pro Series™ PRO-1100 Vacuum Sealer
A great external-type vacuum-sealer from Hamilton Beach, the 65-0601-W features a 5mm wide x 11” long seal bar and a stainless-steel housing. The cord is detachable for easy cleaning and can be stored in a compartment inside the sealer. The appliance has a vacuum port for use with canisters and accessories and offers a digital control panel with LED lights.
Admiral Craft VS-300 Adcraft® Vacuum Packing Machine
This countertop vacuum-packing machine from Admiral Craft is a chamber-type vacuum sealer that comes with an 11” wide seal bar and a digital front-control display. The body is polished stainless-steel and mounted on rubber feet. The liner inside is stainless-steel and measures 15.25” d x 11.5 w x 2.5” h. Also included in the package are two filler plates to use with smaller batches. This model can be used to apply 29.5” of Hg suction per seal.
Hamilton Beach HVC254-CE PrimaVac Vacuum Packaging Machine
The PrimaVac Vacuum Packaging Machine from Hamilton Beach comes with a 10” removable seal bar, 10 custom programs, a vacuum gauge and an adjustable soft air removable filler plate. The housing is stainless-steel with a clear top and the package also includes a maintenance kit. The appliance comes standard with a 2-year warranty.
Sammic SU-606GP+ (1140863) Vacuum Packing Machine
This floor-standing vacuum-sealer from Sammic features Bluetooth connectivity, two sealing bars of 16” and 26” lengths, a double-seal system, a digital control panel, backlit touch keyboard and a color touch screen display. There are 25 programmable settings, including one for soft, porous products. The construction is stainless-steel and remains the same for the chamber. This chamber vacuum-sealer comes with a number of accessories and bag options, all available at Chef Buyer.