thinking of buying a vacuum packing machine...
This (oddly enough) seemed like the best board for this, but if not please shout!
I'm thinking of buying a vacuum packing machine and was wondering what other peoples thoughts were... Does anyone have one? Do you use it, and for what?
I'm going to be smoking some salmon (hot not cold smoke) and want to know it is going to keep so need to be able to keep it bacteria free. Also, for freezing, it means liquids can go in the freezer in bags so take less space than at the moment.
Let me know what you think!
I think this is a great idea! I want to buy one of these for my dad for Christmas. I read on one of these boards that Target sells an inexpensive version. I would love to hear more about prices, brands, etc. Thanks!
looks very similar to the one I'm looking at, but being in the UK... If anyone has any make advice etc please let us know!
Petitpois - it's nice to know that I'm not alone!
I have a Foodsaver... I actually got it pretty cheap on Ebay (I think it was open box.)
I LOVE it! I use mine for buying meat/poultry in bulk... it saves a lot of money and nothing gets freezer burned. I understand others use it for freezing/storing leftovers or big batches of soups/chilis, etc. I haven't tried that (my hubby and I usually eat everything before it could reach the freezer) but I think it's invaluable both money and time wise... I always have some sort of meat on hand.
"I'm going to be smoking some salmon (hot not cold smoke) and want to know it is going to keep so need to be able to keep it bacteria free."
If that's a big factor in your purchase, you should inquire whether the company recommends that use. While I imagine the plastic bag material is comparatively germ-free out of the package (like most things), nothing about vacuum packing is "sterile", it's just airless. It's nothing like canning, much less pressure canning. I would be wary of storing home-smooked foods for long periods in an anaerobic environment unless you'll be freezing it. In which case, bacteria free is a non-issue anyway.
I realize that I am the lone voice of hippy-dom in this thread and I beg your forgiveness for it.
But are you sure you want your foodstuff in close, and in this case really close, contact to plastics? If you do a google search about chemical leakage into food - from plastic containers - you might decide to forego the convenience and freeze your food in glass containers.
Working on that basis I need a freezer that is at least twice the size of the existing one and 1 I don't have room and 2 getting rid of freezers is not all that environmentally friendly either.
I sat through many hours of materials science at university and know alsorts of things that no-one wishes to know about plastics and microwaves (along with hardness tests for steel and so forth) and I'm not going to let it bother me. I might get hit by a bus tomorrow and that doesn't stop me from leaving the house so... (Being flippant rather than serious)
Yes, I think I do want to do this to my food. It's just so convenient. And in answer to MikeG, I'm not talking about storing the salmon 'long term' it won't be, it'll get eaten. I suppose I am just talking about slightly longer term than in a plastic bag in the fridge. (I also handle the salmon in gloves to minimise finger contact.) I was also thinking of using it to package up biscotti etc to send to friends, in a fairly air-less fashion. I've found that things seem to get less damaged when vac packed! I am now thinking of what I won't use it for - cheese being the obvious example.
I also think it's going to be useful as I cook away from home and I can pre-prepare and transport ingredients more readily.
I think I've made a decision! Thanks all!
I have a foodsaver. It was purchased from Costco, I know of some who purchased theirs from Tilia (mail order) for less than I paid. There are different models of the Foodsaver, I have an old "basic", my father has a Pro II. The more expensive models will seal more bags per day than the less expensive models. The foodsaver will "shut down" if it gets "tired". It will start back up after a "rest".
Tip: for damp/wet things such as fish filets, put them in a thin plastic bag (I use the produce bags from the grocery store), fold the plastic bag to remove the air, then put in the sealing bag and seal. Using the thin plastic bag prevents liquid from being vacuumed into the seal/sealer.
I've had a FoodSaver for a couple of years now, and use it quite often. FoodSavers range in price from $50 to over $200. I bought near the low end, around $80.
Mainly, I use it to keep fresh and smoked homemade sausages, BBQ of all sorts (slabs of ribs, sliced brisket, pulled pork) and all sorts of other things vacuum-packed in the freezer. I also use it for keeping infrequently used dry goods fresh and critter free.
The device works quite well, and much as advertised. I'm pleased with its performance, and (so far) durability. the bags are not as easy to find as I'd like (Amazon is a good source) and not as inexpensive as I'd like.
As far as preserving hot smoked salmon goes, the FoodSaver alone won't do it. Vacuum sealing increases the time you can store foods in the fridge or the freezer but is not, in itself, a method of preserving food. You'll need to freeze your salmon. If you're thinking you'll store foods on the shelf, as commercially prepared (cold smoked) salmon is done, be advised that won't work. From your post it's not clear to me you understood that, so thought I'd explicitly point it out. Sorry if you already knew.
The less expensive FoodSavers don't do liquids very well (read: at all). The company says that the more expensive models provide this function, but I haven't used it, so can't say how, or how well, that works. I don't find it a problem; I just store liquid things like stocks, soups and stews in regular zip-lock plastic baggies. Just squeeze the air out and seal; you've got the same result with less fuss and expense.
On the whole, it's proved far more useful than I expected. I've found it a very worthwhile investment, but I've somehow got a lot less freezer space than I used to have...
"But are you sure you want your foodstuff in close, and in this case really close, contact to plastics?"
Unless you grow your own food, all of it - organic or otherwise - has come into contact with things far more dangerous. Polyethylene does not, actually, leak anything. What leaks are plasticizers used to make _other_ types of plastic stretchy/flexible. The very clear, very stretchy film used ubiquitously in the food service industry is a real potential problem, but that's something completely different. And it almost exclusively affects high fat foods like cheese and meat. In other words, it's really not a problem.
Re: sterility and whatnot. By all means maintain clean working conditions, but there's so much stuff present on the fish and other ingredients, a couple of clean fingerprints really aren't going to matter. The lack of air will reduce oxidation and mold growth, but I wouldn't count on it to keep bacterial growth at safe levels. In this case, the salt, spices and exterior drying from the smoking are what're doing that.
For me, I've used them a few times and would like to have one, as much as a toy as anything else, but the bags are too expensive to use in short term uses, and since I don't have a big freezer, don't have the room to pack away large amounts of "bulk" meats, meals, etc. at a time for longer term use. The others uses would be a convenience, but by themselves not actually worth buying and storing it.
I got one at Costco over a year ago. It came with bags and 3 cannisters. I can't believe how much I've used this thing and I'd go out and buy another, if I needed, to in a heartbeat.
I open the coffee cannister and reseal it ever morning. I freeze stocks in 16 & 32 oz. bags that stack flat in the freezer (I load & freeze them, then seal, then let them melt to flat and refreeze), I mail cookies and quickbreads that I've sealed after *nearly* drawing a vacuum (very fragile cookies ship very well when sealed into a more durable mass), I marinate sauerbraten in bags for mess free and very thorough coverage, and then, of course, I break those big Costco quantities down into reasonable sized units.
I love the machine though I am shocked at the price of bags when I buy them outside of Costco. They are, however, reuseable. I find that if I put them in the dishwasher over pegs to keep them open and rotating the opening 90 degrees to the seam that they stay open through the cycle and get a good cleaning.
I wanted to add that the cannisters do a great job of keeping tender berries fresh. I couldn't believe how long we were enjoying blueberries by just vacuum sealing them after each serving. They lasted and were *good* for a couple weeks!
Rainey, could you explain how you pack cookies and bread with the foodsaver? I tried a frozen muffin (as an experiment) and it was unidentifiable as anything edible! I would think anything soft or fragile would just get crushed. Going to try the coffee - what a great idea, esp. for those who don't drink it every morning. For me, I can't wait to seal my silverware up after New Years - and not polish it for 2 years!!!!!1
When it's fragile cookies I sandwich layers with something flat (a piece of cardboard or plastic from packaging cut to size or even bits of cleaned styrofoam meat trays). I put the stack in a bag and seal just until the bag has taken the shape of the elements in the stack, which is to say I want to see an indentation but not let the machine go on long enough to crush anything. Then when I seal, the fragile cookies have become a sturdy mass.
As for the moist quickbreads, I can only say that I sealed them about the same way and when they travelled to NZ and Canada the folks on both ends "said" that they arrived in good shape and wanted to know all about how they had been packaged.
I have also sent packaged frozen soup to NoCal from SoCal. I froze the soup and then vacuum sealed removing all the air. Then I packed the frozen packet in insulating styrofoam peanuts. But then I once sent a quart of ice cream packed in dry ice from FL to NY on a dare too. ...'course that was pre-9/11. I'm not sure "smoking" packages would get very far anymore.
Food saver is great , esp with all that extra costco stuff.
Bought my a Bed Bath and beyond on sale for less than a 100 dollars plus it came with bags, cansiters and a whole lot of other stuff
I ditto the foodsaver recommendation. I killed my first deer last week and when we went to butcher it, I had the option of freezer paper and bags and tape or buy a foodsaver and bags. For a job that big, the cost of freezer paper, bags and tape was more than the foodsaver rolls I used. I bought the cheapest one I could find...I think it is the basic model and it was $60USD. It sealed over 20 bags in a 2 hour period. I didn't need to freeze the meat first when sealing...I didn't have any problem with juices getting sucked into the machine.
Add me to the foodsaver lover contingent. I buy a load of chicken breast, bone them and fry up a storm one sunday. Then freeze them individually and presto when ever I want I am 15 minutes away from some great chick parm. Likewise a big old vat of short ribs, into the freeze, lots of different pasta sauces, never any freezer burn. And then the king of love, the burger. Forget about Bubba-burgers, I make the famous J-food-burger in various flavors.
I bought mine at costco for 150 and have bought additional bags to assist.