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Chamber Vacuum Sealers, 2011–2014

Modernist

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#61 edsel

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Posted 14 March 2011 - 06:48 PM

I bought the SVP-10 several years ago at nathanm's recommendation. The SVP-10 and SVP-15 were identical except that the 10 had an oilless motor while the 15 was oil-lubricated. The latter was preferred for higher-volume applications because it has a faster cycle time. The SVP-10 has worked out great for me since I don't do commercial or high-volume work.

The VP-112 looks like it's the replacement for the SVP-10 in the current product line. The price point is a bit lower than what I paid back in the day, so that's an improvement. :)

ARY has modified their bag design so that it evacuates more efficiently. With the old smooth-textured bags it took a long time to get a good vacuum. The newer bags have a textured insert that aids in channeling the air out of the bag. Unlike the clamp-machine bags, these don't leave an obvious texture imprinted on the food. (Amazon sells them with free shipping if you subscribe to the Prime service.)

#62 lstrelau

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Posted 14 March 2011 - 07:00 PM

ARY has modified their bag design so that it evacuates more efficiently. With the old smooth-textured bags it took a long time to get a good vacuum. The newer bags have a textured insert that aids in channeling the air out of the bag. Unlike the clamp-machine bags, these don't leave an obvious texture imprinted on the food. (Amazon sells them with free shipping if you subscribe to the Prime service.)


Are the bags boilable (or does it really matter if they are or not - I am still confused about this.
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#63 edsel

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Posted 14 March 2011 - 07:27 PM

Are the bags boilable (or does it really matter if they are or not - I am still confused about this.


They specifically state that the bags can be boiled. One of the challenges of ordering bags online when I first got a vacuum machine was finding bags that were heat-safe. The old Food Saver bags were not rated for heat as far as I know, and even after I got the chamber machine I had to email or call the vendors to find out if the bags were heat-safe. I guess it's a sign of the times that vendors no longer assume that their products are just going to be used for storage.

#64 Paul Bacino

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Posted 14 March 2011 - 07:51 PM

Chris.. FWIW

I use 1.6 sec seal not 1.8!!

ARY.. makes two different bags.. make sure you get the "cook in bags" for boiling
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#65 Chris Amirault

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Posted 14 March 2011 - 07:55 PM

In preparation for the arrival of this chamber sealer, I decided I wanted to learn a bit more about pressure, vacuums, and the different ways that those values are measured. In the Modernist Cuisine book, there's a chart on 2:215 called "How a Vacuum is Like a Mountain," and it includes a lot of useful information in vacuum percentages, water boiling points, and mbar and psi measurements of pressure. There's more information inside the text preceding that chart as well.

But when I looked at the user's manual for the VP112, I realized that I had to think through an additional issue: cmHg, or centimeters of mercury (at 0ºC, if you were wondering). That required two additional columns: one for the pressure in cmHg -- atmospheric pressure at sea level is, for example, 76 cmHg -- and another for the reading of the VP112 dial, which is zeroed at atmospheric pressure.

So, to be able to read the dial, which goes from 0 cmHg to -76 cmHg, I wanted to have a reversed column that corresponded to the dial readings. That's the cmHg-76 column.

This may be merely an obsessive exercise useful only for me (I think I figured out a thing or two in doing it!), but I offer it here in case it's also useful to others. Comments below the chart.

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#66 Chris Amirault

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Posted 14 March 2011 - 08:06 PM

A couple of interesting points.

The boiling point of water changes, of course, with changes in pressure. That can mean trouble: putting a warm liquid at around 40C/100F into a chamber sealer and pulling a 95% vacuum will make the liquid boil. MC recommends, therefore, that you cool your liquids down before chamber sealing them at the recommended 95% vacuum.

For food in bags (non-rigid containers, that is) all of these data points apply only to the period during which the bagged food is in the chamber. Once the chamber is released, the food in the bag is under 14.7 psi, or atmospheric pressure. At least, here in the Ocean State. :wink:
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#67 coz

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Posted 15 March 2011 - 04:25 AM

the Henkelman and I think the new Mini-pack models have temp sensors that will vacuum as much as possible until it boils then it automatically seals. It works really efficiently.

#68 Paul Bacino

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Posted 15 March 2011 - 04:28 AM

I do not put hot liquids under pressure.. unless you want to clean the chamber ( @ least .. this is what im sticking to ). The other thing I haven't had good luck with is.. trying to chamber things with carbonation in it .. pop and beer.

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#69 Chris Amirault

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Posted 15 March 2011 - 05:56 AM

Yeah, you're just pumping gas out of things that have gas in 'em. It's like trying to save a bottle of champagne by pumping it with one of those vacuum sealers: you're hastening, not slowing, the ruination of the bubbly!

I wanted to share the video of the VacMaster VP112 from Kodiak Health, which was helpful to me:


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#70 Chris Amirault

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Posted 15 March 2011 - 06:07 AM

So, watching that video a few times, it seems that the vacuum gets to about -68 or -70 cmHg on the vacuum gauge when he seals up the cheese. That corresponds to a ~90% vacuum.

So, a True or False question: on these type of machines, if you want a higher vacuum percentage, you set the timer for the vacuum longer. It just continues to pump and lower the pressure.

Yes? No?
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#71 RWells

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Posted 15 March 2011 - 06:21 AM

Chris, thanks for the link. I guess I've been using a similar technique, Pedro had a link in that thread as well. Seems to work pretty well. Good luck with your new sealer.
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#72 blackp

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Posted 15 March 2011 - 06:52 AM

So, watching that video a few times, it seems that the vacuum gets to about -68 or -70 cmHg on the vacuum gauge when he seals up the cheese. That corresponds to a ~90% vacuum.

So, a True or False question: on these type of machines, if you want a higher vacuum percentage, you set the timer for the vacuum longer. It just continues to pump and lower the pressure.

Yes? No?

Yes.

These machines use timers rather than pressure sensors to get to a level of vacuum. It's a bit trial and error as you need to take into account the size of the item(s) in the chamber as the "spare space" has to be evacuated and the time to do this is longer for smaller items as the unused space is bigger.

Machines like my Henkelman use pressure sensors to determine the length of the vacuum cycle and only use timers for the other parts of the program like time to hold at 100% vacuum, sealing time and soft air time. But the big down side is that machines like these typically cost thousands not hundreds.

I'm sure that with some experimentation you will find some times which work well for your regular applications.

For most sous vide use I pull 100% vacuum and hold it for 5 seconds. With delicate items like fish I usually only pull 97% so as not to crush it.

A while ago I read an interesting article on the Cooking Issues blog describing an experiment where different pressures were used prior to SV cooking and a taste test was done on the samples. I just had a quick look and couldn't find the page. If you can find it - it is worth reading.

Cheers,

Peter.

#73 Chris Amirault

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Posted 15 March 2011 - 06:58 AM

Yeah, I read that and now can't find it.

FWIW, the Modernist Cuisine book talks about the Cooking Issues claim that it's about pressure on the meat as a whole, but they believe that it's about bringing the surface of the food to the boiling point bc of the pressure. IIRC here with insufficient caffeine and no MC to which I can refer.
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#74 mkayahara

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Posted 15 March 2011 - 07:09 AM

Yeah, I read that and now can't find it.

I found a link to it, but it looks like it's been marked private. Presumably the content will be included in the vacuum section of their sous vide primer, once it's completed.
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#75 LoftyNotions

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Posted 15 March 2011 - 07:20 AM

So, a True or False question: on these type of machines, if you want a higher vacuum percentage, you set the timer for the vacuum longer. It just continues to pump and lower the pressure.

Yes? No?


I'd guess conditionally true. You'll encounter a point of diminishing return around the maximum vacuum the pump will draw. According to the manual, for this machine the maximum vacuum is 90 percent. I don't have this sealer to test that.

Vacuum packaging with the VP112 removes up to 90% of the air from the package.


Here's a link to the manual: http://vacmaster.ary...P112_Manual.pdf
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#76 blackp

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Posted 15 March 2011 - 07:27 AM

BTW - tonight I went to a presentation by Heston Blumenthal here in Sydney.

At one point he sought questions from the audience and one question was from an owner of a small restaurant in Canberra who wanted to know how she could "get with the program" without investing a fortune on specialist equipment.

Heston's answer was to get a chamber vacuum machine and a sous vide bath!

Cheers,

Peter.

#77 Chris Amirault

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Posted 15 March 2011 - 07:43 AM


So, a True or False question: on these type of machines, if you want a higher vacuum percentage, you set the timer for the vacuum longer. It just continues to pump and lower the pressure.

Yes? No?


I'd guess conditionally true. You'll encounter a point of diminishing return around the maximum vacuum the pump will draw. According to the manual, for this machine the maximum vacuum is 90 percent. I don't have this sealer to test that.

Vacuum packaging with the VP112 removes up to 90% of the air from the package.


Thanks. I think that one comment I've been reading around the various websites is that the VP112 is set to timeout after 35 seconds. I don't know what happens if you extend that; perhaps it can exceed 90%. I suppose I will be able to find out soon...
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#78 LoftyNotions

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Posted 15 March 2011 - 09:33 AM

You'll be on the bleeding edge, Chris. :)
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#79 Phaz

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Posted 15 March 2011 - 11:51 AM



So, a True or False question: on these type of machines, if you want a higher vacuum percentage, you set the timer for the vacuum longer. It just continues to pump and lower the pressure.

Yes? No?


I'd guess conditionally true. You'll encounter a point of diminishing return around the maximum vacuum the pump will draw. According to the manual, for this machine the maximum vacuum is 90 percent. I don't have this sealer to test that.

Vacuum packaging with the VP112 removes up to 90% of the air from the package.


Thanks. I think that one comment I've been reading around the various websites is that the VP112 is set to timeout after 35 seconds. I don't know what happens if you extend that; perhaps it can exceed 90%. I suppose I will be able to find out soon...



From the manual it says the seal time can be adjusted from 25-60 seconds.

I think a lot of people are in the same boat as me. They want to get one of the VP112s but aren't sure if the vacuum is strong enough to do everything we want with it with removing 90%. I.e. compress watermelon, infuse fruits, make the MC perfect fries, etc. It sounds like it will be possible, but we'll see. Hopefully someone with one can let us know.

Does anyone know roughly how strong the standard vacuum sealers (like food saver) are? Do they get near 90%?

Edited by Phaz, 15 March 2011 - 12:42 PM.


#80 OliverB

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Posted 15 March 2011 - 01:47 PM

Food saver is enough for Sous Vide (you remove the air so things don't float, not to remove oxygen) but it's not super consistent and I would suspect it's less than 90%.

My guess would be that if you want a real 100% vacuum you need to invest quite a bit more money than the machines discussed here, if I remember from science class (granted, a long time ago) that's very hard to achieve. But I also don't see why that would be necessary. From the video it seems that the new smaller machine is up to commercial standards of food packaging.

How do these machines and the outcome adjust for where you live? At the ocean or 7000 feet up somewhere should make a difference in pressure on what's in the bag, or am I looking at this wrong?
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#81 LoftyNotions

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Posted 15 March 2011 - 02:02 PM

How do these machines and the outcome adjust for where you live? At the ocean or 7000 feet up somewhere should make a difference in pressure on what's in the bag, or am I looking at this wrong?


I can only speak for the MVS31. There is a simple calibration routine you run through when you first get it. It takes less than a minute.

Since the Vacmasters run for a set time, not to a preset vacuum, there isn't a calibration that I know of. They run for the time you set, seal, and evacuate.
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#82 lstrelau

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Posted 15 March 2011 - 02:11 PM

I will buy some (TERRIBLY) out of season watermelon and try compressing it and see what happens. Should have time tomorrow and will report back.
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#83 OliverB

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Posted 15 March 2011 - 02:22 PM

Lofty, interesting, thanks!
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#84 psiweaver

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Posted 16 March 2011 - 02:52 PM

wanting to start SV and looking to start the right way I'm curious as to what the difference between the VP112 and VP120 in terms of doing some of the cool things like watermelon chips etc are. I mean for the difference of $650 to $850 would seem like it might be worth it. Looking forward to hearing back from some of people who've purchased the VP112.

#85 Msk

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Posted 18 March 2011 - 05:23 AM

Got my VP112 last night, but didnt get home until late. All I got to test it on was bagging some water and some cookies that were on the ounter. It handled both beautifully. I'll try and get some watermelon too and see if it works.

This thing is pretty darn heavy (and I'm a pretty big guy). I think I am going to ned to find a permanent place for it because taking it in and out will be a hassle. Maybe some type of cart on wheels.

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#86 jorach

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Posted 18 March 2011 - 07:48 AM

I think intuitively you all understand that you won't get 100% vacuum; even something like a $5000 machine can't completely evacuate every air molecule from a space.

The semiconductor industry uses enormous (and expensive) vacuum pumps to remove air from the inside of their machines. It can take days to get down to an acceptable level of vacuum.

There's some interesting science in there: eventually there's so little air that a pressure difference across the pump is ineffective, you essentially need to wait for the remaining molecules to randomly bounce their way into the pump and get shot out the other side.

Edited by jorach, 18 March 2011 - 07:49 AM.


#87 lstrelau

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Posted 18 March 2011 - 09:09 AM

I didn't get a chance to find watermelon but last night I vacuumed some filets of mango with lime juice. Set the VP112 to 60 seconds of vacuum - it reached -65 cmHg in that time. Slices were nice and dense (meaty) and infused with the lime flavour. Calgary is approximately 3400 feet elevation (1048 metres).

That, according to Chris's chart would be around 84% vacuum at sea level, Chris, you can translate this to degrees of vacuum for me - the math is beyond me if we need to account for elevation.

MSK, I agree, this machine ia a beast by weight. What I did was convert a base cabinet to a large drawer with heavy duty full extention glides (and an electrical plug on the wall inside the drawer) so now I just pull the drawer out to use the VP112 and then tuck it back out of the way when finished. Of course you need a large enough space to accomplish this but it works well for me.

Edited by lstrelau, 18 March 2011 - 09:17 AM.

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#88 OliverB

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Posted 18 March 2011 - 10:06 AM

psiweaver: if you just want to start with Sous Vide any food saver or similar machine works.

You can't do some of the odd things like compressed watermelon (which has nothing to do with Sous Vide I think) but I have yet to come across something I want to cook and can't make with that setup.

There are some things where I guess a chamber machine is necessary, but those are few and I can live w/o them. If you have the funds (and space) get the chamber machine, but if your main interest is sous vide cooking you really don't need to spend that much.
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#89 blackp

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Posted 18 March 2011 - 05:37 PM

I've had a chamber vacuum machine for 6 or 7 years now and have been asked by many friends and associates for advice on purchasing such a machine. I was asked again only this week and it prompted me to extract all my advice from my sent mail folder and to consolidate it into a single document so I can just forward the document next time I'm asked.

My machine is a Henkelman Boxer 42 which is an excellent albeit expensive device. With 20/20 hindsight I would have been just as happy (happier?) with the Boxer 35 which has similar features, but is smaller.

Here are some things to consider when thinking of purchasing a chamber vacuum machine:

Vacuum control as opposed to timer control. Pulling a specific percentage is preferable to the trial and error of getting the time right. For instance I know that if I set the vacuum to 95% I can bag soup without it boiling over. With a timer based system you would have to have different times depending on the size of the bag of soup. Also with timer control you need to take the size of the product in the chamber into consideration, as a small item will leave more space for air so will take longer to reach the same vacuum than a large item. With vacuum control you just set the desired percentage and let the machine decide how long to keep sucking air out.

Soft Air. This feature allows air to gently enter the chamber after the vacuum cycle for a short time prior to opening the valve and letting the outside air in in a rush. This allows the bag to gently form around whatever is inside it rather than coming down on the contents with a bang. Going from 2 Mbar of vacuum to ambient pressure quickly can be quite violent with the bag and its contents jumping about as the pressure equalizes in the chamber with the bag randomly forming around the product as a result.

Sealing bar. My machine has a cut-off element and a sealing element, but the way it works it is effectively 2 seals. I get 2 lines of melted plastic about 5mm apart and the outer one facilitates tearing off the excess bag. The only times I have ever had sealing problems were caused by sharp items (pork chop bones etc.) inside the bag - I have never had a seal fail. Indeed the torn off portion of the bag (although it has a narrower section of fused bag than the retained side) makes a bag itself and cannot be torn apart by hand. I have heard a lot of opinion about the requirement for double sealing instead of single seal and cut-off. As mentioned I have never had a seal fail, and the cut off element has a further benefit in that the excess bag is torn away so any food residue on the bag is also discarded. This helps to keep your freezer or sous vide tank clean.

2 Sealing Bars. My machine had an option for this (not retro-installable) and with hindsight I would have ordered it. When doing small items (like single chicken breasts for instance) you could do 4 at a time rather than 2. Still this does not affect the quality of the job - just the time taken to pack a given amount of stuff.

Programming. My machine has 10 program pre-sets each of which has control over <%Vacuum>; <Time held at 100%>; <% Vacuum after Gas Flush>; <Seal Time> and <Soft Air Time>. This flexibility has allowed me to set up programs for nearly all the jobs I do. I've also set up one program to vacuum to 100% and hold for the maximum time with no sealing - I use this one to infuse things in a container in the chamber (Gin into Watermelon is interesting!).

My normal program for Sous Vide is 99% (read 100% but the display is 2 digits) Vacuum, Hold for 5 Seconds, Seal for 2.5 seconds, Soft Air for 3 seconds.

Pump Type, a lot of the cheaper machines use dry vibrating type pumps. These cannot pull the same kind of pressure as a rotary oil type pump. Also the pump is probably the only component ever likely to break in a vacuum machine so it is a good thing to have a pump made by a recognised supplier rather than the "anonymous Chinese" type which has no spare parts or support. My machine uses a pump from Busch which is a large European company with a good international presence. This was an important consideration for me – I didn’t want to end up owning the world’s most expensive boat anchor!

Gas Flush is probably the least used feature I have although it is useful. BTW the gas I use is a mixture of CO2 and Nitrogen. They call it Multi-Mix here and it is the gas used for post mix soft drinks (sodas for you US guys). Getting set up for Gas Flush was not a really cheap exercise - apart from the cost of the feature on the machine. I needed to purchase a regulator at a cost of about $170 and I had to "rent" the gas bottle for a similar amount- I guess that I'll get those dollars back one day(?). The cost for the gas itself was trivial.
Gas Flush is great for packing things that you don't want to crush - but I find that I don't use it that often and I could easily live without it. Also if you plan on having your machine in the kitchen you will also need to house a gas bottle which is about 750mm high and 200mm or so in diameter.

Vacuum bags - my supplier will sell them in 100's without too much of an uplift over the 1000 price so I can keep a range of sizes on hand from 350mm x 450mm down to 110mm x 150mm. The most used sizes are 165 x 225 and 210 x 300. You will find that once you have such a machine you tend to pack things for freezing in individual portions - bags are really cheap compared to Foodsaver type bags so it is easier to opt for flexibility in future consumption. I have never used Foodsaver type rolls - they cost many times the cost of the regular bags and with a range of sizes on hand I have had no need.

Labelling. I label all my bags using a Brother QL570 which can use fairly cheap continuous paper tape. I find that it sticks well and the printing survives SV cookery – at least at protein temperatures!

I hope this is useful,

Cheers,

Peter.

#90 Chris Amirault

Chris Amirault
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Posted 19 March 2011 - 08:10 AM

What a fantastically useful post, blackp. I'm very grateful. A few follow-up questions:

Vacuum control as opposed to timer control. Pulling a specific percentage is preferable to the trial and error of getting the time right. For instance I know that if I set the vacuum to 95% I can bag soup without it boiling over. With a timer based system you would have to have different times depending on the size of the bag of soup. Also with timer control you need to take the size of the product in the chamber into consideration, as a small item will leave more space for air so will take longer to reach the same vacuum than a large item. With vacuum control you just set the desired percentage and let the machine decide how long to keep sucking air out.


This is what I also understood from the discussion of chamber machines in Modernist Cuisine. However, I thought -- perhaps wrongly -- that a chart like the one above linking %ages to -cmHg would allow me to seal the bag at the right moment, eliminating the boiling risk. True, I gotta be standing there to do that! But that should work as well, shouldn't it?

Vacuum bags - my supplier will sell them in 100's without too much of an uplift over the 1000 price so I can keep a range of sizes on hand from 350mm x 450mm down to 110mm x 150mm. The most used sizes are 165 x 225 and 210 x 300. You will find that once you have such a machine you tend to pack things for freezing in individual portions - bags are really cheap compared to Foodsaver type bags so it is easier to opt for flexibility in future consumption. I have never used Foodsaver type rolls - they cost many times the cost of the regular bags and with a range of sizes on hand I have had no need.


Whose your supplier? Apologies if I missed this.

Labelling. I label all my bags using a Brother QL570 which can use fairly cheap continuous paper tape. I find that it sticks well and the printing survives SV cookery – at least at protein temperatures!


Uh oh... I feel another SV equipment purchase coming on....
Chris Amirault
camirault@eGstaff.org
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