Vacuum packing is a method of storing and preserving food in an airless environment, usually in air-tight pouches to prevent the growth of micro-organisms. Tangible advantages can be gained in the kitchen through vacuum packing, such as products being stored for several days longer without any deterioration in quality.
Some food types need to be stored in an airless environment, usually in air-tight packaging to reduce the growth of micro‑organisms. When vacuum packing most of the bacteria is expelled from the bag as the air is removed, providing a very safe and hygienic method of storage.
Vacuum packing also helps maintain the product quality and size. For example, in meat items such as steaks, the blood can’t leak out and the meat doesn’t dry out so the product weight is maintained. Vacuum packing food can extend its life by three to five times.
Chefs and caterers find many benefits when using vacuum packing machines including:
Pre-prepared foods such as fresh or sliced meats, fish, poultry, vegetables, fruits, salads and cheeses can be stored for several days without reduced quality. By pre-portioning soups, sauces and completed dishes you can reduce food wastage.
All these benefits help increase efficiency in the kitchen. Cooked and raw food can be hygienically stocked in vacuum pouches for storage in the fridge or easily transported between locations with minimal risks of cross-contamination.
Vacuum packing helps preserve food by removing air from the bag it is stored in. This gets rid of oxygen which affects food in various ways including odour, colour, taste & texture and allows for longer storage. Certain types of bacteria cannot grow without oxygen. Once food is in contact with air it begins to lose its natural flavour and its appearance starts to change. This reaction affects all fresh foods even if the effects are not immediately obvious.
In today’s world a lot of emphasis is placed on eliminating salt and fat from our diets and increasing natural oils. More of us are trying to eat fish which is rich in omega-3 fatty acids as these lower blood levels of triglycerides, which have been linked to cardiovascular disease.
Fish oils do deteriorate faster than the fat found in meat such as beef, chicken and pork. You can keep fish well wrapped in a fridge for two days and in a freezer for two months. By vacuum packing these foods you can preserve all the natural goodness and taste for four to six days in the fridge or frozen for two years.
When foods are frozen without preparation, freezer burn can occur. It happens when the surface of the food is dehydrated and this causes a dried and leathery appearance. The flavour and texture of foods can also be ruined, vacuum packing reduces freezer burn as it protects the food from exposure to the cold, dry air.
Air causes moisture to evaporate. One of the reasons we package or wrap food is to keep it from drying out. How many of us reach a few slices down into the loaf of bread to find the softer slices? Vacuum packing is a much better way to pack food because the air removal keeps the food moist.
Over the years vacuum packing has advanced and it is no longer just a way of extending shelf life and improving portion control. Today it is an innovative cooking technique. Sous vide cooking involves sealing ingredients in a pouch under vacuum. These are then cooked at a precisely defined temperature to reach a desired result.
This gentle cooking style has proven to be a popular method for more and more leading chefs. And the numbers using it are growing. The technique is one of the most important culinary innovations of today as it keeps meat tender and fish succulent no matter how long it has been cooked.