Commercial Vacuum Sealer Buying Guide

Foodservice kitchens nationwide are using commercial vacuum sealers to save time and money and to add a new cooking technique to their menus. You want in, but don’t know where to start. We can help. This guide will tell you everything you need to know about vacuum sealers and what you should consider before browsing our selection of vacuum sealers, vacuum sealer bags and accessories

In this article, we'll cover:

     •  What is a Vacuum Sealer?
     •  What are the Benefits of a Vacuum Sealer?
     •  How to Choose a Vacuum Sealer
     •  Types of Vacuum Sealers
     •  Vacuum Sealer Comparison Chart - Chamber vs External
     •  Other Vacuum Sealer Features to Consider


What is a Vacuum Sealer?

A commercial vacuum sealer extracts air and seals products inside a package or container.  Vacuum sealing, also called vacuum packing is the process of using this piece of equipment. Using a vacuum sealer to protect foods in an impermeable package means nothing can get in or out, not air or water or odours. That package is typically plastic bags, but glass jars, plastic containers and even insert pans can also be used. 

Removing the air, which more importantly is removing the oxygen, limits the growth of microorganisms like bacteria and fungi. The impermeable package also means that what is inside stays inside. For food, that means the juices and flavours and even the colour is preserved. 

Vacuum sealed foods

What are the Benefits of Using a Vacuum Sealer?

Using a commercial vacuum sealer in foodservice kitchens will save time, save money, increase options for menu creativity and offer the possibility of additional revenue streams. 

Using a Vacuum Sealer to Save Time

Large Batch Processing: Making a big batch of soup or stew or even lasagna is always the more efficient use of time in busy kitchens.  Even if your production requirements are down, you can still process large batches then vacuum seal the extra - saving you time later without compromising the quality of your menu items. 

Pre-portioning: Especially with dry ingredients, it makes sense to have parts of regularly used recipes pre-measured to quickly throw together the final steps. Vacuum sealing keeps these pre-portioned/measured items fresh, safe and readily available. In some cases, removing the air also has the benefit of reducing the storage space required as the package (when using plastic bags) fits perfectly around the ingredients. 

Using a Vacuum Sealer to Save Money

Bulk Purchases/Inventory Management: With a vacuum sealer on hand, chefs can realize the cost savings of bulk ordering ingredients, especially those more expensive ones like meat and cheese, and then vacuum sealing portions for storage. A bonus of this inventory management system is that vacuum sealing also increases the storage life of your ingredients whether destined for shelf, fridge or freezer – in some cases more than doubling their current shelf life. 

Reduce Food Waste/Spoilage: Removing air (oxygen) from packages limits the growth of microorganisms that cause the breakdown and spoilage of your ingredients. It is smart business to get the most from your ingredients - the less you throw in the garbage the more money in your pocket. Removing the air also reduces the chemical reactions that cause flavour, colour and texture deterioration during storage, meaning no more freezer burn.  

Pre-portioning: You already know that you can save time pre-portioning when vacuum sealing ingredients or parts of recipes but pre-portioning also saves money. Using pre-portioned ingredients, especially more expensive ones, ensures consistency across your labour staff. Every cent and gram counts in this business. 

Using a Vacuum Sealer to Increase Menu Creativity

Sous Vide Cooking: A chef’s dream cooking technique - minimal hands-on time, maximum yields, interesting textures, enhanced flavours and never over-cooked. Sous vide cooking is a unique process evenly cooks foods all the way through by immersing vacuum packages in precisely regulated low temperature water baths.  

Marinades, macerates, infusions: Vacuum sealing also allows chefs an alternate method of marinating, macerating or infusing ingredients.  The liquids get “sucked” into the foods at a faster rate when you remove the air (lower the pressure). 

Using a Vacuum Sealer to Add a New Revenue Stream

Retail Sales: Restaurants, cafes and bakeries are continually adding revenue streams to their businesses to stay profitable.  Vacuum sealing allows operators to prepare portioned menu items that can be sold for take home, as meal kits or be used as part of a meal subscription style service. Sous vide cooking applications

How to Choose a Vacuum Sealer 

As you can see, vacuum sealing has a long list of applications. But how do you know what type and model is best for your business?  Depends on three factors: what you want to package, how much you want to package and your budget. 

What do you want to vacuum pack? 

Almost all foods can be vacuum packed - dry, wet, raw or cooked. However, the consistency, texture and size of the ingredients and/or recipes you would like to vacuum pack is important in considering the best vacuum sealer for your operation.   

Consistency: Liquid-rich foods like soups and stews have different needs than house-made sausages, diced vegetable mixes or dry cookie mixes.  Packing liquids or recipes containing liquids are usually the key consideration in choosing a vacuum sealer. 

Texture: How delicate are the items you want to pack?  Croissants and muffins, shrimp in their shell, or twice-baked potatoes - each of these can handle a different amount of pressure before affecting their shape/texture.  The amount of control over the vacuum will be key to ensure your package contents keep their preferred shape and texture. 

Size: How much product are you going to be putting in one bag? What size bag will it fit in?  What is the dimension of the contents? The size of the sealer bar is an important factor and so will the total size of the bag.  

Please note: Do not vacuum pack fresh onion, garlic or mushrooms nor soft cheeses.  

vacuum sealing cherry tomatoes

How much you want to vacuum pack? 

Vacuum sealing a few bags here are there is completely different than running a small production line where you need to have a certain number of bags completed per hour.  What is your limiting time factor? Is it how much you need to pack in an hour, a shift, a day or over a week?  

You should also consider how often it will be used, daily or once a week.  Remember to factor in when you have staff available to operate the sealer and how long they are available. 

What is your budget for a vacuum sealer? 

Like all equipment, there is a wide range in prices for vacuum sealers. Starting out, it doesn’t make sense to jump right into a model built for high productivity that has all the bells and whistles, unless you know exactly what you need.  Instead, find a model that fits most of your requirements that hits your budget.  

If you want to calculate the difference between the cost of different models, it is always good to do a quick ROI (return on investment) calculation to see if going up a level will be of benefit. 

Okay, so you know what you are going to vacuum pack, your estimated productivity and have a budget range.  Details on the types of vacuum sealers and some of their features is the next step. 

Vacuum sealed foods

Types of Vacuum Sealers 

There are two types of vacuum sealers – chamber and external. Both types vacuum seal by removing air then quickly sealing the package. The main difference is where the packaging is positioned during the vacuuming process. 

Chamber Vacuum Sealers 

With a chamber vacuum sealer, the bag is placed inside the machine, lid is closed, air is extracted, sealing bar fuses the bag closed, pressure is released, lid is opened and vacuum sealed package is removed. 

Chamber vacuum sealer, sealing steps

When you are packaging liquids, chamber vacuum sealers are by far the best choice. Because of the chamber system, the air in the chamber and the air in the bag are removed simultaneously which keep pressure the same and the liquids stay in place. When the liquids stay put, your seal will not be compromised. 

Although these units are more expensive than the external type, the bags are cheaper. So, depending on your productivity needs, it may end up being a more cost-effective choice. 

Chamber vacuum sealers are the best choice for medium to high processing operations, working with large batches (meaning continual use) and if you are sealing liquids and liquid-rich foods. Typically, they always outperform external models and have more available features for customization and control. 

Types of chamber vacuum sealers

External Vacuum Sealers 

With an external vacuum sealer, the bag is placed outside the machine, machine extracts the air, sealing bars fuses the bag closed, package is released. 

Special vacuum sealer bags are required for this type of unit; one side of the bag is textured to allow for a better grip for the vacuum and seal. Because of their design, the bags are more expensive than the smooth bags used in chamber models. 

Although an external vacuum sealer is capable of vacuum sealing liquids they will never be as effective as a chamber style machine. 

Most external vacuum sealers are what they call the bar style.  However, another type is available - a Pistol Vacuum Sealer.  It uses special bags with built-in valves where you physically attach the gun and manually draw out the air. 

External vacuum sealers are the best choice for low packaging requirements and if you are typically not sealing liquids or liquid-rich foods. The more cost-effective option, external vacuum sealers still save you time and money and provide a well-sealed final product, they simply do not offer the range of features available in chamber models.  A great option for operators just starting to add vacuum packing to their repertoire. 

Types of external vacuum sealers

Vacuum Sealer Comparison Chart - Chamber vs External

Feature Chamber Vacuum Sealer External Vacuum Sealer
Cost $$ - $$$ $ - $$
Productivity medium to heavy duty light duty
continual use non-continual use
Product Size Capacity limited by chamber size limited by size of bag opening
limited by sealer bar length
Bags any bag for vacuum sealing special bags for external
bags are less expensive bags more expensive
Applications dry ingredients, liquids and dry ingredients, small batches
liquid-rich combinations, sous vide possible
large batches, sous vide some can seal liquids
Additional available Can include: Can include:
     features Programmable Vacuum level adjustment
(depends on model) Vacuum level adjustment Marinating
Marinating Pulse
Pulse Manual mode
Optional external vacuuming
Gas flushing    
Power 120/60/1 120/60/1
larger, double chamber models
require 220/60/3
Unit size Tabletop to full size and double small, minimal counter space
chamber floor models easily stored

Other Vacuum Sealer Features to Consider 

Gas flushing - the ability to flush your package with an inert gas for additional preservation or for maintaining texture (like chips). 

Pulse mode – having a pulse mode allows you to slowly remove air and reduce crushing of delicate food items like baked goods. 

Optional external vacuum sealing - some chamber vacuum sealers have an optional external vacuum sealing port to vacuum seal in containers. 

Programmable - if you are using your vacuum sealer for multiple recipes/ingredients, programmability might be a key feature to consider as it allows you to consistently seal those items at a predetermined level of vacuum and time.  

Pump – the type of pump will determine the durability of your unit and also the capability of your unit.  Dry pumps can be prone to overheating and therefore not great for continual use.  Oil pumps typically offer more durability but may require maintenance to ensure maximum efficiency. 

Inside a chamber vacuum sealer

Embrace the benefits of using a vacuum sealer in your foodservice kitchen and start racking up the savings. 

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