Home storage connoisseurs and small business owners both prefer the chamber styled vacuum sealer over the external suction type machines simply because of the high quality and volume of packaging offered by the former. But, while these machines remove 99.9% of oxygen from the bag, they also leave it in a shriveled state. This article describes how you could program your machine to suck out all the air without crushing products inside.
Soft Air Packaging
In conjunction with sustained packing volumes, chamber sealers can also be tuned for another application i.e. soft air packaging. This refers to a method of flushing the bag with an inert gas like nitrogen soon after the oxygen evacuation process and just before the sealing process.
There can be many reasons why you’d like to have an ‘alternate atmosphere’ in the package. For starters, soft air packaging is done to prevent the products in the bag from crumbling or getting crushed under the vacuum created within the package.
When fragile foods like pulpy fruits, fleshy vegetables, or soft, spongy foods like breads, pizza slices etc are stored under vacuum, the intense pressure created inside the bag can crush them. Similarly, when storing chips, coffee beans, roasted peanuts, etc this way, the same form-hugging nature end-result makes these fragile constituents susceptible to breakage.
Introducing alternate gases like food-grade nitrogen or carbon dioxide into the bag not only ensures the same extended shelf life but also offers a soft padding against breakage. In certain cases where meat is packed vacuum packed in an alternate carbon dioxide atmosphere, it allows the meat surface to retain its natural reddish color.
The Soft Packaging Kit
Gas flushing is not a feature that is included in many chamber sealers. However, most if not all sealers are provided with a ‘Gas’ button meaning that an inert gas kit can be installed in them separately. Typically, the kit will consist of an inert gas tank (either nitrogen or carbon dioxide), regulator, gassing nozzle and other connections and fittings. The kit on an average costs about $250 and upwards, which includes component costs and installation charges.
Certain chamber vacuum sealer manufacturers offer gas flushing as an extra feature which a new customer can avail by paying an extra amount on top of the purchase price to have the machine fitted with the kit. A few local companies with expertise in this type of work also offer this service at a reduced cost. However, taking this route can result in the annulment of any existing appliance warranty.
The Sponge Test
Before you start using the gas flush feature on storable products, its best to get an idea of the actual process and therefore it’s control attributes. So, for your first few tries, use a rectangular block of sponge to see the effects of reduced and alternative atmosphere packaging separately.
Place the sponge block in a chamber-friendly vacuum pouch and position the bag inside the machine properly. Now, using the normal vacuum settings, perform the process to attain the ‘control’ result. Basically, what you’ll get at the end of this process is a bag that houses a flat sponge in it.
Now, use a similar block of sponge for the next batch but this time set the desired gas flush level to 50%. If everything is working alright, you’ll see that as soon as all the oxygen is evacuated from the bag, the inert gas will be flushed in and the air let into the chamber immediately after. When the chamber’s lid opens after the sealing process, you should ideally see a sponge having maintained most of its shape.
Perform this step at variable levels of gas flush to see the after-effects on the sponge. After a few tries, you can then use what you have learnt so far to package food products. This is actually a very neat way of understanding gas flush technique without wasting food in the process.