The term preservation with regards to vacuum sealed meat, poultry or sea food encompasses many other quality defining attributes such as safety, ageing, tenderness and flavor. Therefore proper vacuum-sealing of such foods will have to hinge on extra factors like freshness of the meat or fish during the purchase; proper storage considerations and even the aspect of how you go about reusing the food soon after removing it from the pack. In this article, we have tried to offer a rough guide on all such factors connected to proper vacuum sealing of meat, poultry and sea food.
Pre Seal Considerations
Irrespective of the type of meat you’re vacuum packing, it’s important to consider their quality at the time of purchase. In other words, the fresher the meat or seafood, the longer it will stay in the freezer when vacuum packed. In that respect, fresh meat from your local butcher shop is your best case scenario. But, if that’s not an option for you, and you’re left to purchasing meat or sea food from the frozen food section of a supermarket, then ensure that you buy only those products with the latest package date.
Make it a point to thoroughly clean any meat, fish or seafood you get from the market, and dry it as fast as possible. Furthermore, if you’ll be using the meat or fish in portions, then cut them into smaller pieces so as to vacuum seal them in batches.
For meat or fish intended for long term storage should be pre frozen before it can be vacuum sealed. However, uneven freezing can lead to purge of juices and therefore make the meat or sea food lose it’s identity and flavor. Instead, opt for short-term freezing by packing the constituents in a freezer bag or flash freezing by spreading small pieces of meat evenly on a large wax paper, covering them with ice and freezing the same for a day or two.
Tips To Follow During Vacuum Packaging
If it’s small pieces of boneless meat, fillet or shrimps, then place them flat in a relatively larger sized vacuum-able bag. Here, it would be a good idea to drop a sachet of oxygen absorber into the bag and if possible, place a quarter-folded kitchen tissue paper over the top most piece.
The latter will absorb any juice that might be drawn towards the mouth of bag during the vacuum sealing process, whereas the former will ensure any oxygen that remains behind or diffuses into the bag during the course of storage is duly absorbed. The same goes for medium sized pieces of meat, or smaller fish. In addition, if the pieces have sharp bones jutting out, then these have to covered appropriately.
Whole chicken or turkey can trap air within the chest cavity, which can prove detrimental to your food preservation endeavor. So, if you have a powerful vac-sealer machine, then make use of its extended vacuum function to suck out the trapped air. Otherwise, pre freeze your whole chicken and vacuum seal the same in a proper meat compatible vac-bag. Don’t forget to the add the oxygen absorber sachet into the bag.
Finally, mark all bags with the seal date and make it a point to use the oldest batches first. Theoretically, vacuum sealed meats and fish products are supposed to stay uncontaminated for several months, but for all practical purposes, make it a point to reuse your packages within 4-6 weeks of packaging.
Post Packaging Concerns
You can tell if the vacuum packaged meat has been contaminated by noticing it’s color which should be dark purple. If there is a color difference, then don’t take any chances and use the product but not before discerning if it’s safe for cooking.
Bacterial action can still take place in an oxygen depleted atmosphere. So, it’s natural for certain vacuum sealed meat to give out a strong odor after being opened. However, this should subside within 20-30 minutes of the meat being exposed to outside air, but if this is not the case, then don’t take any chances and throw it right away.