Vacuum Sealer 101 – Preventing Freezer Burn

vacuum sealer

We hear much about freezer burn but many don’t know what the term means or how to stop it.  While freezer burned food is not dangerous to eat, the quality of the food product decreases over time, often to the point of being unpalatable.

The term “freezer burn” refers to the slow, undesired dehydration of a food product stored in a freezer.   Just like an air-conditioner removes moisture from the air in your home, a freezer draws the moisture from food stored in it.  Leave Friday night’s pizza unprotected in the refrigerator until Sunday and see how dried out it is.  The same happens in the freezer.

If you imagine the air in your freezer as a wick, it’s easy to understand.  On one side of the wick is the cooling coil of the freezer “wringing” the air out, on the other side is your food “wicking” water into the air.   While the process is slow, it still is happening 24-hours a day/7 days a week.

Contrary to popular opinion, wrapping meat in freezer paper doesn’t make it freezer-burn proof.   If air can get to the meat in any fashion, dehydration is occurring.  Placing your food in air-tight containers like plastic storage containers or bags slows the process, but it still continues and the quality of the food degrades day after day.  I am sure you have opened frozen food containers to find ice crystals inside.  That’s water that has been pulled from your food!

There are two ways to stop freezer burn:

  1. Encase your food in a shield of sacrificial material, AKA… water. Freeze those squirrels, quail, and rabbits in bags or containers filled with water.  The covering of water protects the meat until it can be used.  While this can be cheap and easy, the downside is the volume of water taking up space in the freezer, and the mess when it’s unthawed.
  2. Vacuum seal your food. Vacuum sealing pulls all the air out of the container so freezer burn stops, allowing you to store meats, and retain the proper texture and flavor, for months or even years.

I’m sure you’ve seen the infomercials on TV singing the praises of vacuum sealer units, and for the most part, what they claim is true.  Any food that is frozen and not vacuum sealed is going to degrade over time.  Proper vacuum sealing stops the process and prevents freezer burn.

Most common vacuum sealers work by pulling the air from the bag, then sealing it with a heated strip.  The entire process is automatic and permanent.

Some units also come with a port and a vacuum hose.  Manufacturers offer special reusable vacuum dishes that have a port to allow a vacuum to be drawn from the food inside.  As seen on network cooking shows, placing food under a vacuum while soaking it in a marinade greatly increases its effectiveness, especially when using meat tenderizer.

Vacuum packers can be found almost anyplace these days.  WalMart, Kmart, Target, Sears, Cabela’s, Gander Mountain, and Bass Pro all have Seal-A-Meal, Foodsaver, and other similar vacuum sealing systems from $49.99 on up.  The bags come in many different styles and sizes and most interchange without any issues.  The common feature with these units is it melts the bag closed for a permanent seal.

Here’s some tips to make vacuum sealing easier:

  • Freeze liquids like soups and stews in a rigid container, then remove and transfer the food to a vacuum bag, then vacuum and seal.
  • When using pre-made or custom bags, be sure to leave enough extra head room to allow the sealer to get a good, clean grip on the bag.
  • Be careful when packing bone-in meats. Sharp bones can cause the plastic to puncture and allow air in.
  • Pack food in meal-sized portions so there’s no waste left over.
  • Label your bags with the contents and the date you packed it. Use older food first.
  • Buy the bags in custom rolls. Pre-cut bags often are too big or too small, but custom bags are always the right size for the food being frozen.
  • Vacuum sealing rice and other staples can help budgets go farther by buying in bulk and then dividing it into normal-sized portions.
  • Keep the portion of the vacuum bag that is being sealed flat and straight. Wrinkles can cause the seal to leak.
  • If the seal doesn’t seal properly, move the bag in or out a little and make a new seal.
  • Don’t try to use bags not made for vacuum sealers. You can end up with a sticky mess, ruined food, and maybe even a damaged vacuum sealer.
  • Keep the sealer clean. Often, juices get sucked into the sealer area and can slow the sealing process or even create a bio-hazard if left long enough.
  • Think outside the ice box. Gun parts, magazines, ammunition, important documents, photos, and countless other items can be kept safe and moisture free inside a vacuum-sealed bag.

For more tips go to:

Alan Garbers
Alan James Garbers – Alan is passionate for the outdoors. He enjoys fishing, hunting, hiking, canoeing, photography, writing, woodworking, and more. He loves exploring the BWCAW in northern Minnesota, roaming the deserts of Arizona, or hiking the mountains of Colorado. He has lived in Minnesota, Hawaii, Mississippi, Florida, Colorado, Arizona, and Indiana. From hunting rattlesnakes to black bear and fishing for catfish to muskie, he loves it all. Since 1989 his writing credits have included Indiana Outdoor News, Indiana Game & Fish, Muzzle Blasts, Outdoor Guide Magazine, Fur-Fish-Game, Boundary Waters Journal, Boys’ Quest, Fun For Kidz, Mother Earth News, Cricket, Small Farm Today, American Careers, Arizona Hunter & Angler, Old West, and others. Fiction credits include StarTrek Strange New Worlds Anthologies IV, V, and 08. Alan recently complied an anthology of his popular column, Behind The Badge: True Stories of Indiana’s Conservation Officers. It is available in e-reader format and found at Amazon and other on-line book retailers. Alan is a member of AGLOW and HOW.


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