At a time when both the costs of living and running a business are rising at an alarming rate, we’re all turning to ways to reduce our overheads.
Vacuum sealing and freezing food have long been ways of preserving food to consume later, reducing food wastage and even as a way of cutting costs through bulk purchasing.
But can vacuum sealing be applied to meat that’s already frozen? And if it can, should you do it?
The food industry widely uses vacuum packing to preserve food products' shelf life. You only need to take a short walk down the refrigerator aisles to spot vacuum-sealed cheeses, meats, and fish.
But, just what is vacuum sealing?
Vacuum packer machines are used to remove the air in a food container before it is sealed. In doing so, you remove both oxygen and moisture from the container’s atmosphere, which reduces the risk of mould developing on the food. As a result, food can remain on the supermarket shelf for an extended period of time. According to the UK Food Standards Agency, vacuum-sealed meats have a maximum shelf life of 13 days.
By sealing meat in an airtight bag, you also protect it from germs and dust, which can otherwise cause the taste to deteriorate over time. For home consumers, vacuum-sealing meat before storing it in the refrigerator can vastly extend its shelf life, meaning that they can save money by bulk-buying fresh food and reducing food waste.
As we all look for ways to save money, many of us may start buying frozen meat rather than fresh. One major benefit of frozen meat is that it can be stored safely for longer periods, and it's quite often the case that buying frozen is cheaper than fresh.
So, can you vacuum-seal your frozen meat?
The answer is a resounding “yes”!
Whether meat is fresh or already frozen when you purchase it, you can apply a vacuum packer to remove any remaining air from the bag. As a result, you reduce the potential risk of the dreaded freezer burn.
Freezer burn is when frozen food is damaged by oxidation or dehydration and typically occurs when food has not been properly wrapped in air-tight packaging. It gives your meat splotches of unsightly greyish-brown colour.
Although this discoloration doesn’t make your meat unsafe to eat, it can cause the meat to dry out and taste awful (which is a great shame after you’ve spent good money on it!).
By vacuum sealing any pre-frozen meat, you remove any residual air from the packaging, helping to prevent freezer burn from forming in the first place.
As a general rule of thumb, vacuum-sealed meat will last longer in the freezer than meat that has simply been frozen in its original packaging. How long the meat can be stored really depends on the type of meat and whether it’s cooked or not.
Freezing uncooked meat in its original packaging normally comes with warnings to consume the meat within six months of freezing. Using a vacuum packer to repack your raw meat in an airtight, specially designed bag can extend those six months to around 3-4 years!
Providing you’ve got plenty of freezer space, vacuum-sealing meat and storing it in the freezer is a no-brainer, especially as we watch food costs rise all around us.
Out of pure convenience, many of us simply vacuum pack our fresh meat without any other preparation. However, it’s worth investing extra time to prepare your meat before you vacuum-seal it.
By washing and freezing your meat and fish before you begin to vacuum pack it, you kill off any bacteria that was already present. This makes your food safer to eat in the longer term.
Freezing your meat also ensures that any juices are retained before you vacuum-pack it. You’ll thank us in the long run when you defrost your meat and find that it tastes a little bit better.
Another common method of freezing meat is to wrap it in freezer paper. This thick paper is usually coated with wax or plastic on one side, which is wrapped tightly around your meat to keep moisture out. It’s an inexpensive and environmentally friendly way of preserving meat a little longer.
The downside of freezer paper is that it's only as effective as the wrapping technique. Any rips, tears, or gaps in the paper will result in freezer burn and impact the taste of your food.
Buying a vacuum packer may be considered an expensive option, not to mention the cost of the specially designed, reinforced plastic bags. However, it’s been shown that vacuum-packed meat can last 3-5 times longer in the freezer than meat that has merely been wrapped in freezer paper. So often a vacuum sealer is well worth the investment.
It’s a little-known fact that you can (and should!) vacuum-seal frozen meat to enable you to store it longer while retaining the quality of taste. As we all find ourselves looking for ways to reduce rising fuel costs in our homes and businesses, vacuum sealing may be worth considering.