Cuisine Technology
Pineapple slices in a bag, with hands putting them inside a chamber vacuum sealer.

Vacuum Cooking: Technique & Tips

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For a single-purpose device, a vacuum sealer offers an incredible array of cooking techniques. You probably already know that you can use it to prepare your bags for sous vide cooking or storage, but have you fully explored all the other creative options it offers? If you’re ready for some inspiration and ideas, read on to learn all about various vacuum cooking techniques that you can perform with your chamber vacuum sealer.

As always, we encourage creativity! (As long as you’re following food safety guidelines, of course.) For example, we’ll talk about the ever-popular compressed watermelon… but what would happen if you compressed cantaloupe, radish, pear instead? Other than the popular liquor infusions, what happens if you infuse something with tea, coffee, or hot sauce? The possibilities are endless, so play around and see what you create!

Be aware that these techniques are primarily for chamber vacuum sealers. If you have an external suction vacuum sealer, it’s still great for preparing bags for sous vide and storage, but won’t successfully perform most of these techniques. The reason is that the machines operate very differently. A suction vacuum sealer uses suction to simply remove air from bags (as the name suggests). On the other hand, a chamber vacuum sealer regulates the pressure in the entire chamber, creating a vacuum both inside and outside the bag. It’s this changing pressure that allows these techniques to work.

Don’t have a chamber vacuum sealer yet? We recommend the Avid Armor Chamber Vacuum Sealer Model USV20 Ultra Series for home use! It’s easy to use, has a generous chamber size, and even includes an external port that lets you use it with compatible canisters and cans. Plus it’s more reasonably priced for home cooks than many chamber vacuum sealers. You can also read our list of the best chamber vacuum sealers for other options.

Compressing Food

You’ve probably heard of, and maybe even already tried eating, compressed watermelon. (And if you haven’t, you’re in for a treat!) Vacuum compression alters the watermelon’s texture by rupturing cell walls and forcing out the water and air. The resulting watermelon is beautifully vibrant and translucent, in addition to having a more dense texture. The results intensify each time you compress the same piece of watermelon, so feel free to do it several times and notice how the texture changes.

This technique works effectively on plants. You’re welcome to try it on meat as an experiment (again, we encourage experimentation!), but don’t expect to end up with anything other than vacuum-packed meat.

To compress your plant-based foods such as watermelon, pineapple, cucumber, and more, simply put it in a vacuum bag as you normally would for your device. Set your device to its strongest vacuum level possible, then run it as normal. When it’s done, you’ll have compressed vacuum-packed food! Optionally, let it sit in its vacuum-sealed bag for about half an hour before using it.

Infusing Food

Infusion can go hand-in-hand with compression as a vacuum cooking technique, but it isn’t exactly the same, so we’ll treat it differently.

When you infuse food, you simply add a liquid of your choice to the vacuum bag before usi the same compression technique as you do for compressed foods. The liquid is then infused into the food as the vacuum sealer’s chamber changes in pressure. Once the vacuum process is done, wait at least 10 to 30 minutes before opening the bag (unless you want to repeat the process for a more intense transformation).

This method can help infuse the liquid more deeply into the food than a simple marinade would, and it’s dramatically faster.

When you’re vacuum-infusing foods, think about the flavor pairings that would work well, and then find a way to incorporate those. Some ideas to try include liquor, cider, various vinegars, coffee, tea, flavored syrups, juices, sauces, and marinades.

Keep in mind that you should NEVER use hot liquids. A vacuum lowers the boiling point of water, so even cool or room-temperature water will start boiling in the machine. This is normal, so don’t be alarmed if you see it happening, but it’s also the reason why hot liquids are to be avoided in a chamber vacuum sealer.

Making Quick Pickles

Instead of waiting a couple weeks or more for your homemade pickles, create them in just minutes with your chamber vacuum sealer. To make them, you’ll just apply the same techniques as you learned for infusion. This time, use your favorite homemade pickle brine as the liquid, and add it to a bag with sliced cucumbers. Apply the vacuum, then set aside the bag for 15 to 30 minutes (ideally in the refrigerator to keep them nice and cold) before enjoying them.

Even if you’re not a huge fan of cucumber pickles (and admittedly I’m not), there are so many places for pickling in excellent cooking. Think of pickled cherries in a drink, or pickled red onions on a burger or pizza. As with all the other techniques on this list, you’re encouraged to play around and experiment.