Two common practices that are ingrained into you as a chef are save time and save dollars, without sacrificing quality, of course. Many commercial techniques and technologies have been made more accessible and affordable to the home cook over the past decade, one of my favorites being the vacuum sealer.
This tool once a large, heavy, and expensive piece of kitchen equipment can now be shipped to your door overnight for around $40. Now easy to store and use, a vacuum sealer can save you time, money, and help neatly organize your freezer or pantry. I’ve recently upgraded my vacuum sealer and picked up a small chest freezer, and pairing this duo is a great idea for all home cooks.
To save time the vacuum sealer can expedite marinating and pickling processes through pressure, reducing oxygen, and maximizing surface area coverage of your brine or marinade. It can also make thawing frozen items much faster and is great for storing dry goods like grains, legumes, or cereals. You can even use it in conjunction with an immersion circulator for sous vide cooking, which is a low and slow process of preparing meats and vegetables to a very specific temperature in a water bath.
This great piece of equipment also prolongs the life of frozen goods by preventing things like freezer burn. This allows you to purchase greater quantities or larger cuts of proteins or prepare larger batches of soups and sauces, break them down into the portion sizes you want, and hold them frozen for a greater amount of time. Typically, when you purchase bigger cuts or more quantity you save on the per pound price. Here I have some large Hanger steaks broken down into portion sizes.
Planning ahead is also a great way to save and get your value now. With inflation becoming an increasing issue due to the ever-expanding supply of our currency, prices for many foodstuffs will only continue to rise into the future so it could be advantageous to build a back stock. To keep from overdoing it and ending up with a freezer full of things you never touch, it’s good to keep an inventory list of the items. A good rule of thumb is also “stock what you eat and eat what you stock” so don’t go buying whatever is on sale unless you plan to utilize it. Another must is following the rule of FIFO “first in-first out” basically rotating your stock and consuming older items before newer ones.
Some tips to vacuum sealing:
- Get a variety of different sized bags.
- Pat meats or fish dry before sealing.
- Fully cool any cooked foods before sealing.
- Freeze things like liquids and ground meat flat for easy thawing.
- Label the bags with name of contents, serving amount, and date including the year.
A great starting point would be to make the small investment in a vacuum sealer and give it a try. If you’re not comfortable with breaking down whole fish or cuts of meat, Essential Building Blocks is a great jumping off point here at The Chopping Block!