Foods are made of organic sources that decompose over time. Without the use of food preservation, many food items would spoil within days. Freezer storage is a great way to extend food storage life. One draw back to freezer storage is freezer burn.
How do you prevent freezer burn? Eliminating air exposure during freezer storage is the best way to prevent freezer burn.
Vacuum packaging eliminates air exposure and stops freezer burn. Freezer burn is not harmful, but can dramatically degrade taste quality. Freezer burn is caused by the stored product loosing moisture, the lost moisture then becomes frozen on the surface of the product. This is often easily visible once it occurs.
Vacuum packaging is a form of modified atmosphere packaging (MAP). Oxygen is vacuumed from the package modifying the atmosphere within the package. After oxygen is removed, an air tight seal is made to prevent air from entering the package. The reduction of oxygen content extends food storage life and preserves taste.
Freezer storage without vacuum packaging will extend food storage time by preventing the growth of microorganisms that cause food spoilage. According to the USDA, bacteria growth slows significantly in temperatures below 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
Vacuum packaging with freezer storage can increase storage life many months and even years. The frozen storage protects from microorganism growth while the vacuum sealed package prevents freezer burn and preserves food quality. Below is a list of edible products ideal for vacuum packaged freezer storage.
Products for Vacuum Sealed Freezer Storage
Poultry – Often packaged with thicker film for extra protection.
Pork – Large primal cuts packaged with 6 mil or heavier material for protection from sharp edges.
Red Meats – Sometimes vacuum packaged with an inert gas to prevent discoloration.
Fish – Small cuts packaged with 3 mil vacuum bags.
Deli Meats – Bulk deli meats are often vacuum packaged with Form-Fill-Seal-Machines.
Pasta – Dried pasta can still have traces of moisture. Vacuum sealing can help prevent freezer burn from left over moisture.
Baked Goods – Some baked goods are perfect for vacuum packaging during freezer storage. Any baked products that need to breathe should not use vacuum packaging.
Soups/Stews – Vacuum chambers are perfect for packaging liquids. The use of a chamber creates a vacuum within the package and prevents freezer burn.
Seasonings and Dried Spices – Similar to pasta, seasonings and dried spices can have left over moisture that can cause freezer burn. Vacuum packaging is a great option for long term freezer storage.
Powders – Often used with a vacuum chamber, powders can become lodged in a traditional nozzle vacuum sealer unless a filter is used.
There are circumstances vacuum packaging is not optimal for storage. Some products need the ability to breathe during storage. Vacuum packaging does not allow foods to breathe and can unintentionally damage food quality. Many fruits and vegetables should be tested to confirm vacuum packaged freezer storage is the correct storage method.
The use of an inert gas is common for many products that are vacuum packaged. An inert gas eliminates oxygen which attributes to spoilage and freezer burn. Though not truly an inert gas, nitrogen is one of the most common gases used in vacuum packaging. Nitrogen makes up the majority of the air we breathe. The nitrogen molecules eliminate the oxygen molecules during the flushing process. The absence of oxygen dramatically slows food decomposition.
Different foods require different gases and mixes of each. Some vacuum packaged breathable items use a combination of oxygen with another inert gas. The details for different products and gas mixtures are too many to cover in this post. For more information visit our Vacuum Packaging 101 page.