This is the first of a number of vacuum sealer reviews we will be doing in the months ahead. This one is particularly exciting since it is on a chamber vacuum sealer - the PolyScience 300 Series Chamber Vacuum Sealer. This unit has nearly unlimited uses for both food storage and food preparation, especially for modernist cooking techniques such as sous vide and infusion. The PolyScience 300 Series generally retails for $1,000 from Amazon.com.
We were quite fortunate to have PolyScience Culinary provide us with their 300 Series Chamber Vacuum Sealer for this review. They characterize this Vacuum Sealer as a "Maintenance-free design which provides professional-level features at a home cook's price." The short 2 minute video below will give you a quick introduction to the PolyScience unit.
Most vacuum sealers used by the home cook are of the "external" variety such as the popular FoodSaver offerings. These units suction the air out of the open top of a pouch and then seal it using a straight sealing bar that melts the bag together across the opening.
These external vacuum sealers are relatively inexpensive, take very little counter/storage space, are easy to handle and have traditionally been used primarily for food storage. Recently they have become more popular in the area of food preparation, especially in sous vide cooking.
However, these have low vacuum strength, require special vacuum bags, and are not designed for frequent use. But most importantly, they cannot be used to vacuum seal liquids and liquid-rich foods.
It is the unique capability of the chamber vacuum sealer to handle liquids which clearly sets it apart and leads to many of the numerous benefits it delivers. Admittedly, chamber vacuum sealers are much more expensive than the external type. However, they have some huge advantages which make them so much more useful for both food storage and the latest in food preparation techniques. I will summarize some of these advantages below;
Achieves Higher Vacuum Levels
A chamber vacuum sealer can create higher vacuum levels in the bag. This means that more air has been withdrawn and thus the sealed food will remain fresher and storage times will be longer. In addition, if you are vacuum sealing food that is going to be cooked sous vide, the water in the bath will more efficiently heat the food being cooked.
Enables the Storage of Liquids and Liquid-Rich Foods
Arguably the greatest advantage to a chamber vacuum sealer is its ability to vacuum seal liquids and liquid-rich foods. It is the only device I'm aware of that will let you vacuum seal and store pure liquids such as juices, sauces, stocks, soups and stews. I have found this particularly useful for storing my homemade tomato and verde sauces as well as stocks. In addition the capability to vacuum seal liquids greatly increases its usefulness in food preparation. For example, using a chamber vacuum sealer to rapidly create infusions and to cook sous vide (see below).
Some liquid-rich foods, such as fresh meats, fish, fruits and vegetables, can be vacuum sealed with an external vacuum sealer. This process, however, is much more challenging since an external vacuum sealer will suck the liquid, such as blood, water, or fruit juice, out of the food and into the unit. Because of this you need to watch carefully to stop the suction and seal the bag before the liquid reaches the sealer. This typically results in a bag with more air in it than if done in a chamber vacuum sealer. However, this is still an improvement over sealing it in a Ziploc bag.
Since they were liquid-rich, in the past I used Ziploc bags to store items such as ground meat, freshly blanched beans from my garden, and "leftover" meals I had prepared like chili, chicken à la King, and beef stew. Now they stay pristine in my freezer much longer since I can seal them using the PolyScience chamber vacuum sealer. Using the chamber vacuum sealer has allowed me to store at least twice as many different types of foods as I could with my external vacuum sealer.
Facilitates Rapid Marinating, Pickling, Brining and Other Infusions
Any time you want to infuse the flavor of a liquid into a food, or vice a versa, this process is greatly accelerated at higher pressures. Since a chamber vacuum sealer can handle liquids, vacuum infusions of all types can be done in much less time.
Enables Sous Vide Cooking Almost Anything!
With a chamber vacuum sealer it is possible to seal liquids and liquid-rich foods prior to cooking them sous vide. This allows you to package your food under a vacuum, even with sauces, oils and marinates. Moreover, you can also sous vide pure liquids, such as infusions, under vacuum.
Supports Vacuum Compression/Texture Modification
On the Modernist cooking front there are some very interesting processes that can be performed with a chamber vacuum sealer. Compressing fruits such as watermelon and pineapple or totally changing the texture of a food by exposing it to a strong vacuum, just to name a few.
Reduces Operating Cost
The special bags used by external vacuum sealers are significantly more expensive than the bags used for chamber vacuum sealers. In some cases the difference can be as much as a factor of 10. Moreover, the bags designed for chamber vacuum sealers can be frozen, refrigerated, microwaved, boiled or cooked sous vide. They are also typically BPA-Free and FDA approved. So if you plan to do a lot of vacuum sealing, then the lower cost of the bags over time will help offset the initial greater expense of the equipment. And if you're anything like me, with a chamber vacuum sealer, you will probably seal 2 to 3 times more items than you would with an external type.
Components of the PolyScience 300 Series Chamber Vacuum Sealer
The chamber vacuum sealer has numerous components that I will describe briefly in the following section. Please refer to the picture below which locates the various components on the PolyScience Series 300.
The Vacuum Chamber is where all the action happens. It essentially looks like a stainless steel rectangular pan approximately 1.8" (4.7 cm) deep, 12" (30.5 cm) wide and 13.8" (35.2 cm) long. Near the front of the pan is the Bag Clamp and the Seal Bar.
The Bag Clamp is used to hold the heat-seal bag stable over top of the Seal Bar during the vacuum and sealing process. The clamp consist of two posts, approximately 1.5" (3.8 cm) apart, sticking up from the base of the Vacuum Chamber and covered with nylon caps. There is a metal bracket above these posts (see picture) that pushes down on the top of the posts holding the bag in place. This is held using a spring and is easy to use.
The Seal Bar comes packaged separately and you need to install it by slipping it over two posts sticking out of the Vacuum Chamber. It is about 11.5" (29.2 cm) long and 0.75" (1.9 cm) wide. It has a wire going down the center of it which heats up and seals the bag.
Vacuum Chamber Lid
The Vacuum Chamber Lid is one seriously thick piece of plastic - about 0.75" (1.9 cm) thick. It covers the entire top of the Vacuum Sealer and has a dome which is approximately 10" x 10" (25.4 x 25.4 cm) and 2.43" (6.2 cm) high. That allows an item that is approximately 4.3" (10.9 cm) thick to be sealed in the Vacuum Chamber.
The Lid also has a seal around it to maintain the vacuum as well as a rubberized bar which presses down on the Seal Bar. On the back of the Vacuum Sealer there are two tabs which stick up and have nylon buttons on them. The Vacuum Chamber Lid leans back on these to keep it in the upright position when loading the chamber.
The Vacuum Sealer is operated from the Control Panel. The panel is comprised of 11 buttons, 8 LEDs, and a Digital Display. These various items are pointed out on the following picture and described in the sections below.
This button is used to turn the Vacuum Sealer On and Off. When the unit is turned On it illuminates some of the LEDs and then displays "00" on the Digital Display when the unit is ready to be used.
Vacuum Level Button and LEDs
This button is important because it allows you to set the desired Vacuum Level for the operation to be performed. Each time the button is pressed one of the 5 LEDs above the button will light indicating the Vacuum Level. The Vacuum Levels range from "Minimum" up to "Max". The time it takes the Vacuum Chamber to reach a specific level, as well as the approximate Vacuum Level in both Inches of Mercury (InHg) and Millimeters of Mercury (Torr) are listed below:
Max = 30-45 seconds, 0.35 InHg, 9 Torr
High = 23 seconds, 1.02 InHg, 26 Torr
Medium = 17.3 seconds, 2.24 InHg, 57 Torr
Low = 13.2 seconds, 4.09 InHg, 104 Torr
Minimum = 10 seconds, 6.42 InHg, 163 Torr
The "Max" Vacuum Level is typically used most often since it removes the majority of the air from the heat-seal bag leading to the longest shelf life for stored items. The lower Vacuum Levels, such as "Minimum" and "Low", are used when vacuum sealing more fragile items such as potato chips, fish, berries, peas and other items that could be crushed at higher vacuum levels. You will just need to do some experimentation to decide which Vacuum Level is the best choice for the particular item that you are vacuum sealing.
For completeness I think it's worth mentioning that the Vacuum Sealer is not actually measuring the vacuum level inside the chamber. In order to achieve a true millibar reading inside the chamber the Vacuum Sealer would need to take into account its current external atmospheric conditions as well as other chamber conditions such as temperature and humidity. Obviously, for the vast number of people this level of accuracy is an overkill. The unit actually measures the evacuation time in order to achieve a specified Vacuum Level.
I believe the five Vacuum Levels available provide more than enough choices for the home cook doing chamber vacuum sealing. However, if you require a finer level of control you can use the unit's Calibration process to adjust the evacuation time by -5 to +45 seconds. Adding time increases the level of vacuum pulled; subtracting time decreases the level of vacuum pulled.
Function Button and LEDs
This button is used to select and set the Marinate Time and/or the Seal Time. Pressing the button toggles between the choices and lights the blue LED associated with the one that is selected.
All chamber vacuum sealers have the capability to significantly speed up the marinating, pickling and infusing processes. But not many have a specific marinate cycle like the PolyScience Series 300 that makes these processes much easier to execute. The unit allows you to set the Marinate Time in 9 minute cycles, with each cycle consisting of a vacuum/hold/release process. Each vacuuming step takes approximately 1 minute and each hold step takes approximately 8 minutes. At the end of each cycle, the vacuum is released. If sealing has been activated, the bag will be sealed prior to the release of the vacuum in the final cycle.
To set the Marinate Time press the Function Button until the blue LED associated with the Marinate Time is illuminated. Then push the Down/Up Buttons to select the time on the Digital Display. The maximum number of vacuum/hold cycles is 11 (99 minutes).
This function allows you to set the amount of time needed to seal the heat-seal bag. This is required because bags of different thicknesses require different lengths of Seal Time. To set the Seal Time press the Function Button until the blue LED associated with the Seal Time is illuminated. Then push the Down/Up Buttons to select the time on the Digital Display. The Seal Time may be set anywhere from "00" to "06" seconds. If you do not want to seal the bag, set the Seal Time to "00".
These two buttons, located below the Digital Display, are used in conjunction with the Function Button to set the Marinate Time and/or Seal Time.
Pressing this button begins the sealing operation that has been programmed either manually or by selecting one of the Preset programs (see below).
This button is used to immediately begin sealing using the last programmed Seal Time. It will override any operation that is in progress and begin sealing. After the sealing is complete, the chamber vacuum will be released and the bag can be removed.
This button can be pressed in order to stop a programming or vacuum sealing operation. The vacuum will be released and the bag sealing will be skipped or stopped.
Preset Buttons P1, P2, P3
These buttons allow you to set, select and run frequently used Vacuum Level, Marinate Time and Seal Time combinations. The Presets are pre-set at the factory (see chart below) but can be changed relatively easily to meet your specific needs. The PolyScience Series 300 Chamber Vacuum Sealer is the only unit I have seen thus far that has this handy capability to store programs that are used frequently.
For example, you might want to set P1 with a Vacuum Level of Maximum and a Seal Time of 3 seconds. You could use this Preset whenever you want to seal a bag with the maximum vacuum pulled. You could also set P2 to a Vacuum Level of Medium, a Marinate Time of 27 minutes, and a Seal Time of 00. This Preset could be used to marinate meat or fish prior to cooking it sous vide.
To run a vacuum sealing operation using a Preset push the Preset Button you would like to use. The blue LEDs associated with the Preset's program settings (Vacuum Level, Marinate Time and Seal Time) light and the Preset ID appears in the Digital Display for two seconds.
This two digit component displays the Marinate Time, Seal Time and calibration values as they are input. It also displays the ID of a selected Preset as well as the duration or the time remaining in an operation as it is being run. It will flash "00" when the operation is complete.
External Vacuum Port
This External Vacuum Port is a feature that you don't find on most chamber vacuum sealers. It can be used to draw a vacuum in a wide variety of special containers. FoodSaver makes a number of these containers including canisters, deli containers, and a jar sealer for Mason jars (see below). FoodSaver says that most foods will stay fresh up to five times longer in these containers under vacuum.
This is the component that you can't see but that does all of the work of evacuating the air from the Vacuum Chamber. There are typically two types of pumps used in chamber vacuum sealers. The PolyScience Series 300 uses a "dry piston pump". This type of pump is typically lighter, less expensive and maintenance-free. If your chamber vacuum sealer is going to be used for typical home use, the dry piston pump is usually the best choice. Personally, I have used the PolyScience Series 300 to seal more than a dozen bags, one after the other, without any issues at all.
The other type of pump is an oil pump which will cost you a little more and require occasional maintenance. However, they don't overheat during prolonged working sessions and also may hold up better over the long run for heavy duty users.
Typical Use of the PolyScience 300 Series Chamber Vacuum Sealer
The PolyScience Chamber Vacuum Sealer is very flexible and supports numerous types of sealing operations - even with all its capability it is quite simple to use. In this section I will explain a typical automatic sealing operation. It may be helpful for you to refer back up to the previous section for additional details.
Turn the Unit On
Simply press the Power Button on the Control Panel. The unit will run through a short startup sequence during which the last selected Vacuum Level, Marinate Time and Seal Time will be displayed. The unit is ready for operation when "00" is displayed continuously in the Digital Display.
Select the Vacuum Level
Press Vacuum Level Button repeatedly until the LED associated with your desired Vacuum Level is illuminated. Keep in mind that delicate foods such as seafood, berries, chips, etc. can be crushed if the Vacuum Level is set too high.
Select the Seal Time
Press the Function Button until the Seal Time LED lights, then use the Down/Up Buttons to adjust the time, shown in the Digital Display, to the type of bag you are currently using.
Place the Heat-Seal Bag in the Vacuum Chamber
Placing the bag correctly in the chamber is important to achieve satisfactory results. It's important that you:
Select an appropriately sized bag so that there is at least 1.75" (4.5 cm) of space between the top of the food and the open end of the bag.
Lay the bag flat in the Vacuum Chamber with the opening across the Seal Bar. Obviously, if the bag contains liquid the contents of the bag must be kept lower than the top of the Seal Bar.
Fasten the open end of the bag to the Bag Clamp which is located in front of the Seal Bar.
Close the Vacuum Chamber Lid
Carefully close the Vacuum Chamber Lid making sure that the bag stays inside the chamber, the bag remains clamped and that the Lid seals to the top.
Press the Start Button
The following actions will take place "automatically":
The Vacuum Pump turns on and the LED associated with the selected Vacuum Level begins to flash. The LEDs for the Vacuum Levels lower than the selected one will illuminate as those levels are achieved. The time on the Digital Display will count up (in seconds) until the selected Vacuum Level is reached.
Once the selected Vacuum Level is reached the LED associated with that level will change from flashing to solid and the Vacuum Pump will turn off.
Next the seal step will be initiated if it is set to "01" or greater. The time remaining in the seal step will be displayed in the Digital Display.
When the display reaches "00" it begins flashing and three beeps occur indicating the end of the process. At this point you will see that the bag tightens around the product as the air is let back into the Vacuum Chamber.
Remove the Vacuum Sealed Bag
Simply open the Vacuum Chamber Lid, disconnect the Bag Clamp and remove the bag from the chamber. It's a good practice to examine the bag to be sure that it's properly sealed. That's all there is to it!
In the litigious age in which we live we are constantly being inundated by warnings on the products we purchase, many of which are nonsensical. Because of this we often don't read, or simply ignore, the warnings. For those of us who are new to using a chamber vacuum sealer I wanted to highlight an important warning. When vacuum sealing liquid-rich items it is important that they not be at a high temperature, i.e. they should be cooled down first. This is because as the pressure drops the liquid will boil at a much lower temperature, potentially causing a catastrophic event inside the vacuum chamber. The video below provides a great demonstration of what can possibly occur if you're not careful.
The PolyScience 300 Series Chamber Vacuum Sealer has quite a spacious vacuum chamber. It easily handles a 12" x 14" (30.5 x 35.6 cm) heat-seal bag which is largest typically used for chamber vacuum sealers. This is large enough to vacuum seal nearly any food that you'd like except for perhaps something like a full rack of ribs which you would need to cut in half.
As mentioned in the previous section, the PolyScience 300 Series uses a dry piston pump to evacuate the chamber. This type of pump is well-suited to a home unit which doesn't get long working sessions that might cause the pump to overheat. The advantage of this type of pump is that it requires no periodic maintenance.
The cycle time of the PolyScience unit is quite competitive with other chamber vacuum sealers designed for home use. In my experience, depending on what I was vacuum sealing, it typically took me more time to get the bag filled with its contents and positioned correctly in the chamber, than the time it took to actually cycle through the sealing process.
It is fairly unique to have an "External Vacuum Port" on a chamber vacuum sealer. If this is something that you feel would be valuable for you to use then the PolyScience 300 Series Chamber Vacuum Sealer would be a good choice for you.
Using the Control Panel on the PolyScience Vacuum Sealer is relatively straightforward for most sealing operations. You can quickly push a couple of buttons to set the Vacuum Level, Seal Time (if sealing), and Marinate Time (if marinating), then press the Start Button and the Chamber Vacuum Sealer does the rest.
A unique and useful feature of the PolyScience Series 300 Chamber Vacuum Sealer is the capability to program three different Presets. Once they have been programmed, it's only required to press the Preset Button you want to use and then press the Start Button.
The table below shows how the unit comes from the factory with the Presets pre-programmed. However, it's quite easy to program these however best suit your usage pattern.
For most pieces of modernist equipment the physical specifications are not super important and are rarely a differentiator in the purchasing decision. However, when it comes to deciding what type of vacuum sealer you would like to purchase, these physical specifications could likely be a huge factor in your decision.
By their very nature chamber vacuum sealers require a robust design to handle the significant pressures they work under. As a result they are all fairly large and heavy pieces of equipment. The PolyScience Series 300 is actually one of the lighter ones and it weighs in at around 50 pounds (23 kg). So this is not a piece of equipment that's convenient to store in a pantry or base cabinet and then easily pull out when you want to use it.
For reasons mentioned above, it would be ideal to find somewhere in your kitchen where you could permanently locate the chamber vacuum sealer. Unfortunately, this is also somewhat difficult due to the size of the unit. The PolyScience sealer is slightly smaller than some others but it still has a fairly large footprint. Moreover, since the height of the unit with the lid open is 28" (71 cm), you cannot place the unit on the countertop under a wall cabinet.
It is because of these challenges brought about by the weight and size of the chamber vacuum sealer that I feel these physical specifications could impact your purchasing decision. If you have a relatively small kitchen, you may simply not be able to find a place for it - which is a darn shame because these chamber vacuum sealers are awesome!
PolyScience 300 Series Chamber Vacuum Sealer Detailed Review Summary
First, let me emphasize that the numerous advantages provided by a chamber vacuum sealer make it so much more useful than the external type. If you are an adventuresome cook you will find yourself using this type of sealer 2 to 3 times more often - and loving it.
The PolyScience 300 Series Chamber Vacuum Sealer
is very well designed and built like a tank, just what we have grown to expect from this primarily commercial-oriented company. From a feature perspective the unit is similar to its competitors. However, it does have two unique features which differentiate it from the competition and, depending on how you'd like to use it, could sway your decision.
PolyScience has added an External Vacuum Port to this unit which is useful if you would like to vacuum seal canisters, deli containers and Mason jars. You can even use it to vacuum seal an open wine bottle, although the jury is still out as to whether this really keeps the wine fresher longer!
The second unique feature of the PolyScience vacuum sealer is the availability of three programmable buttons (P1, P2, P3). These buttons allow you to set, select and run frequently used Vacuum Level, Marinate Time and Seal Time combinations. I have programmed mine for a maximum seal, a medium seal and a short marinade; I rarely use anything other than one of the three buttons.
It is worth noting that the unit has a dry piston pump, which has the advantage of not requiring any maintenance. However, the pump can overheat if the unit is operated for prolonged working sessions that you might experience in a commercial environment. To PolyScience's credit, they state in their online Description that the unit is "For household use only."
On the negative side of the ledger, the PolyScience Series 300 is one big machine - much larger and heavier than a bread box! This is true of all chamber vacuum sealers, it's simply the nature of the beast. I mention it here because I want to be sure that you are confident you can find a spot for the unit before you put out your hard-earned cash.
And finally, speaking of cash, the PolyScience Chamber Vacuum Sealer is priced at the high end of the home chamber vacuum sealer market at $1,000. Given the quality and additional features of this unit, that is still a great price.
If you are interested in purchasing a PolyScience Chamber Vacuum Sealer they are available on Amazon.com or from their website.
As a reference point I will mention two lower-priced chamber vacuum sealers. At the very low end of the market is the VacMaster VP112S Chamber Vacuum Sealer. In addition to the low price, perhaps the most important differentiator for this particular unit is the way the lid is hinged so that it slides towards the back of the machine, making it more countertop friendly.
Close to the PolyScience unit in price at $900 is the VacMaster VP215 Chamber Vacuum Sealer. This particular unit has a 0.25 hp rotary oil pump which would require maintenance but also makes the unit more suitable for some smaller commercial environments.
I hope you have found this review beneficial as you consider the purchase of a chambered vacuum sealer. Because of their size and cost they are not appropriate for everyone. But if you can get past these hurdles you will benefit greatly from their unique capabilities for food storage and preparation.
If you have experience with the PolyScience Series 300 or other chamber vacuum sealers, I would appreciate you sharing it in the comments below. Thanks.
This article is by Gary Logsdon, my resident equipment tester, researcher, business partner, and most importantly, my Dad. He loves diving into the nuts and bolts of different pieces of equipment, researching what works best, and sharing that information with you.
Affiliate Disclaimer: Some links on this site might be affiliate links that if used to purchased products I might receive money. I like money but I will not endorse something I don't believe in. Please feel free to directly go to any products I link to and bypass the referral link if you feel uncomfortable with me receiving funds.
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