I can already imagine what you’re thinking; so let me get your initial response out of the way first: Yes, a chamber vacuum sealer is expensive. The Weston Pro 2500, shown above, retails for $989.99. That’s serious investment for any hunter. Notice I said “investment,” because that’s exactly what a chamber vacuum sealer is.
Consider how many conventional vacuum sealers you’ve been through over the years. Personally, I’ve owned four or five. At $150 or more each, that nearly adds up to one chamber vacuum. A chamber vac is also more versatile, and for a hunter who’s packs several critters each season, or the serious home cook who’s into sous vide, it’s worth considering. Here’s why:
On any type of vacuum sealer, you have to factor the cost of bags to the equation. A 500-count box of quart-size bags for a chamber vacuum costs about $50, or 10 cents per bag. Shop around, and the cheapest bags you can find for conventional external vacuum sealers is about $30 per hundred, or .30 per bag. (FoodSaver brand bags are actually double that.) During a good hunting season, I can easily go through a hundred bags or more. Over a few years, that will add up.
If you’re not familiar with a chamber-style vacuum, they don’t suck the air out of bag like the vacuum sealer you may have. Instead, they pump all of the air (including that inside the bag) out of the chamber at once, resulting in a truly airtight seal. It’s kind of freaky as the bag actually puffs up initially, before sucking tight against the contents.
I vacuum-pack a lot of ground meat every year, and there are always air pockets within the bag no matter what I do. Not so with a chamber vac. The bags of ground meat are air-free. Because it’s not sucking air (or any contents) out of the bag, it’s also great for sealing liquids or otherwise moist things, like fish or extra-bloody meat. Want to marinate your steak under vacuum? The chamber vacuum does it without hassle. Same goes with sealing soups or stews to freeze for later.
One downside to a chamber vacuum (aside from the cost) is how slow it is. The Weston Pro 2500 chamber vacuum sucks the air out of a bag and seals it in just below 50 seconds. That’s three times slower than my Weston Pro 1100, which does a bag in 15 seconds. That seal time is my biggest issue with the Pro 2500, but the quality of the packaging is much better, resulting in a reduced chance of losing meat to freezer burn.
The Weston Pro 2500 features a user-selectable vacuum level, up to 29.5 inches Hg (or inches of mercury). From my limited understanding of physics, which I nearly flunked in college, that’s about 100 percent of vacuum. It has five pre-set levels and one fully adjustable function, with a manual-seal button for making custom-size bags from bulk rolls (which saves even more money). So yes, a chamber-style vacuum sealer is more expensive, but for a limited number of hunters and serious home cooks, it can be worth the cost.