Posted on 31 Jan 2016 20:19
Vacuum sealers are a very popular and effective way to keep foods fresher for longer. They work by pulling the surrounding air out of plastic bags and then creating a tight seal. With little to no air surrounding the food, and an air-tight seal, food stays fresh much longer than when stored by conventional means.
For serious sealing at home at a price that won't break the bank, the overall best vacuum sealer is the Weston Brand Commercial Quality Vacuum Sealer. However, other great sealers, based on price and performance, are described below.
Even frozen foods will keep longer when sealed by a vacuum sealer, as getting rid of the air prevents freezer burn. This makes a vacuum sealer a very attractive and useful appliance for those who buy in bulk or for hunters needing to store large quantities of meat. The bags used for vacuum sealer are typically of a higher quality plastic, and the seal is much more reliable, depending on the type of sealer, than the seals of Ziploc bags.
You can vacuum seal almost any type of food, including meats, poultry, fish, cheese, soups, sauces (and other liquids), vegetables, berries, deli meats, cereal, nuts, cookies, crackers, snacks, flour, ground coffee, etc.
Vacuum sealing foods does not take the place of basic food safety and does not kill pathogens. Vacuum sealing is not a replacement for home canning.
What to Consider When Buying a Vacuum Sealer
There are two basic types of vacuum sealers, handheld valve sealers and heat sealers. Handheld units are compact and inexpensive. They are also less effective since they use cheaper bags and do not guarantee a perfect seal since the closures are zip-style. Heat sealers, the more familiar larger counter-top units are much more versatile, reliable, and durable than handheld valve units.
Of course, not all vacuum heat sealers are created the same. You must consider the following:
- How strong is the unit?
Although you can get very inexpensive sealers for around $30, one basic problems with these cheaper models is that the motors are not very powerful, so they simply cannot pull as much air from the bag. The more air that is removed, the longer the food will last. Some professional models can cost up to $500 or more. Although you do not need to pay nearly that much, cheaper is not better.
- How Well Does it Seal?
The faster and better the unit heats up, and the more powerful the unit, the better the seal. There are typically wrinkles or even bits of food in the way when you try to seal the bags. A good sealer will not have any problem dealing with these, ensuring an even melt and a powerful seal. Again, the more powerful models typically will have better sealers.
- Does it Have a Manual Mode?
The problem with a powerful unit is that it may pull so much air from a bag so strongly that it basically crushes foods like crackers, chips, cereal, or other delicate food items. Some units may have only an automatic-pulse mode, so that you cannot control the amount of air removed yourself. A manual mode allows you to manually pulse the unit so that you can carefully control the vacuum, making sure that you pull out as much air as possible but not so much that you crush your food.
- How much room does it take up?
Like any appliance, most of us will want a sealer to have the smallest footprint possible while still getting the job done. This means that small handheld units will seem very good options, but they may not actually get the job done. Other counter-top units may be too big and bulky for our crowded kitchens. Don't assume that a large bulky sealer is always going to be a better performer, either.
Best Vacuum Sealers
The following three sealers, from highest to lowest price, are recommended. Choose the sealer that is best for you.
The Weston Home Vacuum Sealer (model 65-0501-W) is the most highly recommended vacuum sealer. While not as expensive as Weston's commercial units, has a powerful 23 inHg, provides a reliable seal, and features a manual mode for user control of air removal. It is easy to use and works with a wide variety of vacuum sealer bags, rolls, and canisters.
FoodSaver V2244 Vacuum Sealing System, while it is not quite as easy to use as the Weston model, above, and its contruction is not as sturdy, this less expensive model from FoodSaver will keep many home sealers happy. It has a manual mode and a CrushFree Instant Seal for delicate foods. The unit is also compatible with canisters using the accessory port and hose vacuum. Foodsaver keeps the motor's power a secret, but this unit stands up to pricier models.
The Seal-a-Meal Vacuum Sealer is an Amazon bestseller. While it does a good job, its popularity may due to its much lower price as much as anything else. The motor is only about half the power of the Weston unit and it is not as easy to use. You must press on the unit to seal the bags, and it has no manual operation mode, so may crush delicate foods. It is not canister compatible and may not stand up to heavy-duty use. However, for the occasional home vacuum sealer, this unit is a good buy!