Three best vacuum sealers
You pull the steaks from the freezer only to discover they're spoiled.
Your dinner party was built around those perfect ribeyes. Now you'll have to run to the supermarket and spend even more. Argh.
What if there was a way to avoid that 11th-hour frustration and also save money? Well, there is. It's called vacuum sealing, a process once reserved for professional kitchens, and it's now affordable and easy to do.
Read on to find out what you need to know before making a purchase.
About vacuum sealing
Experts estimate that vacuum sealing allows food to last three to five times longer than normal. Those steaks in the freezer? You can store them nicely for several years, if needed, instead of risking freezer burn after just a few months.
Vacuum sealing removes most of the oxygen around food, preventing damage caused by aerobic bacterial growth. It's by far the best way to portion and package, performing much better than plastic wrap, foil, zip-top bags, or containers. And while it's ideal for storing bulk meat and leftovers, it's also an excellent way to preserve fruits and vegetables at peak ripeness from your garden.
There are two basic types of sealers: external vacuum sealers and chamber vacuum sealers.
External vacuum sealers: These range from small, no-frills handheld models to countertop appliances with lots of bells and whistles. They're affordable and the most common type of vacuum sealer for home kitchens. They're also simple to use. The machine clamps down on the lip of the bag, vacuums out the air, then seals the bag with high heat.
Chamber vacuum sealers: These commercial-grade sealers are large, powerful, and expensive. They do an excellent job of preserving large batches of food or wet items like soup and gravy but may be overkill for home use. To use this type of machine, you place the entire bag of food into the chamber. The air is then sucked out and the bag is sealed.
Considerations when choosing vacuum sealers
First of all, you'll want to pick a machine that has powerful suction. That will speed up the process -- an important factor if you're going to be doing a lot of sealing.
Most manufacturers use inches of mercury (inHg) to indicate vacuum strength. The higher the number, the stronger the suction. In most cases, 15 to 25 inHg is sufficient.
Look for a sealer with a pulse button -- one of the most useful features available. It allows you to slowly seal delicate foods like berries and crackers without crushing them. For similar reasons, it's good to have a cancel button that allows you to stop the process at any time.
Quality sealers usually allow for attachments that accommodate other uses, such as sealing canning jars. If you're planning to seal food with sauces and marinades, a removable drip tray allows for easy cleanup.
The size of the seal bar is another factor. For most home users, a model with an 11- to 12-inch bar should work just fine.
Built-in sliding bag cutters and storage for bag rolls and the power cord are other convenient features to look for.
Vacuum sealer prices
Prices range from $20 to $30 for a handheld vacuum sealer to hundreds of dollars for a commercial-grade chamber model. For most home cooks, an external sealer is the best choice. They cost between $70 and $400.
Q. Can any type of food be vacuum sealed?
A. Yes, with the exception of mushrooms, garlic, and soft cheeses. These foods contain anaerobic bacteria, which can grow without the presence of air.
Q. Will a vacuum sealer save me money?
A. Yes. You won't be discarding as much spoiled or stale food. Furthermore, you can take better advantage of bulk food sales.
Q. Are vacuum sealers only for food?
A. No. You can use your device to seal toiletries before travel to prevent spills, protect photographs from mildew, and preserve seeds for next year's planting, to name just a few applications.
Q. Are there any safety concerns when using a vacuum sealer?
A. The machine's sealing bar reaches high temperatures, so you should avoid direct contact with the bar until the sealer has cooled. Read the operating manual carefully before using your vacuum sealer for the first time.
Vacuum sealers we recommend
Best of the best: FoodSaver 2-in-1
Our take: This high-performance vacuum sealer may be the easiest to use on the market.
What we like: Handsome countertop model with a stainless steel and chrome design. Lots of useful features, including a sliding bag cutter and retractable handheld sealer.
What we dislike: A little bulky and heavier than most.
Our take: If you're looking for a no-frills manual model that works well, this is for you.
What we like: Great value. Compact and lightweight, making it easy to store. Also works with FoodSaver bags.
What we dislike: A little awkward to use. No cord storage.
Our take: Top quality and convenience at an affordable price.
What we like: Easy to use and loaded with convenient features, including bag roll, power cord storage, and built-in bag cutter.
What we dislike: Drip tray is not removable for cleaning.
William is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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