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Hand-held vacuum sealers

A new generation of vacuum sealers has arrived. Inexpensive and easy-to-use, they're handy for sealing small bags of food quickly and efficiently.

Fine Cooking Issue 92
Photos: Tom Allen
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Within a few weeks of each other, samples of two new food vacuum sealer bag systems landed on my desk. After several weeks of using both, I can understand their popularity. Both are hand-held, battery operated (6 AA), and much more compact (and cheaper) than the countertop vacuum sealing systems on the market. The Handi-Vac (below left) is made by Reynolds and the Vacu-Seal (below right) is made by Pack-Mate. Both work with specially designed 1-quart and 1-gallon bags, but each has a different suction tip, so the bags are not interchangeable.

Handi-Vac
Vacu-Seal

I found both handy for sealing vegetables, leftovers, nuts, baked goods, and meats to store in the fridge or freezer. With oxygen being the main culprit in food spoilage, vacuum sealers essentially take zip-top bags to the next level by removing as much air as possible from inside the bag. Although bags for both systems sealed quickly and held tight going from freezer to fridge to room temperature, once the bags were opened, they didn’t reliably reseal. Both companies claim their bags can be reused, but I had mixed results, with some bags resealing fine and others slowly losing their seal.

Bottom line: Both are an easy-to-use, economical alternative to the vacuum sealer systems that cost upwards of $100. They work well for long-term storage, but because resealing is unreliable, are less effective for food you use frequently, such as cheese or cereal.

To buy: The Vacu-Seal is $29.99 (including five bags); additional bags are $19.99 for 20 gallon-size bags or 26 quart-size bags. Order it at Vacu-Seal.com. The Handi-Vac costs $9.99 (including three bags); additional bags are $3.29 for 9 gallon-size bags or 14 quart-size bags. It’s sold at Wal-Mart and Target.

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