I’ve always wondered, do home vacuum packaging systems really keep food fresher? I recently took one home to find out, using it to suck the air out of the following: bags of meat, fish, stock, and breadcrumbs destined for my freezer; containers of fresh herbs and greens headed for the refrigerator; and half-full bottles of wine.
My conclusions? Yes, air-deprived parsley lasted several days longer than usual (though not three to five times as long, as the manufacturer claims), frozen fish and meat escaped freezer burn, and good wine kept some nuance into day two. Plus, the system I tried, the Foodsaver, gave me good reason to buy food in bulk: longer and more efficient storage (food sealed in vacuum- packed bags becomes very compact).
A couple of caveats, though. An occasional bag did seem to let in air over time, whether due to a defective seal or a puncture, I don’t know. Also, like your toaster, the Foodsaver wants to live on your counter, where you’ll see it and use it. So before you buy, ask yourself if you’ve got two narrow feet of counter space that you’re willing to surrender.
The Foodsaver comes in several models; I tested the top-of-the line Professional II version, which has a handy built-in bag storage and cutter feature, a manual override for stocks and fragile foods, and a few other practical features. These seemed like extras at first, but-I now consider them essential; I wouldn’t want a lesser model. Foodsaver machines and accessories are available from major housewares stores nationwide and from Chef’s Catalog (www.chefscatalog.com or 800-338-3232). They range from $120 to $320, depending on the model.