Food vacuum-sealers are one of the bigger-ticket kitchen appliances that raise the question, Are they worth it? I gave two of the more popular versions a test run and was impressed at how easy they make it to preserve fresh vegetables, fruit, and meat. They also reduce waste from spoiled food and make buying in bulk worthwhile.
How they work: Oxygen is the reason most foods spoil or go stale, and these machines work by simply removing the excess air from heavy-duty bags or plastic containers. Both of the models I tested excelled at extending the life of refrigerated and frozen fresh fruits and vegetables. They also prevented freezer burn on raw meat and poultry and kept cereals and cookies from going stale. I found them particularly useful at keeping refrigerator staples like hummus, lemon curd, and broth from spoiling before I could use them. Both systems also offer plastic lids that fit Mason jars, which you can then vacuum-seal. The major difference between the two is the way they operate.
Operation: The FoodSaver is a long, heavy appliance with a flip-up lid. You raise the lid, insert the opening of a bag into the slot, and then clamp down the lid. Then you push a button for the FoodSaver to vacuum out excess air and automatically seal the bag shut by heating a strip along the opening. To vacuum-seal FoodSaver canisters, you insert a plastic tube onto the front of the appliance, hook the other end into the canister, and press a button to vacuum out the air. A light tells you when vacuuming is complete.
- It can be used to seal cereal bags, potato chip bags, and plastic bags.
- Available rolls of bag material let you custom-size a bag to fit oversize foods, such as big cuts of meat.
- Bags can be reused, although each time you open one you must cut off the top, leaving you with a smaller and smaller bag.
- Sealing the canisters requires the extra step of attaching a plastic tube to the appliance.
- The FoodSaver canisters are not freezer-safe so can be used only for leftovers in the fridge or for pantry staples.
- Several designs are available, but they all eat up quite a bit of counter space.
What’s included: FoodSaver appliance, 2 canisters, 10 bags, two 10-foot rolls of bag material. Jar lid is an extra $9.
Price: $140 plus $19 shipping and handling from FoodSaver.com.
Operation: Both bags and canisters are sealed by the use of a wand that attaches to the appliance. You fit the wand onto the green port on the VacuWare containers or bags, push a button, and the vacuum starts. A light goes on when all the air has been removed, and you push the button again to turn off the vacuum.
- Sealing freezer-safe canisters is simple and fast.
- The appliance’s small footprint takes up little counter space.
- It comes with a small manual travel pump, which can be used at the office, in the car, or anywhere you don’t have access to electricity.
- The appliance can be used only with VacuWare bags and canisters.
- Sealing the bags is a two-step process that requires some practice.
- Bags can’t be reused.
What’s included: FreshStation appliance, travel-size pump, 3 containers, 2 jar lids, 12 pouches.
Price: $160, plus $20 shipping and handling from VacuWare.com.
Both models performed fast and sealed well; both are also pretty loud. You’ll use these more if they’re in plain view, so pick a design that works with your counter space. The FoodSaver operates particularly well with bags, so choose this one if freezer storage is your goal. For keeping canisters and jars of vegetables and leftovers in the refrigerator or freezer, the VacuWare is a good choice.