Food vacuum packing machines (eg Tilia foodsaver): do they work?
I'm curious whether folks use a Foodsaver (available for $100 on Amazon for example) and whether they think it materially changes the shelf life of their foods.
Here's why I want it: I am starting to have someone to come and do food prep (both basic chopping as well as complete dishes) once a week. It would be very helpful to know that anything they do will keep for at least a week... so that they don't need to come twice. While something like the Foodsaver guarantee a week in the fridge? Or is it really only ideal for freezing?
Are there things that don't work well in the Foodsaver?
Are there other brands people like?
Yes. I have a Food Saver, and like it. I use the bags a whole lot more than jars or other containers because they take up a lot less room in the freezer. Plus the bags are "boil-in" for reheating. The thing I don't like about my Food Saver is the counter space it takes up. If I put it in a cupboard (or in the pantry) to free up counter space, I forget to use it!
But... Reynolds has introduced a very cheap (I think it's under ten bucks) hand held "Handi-Vac" device that removes the air from their special Reynold's Handi-Vac zip-lock bags that come in two sizes. The bags have a little "valve" in the corner, you put your food in the bag, zip it up, place the bag on the countertop with no food blocking the valve, cover the valve with the hand-held device and push the button. It sucks the air out. Works great, and the device is small enought it stores in a cutlery drawer in my kitchen island. The ONLY problem with this system is that the bags seem not to be microwave proof. But I feel fairly confident Reynolds will work on that in time. But it's also easy to transfer food to a microwaveable pouch, or a bowl to defrost it enough to heat on the stove. For the price difference between this system and my FoodSaver system, I can afford a lot of secondary bags/bowls/containers to transfer the frozen food into for heating/cooking. The bags can be easily resealed, so they're great for things you only use part of before returning to the freezer, or for putting the leftovers back into the same bag and "re-vacuuming".
The canning lid seals the jar for storage, the adapter allows you the mode to do it by, so you can have as many jars as you lids for. It makes piking up canning jars at resale shops a real bargain for storage, especially if you can find some of the 2 quart jars for storing dry beans & such.
I haven't tried it myself yet, but I've heard of people making a small hole in the lid with thumb tack or such and then keeping the hole sealed with a tab of electrical tape. This allows you quickly open the jar, with having to pry something under the edge of the lid, possible bending it, which would make useless for resealing again. I need to give it a try on a couple jars to see how it works before I'll go to the extreme of modifying all canning lids- or should I say, all my used canning lids since the the new ones are used for real canning first, before delegated FS canning lids.
I use my foodsaver every day and love it. It has saved me a fortune in cheese alone. I love it for leftovers and use it a lot for homemade soup. I freeze the soup in loaf pans and muffin tins and then individually freeze the soup blocks. Works very well and as mentioned, you can just boil the bag to heat.
With regards to the quart jars I use the all the time. I have my brown sugar in a quart jar. You place the adapter lid over the regular canning lid. It is attached to the foodsaver by a plastic tube. The tube sucks the air out of the jar and the canning lid seals it. The lid is easy to pop off. Well relatively easy. I just use a teaspoon to pop it off - then I use the teaspoon to dollop out the brown sugar and then reseal the jar. I have had the same canning lid on the same jar for a few years now. I have never felt the need to drill a hole into the lid. When I pop off the lid you can hear the vacuum seal pop and my brown sugar is light and soft and fresh - never dry and hard!
I also use the jars for lots of dry ingredients - especially ones that don't get used every day. Baking powder, rice flour, breadcrumbs, anything that will benefit from less exposure to air.
Living in Alaska - we need to pack fish and such and the foodsaver is the only option for that. Keeps in the freezer through the winter with no problem. Wetness isn't usually a concern if we just pat the fish dry before packing.
Our first one just gave up the ghost - I can't remember when we bought it but its been more years than I would care to admit as it would then give a fair approximation of my age. :-) Wasn't sure about the new version at Costco so am glad to hear good things - will be off to get mine this weekend.
M&M Jfood going to the theatre tonight and little jfood alone for dinner at the house. When she arrives she will have the choice of:
Sausage and Peppers
Braised Short Ribs
Chicken Pot Pie
Sauteed chicken with vegetables
All in foodsaver bags in the freezer.
Does jfood love it, YUP!!
I signed up for this site just for this post!
I highly recommend the Foodsaver! I bought one back around 2000 (paid $100) and after 7 years it died on me. The sealing strip went out. I was frantic about getting another one but couldn't decide which one I wanted. My original one was just a sealer and I had seen the ones that did jars and canisters. Today I found one for $64.00! It is the V2830W model, which is likely an out of date model, explaining the good price. It came with 2 canisters, the wide mouth jar sealer and 2 rolls of bag material. It also flips up for easy storage if you want to leave it on the counter top.
The features for this model include:
easy clean drip tray
built in roll storage and cutter
extra wide sealing strip
two speed settings
adjustable food settings
crush free instant seal
If anyone is even having a passing thought about getting one of these don't let the thought pass too long! I can't imagine anyone regretting having one!
I love our foodsaver. I also got mine at Costco it came with all the little extra's (canisters, wine cork, etc.) Since there are only two of us, things like heads of lettuce or bags of lettuce will be good for upwards of 2 weeks in the canisters. I grate my own italian cheese blend and it keeps for weeks on end.
The one thing I wish it did better, even though you do have some control of when the sealing stops is bread. I can't seem to get it to the right place. I either wind up squishing it or leaving too much air.
As far as wet stuff goes, they recommend folding a paper towel and sticking it towards the top right before the seal to absorb any juices so it doesn't get into the sealing part. You can also partially freeze stuff that is wet before sealing it up.
Also, I ordered the square marinade canister. Works really nicely, the marinade gets sucked up into whatever you're marinading in half the time.
So, yes - is it worth it - absolutely. I don't throw away nearly as much stuff. One word of caution, I would stick with the FoodSaver brand bags, the generic brand bags don't work nearly as well.
Yes, they do work very well. Keeping food in the fridge for a week or longer is no problem - for example, I buy sliced cheese in bulk for the kiddie sandwiches, and seal them off into 2-3" thick groups which sit in the bottom of my meat drawer for more than a month (nobody likes frozen cheese). They seem to last as long as I don't open them - once I open one, I transfer it to a regular zip lock and the cheese is always good while being used up.
I have been making my brined and smoked pastrami and yakibuta and sealing them into bags to send to my friends and relatives. They definitely last a lot longer than just wrapping in plastic wrap and sealing in a zip lock. I still ship them with an ice pack overnight, but once they get them, they can just toss it in the fridge for weeks without worrying about it.
And of course, they work wonderfully for freezing - no freezer burns, month after month.
I'm on my second Foodsaver. The first lasted about 10 years, then I bought a Black and Decker POS - it just didn't have the power. So I bought another Foodsaver at Costco last year - couldn't be happier. It is a noisy bugger - my wife hates my late night kitchen shenanigans when she's trying to sleep and I'm finishing off a batch of yakibuta down the hall. But anything quieter would be suspect, in terms of power.
The bags aren't very good for wet things - even hamburger sometimes doesn't seal right when the blood gets sucked up into the sealing area.
And the technology for their plastic containers isn't very good. I've been caught a couple of times, lifting the container by the lid, expecting that the vacuum is still holding the top on, and spilling coffee beans and mill ground corn meal all over the floor (rats!). They seem to seal well enough initially, but 2 weeks down the road, the seal is gone. When I bought the original Foodsaver, it came with both a regular and wide mouth Ball jar adapter - those sealed really well, just like they had been boiled and "popped". I often needed a can opener to pry the tops off. I'm going to have to look for those adapters again, since I can't find my old ones. Of course, the limitation is the 1 quart jars, where the new plastic containers can get much bigger - enough to hold a 2-lb bag of coffee beans. (What's the use, if they don't work?)
Wet things work very well if they are either frozen or partially frozen first. Then they don't get sucked up to the top where they affect the seal.
Also, wraping in plastic wrap works well too. It doesn't defeat the purpose, since it helps to prevent the moisture from affecting the seal, but still enables a perfectly airtight seal, thus preventing any freezer burns, etc.
Don't overlook the fact that frozen portions can be reheated in the Foodsaver bag by just putting it in boiling water like the boiling bag concept. I usually let things partially defrost first, but it is a great way to handle left over meats, barbeque, and works for soups and chili if you seal them after they are partially frozen. We use ours a lot and wouldn't want to be without it....