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Looking for a good quality vacuum sealer for serious home use???

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Hi,

I am looking for a good quality vacuum sealer for serious home use. Mostly for food storage like preserving cheeses, spices and meats bought in bulk as well as creating high quality, home made convenience foods.

I am trying to avoid the cheapo units as the vacuum pumps in them seem to die quickly. Also, i am looking for a system that will allow me to purchase the sealing material in bulk, not little pre cut bags that cost a fortune.

I have no idea what the budget for this will be. I know commercial units cans easily run into the thousands of dollars, which is way out of my budget.

I guess I am trying to see if any other foodies out there have found a good solution at a reasonable price?

Any input is appreciated.

A-Regular-Joe

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  1. I think I may able to be some help here. I originally purchased a FS V2840 from Kohls and had an awful experience with it (thank you Kohls for such a great return policy). So, I really spent some time earching on good home vacuum products. Personally, due to size and cost constraints, I ended up with a FS Gamers Pro which have met my needs perfectly. I can use precut or bulk bags. It allows for continuous vacuum sealing. You can also control the seal levels.

    Now, if I had the space and the money I would have opted for one of the following:

    1) http://tiny.cc/cjFT5
    This is a rebranded unit offered by Cabela's. To my understanding you can use bulk bags to seal.

    2) http://www.provacuumsealers.com/
    This is Pro 2100/2300 which doesn't appear to be any different than Cabela's its just not "name brand"

    You can use wide mouth jars with these units too

    3 Replies
    1. re: cityhopper

      Those are some pretty heavy duty looking sealers. FWIW, I got my Foodsaver for ~$65 at Tuesday Morning 3 years ago. It only gets intermittent use, but I haven't had any problems with it. These seem to be something that Tuesday Morning here in ATL has pretty much all the time.

      I haven't tried any other brands of bags. Mainly b/c early on I picked up a box of four rolls of bags at Tuesday Morning for $15!. I only recently restocked and the replacement box was $40 at Costco. I keep looking to see if Tuesday Morning has the bags again but no luck.

      Anyway, you could burn through several Foodsavers, good return policy with the merchant or not, before you put in enough cash to equal the investment in the Cabela's one. The main thing I could see you needing the extra width for would be large cuts of meat, say racks of ribs or a packer-cut brisket. I'm only parting out bigger stuff so I haven't had anything that I couldn't fit into the 11" bags.

      1. re: ted

        thanks for the input. The width also allows you to seal multiple smaller bags at the same time....

      2. re: cityhopper

        The Cabela looks like a possibility, thanks....

      3. I got a FoodSaver at Costco years ago. Use it constantly!

        I use the rolls so I can make bags that fit my needs. Ironically, sometimes that means using an extra inch or two so that I can reseal the bags a time or two. And I do reuse them. In fact, I've learned that you can make the vertical seal that the manufacturer doesn't recommend. I do that all the time with good results.

        The machine is also great for resealing most manufacturers' bags -- that is the ones food come in like cereals, pastas, many cheeses, etc.

        I wish I could tell you what I paid but the prices at Costco are always reasonable. And whatever it was, it has MORE than paid for itself.

        8 Replies
        1. re: rainey

          Interesting. First positive long term review of a food saver that I have heard. Thanks for sharing!

          1. re: aregularjoe

            Really? I haven't read much about it because I've got my particular experience to rely on. And, as I've said, it's been consistently good.

            What are the general opinions of it like?

            1. re: aregularjoe

              Actually, your comment made me curious so I checked e-pinions to see what the consensus is. It's pretty consistently good. http://www.epinions.com/reviews/Tilia...

              Perhaps if you heard less flattering things it was about older or downsized models? I dunno. I just know I made an impulse purchase at Costco -- the top of the line model at the time -- and I've surprised myself by how much I rely on it.

              One thing I'll tell you about it is that I reseal the bags of all the grain-based products we use and the weevil problem we developed when we were out of our house for close to a year disappeared without using any chemicals. We had, previous to the FS, about gone crazy trying to eliminate them in a safe way.

              I also find it essential for mailing baked goods. I have sent moist quickbreads and tender crisp cookies successfully using the FS. I freeze the quickbreads so then don't get squished by the powerful vacuum motor and wrap them in parchment. And the tender cookies become much more durable as a unit when immobilized by the vacuum which I apply manually.

              1. re: rainey

                It's also wonderful for freezing homemade soups.

                I make triple batches and divide them into 4 or 5 portions. I ladle soup into generous-sized bags and freeze them on a shelf in the freezer with the tops open. When frozen I seal them and put them on the counter to thaw. When thawed, I stack them flat and a LOT of soup fits in a tight space.

                Another convenience for me is that my dogs can't smell vacuum packed food. I can have things out thawing that they would otherwise sneak off with.

                And then there's sauerbraten. Alton Brown as a fantastic sauerbrated recipe that makes a lot of brine. When I make it I marinate a second roast and vacuum seal it with half of the brine. Then I have a second meal ready to go in the freezer with no additional work.

              2. re: aregularjoe

                The only problems I've had with mine are when I try to scrimp on the bag size. Trying to seal too close to the contents causes problems with getting a good seal.

                1. re: ted

                  That's exactly why I've learned that it's more economical, ironically, to use an extra inch or two for the bags that I anticipate wanting to reseal. I also do the identifying on the edge that I'll cut away to open so that I'm never confused about the contents.

                  Even then, I wash my bags* and reuse them. I use the fragments as small as 3" x 2" for things like single tablespoons of tomato paste.

                  * I put bags that didn't contain meat in my dishwasher, putting them over the pegs on the rack at a 90˚ angle from the seal on the bottom. Bags that had meat, I wash by hand and then put in the dishwasher for the advantage of the super hot sanitation heating cycle.

                  1. re: rainey

                    rainey and ted,

                    I think you guys have hit the nail on the head about proper sealing technique.

                    Thanks...

                2. re: aregularjoe

                  Thanks rainey,

                  I will look at the foodsaver more carefully before I make a buying decision...

              3. You should consider a Sinbo Snorkelvac. Costs around $100 and uses bags that cost 3 to 5 cents each compared to 30-50 cents for Foodsaver or Seal a Meal. I've used one for a month now and like it fine. It doesn't draw as strong a vacuum as the old Foodsaver, but good enough to prevent freezer burn. It's a bit more complicated to use, but no big deal once you get used to the routine. And you need to be careful that what you are sealing is not so wet that liquids will get into the works, so you need to partially pre-freeze meats and such.

                As for reliability and customer service, I do worry about that. I've only been using mine for a month or so.

                4 Replies
                1. re: Zeldog

                  Thanks for the input. If you think of it, please chime in on this thread in a month or so and let us know how its going!

                  1. re: aregularjoe

                    Here's your update. I've been using the Snorkelvac pretty regularly and it's holding up fine so far. I've made several 5 pound batches of sausage and sealed 8-10 bags at a time and the machine doesn't seem to mind the extra work.

                    The best thing about it is I don't need to do a cost-benefit analysis every time I want to seal something. I find myself using it a lot more than I used the foodsaver. I bought 250 6 x 8 bags and 250 8 x 10 bags for a total of $25 (I shudder to think what the cost of a comparable amount of Foodsaver or Seal a Meal bags would be). The 6 x 8 bags are handy for sealing up single servings, and the 8 by 10s are good for sealing those half-bags of frozen mixed vegetables you would never waste an expensive Foodsaver/Seal a Meal bag on.

                    Another advantage: I often had bad seals with the Foodsaver, so I double sealed and even then had the occasional failure. Not necessary with the Snorkelvac. Zero bad seals so far.

                    I'll keep the Foodsaver around for a while longer, but I expect it will end up at the Salvation Army store.

                    1. re: Zeldog

                      How did you purchase? Online? Where?

                      1. re: aregularjoe

                        Online, from this site:

                        http://www.vacnbags.com/

                        They put their own label on the machine, but it's the same as the Sinbo. I bought from them because I could order the machine and bags at the same time and save a few bucks on shipping changes.

                        butcherpacker.com sells bags in smaller quantities if you don't want to buy 250 at a time.

                2. I've owned and used a FoodSaver for more than 16 years. It has gotten regular use since the day I bought it and have never had any problems at all with it.
                  These devices are great, and there's no better way for storing meats in the freezer long term with zero 'freezer burn'. I regularly make home made sausage and it's perfect for wrapping and storing these.
                  But whatever you buy just make sure you read the guidelines for using it (especially if you're storing vegetables) so you don't wind up growing a nice colony of botulism spores inside the bag. The vacuum+moisture creates the perfect breeding ground.

                  1. I have used Food Savers for over 20 years and wouldn't want to be without one. I currently have a 2840 and am happy with it. The only reason I don't use it more is because I don't have the counter space to leave it out, but I use it for lots of stuff. It has choices of vacuum settings as well as sealing times.

                    It is especially good when you have a small family (just me and DW here) and you want to take advantage of sale items. Chicken breasts, pork chops, ground beef, etc. go on sale, usually in the "family pack" size, so we buy them and split them up into individual bags/smaller packages. We also buy hot dogs in bulk from a local packer and split them up.

                    Vacuum sealing *does* make a difference. If you have a chest freezer, as we do, you know how stuff can migrate to the bottom and get lost. I have found vac sealed stuff I the bottom of the freezer more than three years old with no freezer burn and just as good as if it was frozen yesterday. Top that, Ziploc!

                    My favorite non-food use: sealing up a broken mercury thermometer so it stayed contained until I could turn in in on "hazardous waste collection day."

                    I usually use the rolls and make my own bags. For me the 8" ones are the most practical but there are times you need the 11" ones. The 6" bags are less useful for me.

                    I have learned several things over the years to getting and keeping good seals:

                    1. Wet meats (raw chicken breasts, pork chops, etc.) seal better if frozen on a cookie sheet first. An extra step, but worth it. Also some veggies like green pepper strips are best done this way so they don't freeze into a brick and are easier to use later. This also is true for berries, peas, etc.

                    2. Double seal the bags. I'd say "not needed" 95% of the time, but good insurance.

                    3. Use FS brand bags and rolls. Other brands, especially Wal Mart brand, just don't work well.

                    4. You can reuse the bags successfully. A word of caution, tho: Never reuse a bag that has contained raw protein items. You may be able to completely clean the bag, but it's not worth the risk.

                    Overall, Food Saver is a good brand. Cityhopper might have gotten a bum one, (no explanation of what the "awful experience" was) but that can happen with any appliance.

                    The Pro III/GameSaver models are heavier duty and would be my choice if I had the cash, but an upper line less expensive one should serve you well.

                    One common complaint from reviews I have read (but no experience with) is customer service is spotty at best. When you wear one out (sealing strip, pump, etc.) spare parts are not available and they don't have a repair dept. The only thing available from Jarden's Web site is the rubber gasket (but probably not for your model).

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: al b. darned

                      Thanks to all who have chimed in.

                      It seems that the foodsavers are getting very poor reviews over the last 1-2 years on Amazon. Perhaps the quality has gone down with newer production?

                      Can anyone report on recently purchased units?

                      1. re: al b. darned

                        My issues included poor vacuuming/suction, the machine trying to seal too quickly with a strong vacuum, and poor sealing. Now the latter issue may be due to the fact that the V3840 (please note I used the incorrect model number in my original post) is NOT continuous seal unit, so considering that, it was not the fault of the machine itself. Others seemed to have the same complaints regarding suction/vacuum efforts on the vertical models.

                        I am perfectly pleased with the FS Pro/III version. Suction is always strong. You have various levels to control the seal strength. I have yet to try any attachments. Only negative is that the unit is HUGE and likely not counter-top friendly to most people.

                      2. I have a sub-question - are the units being discussed in this thread useable for sous-vide cookings?

                        In other words, can you vacuum seal bags things with liquid or fat in them and would the plastic stand up to hot but sub-boiling water over a lengthy cooking times?

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: cowboyardee

                          Yes, the FS bags are entirely up to a lengthy stew in boiling water. I do it with rice and other leftovers all the time.

                          If you want to do it with liquid foods you'd have to prepare them the way I do my soups: freeze the liquid in an open bag, seal the bag with the bulky frozen lump, thaw the contents to flatten it out and refreeze in a flat, stackable shape. Actually, to cook it sous vide, you might want the bulky shape it first freezes in because it might fit in a pot more completely -- but prepare a large enough bag to seal over a horizontal mass.

                        2. Cook's Country magazine has recently rated them. A summary: The $470 Pragotrade Vaccum Sealer Pro 2300 was highly recommended. Also recommended were the Best Buy Foodsaver V2240 at $100, and the Rival Seal-a-Meal VS107, which is $62. The Reynolds and Zipvac versions, which are cheapest, were not recommended.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: greygarious

                            Glad to here the Pro 2300 was highly recommended. It appears to be the same model I found re-branded by Cabela and offered by Provacuumsealers.com

                          2. Thanks to all who have chimed in with additional info and follow ups!!!

                            You folkss are great