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Vacuum Seal Food Storage Ideas

A couple of years back my wife bought me one of those vacuum seal food storage contraptions. I got a lot of use out of it. We would buy the large packages of meat and seal up two thirds of it and stick it in the freezer for later use.

Now I would like to use it to store ready to eat meals and I need some Chowhound help. My wife is pregnant and I work out of town for weeks at a time. I would like to be able to do some serious bulk cooking so that lovely wife only has a minimal amount of work to do when she needs something healthy and nutritious to eat.

Does anybody have one of these machines? More importantly, does anyone know of certain types of food that do well for this sort of application?

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  1. I've most recently packaged up some chicken marbella with sauce in individual size packages. (The recipe is available on this list.) I use the variant that uses chicken breasts and cut them into big strips.) Put over noodles or rice. You can package up some rice and even noodles so it's supereasy to put the dinner together when she's busy.

    We also just made the beef birds from the All About Braising book. I package up the extras for dinners with the sauce. Those may be more work than you are looking for though.

    Another thing that's great to have in the freezer in the bags is mahogany beef stew (on epicurious.) Package up in individual size servings.

    1. I have the Rival Seal-A-Meal and generally use it for raw ingredients rather than finished dishes. But other than baked goods and other airy foods, which the vacuum will flatten, you can use the sealer on anything. If you make something very liquid, portion it into the bag and freeze the unsealed bag, upright, before suctioning. If you want to save space, you can then allow the food to defrost long enough to allow you to flatten the bag, then refreeze.

      1. Once or twice a year I'll barbecue about 20 lbs of pork shoulder in the smoker to make pulled pork, cooked slow and low (takes about 14 hours). After it's all pulled and cooled, I portion in out into Foodsaver bags, seal, and freeze the bags flat. It's good thawed, reheated, and mixed with some sauce.

        1. You may or may not already know this but in case you dont:

          When freezing packages of liquidy foods - where the liquid may get sucked back into the vacuum contraption - there are several ways to avoid disaster. One is to fill the vac bags and freeze them without sealing. Seal once the contents are solid and they won't leak into the guts of the sealer. Another way is to refrigerate the dish until it's thickened - some sauces will almost gel when cold - then you can fill bags and vac pack. And finally, you can freeze in temporary containers and then slip the blocks of food out and repackage and seal. I've tried all of these things at various times.

          Another tip - don't try to vacuum seal something like banana bread unless you've frozen it solid first. The sealer will compress it until it's about the density of a black hole and the size of a quarter. I guess that's good for, say, backpacking, but not so great for regular life.

          1. Big Hunks of meat is the best thing for your situation. A full sized Bottom round roast in the cryopack from Costco/Sams will make a ton of sliced roast beef. The possibilities of what to do next are endless. Grilled roast beef & cheese sandwich, Quesadillas, Burritos, beef Stroganof, beef & vegetable soup, throw a slice in ramen noodles, or just eat it on its own.

            Full length Pork Loins will make a lot of sliced meat. You can BBQ a bunch of chicken breasts at once, usually they are packaged in big packages. Someone mentioned Pulled Pork, put it in a bun with slaw on the side, or in burritos or chile.

            1. Can you vacuum seal sliced veges (ie bell peppers, carrots, etc for stir fry) and refrigerate? Also, how long will vacuum sealed meats last in the refrigerator as apposed to freezer?
              Thanks!

              3 Replies
              1. re: kiwigal

                Others will weigh in but I believe that you can't really vacuum seal fresh vegetables and fruit. The vacuum is powerful and will such the moisture out of things. It works well to vacuum things that are frozen, like stews, frozen meat, etc.

                That said, there's an attachment you can get so that you can use glass mason jars with a special top that you attach with a cord so that you can vacuum anything, I believe, without that problem.

                Also, come to think of it, I think there are newer kinds of containers they make that operate the same way as the mason jars. Plastic containers, rather than bags.

                Others who have actually used these should weigh in.

                1. re: kiwigal

                  I personally wouldn't bother doing that but I think you could. The vacuum would not suck all th moisture out of vegetables but it might squash them. Something hard - like carrots or beans or whatnot - could withstand the vacuum pressure, but a mushroom would be compressed flat. I've made the mistake of vacuum sealing banana bread and watched as the vacuum turned a nicely risen loaf into something with the density of a black hole in seconds.

                  Having said that, I think that vacuum sealing would extend the freshness of sliced veggies, so might be worth doing if it makes your life easier.

                  1. re: kiwigal

                    Absolutely!! I camp and cut up a weeks worth of fresh fruit before I leave and works great! Strawberries, melon, nectarines, peaches. Refrigerate or keep in cooler for a week. The strawberries were only thing that got "juicy" over the week, but still wonderful. Also cut up green peppers (red, yellow, orange)in chunks and then freeze. Open and take out just what I need to cook in recipes and then reseal the bag. Be sure to cut bag straight or it won't seal again.
                    If I can find it in freezer dept at the store, I seal and freeze myself at home!!!

                  2. jfood has sealed the following fully cooked dishes

                    -short ribs
                    -lasagne
                    -canneloni
                    -meat balls
                    -vodka sauce
                    -bolognese sauce
                    -sausage and peppers
                    -chicken pot pie
                    -chocolate cake (bad idea)
                    -brisket
                    -breaded chicken cutlets (not so great)
                    -fish with vegetables
                    -stewed chicken of various recipes (40 cloves garlic, coq au vin, etc)

                    Nothing better than a great meal only 20-25 minutes from start to finish.

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: jfood

                      For the foods that are a bit more runny (vodka sauce, bolognese sauce), do you freeze them before sealing them?

                      1. re: jpc8015

                        So here's the thing. I do use the vacuum sealer for lumpy items, meat, etc. But I figured out that it's actually much easier - and cheaper - to freeze liquidy things in heavy duty ziplock bags. You just fill bag with the sauce or whatever, zip partly shut and press out just about all the air. Voila - vacuum sealed. The vacuum bags are pretty expensive and it's just a much more complicated process to freeze the sauce first, then put into vacuum bag and seal.

                        1. re: Nyleve

                          To get even more air out of the ziplock bags, submerge in water to just under the seal line after zipping about halfway shut. The water will force the air out, then finish sealing.

                        2. re: jpc8015

                          Yes

                          jfood's process for sauces or braises.

                          He places in bags and onto a cookie sheet. 4-5 hours in the freezer until set and then he seals.

                        3. re: jfood

                          Thanks all. Jfood, couldn't agree with you more. :)

                        4. I made a lot of items for my pregnant sister-in -law when my brother was still travelling internationally. She liked the chunky dilled carrot soup, short-grained brown rice with sauteed vegetables and my zuchinni, green beans and tomatoes over herbed Arborio rice. Cooking up a whole can of McCann's Irish oatmeal and bagging it in individual servings was also appreciated for a filling but time-saving breakfast.

                          For warm weather drinks, I'll go to the local bulk produce vendor and buy two or three dozen lemons and or limes at a time and juice them on my KitchenAid juicer attachment. I'll put one cup of juice and one cup of sugar in a freezer bag, freeze and then seal. Then when I want a pitcher of fresh lemon or lime aid, I add the frozen juice/sugar mix to 6 cups of cold water. Better than any powdered mix.

                          CP

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: Chefpaulo

                            Hi Chefpaulo, can you recommend a vacuum sealer? Brand type, I'm meaning....thanks!

                            1. re: kiwigal

                              I'm on my second FoodSaver. I forget the model number but it was about $130. They make an incredible range of them for home and professional use. I say second, as my first broke about nine months after the warranty expired. A phone call to the company fixed it without a problem. They replaced it with a brand new one for $35 plus shipping. Companies that stand behind their products like that are a rarity these days.

                              CP

                          2. I was looking at buying one of the Foodsaver machines. I think that has a setting for liquid'y' items. Anyone else have one of those?

                            7 Replies
                            1. re: EV_Eats

                              I have the Food Saver set from Sams Club. It has the "Moist Setting" , but its not terribly recommended to seal moist food. If its too moist, and too much liquid gets vacuumed up, it will ruin the seal. You will know right away when this happens. Also... there is cleaning out the drip tray. You would be surprised how much liquid gets sucked up that you dont see.

                              Whenever I cure Canadian Bacon, Corned Beef or Pastrami I like to seal it in vac bags. I don't vacuum all the way, sort of leaving slack in the bag. A soon as I see it drawing juice up... I hit the seal button. Then turn it upside down and test the seal, to make sure it doesn't leak.

                              1. re: Rojellio

                                I can't see the sense of using a sealer if you can't vacuum all the way, as Rojellio describes. This means there's still air in the bag, so you haven't protected the food from ice crystals or freezer burn. Vacuum bags are in this case an expensive way to go. If there isn't going to be a good vacuum, you might as well use a zipper bag or two, pressing out as much air as possible, or sucking it out with a straw.

                                1. re: greygarious

                                  I like to dot it this way because a custom length 11" vac bag will fit a full brisket. And with a Pork loin I could put a full length loin in one bag, rather than cutting into 4 pieces to fit in zip lock bags. For curing it gives me a leak proof seal. I prefer the convenience.

                              2. re: EV_Eats

                                Jfood's foodsaver has a liquid setting and he has no idea what it accomplishes. When he used to place liquids in the machine and used the liquid setter, it still sucked liquids out, no surprise. Now jfood always freezes for a couple of hours and then freezes. Idea is to create a vacuum and anything other than as close to a vacuume as possible sorta defeats the purpose.

                                1. re: jfood

                                  Recently I saw a demonstration at Costco of the new Foodsaver, the one that stores vertically, not flat. They said you can now seal bags filled with liquid and it won't suck it all out. That's the big improvement.

                                  1. re: runwestierun

                                    Not sucking it all out and sucking out some of the liquid are two separate end results. The older version also does not suck all of it either.

                                  2. re: jfood

                                    I freeze sauces and things in liquid in pint/quart plastic soup containers from chinese restaurants before using my foodsaver. I also freez most "solids" on a cookie sheet (ie. fresh bagels) before it hits the Foodsaver.

                                2. I have a Food Saver Vacuum Sealer. This one is new and stays on my counter! I have owned one for over 10 years! I seal almost anything (including my daughter's wedding dress)! I wore out my last one :-)

                                  I agree with the others on freezing your bread first. But as for liquids, my sealer has a setting for liquids so I don't pre-freeze them. Just fill the bags and change the setting. Another thought - if you ever get "take-out", save those plastic dishes. I have made many pre-made individual dinners in them (i.e. Turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, veggie, gravy, meatloaf dinners, spaghetti, etc.) then put the plate inside the bag and seal it. I used to travel a lot so these worked wonderful for my DH - Just zap in the micro and a home cooked meal. I also do up a big dish of enchiladas and then individually do those as well.

                                  My DH also does a fantastic spaghetti sauce and does it in an 22 quart pot. We break that down and seal it in bags (our married kids ask for it as Xmas gifts).

                                  1. As usual, I'm late to the party but since I just bought my second Food Saver this topic caught my eye. Here's a tip for freezing baked goods, not involving any sealer except your own lungs but very effective. Place your muffins, cookies, etc. inside one of those Food and Bread bags (the flimsier plastic bags that you close with a twist tie rather than a zip lock.) Put a drinking straw into the bag and hold the bag tight with one hand. Suck the air out of the bag, remove the straw and use your twist tie.

                                    Just don't let anyone see you do this; you'll never hear the end of it. I know I didn't.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: mandycat

                                      As has been mentioned before, the same thing is doable with a zipper freezer bag and IMO is preferable because of the additional thickness of the bag. You zip the bag around the straw, suck, then pinch the straw as you simultaneously pull it out and press the zipper.

                                      1. re: greygarious

                                        I use mine constantly! There are only 2 in our house do I buy things like bulk cheese at Costco, divide it up and vacuum it. If I make a casserole, I refridgerate it and slice it in serving "chunks", then vacuum it. They come out of the bags perfect for heating up. I often buy meat on sale and seal it while still in original package. Double protection that way.

                                    2. I have placed a couple folded up paper towels between the sauce/more liquidy stuff and the opening of the bag and used my 'moist seal' button and that has worked fine. On soups and sauces I wouldn't do it this way but for meats with a bit of juices or something like that, vegetables, etc, it has worked just great.

                                      1. Have had 2-3 Foodsaver vac sealers... each an up-grade from previous model and each a YARD SALE or thrift store find... DIRT cheap.

                                        I asked first seller WHY she was letting it go and, of course, did it work. Said it worked just great (which it did) but that she had kinda been hooked by infomercial or demo on how you could save a ton buying larger, "family" sized packages of meats. With husband and two TEENAGE boys, she quick realized pretty much NOTHING hung around in freezer long enough to get freezer burned!?! I'm cooking for one & FS is ideal for me. Just about any package of meat in supermarket is too much for me. When I find a good sale (say boneless chicken), I seal in 1-2 serving packages... dinner and maybe left-overs for lunch. A portion for one goes from rock hard, frozen to ready to heat/cook after maybe 20-25 minutes in a container of room temp water.

                                        FS makes these neat canisters... that SORT OF work?? A few summers ago, they started popping up at yard sales all over the place... again cheap. Great for dry stuff, especially things like cookies or crackers that can get stale once opened. Problem is, they can lose their seal... unless you're constantly checking, stuff could sit in pantry for a long time with not much more protection than a zip bag or t-ware container. Canisters are clear, rigid plastic and even the smallest of beginning, hair-line cracks (usually on bottom) will cause them to lose seal.

                                        The attachment to use on mason jars if great! You don't need rings, just the lids. You can open jars with little force from regular opener and reseal as long as lid isn't bent/dented. I like it for things like dried beans/lentils, rice and small pastas. It's NOT for "canning" fresh stuff.

                                        This summer, spent total of $10 at 2 different yard sales and came home with at LEAST $50 worth of bags (pre-made and rolls of stuff) AND an up-grade machine. Being "frugal" would try to make bags just large enough for what I wanted to vac seal... not the greatest idea. Bags can be washed and reused... if ya skimp on size, they're pretty useless to reuse. You easily lose over an inch of bag when you vac seal, so make a bag significantly larger than what you need for FIRST use, so you have something usable to reuse.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: kseiverd

                                          Anything liquid I freeze in a plastic quart container first and then remove from container and seal. Moist baked goods I also freeze firs and then seal. it's worked great for the past 8 years.