The 3 biggest problems with most external suction type vacuum sealers are: (#1) As they draw air out of the bag they also draw liquids out of food such as steak, chicken and fish. If this liquid reaches the pump in most of the machines, especially the cheap ones, its game over. Since most can not be repaired, you throw it out and buy a new one. (#2) The front area of the bag that get sealed almost always gets slime on it when wet products are placed in the bag or when vacuum pulls the slime up to the top of the bag. The cheap heat sealing bars then fail to completely seal the bag. (#3) High cost of the bags.
Because I planned to use mine mostly for expensive wet meat products, I spent hours and hours on the net researching them. I was lucky and came across Thom Dolder of PMG. He had been selling vacuum sealers for 25 plus years and knew all of the shortcomings mentioned above.
He sold me a Vacupack model which he designed to solve the above problems: ( #1) It has a non corrosive piston pump that moisture does not destroy. You can actually clean it by flushing the machine with water. (#2) It has a heavy duty powerful heat sealing transformer and sealing bar which supply enough heat to burn through grease and other fluids and put a good seal on the bag. In addition, it is not automatic so YOU control how long the bar stays hot sealing the bag. When the juices stop flowing through the bag, you let up on the sealing bar. (#3) With the new style "Vacustrip" bag, the cost of the bags came down from about .40 cents a bag to .15 cents a bag.
Have sealed over 600 wet slimy bags to date without a single failure. SAD TO SAY, the manufacturer who made the machines for Thom closed shop and you can't get new ones. They turn up once and a while on ebay. A testament to their quality is how many people bid on them and the fact that they often get $150.00 or more which is about 1/2 the original price. FINALLY, don't be afraid to bid on a used one because "unlike" 90% of the vacuum sealers on the market, these are not throwaways. They are made to be completely rebuilt and Thom at PMG stocks all the parts.
E, jwmenehune, Aloha Kaua: (You no go stay go with the rest? Pololei! Hawai'i nei was a better place before you guys all left.)
Anyway, vacuum sealers are great, but there are a couple caveats. First, you have to think of them (at least the FoodSavers) like an inkjet printer--they're cheap, they do most jobs, but the costs of the consumables can break you. Second, plan on spending some more $ on bins or baskets for the freezer, hiki no? All those plastic bags get slippery, and when the stack avalanches, you can poke holes through the soft bags and get leaks/freezer burn. Third, if you get one, make sure right away to check out the metal ribbon/strip that actually melts the plastic--it needs to be totally smooth and continuous. I had a FS that had a TINY little wrinkle inda ribbon, and it caused the bags to get *too* melted at that place, which can leak air latahs. In such a case, double sealing does no good. Fourth, you need to be crafty to seal things with much liquid in them (e.g., like freeze first, then seal wikiwkiki, or put paper towel in to slow the juice from preventing the seal). And be prepared to wipe the inside edges clean/dry before try seal.
Aloha, and tell your people to hele back soon--these Tahitians were murder.
We bought an older model a few years ago from a neighbor's yard sale for 5 bucks. She had gotten it at a yard sale 7 years before that, and never gotten around to using it.
Like you, I had been thinking about getting a Foodsaver, but just wasn't sure if I'd get my money's worth.
I am here to tell you, I love this thing. When my old one gives up the ghost, I will be first in line for a new fancy schmancy model. I often buy big packages of chicken, pork chops, ground beef, brisket, etc. And I wanted some better way to freeze it in portions for hubby and me, that would keep out freezer burn and take up less space in the freezer.
As Hank H says, I too double seal my bags. Makes a world of difference in the durability of the seal. Also, if I'm packaging a fairly juicy portion of meat, I fold a paper towel and slide it in one side to absorb some of the moisture, keeping the sealing edges dry when the vacuum pumps the air out.
I found some rolls of the rolls of bag material at Wal-Mart a while back that were cheaper than the Foodsaver brand.
I love these in asparagus season! I blanch them and seal them, and when I steam them in the winter, they're almost as good as freshly picked.
I had a foodsaver that I got at Costco about 8 or 9 years ago. I packed many hundreds of pounds of fresh fish with that thing as well as a lot of meat and other assorted food stuffs. It was getting kind of finicky drawing vacuum on some bags so I finally upgraded and got one of these:
It's definitely more expensive than the FS was but it is built like a tank and works better than the FS.
Honestly, I'd recommend either one depending on your budget.
You can get the boxes of rolls at Costco for a pretty good price. They will work with either sealer.
Echo the other comments. I like to fish and there is little to no loss of quality when it's freezer packed.
Agree, don't buy the bags. I just bought 5 rolls at a ridiculously low price fron an internet special.
I have the basic model; but if you're a hunter or plan on using it a lot, I'd consider the Professional..I know it works faster and may be a better choice if you're using it a lot. The basic model takes a little practice/dexterity to fit the bag into the vacuum slot. I'm guessing the Pro Model doesn't have that problem; but that's really a minor quibble.
I 2nd the opinion of the FoodSaver. I've had mine for 4 years now and have had no issues with it. Mine is probably less expensive than the "pro" model and was recently on sale from the FoodSaver folks for $89 including a few bags and accessories. Check their website because they run specials frequently.
I have a Foodsaver Professional III. I use mine a lot. I, primarily, use it to freeze food with.
I discovered sort of a neat trick last Thanksgiving. I wanted everything I could to be made up or partially made up before the big day. I peeled the potatoes and sucked them down in a Foodsaver bag. They stayed in the refrigerator without browning for 2 days before I took them out and cooked them. I preblanched the green beans and did the same thing. I now buy fairly large quantities of green beans when they are on sale, preblanch and freeze in Foodsaver bags. All I have to do now is saute them when I want.
Freezing meat in a Foodsaver bag eliminates the air so no freezer burn and it allows me to defrost in a sink of water without the meat floating as much. With no air in the package, the meat thaws faster too because the air would insulates the meat from the water thawing it.
About the only thing I do with one outside the cooking arena is store silver in them...no air no oxidation.
You can buy 50 foot rolls of plastic on ebay. Watch the Foodsaver site. Every couple of months they have a 50% off sale. Add that with the free shipping on orders over $100.
Don't bother buying the bags, they are expensive and wasteful. Just buy the 8 and 11 inch rolls.
I have not used the canning jar lids. I think they would work great but I usually forget to use them.
Keep the seals on the Foodsaver clean or it won't seal well.
I often double seal my bags... for sure for sure.
1 last thought. I have enough counter space to keep mine out all the time. If I didn't have it out, I wouldn't use it near as often. If you don't have a place to keep one out and available, you probably won't use it so you might want to pass on it.