Feature-rich and easy to use. Attractive stainless steel and chrome design.
Big and heavy. More than twice the price of mid-range models.
Small and lightweight. Low price.
Awkward to use. Skimpy on starter supplies. No cord storage or extra features.
Fairly easy to use. Includes roll storage, cutter, cord storage, and generous starter supplies.
Drip tray is not removable for cleaning. Auxiliary suction device is available but not included.
Streamlined machine that's fast and easy to use. Reusable bags cut down on cost and waste. Mid-range price.
Instructions are unclear and the sealer isn't as easy to use.
We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
Rather than let your leftovers go to waste, you can use a vacuum sealer to preserve your food for a future meal. For what they can accomplish, vacuum sealers are relatively inexpensive appliances that can pay for themselves in just a few meals. But there are a number of options to consider, so it's best not to purchase without guidance.
For the typical home, getting an external vacuum sealer makes the most sense because it is not large like a chamber vacuum sealer and it can handle portions that you might not be able to seal with a handheld unit. The best models are easy to use and have a great degree of versatility when it comes to bag specifications.
If you continue reading, you can learn more about how to best use a vacuum sealer. However, if you've already decided that this will be your next purchase, consider one of the exceptional models we've already evaluated and listed.
Vacuum sealers work in tandem with specially designed plastic bags. The vacuum sealer sucks all the air out of the bag and then seals the bag’s opening with heat. This protects the food in the bag from oxidation, too much or too little humidity, mold spores, bacteria, and freezer burn.
You still need to refrigerate or freeze food that requires cold storage, and it’s not going to last forever. But it will remain good to eat for a considerably longer time (up to five times longer) than it would have if you’d stored it in the fridge or freezer without sealing it.
Currently Executive Chef at Bon Appétit Management Company, Steve began his tenure with Bon Apetit as Chef de Partie. He has over ten years of experience, including tenures at two- and three-Michelin star restaurants. Steve is passionate about all things cooking – products, supply chain, management, menu design, and budgeting.
There are three basic types of vacuum sealers. Consider what kind of jobs you want your vacuum sealer to handle and also your storage space.
If you plan to use your vacuum sealer mostly for smaller items such as deli meats, cheeses, small portions of produce, or single-serving leftovers, a handheld vacuum sealer may be your best choice. These smaller devices are portable and easy to hold and use, and they don’t require much storage space. They typically run on rechargeable batteries, so if you want to use your vacuum sealer for extended sessions – for example, cooking and sealing several meals Sunday evening so you’ll have a week’s worth of meals in the freezer – you might have to stop and recharge halfway through. Handheld sealers don’t have the power of larger devices and sometimes struggle to properly seal large bags.
Once only found in professional kitchens, these counter-hogging appliances are now available for residential kitchens as well.
Chamber vacuum sealers are larger, more powerful, and more expensive than the other types of vacuum sealers. But they do a great job sealing and preserving large batches of food or wet items like gravy and soup.
The entire bag of food goes inside the chamber, where the air is vacuumed out and the bag sealed. Some chamber sealers even have built-in cutters so you can customize your bag size.
These countertop appliances are the most common type of vacuum sealer used in home kitchens. The sealer clamps down on top of the bag, vacuums out the air, and then seals the bag.
Because the entire bag of food doesn’t have to fit inside a chamber, these devices are excellent for preserving large cuts of meat or big batches of food.
Some models come with attachments for sealing jars and canisters, as well. Most external vacuum sealers are reasonably sized and won’t take up too much counter space.
Ease of use
The Seal-A-Meal is a simple device that isn't as easy to use as some other models. But when you look at the finished product, you can’t tell the difference between a bag sealed by Seal-a-Meal and the others. To seal a bag, you must first place it carefully in the vacuum zone. (In our test lab, we found this to be a tricky process.) Then you press down on both sides of the lid, which requires two hands. The vacuum will start, and an indicator light will come on when it’s okay for you to take your hands away. When the sealing indicator light goes out, you open the cover and remove the bag. The cover release is a simple valve that breaks the vacuum seal.
Vacuum sealer systems help protect food from bacteria growth, but they don't eradicate all pathogens that can cause spoilage or illness. Treat vacuum-sealed food as carefully as you would any other perishable item.
If you want to store very large cuts of meat, you’ll want a vacuum sealer capable of sealing large bags. While the majority of devices seal 8-inch and 11-inch bags, for the largest food items, choose a unit that seals bags up to 15 inches across.
Vacuum sealers require special heavy-duty bags that are generally more expensive than the regular plastic bags used for short-term food storage. Some brands of vacuum sealers work with any bag, while others only work with their own brand of bag.
Before selecting a specific vacuum sealer, check out its bag specifications and consider the following:
The cost per bag
Whether or not you can use other brands’ bags
The ease of finding bags at your local store
How many bags you are likely to use per week
Whether or not the bags can be reused
Vacuum-seal potluck dishes to avoid spilling food in the car. Once you arrive, simply open the package and pour the food into your serving bowl.
Save lemon juice, chicken broth, minced herbs, crushed garlic, and similar ingredients that are typically measured out in small amounts by first freezing the food in ice cube trays, then vacuum-sealing the frozen cubes. Remove the cubes as needed, and then reseal the bag.
If you buy meat in bulk, separate it into the portion sizes that work best for your family, then seal and freeze.
To keep a bag of potato chips, cereal, or other dry snacks fresh, turn off the vacuum and use the appliance to seal the bag so the food stays fresh but isn’t crushed.
Make sure you label sealed bags with the contents and date sealed before placing them in the freezer or fridge.
If you want to preserve powdered ingredients like flour, sugar, baking soda, or boxed spices, vacuum-seal them in their packaging to prevent powdery build-up from sucking into your machine.
Leave a bit of space at the top of bags you expect to open and reseal.
Some vacuum sealer bags can be rinsed and used again, provided you haven’t used them to store raw meat.
If you spot bags for your vacuum sealer on sale, we advise you to go ahead and stock up.
Some vacuum sealers can be operated with one hand (or no hands), while others require two. Consider how simple you want your sealer to be, and how much you’re willing to pay for it.
A vacuum sealer with a large, strong sealing bar will provide the best protection for your food.
If storage is a major issue, consider a handheld vacuum sealer. These are small enough to stow in a drawer.
A removable, washable drip tray is a must if you plan on sealing meats in marinades, gravy, or sauce.
Vacuum sealers with manual controls let you decide exactly when to stop vacuuming and when to start sealing. This makes it easier to preserve delicate, wet, or bulky food items.
Perhaps you want to save soft fruit like berries, but you don’t want them to be crushed by the vacuum. First, freeze your clean fruit until it is just firm. Then go ahead and use your vacuum sealer to preserve the frozen fruit.
Look for a vacuum sealer that clamps down automatically rather than requiring you to manually keep the clamp closed with your hand.
Speed and features
At just 11.0 seconds to evacuate our quart bag of marbles, the V4840 was the fastest vacuum sealer we tested. (It took another 9 seconds to finish sealing the bag before it would release it. And beyond how quick it is, the list of perks this vacuum sealer provides goes on and on. The top lid conceals storage for a roll of bag material. A convenient sliding bag cutter is also stashed in the lid, allowing you to obtain the precise bag size you need. The built-in auxiliary vacuum device, which works with both zipper bags and other vacuum storage devices, is extremely handy. Top control buttons let you choose "Seal Only," "Moist," or "Dry," as well as a "Cancel" command. A row of LEDs shows progress. There’s even an indicator that alerts you when the removable drip tray is full.
You may be able to reuse bags if they contained fruits and vegetables, but never reuse bags that sealed raw meat.
The price range for food vacuum sealers is a wide one.
Typically, expect to spend the least for a handheld device – $20 to $30 will buy you a quality unit – and the most on a chamber vacuum sealer, which will set you back several hundred dollars.
For the majority of cooks, however, an external vacuum sealer is the best choice. These handy devices are quite reasonably priced; expect to spend $40 to $60 on a quality unit.
Q. Can any type of food be vacuum sealed?
A. You can vacuum seal just about any food. For delicate foods, however, it’s better to preserve freshness by sealing the bag without vacuuming out the air.
Notably, most vacuum sealer manufacturers recommend that you avoid sealing mushrooms and soft cheeses, as the lack of oxygen in the sealed package can encourage mold growth in these items.
Q. How would a vacuum sealer help me save money?
A. A vacuum sealer can help you save money in several ways. Vacuum-sealed foods stay preserved much longer than foods that are stored the “regular” way. Therefore, you can save money with a vacuum sealer because you’re not throwing away as much spoiled or stale food.
Food vacuum sealers make it very easy to buy economically in bulk, then seal and store portion-size bags of food for later use. This is another way you can save money in the long run with a vacuum sealer.
Q. Are vacuum sealers only for food?
A. No. You can also use your vacuum sealer to seal toiletries before travel (no more leaking shampoo in your suitcase); protect photos and important legal documents; preserve garden seeds for next year’s planting; keep small items like game pieces, craft supplies, or tiny nuts and bolts together; and create small first-aid kits for travel.
Q. Besides using a vacuum sealer, how else can I make sure none of my food goes to waste?
A. Plan your meals, use a shopping list, and avoid impulse purchases at the grocery store. Brown-bag your leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch or freeze them for use at a later meal. Store cereal and other grain-based products in airtight containers. Use slightly wilted produce in smoothies, soups, or stews. And don’t automatically toss food just because it’s reached its expiration date; many foods are perfectly fine to eat even several days past that date.
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