Food prices are the highest they've been in decades and they continue to rise. One of the best ways to save money is with a vacuum sealer (this article tells you how).
You can save even more money by knowing which vacuum sealer bags to buy. Since bags are the biggest ongoing expense of vacuum sealing, this is important to get right.
Here are the factors to consider when buying vacuum sealer bags--for edge sealers and chamber sealers both--so you can get the most bang--or bag--for your buck. We'll also talk about sous vide, vacuum bag safety, re-using, recycling, and more.
The Best Deals on Edge Vacuum Sealer Bags at a Glance
Here are the best deals we found on edge vacuum sealer bags (also called suction, channel, or clamp sealers), in alphabetical order. We linked to the most popular bag sizes and also to the brand so you can look at everything they have available.
Some brands are conspicuously absent: FoodSaver, Nesco and Nutrichef. Their prices couldn't match these, and in some cases were more than twice as expensive.
There are more brands with similar prices, but we listed the top 5 with the greatest number of positive ratings. If you want more options, check out Mrang, MaiFlaFre, Potane, and VacYaYa bags. Different makers offer different sizes and variety packs which may appeal to you.
You may have heard that you need to buy bags that are the same brand as your sealer (e.g., FoodSaver bags for a FoodSaver vacuum sealer, Nutrichef bags for a Nutrichef vacuum sealer, etc.). This is absolutely not the case (even if the manufacturer says so).
All textured bags will work with all channel vacuum sealers.
You may also think that a brand name bag will be better quality, but this is generally not the case, either. In fact, there's a good chance that most vacuum sealer bags are made in the same factory in China.
Some bags are thicker and heavier than others (e.g., 4 mil vs. the standard 3 mil), but this isn't necessarily a good indication of quality. Thicker bags can be better for long sous vide cooks (more than 6 hours), and they may be slightly better for long-term freezer storage, but otherwise, it doesn't really matter. Our recommendation is to go with the standard 3 mil thickness.
02frepak (3.5/11 mil) See all 02frepak bag/roll sizes on Amazon
4-8"x20' + 4-11"x20' (160' total)
Avid Armor* (3/9 mil)
*Recyclable (both types of bags)
FoodVac (3.5-4 mil) See all FoodVac bag/roll sizes on Amazon
Nutri-Lock (3.5 mil) See all Nutri-Lock bag/roll sizes on Amazon
*Recyclable (both types of bags)
2-8"x25' + 2-11"x25 (100' total)
WeVac (3 mil/11 mil) See all WeVac bag/roll sizes on Amazon
The Best Deals on Chamber Vacuum Sealer Bags at a Glance
Chamber sealers aren't as popular as channel sealers (primarily because they're more expensive), so there aren't as many reviews on Amazon. Still, we recommend buying the cheapest bags you can find, because, once again, all the bags are probably made at the same factory in China, and differences in quality will be negligible.
Chamber sealers remove air from inside the vacuum chamber, so the bags don't need special texturing to help "push" the air out like channel sealer bags. Chamber vacuum sealer bags are smooth on both sides. (You can use textured bags, but you don't have to.)
As you can see, chamber vac bags are cheaper than edge sealer bags, which is one of the advantages to having one of these bigger, heavier, more expensive sealers. But you have to be careful when you buy: because the prices vary a lot, even among the same brands, including those listed here. Always buy the largest quantity you can afford to save the most money--vacuum sealer bags don't have an expiration date.
Avid Armor (3 mil)
*Recyclable (both types of bags)
Online Packaging Solutions (3 mil) See all Online Packaging Solutions chamber bags on Amazon
QualiVac (3 mil) See all QualiVac chamber bag options on Amazon
UltraSource (3 mil, 4 mil, 5 mil) See all UltraSource chamber bag options on Amazon
Channel Sealer Bags Vs. Chamber Sealer Bags: What's the Difference?
As we said, channel sealers require a textured bag to help "push" air out of the bag. Chamber sealers remove air from an entire chamber, and because the pressure is the same inside and outside the bag, there is no need to "push" air from the bag.
You can use textured bags in a chamber sealer, but you can't use smooth bags in a channel sealer.
Because chamber sealer bags don't require any texture, they're cheaper than suction sealer bags--although you really do have to comparison shop and buy in bulk to get the best deal. If you buy chamber vac bags in small quantities, you may end up paying as much as you would for edge sealer bags.
How to Buy Channel Vacuum Sealer Bags (Factors to Consider)
If you want to read about chamber vacuum sealer bags, skip to the next section:
Here are the most important factors to consider when buying channel/edge/suction vacuum sealer bags.
The Right Kind of Bags (Textured)
If you have a channel sealer, the bags have to be textured. The machine can't remove air if the bag doesn't have one textured side.
A channel sealer can seal a smooth bag--in fact, it can seal just about any kind of plastic bag, although very thin plastic might melt--but it can't vacuum air out of them.
Since channel sealers are the most popular type of vacuum sealer, it's easy to find textured bags. Just be sure the bags you're looking at are for "FoodSaver" or "Seal-a-Meal" sealers, which are exclusively edge sealers.
As we've already said, price should be your main consideration when buying vacuum sealer bags. (After choosing the right kind of bag, of course.)
Any brand of textured bag will work in any channel sealer. So there's no reason to pay more for a name brand bag.
You may doubt us, especially if your vacuum sealer manufacturer told you that you need to buy their bags, or that their bags have a special configuration designed to work only with their vacuum sealer. But trust us: you don't have to. If you link to the brands we recommend above, you'll see that they get overwhelmingly positive reviews, and that they will work with any edge sealer.
To calculate the price per bag or price per foot of a bag roll, divide the price by the total number of bags or total footage of rolls. Here are two examples:
- If the price is 25.99 and the total number of bags is 100, then the price per bag = 25.99/100, or $0.25 per bag.
- If the price is 23.99 and the total feet in the roll(s) is 150, then the price per foot = 23.99/150, or $.16 per foot.
If there are different sized bags or rolls included, just keep it simple and use the total number instead of trying to figure out the price for each size.
To get the best prices, you have to buy in quantity. If you buy smaller amounts (or shorter rolls), you can end up paying twice as much or more than the prices we list above. You should buy the biggest quantity of bags (or rolls) you can find, because the larger the quantity, the cheaper the per-bag or per-foot price.
Is this always true? Probably, but if you're not sure, you can do the math yourself: divide the price by the total number of bags or total footage of rolls to get the price per bag or per foot of roll.
For channel sealer bags, a large quantity means at least 100 bags or 100 feet of rolls. If you buy less than this at once, you'll probably pay too much. If you can find even larger quantities, you may save even more: you can see that the 200 bag quantities above have the lowest prices.
And always be sure you check how many bags (or how many feet of bag roll) you're getting, because makers don't package all the different sizes the same way. For example, don't assume that because one box has 1,000 bags in it that another size will have same amount. Check to make sure (and do the math)!
Don't worry about buying too many bags or rolls. Vacuum sealer bags last forever. They won't spoil (unlike the food you're buying them for). So get that giant pack of bags or rolls, and feel good about stocking up, and about how much money you save.
Rolls or Pre-Cut Bags?
In many cases, rolls are cheaper than pre-cut bags--but not always. And, they're great because you can cut them to size. So if you have a long rack of pork ribs, you don't have to cut it to fit into bags; you can cut the bag to fit the rack of ribs.
On the other hand, bags are more convenient because you don't have to cut them and seal one end before you can pack your food as you have to do with rolls.
As for price, it's hard to compare bag prices to roll prices without knowing how many bags you'll get out of a roll. Our rough estimate is that the average bag size will be about 1 foot of roll. Therefore, a 50-foot roll will make about 50 bags.
Some vacuum sealers have a built-in bag cutter and a place to store a roll of bags. On most vacuum sealers, the bag storage only works for small rolls of about 25-50 feet, so this won't work if you're buying the largest rolls you can get (which you should be doing if you want to save money).
A built-in bag cutter is a great feature because it gives you a perfect, straight edge every time. Ragged edges can result in poor seals, so this is kind of an important consideration. If you're not good with a scissors, you may want to be sure your sealer has a cutter, or go with pre-cut bags.
When you buy rolls, be sure you look at how long the roll is. Pictures don't always show the size very well, so read the fine print and be sure you're getting a good price per foot. Otherwise you may end up paying as much for a roll (maybe more!) as for pre-cut bags.
Quality (Getting Good Seals)
If you read the reviews on Amazon, these "no-name" brands get mostly positive reviews (more than 80% 4-5 stars). However, the negative reviews are of some concern. People say the bags are thinner than name brands, or that they won't lay flat, or that the seals don't last, or that up to half of the bags won't seal, among other complaints.
In some cases, these complaints may be valid. Nutri-Lock bags, for example, have a textured side that's only 4 mil thick, about half what the standard thickness is. So even if all of these bags are made in the same factory in China (which we believe is probably the case), they may be made to different specifications.
But even if these no-name brand bags are thinner, they should still hold a seal.
Edge sealers in particular can be really finicky. If you're used to using a certain brand of bag--say, FoodSaver--and have recently switched to a cheaper brand, it might take a few tries to figure out how to seal it.
Here are some tips to help you get good seals:
Finally, one reviewer said he was able to get good seals by holding the bag up and at an angle to the sealing channel, which probably worked because it prevented liquids from running into the seal area.
One basic rule is that the open end of the bag can't be any wider than the seal bar on the vacuum sealer. On most channel sealers, this is 11 inches; thus,11 inches is the widest bag you can seal with a standard channel vacuum sealer.
Bags come in a lot of different sizes. Most people like to have a supply of big bags and small bags on hand (and two-three sizes are usually enough, but it's good to know you can get extra long bags as well as extra small bags if you need them).
In the table above, we sized bags by volume (and give dimensions, too) to give you an idea of how much a bag will hold. The volumes are estimates and depend on the type of food you're putting in them, but in general, a good supply of "pint," "quart," and "gallon" bags should work for most of your sealing needs.
Note that in some cases, there are different dimensions for the same volume. For example, an 8"x12" and a 10"x13" bag are both considered "quart" sized.
"Pint" bags are usually 6-8 inches wide on the sealing end. They can be different lengths, so may hold more or less than an actual pint.
"Quart" bags are usually 10-11 inches wide on the sealing end. They can be different lengths, so may hold more or less than an actual quart.
It's probably an obvious point, but bigger bags and rolls are more expensive. However, they are also more versatile and useful, so you should plan on having some big bags or rolls on hand.
Some vacuum sealers have an extra long seal bar, up to 16 inches (like the Weston Pro 2300). This can be useful, but those extra large bags also cost quite a bit more, so it may not be a feature you'll use as much as you think you will.
Vacuum sealer bags are measured in mils, which is 1/1000 of an inch. Channel vacuum sealer bags have one smooth side and one textured side, so they will always have two widths.
The standard width of the smooth side is 3 mil. The standard width of the textured side is 9-11 mil. When looking at bag thickness, it is generally the smooth side that matters, so bag thickness will be given as "3 mil" or "4 mil."
Is there an advantage to thicker bags (i.e., 4 mil)? They are definitely sturdier, so if you're going to be subjecting the bags to harsh conditions, a thicker bag may be the right choice.
For example, a long sous vide cook of more than, say, 6 hours (some recipes call for up to 72 hours of cook time). Thinner, cheaper bags may not be able to stand up to a long cook like this, so you may want some 4 mil bags on hand if long sous vide cooks are something you do.
Thicker bags are also less likely to be pierced by bones or other sharp pieces of food. So you may want to keep some thicker (4 mil) bags on hand for storing meats with bones.
However, there's no guarantee that a thicker bag won't get pierced by a sharp bone, so you may or may not get your money's worth in this case (thicker bags are more expensive).
In general, 3 mil bags are fine for vacuum sealing, freezing, sous vide, and everything else you can think to do with them. VacMaster makes special vacuum bags (for chamber sealers) designed to "withstand heat" better than standard chamber bags--but they are 3 mil thick, the same as their standard bags. They supposedly have extra layers and special adhesives that allow them to withstand heat better. But unless you've had issues with standard bags, we don't see a need for these.
You can spend more and get thicker bags or specially designed bags if you want the peace of mind, but you probably don't need to.
(And keep in mind that there is a failure rate with all vacuum sealer bags, which means that no matter how much you spend or what brand you buy, you are going to have some rate of failure: some bags won't hold a seal. So you won't necessarily fix this problem by spending more or buying thicker bags, because a small apercentage of all vacuum bags fail.)
All the bags we linked to in the tables above are standard 3 mil bags.
A lot of good reviews is another way to find peace of mind when buying a brand you've never heard of. If a brand has thousands of positive reviews, great! You can be confident that you're getting a good product.
But what if a brand doesn't have very many reviews? It could be that it's a newer brand, or it could be new to Amazon, or new to the American market. A lack of reviews doesn't necessarily mean you shouldn't buy a brand.
We found the lowest-priced brands with the most reviews. But if you find a brand with an even lower price and fewer reviews? We encourage you to give them a try--because like we said, there's a good chance that the quality of all of these bags is about the same (possibly exactly the same).
We only talk about brand to tell you (again) that you do not need to buy bags made by the same maker as your vacuum sealer. No matter what anyone says, you do not need to use FoodSaver bags to use with your FoodSaver vacuum sealer. You won't get "better" results with them.
There are two types of vacuum sealer bags: bags for channel sealers (textured) and bags for chamber sealers (smooth). All textured bags will work with channel sealers, and all smooth bags will work with chamber sealers. (Actually, textured bags will work with chamber sealers, too, but they're more expensive, so there's no reason to go down that road.)
Is there a quality difference among brands? Maybe, but probably not.
So once again, buy the cheapest vacuum sealer bags you can find for your type of sealer. You won't regret it.
You can pay more for extra features such as pleated bags, which expand nicely for larger objects (roasts, chickens, etc.).
Some bags have a zip-type opening so you don't have to use a scissors to open it. This is another nice feature, but it may not be worth an additional $0.40/bag for you.
WeVac bags have a tear notch to open bags without a scissors. Fortunately, they are one of our recommendations.
Our testers have been using vacuum sealers for years, and none of us have ever used bags with special features. You may be willing to pay extra for a feature that you find convenient, but our recommendation is to stick with the least expensive bags.
Can You Use Edge Vacuum Sealer Bags with Sous Vide?
All edge vacuum sealer bags are safe for use with sous vide, although we recommend not going above 170-180F. At high temperatures, it is possible that bags may fail release chemicals--you can read more about this in the FAQ section below.
Some brands sell special "sous vide" bags and special "freezer" bags. But all vacuum sealer bags are designed for these uses, so there's no need to buy special bags.
However, if you like to do long sous vide cooks--more than about 6 hours--you may want to get extra thick bags: 4 mil rather than 3 mil. Thicker bags are going to cost more, but your peace of mind may be worth it (finding your cook has failed sometime during the night while you were sleeping is a terrible feeling).
You can also double bag for long sous vide cooks if you don't want to buy extra thick bags.
But in most cases, standard vacuum sealer bags should be fine for sous vide cooks less than 6 hours, and probably okay for longer ones, too.
Are Edge Sealer Bags Reusable?
Some makers market their bags as reusable, but this can be a stretch.
Edge sealer bags are stiff and hard to wash and dry properly for re-use. For many people, it may be more trouble than it's worth.
But if you've used a bag for something relatively un-messy (dry goods, some vegetables and fruits), you can safely re-use it--probably.
We don't recommend re-using bags that have had raw meat or other foods that can be high in pathogens. They're hard to clean thoroughly, so it's not worth the risk.
Helpful Hint: If you're going to re-use bags, be careful to cut the bag open as close to the seal as possible. This leaves as much bag as possible for re-use.
Are Edge Sealer Bags Recyclable?
Our best answer is that most bags definitely are, but some may not be.
FoodSaver bags are not recyclable according to their website, but most other makers say that their bags are recyclable. Some brands don't address the issue at all, but many environmental websites say that vacuum sealer bags are recyclable.
Since the vast majority of edge sealer bags are made from polyethylene and nylon, it's likely that they are all recyclable (including FoodSaver bags). Some makers are coming up with vacuum bags made from other sources (a future research project for us), but all the bags we recommend here are standard polyethylene and nylon bags.
However, you can't just toss your used vacuum sealer bags in your recycling bin. They have to be recycled with your plastic shopping bags. Many stores now have a place to bring in your bags for recycling.
Be sure to wash vacuum sealer bags thoroughly because if there are any traces of food left in them, they can't be recycled.
One more environmental note is that vacuum sealer bags are not biodegradable. This means that if they end up in a landfill, they won't break down naturally. So you really do want to make the effort to recycle them.
The Best Vacuum Sealer Bags for Edge Sealers
The best way to buy vacuum bags (both types) is by price, and the best way to compare prices is by price-per-bag or price-per-foot for rolls. We did this for you in the our table at the beginning of this article .
Some makers claim their bags are better or more durable, but the only real measure of this is a bag's thickness. 3 mil is standard, and is good for all uses, including long-term freezing and sous vide (although long sous vide cooks may benefit from thicker bags or double bagging).
We also list thickness (in the table) so you can get thicker bags if that's what you want. Our recommendations link to 3 mil bags, but the links to the "See all options" of a brand will have the thicker bags.
How to Buy Chamber Vacuum Sealer Bags (Factors to Consider)
Here are the important considerations for getting the best chamber vac bags.
The Right Kind of Bags (Smooth)
Chamber sealer bags don't need the textured side that traps air and pushes it out of the bag, so chamber sealer bags are completely smooth. This also makes them cheaper, and recyclable (more on that below).
Like edge sealer bags, chamber sealer bags are a combination of polyethylene and nylon. This makes them recyclable along with your plastic shopping bags (not with your curbside recycling).
Since chamber vacuum sealer bags are all pretty much the same, the most important consideration is price: you should buy the cheapest bags you can find.
Some people may disagree with us, but all the bags we recommend in the table above get good reviews, and are made the same way as more expensive bags (as far as we know).
There are some situations where you may want to pay more for a thicker bag, but for nearly all applications, including sous vide and long-term freezing, standard 3 mil bags are sufficient.
The best way to get the lowest price is to buy in quantity. For chamber vac bags, that means buying up to 1,000 bags at a time.
In fact, the same brands and sizes can be as much as double in price if you buy 100-250 bags instead of 1,000 bags.
Buying that many bags at once may seem overwhelming, but it's the right way to do it if you want the best price. The bags don't expire and it's great to have them on hand.
In fact, it's really not that many bags: if you use 5 bags a week, 1000 bags will last for about 4 years.
Are cheaper, no-name brand bags of the same quality as well known brands? We think they probably are. Some reviewers complained that the bags were thinner and wouldn't hold a seal, but if you read reviews of VacMaster bags (the best known brand of chamber sealers and chamber vac bags), you can see the same negative reviews.
Unless the makers are lying, though, the bags are all the same thickness: the standard thickness is 3 mil, and most brands also sell thicker bags (4-5 mil) at a higher price. These are the same options you get with name brand chamber vac bags.
There are fewer reviews to go by than with edge sealer bags, but all the bags we recommend did just fine in our testing. As with edge sealers, be sure your seals are dry, there are no bones to puncture the bags, use double bags for long sous vide cooks, etc.
And if you feel more comfortable buying name brand bags, go with VacMaster bags. If you buy them in large quantities (1,000 bags), they are the same low price as many no-name brands.
Bag Size and Chamber Size
The biggest bag you can buy is limited by the length of the seal bar in your chamber sealer. The standard length is 10-12 inches, which varies by brand and age of the chamber vac.
Just be sure that if you have a 10 inch seal bar, for example, you buy bags with an opening of 10 inches or less.
For example, 10"x13" (quart) bags--a common size--have the opening on the 10-inch side because that's a common length for chamber vac seal bars. And 8"x12" (also quart) bags--another common size--have the opening on the 8" side. These sizes are excellent for storing family-sized portions of meats, veggies, and more.
You can go smaller, too: 8"x10" and 6"x8" are common smaller sizes and are great for portioning out single servings, pounds of hamburger, and other smallish quantities.
Can you go larger? Yes, but you have to be careful. Chamber vac bag sizes are also limited by the size of the chamber. However, one workaround for large foods (whole roasts, hams, chickens, etc.) is to use bags longer than the length of the chamber. For example, if the chamber size is 10"x13" (a common size), you can use a 10"x15" bag for large foods. The extra inch or two makes it much easier to fit, say, a whole chicken, in the bag.
Upshot: You can't use bags with an opening longer than the seal bar, but you can use bags that are an inch or two longer than the chamber if you need the space (for big objects).
Vacuum sealer bag thickness is measured in mils, which is one thousandth of an inch (0.001). The standard thickness is 3 mil, and this thickness is good for freezing, sous vide, and most other applications.
You can find thicker bags of 4 mil and even 5 mil. Thicker bags are recommended for long-term freezing, for long sous vide cooks (more than 6 hours), and for other situations where the bags are subjected to extreme temperatures (such as boiling). But we're not sure they're worth the extra cost (and we advise against boiling any vacuum sealer bags, even if they're rated safe for it).
Our recommendation is to stick with 3 mil bags because they are adequate for most uses. Our product links above are to 3 mil bags, but if the brand also has thicker bags (and we give this info in the table too), you can see them by linking to "see all options."
Reviews can be reassuring, especially when you're buying a huge quantity of bags from a maker you've never heard of.
But there aren't as many chamber sealers around, so there aren't as many reviews around on the bags, either.
Our recommendations have good reviews, but not nearly as many as edge sealer bags have. There's really no way around this unless you go with an older, established brand like VacMaster.
We don't think a lack of reviews is a reason to not buy a brand, especially for chamber vac bags.
Brand should be one of your lowest priorities in choosing chamber vac bags.
You don't need to buy bags that are the same brand as your chamber vac. Any smooth bags will work in a chamber sealer.
You won't get better results from a name brand or the brand that makes your sealer.
Our research and testing hasn't shown any difference in quality between the highest-priced and the lowest-priced brands.
Otherwise, going with the cheapest brand you can find is the best strategy.
Related to this topic is bag failure: people may have had a number of bag failures and will give a bad review. However, there are all kinds of reasons for bag failure, and it's rare that the bag itself is at fault. A small percentage of vacuum bags will fail for no apparent reason, usually no more than about 1%. This is true for all brands of vacuum bags, no matter how much they cost.
One valid reason to buy a higher-priced brand is if you want a bags made in the USA. We talk more about this below.
You can also find "commercial grade" chamber vac bags, which typically means they're thicker--4 or 5 mils rather than 3 mil. But it may not mean anything at all, as some "commercial grade" bags are simply 3 mil bags that are more expensive.
See the next section for a discussion about sous vide.
You'll save money in the long run if you stick with 3 mil bags.
Can You Use Chamber Vac Sealer Bags with Sous Vide?
Absolutely! But as with channel sealer bags, we recommend not going above 170-180F. Chamber vac bags are free of BPA and all other bisphenols, but there's not a lot of research about other chemicals that can leach from plastics into your food. Since high heat can cause structural changes, it's probably a good idea to err on the side of caution and not use higher temps than this.
We also recommend no boiling and no microwaving--even if the maker says the bags are safe for it.
What about thicker bags designed for sous vide? For long sous vide cooks over 6 hours, thicker bags (or double bagging) might be a good idea. We don't think they're necessary, but some people have had bags fail.
Are Chamber Vac Bags Reusable?
You can wash and re-use chamber vac bags. They're not really designed to be re-used, and most makers will tell you not to do this. But you can, and as long as you get the bag thoroughly clean, it's fine to re-use.
Since chamber vac bags are so cheap--most less than ten cents per bag--a lot of people don't bother to re-use them. But if you're concerned about plastic waste and want to get as much use as you can from a bag, go ahead.
(By the way, this is another reason to buy bags an inch or two longer than your chamber's sealer: after cutting the bag open, a longer bag ensures there's plenty of bag left for another use.)
If you want to re-use your chamber vac bags, start with a bag bigger than you need, and cut the bag open as close to the seal as you can to preserve as much bag as possible.
Are Chamber Vac Bags Recyclable?
Though only a few makers address this issue on their websites (or got back to us when we asked), the information we found is that chamber vacuum bags are indeed recyclable.
Like edge sealer bags, they're made from polyethylene and nylon, which means they are not biodegradable. So you really want to make the effort to recycle them.
You can't put vacuum sealer bags in your curbside recycling bin. They have to go in with your plastic shopping bags and brought to a program that recycles polyethylene plastic (many grocery stores and retailers like Target have these programs).
You must also wash the bags thoroughly before recycling. If there are traces of food in a bag, it can't be recycled.
The Best Vacuum Sealer Bags for Chamber Vacuum Sealers
To see our chamber vac bag recommendations, see the table at the beginning of this article. If we've convinced you that the smartest way to buy vacuum sealer bags is by price, then this table has all the information you need.
And once again, when you're buying, be sure to get the largest quantity you can if you want to get the best price--true for all brands. For chamber vacuum bags, this means buying 1,000 at a time. The same bags in a smaller quantity can be as much as double the price.
If you want bags with special features, such as thicker bags, you can also pay as much as double the price. $0.10 instead of $0.05 may not sound like a lot, but over time, it adds up.
Vacuum Sealer Bag FAQs
In this section, we answer common questions about vacuum sealer bags.
We've already discussed some of these questions, but repeat them here for your convenience.
Are Vacuum Sealer Bags Safe? (BPA-Free, Non-Toxic)
People are concerned today about toxins getting into their food. BPA (bisphenol A) is a chemical found in many plastics that has been linked to several health issues, including infertility, obesity, heart disease, and more.
The good news is that vacuum sealer bags are made from polyethylene, a plastic that contains no BPA or other bisphenol chemicals. So vacuum sealer bags absolutely won't contaminate your food with any type of BPA chemicals.
Unfortunately, there's bad news, too, and the bad news is that there may be other chemicals in addition to bisphenols that could possibly get into your food.
There simply hasn't been enough research to say with 100% certainty that all plastics used in the food industry are safe. This includes packaging, bowls, plates, glasses, storage containers, and every other type of plastic object that could come in contact with food.
So BPA-wise, vacuum sealer bags are safe. But there's definitely an area of unknowns, so if you want to err on the side of caution, don't use a vacuum sealer to store your food. (Of course, that means that you should also not use any plastic containers or utensils with food, and not buy any food that comes in plastic packaging. This is a tall order in today's very plastic world.)
What about using vacuum sealer bags at high heat? Well, if there are unsafe chemicals to be released, high heat would probably heighten the possibility. However, plastics are unlikely to leach chemicals (or at least, leach them in unsafe amounts) below boiling temperature (i.e., 212F). So if you want to sous vide but are concerned about chemicals leaching from the bags, you will probably be safe if you stay below boiling. If you want to be extra careful, stay below about 170F; this is easy to do for most foods (vegetables being the one exception).
You may also want to avoid microwaving vacuum sealer bags (as well as other plastic containers). It might be safe, but microwaving is one of those unknowns. So if you want to err on the side of caution, don't microwave plastics, period.
Freezing and room temperature conditions are almost certainly safe for vacuum sealer bags.
Is a Vacuum Sealer Worth It?
If you want to waste less food, or save money by buying in bulk and freezing, or are an avid gardener, hunter, or fisherman and want to preserve your food for as long as possible, then a vacuum sealer is definitely worth it. Vacuum-sealed food can last more than 5 times as long as non-vacuum-sealed food. And vacuum sealing protects foods from freezer burn, too.
A vacuum sealer can help you save hundreds of dollars a year on your food budget. There's no question that a vacuum sealer is a wise investment.
How Much Longer Does Vacuum-Sealed Food Last?
The official line is that vacuum-sealed food lasts up to 5 times longer. But the truth is that some vacuum-sealed food can last for decades. We're not saying you should keep food for that long, but it can happen.
See this article for details on how much longer foods can last.
Will Any Vacuum Sealer Bags Work with Any Vacuum Sealer Machine?
Textured bags will work with any vacuum sealer, but they are designed for use with edge/channel/suction sealers.
Any vacuum sealer bags will work in a chamber vacuum sealer, but they are designed for use with smooth bags. And since smooth bags are cheaper, there's no reason to buy textured bags for your chamber vac.
Channel sealers can seal any type of bag, but they can only remove air from textured bags.
Chamber vacuum sealers can remove air from any type of bag, including mylar bags.
However, the heat seal can melt very thin plastics on both types of sealers, so be careful with thin plastic bags (like zip-top storage bags or cellophane rolls).
Are Any Vacuum Sealer Bags Made in the USA?
The vast majority of vacuum sealer bags are made in China, but we found two brands probably made in the USA. Both Ziploc and PackFreshUSA claim to be made in the USA. We say "claim" because the information on their websites is sketchy, and they haven't responded to our questions yet.
We love to recommend American-made products, but the truth is that you'll save a lot of money by buying China-made bags in bulk.
What Are the Best Vacuum Sealer Bags for Sous Vide?
We recommend standard 3 mil bags for sous vide as well as all other uses.
The only exception are long sous vide cooks of more than 6 hours. For these, you may want to use thicker (4 mil) bags to ensure they don't fail.
Alternatively, you can also double bag for long cooks, which will save you more money in the long run.
Why Do Some Vacuum Bags Fail?
Vacuum bags can fail for a number of reasons. You can get a bad seal if the bag is wet or greasy, or if it's wrinkled, or if it's not positioned properly on the seal bar. In fact, it can take a bit of practice to get this right, especially for edge sealers, which can be finicky about bag placement and other things.
Another reason bags can fail is that your heat sealer is set to too-high a temperature, and it melts the bag. Some vacuum sealers allow you to adjust the heat setting, but most do not. If your seal bar is melting bags, you could try using thicker bags, but your best bet is to contact the manufacturer for advice (or an exchange).
Conversely, bags can fail because the heat seal isn't hot enough or the time isn't long enough to get a proper seal. Some vacuum sealers allow you to change the time on the seal, but if this isn't an option with your sealer, contact the manufacturer.
Bags can also lose their vacuum over time because foods release oxygen and possibly other gases. This can happen especially when doing a sous vide cook. Many meats release gases as they cook, which cause the bag to loosen up. It can also happen in the freezer.
And of course, bags can puncture, especially if there are bones or other sharp objects that could poke through the bag. Be careful to not place bags anywhere where they could get poked through by an external object, as well.
Finally, a small percentage of vacuum sealer bags are going to fail. We estimate this failure rate to be less than 1% across all brands of vacuum sealer bags.
It's unfortunate, but failure can happen.
Which Are Better: Edge (Suction/Channel) Sealers or Chamber Vacuum Sealers?
Both types of vacuum sealers will help you save hundreds on your food budget. Which type you prefer is up to you.
Edge sealers are smaller and more convenient in many ways. But bags are more expensive, and you can't seal liquids without annoying workarounds like freezing or placing a paper towel in the bag to sop up moisture (and this is true no matter what the manufacturer says).
Chamber sealers are bulky and are a larger initial investment. But the bags are cheaper so you save money in the long run, and you can seal liquids. And, chamber sealers pull a stronger vacuum than all but the most expensive edge sealers, so your food will last longer.
There are pros and cons to both types of sealers. You have to do your research and decide which type will work best for you. Our Vaccum Sealer page has links to several articles that can help you figure out this out.
Are Vacuum Sealer Bags Bad for the Environment?
You could argue that all the plastic bags you'll go through are bad for the environment. We are already way too dependent on plastics, and they are polluting our oceans and poisoning aquatic life.
On the other hand, a vacuum sealer will help you waste way less food, and food waste is a huge problem, especially in the US. Americans waste as much as 40% of the food they buy. Vacuum sealers can help you drastically reduce that number.
And, most (if not all) vacuum sealer bags are recyclable--so if you are careful about recycling them, there's little to feel guilty about.
Overall, vacuum sealers, and vacuum sealer bags, are more a positive for the environment than a negative, as long as you use them responsibly.
What Are the Advantages to Freezing Vacuum-Sealed Food?
The food lasts longer and won't get freezer burn.
How Much Money Can You Save By Using Vacuum Sealer Bags?
It depends on many factors, but you can save a lot.
You save by preserving your food longer, so you waste less of it.
You can also save by buying food in bulk quantities, which will last longer in your fridge, freezer, and pantry when vacuum sealed.
Some estimates are that a family of four can save up to $1000 dollars annually--maybe more, if you are a gardener, hunter, or fisherman or have a large freezer.
Are Vacuum Sealer Bags Expensive?
Vacuum sealer bags aren't expensive, but they are the biggest ongoing expense of owning a vacuum sealer, so you should bargain hunt and buy the lowest-priced bags you can find. (We did this for you and list the bags with the best prices at the beginning of this article.)
You do not need to buy special brands that supposedly work better with certain vacuum sealers. All textured bags work with all edge sealers, and all smooth bags work with all chamber sealers. And since vacuum sealer bags are all pretty much the same, going with the cheapest bags you can find is the best strategy.
The larger the quantity you buy, the cheaper the bags. If you buy in smaller quantities, you can spend up to twice as much for the same bags (same brand, same size).
In general, the cheapest edge sealer bags range from about $0.15-$0.25 a bag, depending on size.
The cheapest chamber vac bags range from about $0.05-$0.20 a bag, depending on size.
You can spend more for thicker bags, easy tear bags, bags made in the USA, and other special features. But if you want to save as much money as possible, buy standard 3 mil bags.
Are Vacuum Sealer Bags BPA Free?
Yes, all vacuum sealer bags are BPA-free and also free from other bisphenols.
Can You Reuse Vacuum Sealer Bags?
Yes, if you wash and dry them thoroughly, especially if they haven't had raw meats or other foods with potential pathogens.
Can You Recycle Vacuum Sealer Bags?
Most vacuum bags are recyclable along with your plastic shopping bags. (Note: FoodSaver states on their website that their bags are NOT recyclable, but most other brands are.) Be sure to wash them thoroughly before recycling.
Final Thoughts on Vacuum Sealer Bags
Vacuum sealers can save you a ton of money on your food budget, and you can save even more money if you're smart about buying vacuum sealer bags (and bag rolls).
Our recommendation is to look for the lowest-priced brands, and to buy in quantity to get the lowest prices possible.
Standard 3 mil bags are adequate for almost every use with the possible exception of long sous vide cooks (more than 6 hours).
Best of all, we did the work for you: our tables at the beginning of this article make it easy for you to find the cheapest bags.
Thanks for reading!