If you have a food vacuum sealer, you know what an amazing tool it is.
If you don't have a vacuum sealer, we're here to convince you why you need one! Even if you get one just for sous vide, we promise that you will find many other ways to use this powerful tool, and that you will save money on your food budget.
Statistics say the average American family saves more than $2000 a year on food with a vacuum sealer, and that vacuum-sealed food lasts up to 5 times as long as non-vacuum sealed food.
If you're just starting to learn about vacuum sealers, this article covers a lot of ground. We'll teach you the basics about vacuum sealing, what to look for in a vacuum sealer, and make some recommendations on the best ones to buy, from the best bargain to the best chamber sealer under $1000.
Why Buy a Vacuum Sealer?
Here are some of the people who can benefit from having a food vacuum sealer:
- Anyone who cooks for a large family
- Anyone who lives alone and wants to waste less food
- People with big vegetable gardens and lots of veggies to freeze
- Similarly, people with berry bushes and fruit trees who want to make the most of their harvest
- Hunters and fishermen
- Anyone who wants to marinade meat (and other foods) quickly
- People who buy in bulk
- Anyone who wants to avoid freezer burn
- If you want to save space in your freezer and pantry
- If you want your dry goods to stay fresher longer (coffee, rice, pasta, flour, etc.)
- If you want refrigerated leftovers to last longer
- If you want to save money on your food budget
- If you like to use half an avocado at a time (or apple, pear, etc.) and don't want the other half to brown
- If you make and freeze your own pesto
- And of course, if you have gotten or want to get into sous vide cooking.
So essentially, unless you eat out all the time and never buy groceries or have any food in your house, you can benefit from a vacuum sealer.
How Does a Vacuum Sealer Work?
A vacuum sealer does two things: it removes air from the container (usually a bag), then it seals the bag with a heated strip, trapping the vacuum inside. Air is removed with a pump that works by pulling air at a faster rate than ambient air can replace it.
Pump quality varies, and is in large part the deciding factor on the price of a vacuum sealer. Many edge vacuum sealers have pups with plastic parts. They work alright and can achieve a decent vacuum, but they overheat easily. They have to cool down in between uses, and often can't withstand heavy use.
Higher quality food vacuum sealers have heavier-duty pumps made of sturdier parts. They can withstand frequent use and don't need to cool down between uses.
Why Is Vacuum So Great at Preserving Food?
Contact with oxygen is what deteriorates food, causing spoilage. In the freezer, it causes ice to form, creating freezer burn. Vacuum packing removes almost all of the oxygen from the food container. When there is little oxygen to react with, food stays fresher longer in the pantry and the refrigerator, and won't get freezer burn in the freezer. That’s really all there is to it.
It is not possible to remove 100% of the oxygen by vacuum sealing. So vacuum-sealed food doesn’t last forever. But it can remove enough oxygen to greatly extend shelf life. Some estimates are that vacuum sealing extends the life of frozen food by up to 5 years!
The Two Types of Food Vacuum Sealers: External and Internal
There are two main types of food vacuum sealers: edge sealers and chamber vacuum sealers (typically called “chamber vacs”). Both types have advantages and disadvantages.
Edge sealers, also called external sealers or suction sealers, are the simplest and most common type of vacuum sealer. You simply fill a bag with food, place the bag in the sealer, and begin the sealing process. The vacuum is created inside the bag only, which makes it nearly impossible to seal anything but solid foods (because the pump will suck out liquid as it sucks out air).
Many edge sealers have options for moist foods and soft foods, allowing you to control the amount of vacuum they pull so as not to draw moisture up into the pump or crush soft food (bread, for example) with too much vacuum. Decreasing the vacuum leaves air in the bag, however, so you may get similar results by just using a Ziploc or other food storage bag for soft/moist foods. One clever workaround is to freeze liquids before vacuum sealing.
Nozzle or handheld sealers are another type of external sealer:
They use special resealable bags that have a small hole through which vacuum is pulled. Handheld sealers are tiny and generally don't pull a super strong vacuum, but because the bags are reusable, usually for up to 10 times, they're great for leftovers and sous vide (as opposed to long term freezer or pantry storage).
In general, edge sealers are the most economical choice, but are sometimes not as well made as chamber vacuums. Most consumer brands--like FoodSaver and Seal-a-Meal--are not designed for heavy use. The pumps overheat easily, so you need to let the machine cool down in between uses. This can be frustrating and time consuming if you're freezing, say, half a cow or a few bushels of veggies from your garden.
But for a few steaks or a tray of chicken breasts, they're great.
How do you know if your edge sealer has good internal components? Simple: spend more than $300 for it (like this Weston Pro 2300 edge sealer that gets good reviews). But if you're going to spend that much, you might want to start thinking about a chamber vacuum sealer instead.
Advantages of Edge Sealers
- Edge sealers are great for freezing meats and other solid foods
- They are usually less expensive than chamber vacuum sealers
- Many also have an accessory port for a hose attachments for sealing canning jars, canisters, marinade containers, wine bottles, and storage bags that won't work in the machine itself
- Some edge sealers also have a built-in nozzle sealer, another type of suction sealer that only works on certain types of bags--washable, reusable bags that make them great for leftovers. (You can buy nozzle sealers separately, too)
- Can use rolls of bags or boxes of bags. Rolls allow you to cut a bag to any length you want (something you can't do with a chamber sealer).
Disadvantages of Edge Sealers
- Can’t seal liquids unless frozen
- Some inexpensive ones are poor quality
- If inexpensive, they can't seal a lot of foods in one session because the pump will overheat.
Chamber Vacuum Sealer (Internal Sealer)
A chamber vac works by creating a vacuum inside a chamber. Because the pressure is equalized inside the entire chamber (and not just inside the bag), a chamber vacuum sealer can seal liquids. This is great for soups, stocks, leftovers, quick and easy marinades (you can get marinade results in 15-20 minutes in a vacuum sealed container), and many sous vide applications.
Chamber vacuums pull a stronger vacuum than other vacuum sealers.
Most chamber vacs also have the ability to adjust the vacuum so you can seal soft foods. But you don't do this with easy-to-use buttons like you can on an edge sealer. Instead, you adjust the actual amount of vacuum you want to pull.
So while it's a little trickier to get the vacuum right--and may have a learning curve to figure out--it offers more control over the process. Once you have it set where you want it, you will rarely have to adjust it. Just as with edge sealers, you can keep on eye on the sealing process and stop the vacuum pulling at any time (for example, if food is starting to get crushed, or liquid is bubbling up into the sealing area).
Advantages of Chamber Vacs
- Tend to be higher quality than edge sealers because they’re made mainly for the commercial market
- Pull a stronger vacuum than edge sealers
- Can seal liquids in them (just make sure they’re not warm liquids, or you might have a mess on your hands)
- If the chamber is tall enough, you can seal mason jars in it, as well as marinade containers
- Bags are a cheaper--so while you spend more up front, you can save money in the long run.
Disadvantages of Chamber Vacs
- Heavy and bulky (can weigh between 40 and 100 lbs)
- More expensive than edge sealers
- Bag size is limited to the size of the chamber.
What Should I Look for in a Food Vacuum Sealer?
This depends on how you think you’ll use the vacuum sealer. Most sealers will provide an adequate vacuum for food storage, but you may want to think outside the box. For example, you may think all you want it for is freezing food in bulk, but a vacuum sealer is such a versatile kitchen tool, and you may realize you want it for more than just food storage. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- What size bags do I want to be able to use? (Keep in mind that as bags go up in size they get more expensive)
- Will I use it for marinades?
- Will I use it on mason jars, canisters, and other containers?
- Will I use it for liquids like stocks and "moist" leftovers like soups, stews, and casseroles?
- Do I mind freezing liquids before using, or do I want the option to just pour into a bag and seal it?
- If I'm going to do a lot of bulk sealing, do I mind waiting for the sealer to cool down or do I want one that will charge through a big project?
- How much do I want to pay for bags? (Chamber sealer bags are much cheaper than edge sealer bags)
Whatever you decide you want, from bargain-buy edge sealer to top-of-the-line heavy duty chamber vac, there is a food vacuum sealer out there to meet your needs.
What Type of Bags Do I Need for a Food Vacuum Sealer?
Different types of sealers require different bags. This is important to understand in particular because chamber sealer bags will not work on edge sealer--and chamber sealer bags are considerably less expensive, so you may be tempted to try them with your edge sealer.
Nozzle/handheld sealer bags are different, as well.
Make sure you buy the right bags for use with your type of sealer.
Also: Some manufacturers recommend using their brand bags, but it really doesn't matter. After you use up the supply of bags that comes with the sealer (if any), buy the cheapest bags you can find that will work with your model.
Edge Sealer Bags
Edge sealer vacuum bags have special ridges on the inside that help "push" air out of the bag. This special construction is required for edge sealing, and adds to the price of the bags.
With rolls, which are cheaper, you must seal one edge first before filling the bag. This is easy to do--you just operate the seal with no vacuum pulled.
Size: The bag width is limited by the width of the sealing bar. The standard sealing bar is 11-inches, but you can find sealers with extra long sealing bars (like this Weston Pro 2300, which has a 16-inch sealing bar).
The bag length can be whatever you want it if you're using rolls of bags.
You may think you want the extra long sealing bar, but keep in mind that the bigger the bag, the more expensive they are: you can achieve similar results by freezing smaller portions, which can cost less over time.
Sealers can have different sized sealing bars. Be sure to check the largest bag usable with a sealer before you buy. This is true for edge sealers AND chamber sealers.
Chamber Sealer Bags
Chamber vac bags are made differently because of the difference in vacuum technology. They aren't ridged like edge sealer bags, they're smooth inside and out. Because of this, chamber vac bags are cheaper than edge sealer bags. A lot cheaper, actually.
Chamber sealer bags typically come pre-sized in boxes (no rolls).
Size: A chamber vac is limited by both the width of the sealing bar and the size of the chamber. A standard sealing bar is 11 inches, and a standard chamber bag size is 10x13 in. However, some chamber sealers have longer sealing bars and can also accommodate bigger bags.
Can You Reuse Vacuum Bags?
You can re-use some vacuum bags. Nozzle sealer bags, for example, are designed for re-use, with most being dishwasher safe and good for several uses before wearing out.
Manufacturers will always tell you not to re-use edge sealer or chamber sealer bags. But technically, you could re-use any type of vacuum bag if you washed and dried it carefully.
The question is, would you want to?
If you’re very thrifty or concerned about plastic waste, you can re-use vacuum bags a few times. However, you may want to weigh the value of your time spent washing and drying bags against the convenience of using new ones (not to mention the higher risk of pathogen contamination).
A better option might be recycling. Most places that take plastic grocery bags will also take vacuum bags. Just be sure they're thoroughly rinsed out.
Are Vacuum Bags Safe for Sous Vide?
Yes, vacuum bags are safe for sous vide. All vacuum bags are BPA-free, and as long as they are not heated to boiling temperature (212F/100C) or above, no harmful chemicals will leach into your food.
Here's a long thread about it on Chowhound. If you don't want to read all of it, the consensus, by the end of the thread, is that using vacuum bags below boiling temperature is safe.
The Best Sealers By Category
If we've convinced you that you need a vacuum sealer (and I hope we have!), keep reading for our best picks.
Best Entry Level Option: FoodSaver V2244
FoodSaver makes a dizzying array of food vacuum sealers, ranging from about $60 on up to about $300. They all seem to have the same basic components, differing mostly in aesthetics, automation, and included extras as you go up in price. All FoodSaver products get good reviews on Amazon and elsewhere, and all are a good basic food vacuum sealer option. This means that regardless of which FoodSaver model you buy, you're going to get about the same quality product, plus some extras if you spend more.
Automation gets mixed reviews. Some people prefer it, while others dislike that they don't have as much control over the vacuum process. Automation can make it harder to seal soft foods and moist foods--although an edge sealer is never going to be your best option for these foods, anyway. However, even with the most automated edge sealers, you can stop the vacuum process at any point (e.g., to avoid crushing soft food or sucking liquids up into the pump), even if it doesn't have buttons for moist and soft foods.
More automation usually also includes space for a roll of bags (nice) and an automatic bag cutter, which is a great feature if you're inept at cutting in straight lines. Rolls of bags are also generally cheaper than boxes, and you can cut them to any length you want.
This model, the FoodSaver V2244, is an Amazon best seller. It's a basic sealer without automation but does come with some bags and an accessory hose; the hose means you can use this sealer with zipper bags. It has more than 2600 reviews with an average rating of 4 star. It gets an "A" rating on Fakespot.com.
The FoodSaver V2244 is easy to operate. You place the bag into the sealer, close and lock the lid, and press the Vacuum and Seal button.
You can cancel the vacuum at any time during the sealing process.
You can activate the edge sealer without activating the vacuum.
Size: 5.9x10.6x17.7 in.
Weight: about 5 lbs.
Max Bag Width: 11 in.
Edge Sealing without Vacuum Capability? Yes
Storage space for bags? No
Roll cutter? No.
11 in. x10 ft. heat seal roll
3-1 gallon bags
Accessory hose for zipper bags, sealing canisters, and marinade containers.
Buy the FoodSaver V2244 Vacuum Sealer If:
- You will use it primarily for sealing solid food.
- You won't give it heavy duty use.
- You're looking for an entry level vacuum sealer under $100 with a hose accessory for doing jars, canisters, and marinade containers.
There are a lot of options at the under $70 price point, but this is one of our favorites. The accessory hose and a good amount of bags are included to get you started.
Pros: Inexpensive, pulls adequate vacuum, can use rolls of bags, has accessory hose for zipper bags, jars, and other containers.
Cons: No storage for bag rolls, no roll cutter.
Buy the FoodSaver V2244 vacuum sealer on amazon now:
Great Value with Extras: FoodSaver FM2435-ECR Vacuum Sealing System
A Rational Kitchen favorite!
The most popular all-in-one, automated FoodSaver is the V4440 model. However, we prefer this one, the FM2435-ECR. It's a few dollars less, has pretty much the same features, and is more compact than the bulky V4440. And, with its stainless steel housing, it's built better. It gets high user ratings on Amazon.
At about $130, it's as affordable as many other edge sealers, but offers a lot of extras:
- Stainless housing (sturdier than plastic)
- Integrated roll storage and bag cutter
- Extra wide sealing strip to ensure a strong seal
- Seal-vacuum chamber integration to reduce bag waste
- 5 year warranty.
The stainless steel housing and flat, compact design also makes this one of the prettiest edge sealers on the market. If you want to leave your edge sealer sitting out on your counter, this is the one to get.
Sealing a bag is an easy, 3-step process. You put the bag in the sealer, you lock down the lid, and you press the Vacuum and Seal button. That's it! For the hose attachment, you just attach the hose to the container and press the button.
You can cancel the vacuum at any time during the sealing process.
Color: Stainless and black
Size: 18.4x6.5x11 in.
Weight: 7.7 lbs
Max Bag Width: 11 in.
Edge Sealing without Vacuum Capability? Yes
Storage space for bags? Yes
Roll cutter? Yes
Warranty: 5 year limited.
1. Bag starter kit that includes:
- 1-11"x10' Roll
- (3) 1-quart heat-seal bags
- (2) 1-gallon heat-seal bags
- (3) 1-qt zipper bags
2. Accessory hose for zipper bags, jars, etc.
Buy the FoodSaver FM2435-ECR Vacuum Sealer If:
- You will use it primarily for sealing solid food
- You want a compact design and a modern, stainless appearance
- You're looking for a vacuum sealer with a hose accessory for containers and zipper bags
- You want a 5-year warranty.
Pros: Attractive, bag storage and lots of extras, 5 year warranty.
Cons: Can't do liquids, hard to control vacuum pressure because of integrated vacuum-and-seal operation.
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Best Quality Edge Sealer: Weston Pro 2300
The Weston Pro 2300 vacuum sealer is one of the best-selling commercial grade edge sealers on Amazon. It gets consistently favorable reviews and people really love it.
One feature of this sealer that's not found on most other sealers is its 15-inch sealing bar. Most edge sealers have an 11-inch sealing bar. Yes, you pay for the extra long sealing bar, but if you want to seal extra large cuts of meat (whole chickens, for example), you need the longer seal bar.
As cool as this is, remember that bigger bags are more expensive. So weigh the convenience of sealing larger cuts in fewer bags versus smaller cuts and more--but less expensive--bags.
Being larger, it's also going to take up more counter space and it's going to be heavier and bulkier--not just because it's longer, but because it's got a stainless steel housing instead of the plastic housing you'll find on consumer-grade vacuum sealers. We think this is a plus, but if you're going to be moving it a lot (i.e., not leaving it out on the counter all the time), you may want to buy a smaller, lighter sealer.
Remember! Even the best edge sealer is never going to seal liquids very well. This requires the equalized pressure that can only occur in the closed environment of a chamber vac.
The Weston Pro 2300 is easy to operate. It has 3 buttons that are self-explanatory: Start, Stop, and Manual. Use the Start button to seal automatically, or use the Manual button to control vacuum pull for soft or moist foods and liquids.
Indicator lights (on the left of the photo above) easily show you what phase the sealer is in during operation.
- 935W motor
- Double piston, 28' Hg vacuum pump
- 15-inch seal bar with 5mm wide seal bar
- LED indicator lights
- Air-cooled vacuum pump
- Auto and manual modes
- Stainless steel housing
- Clear lid so you can align bags and observe vacuum process
- Detachable cord with storage space
- ETL certified
- 2 year manufacturer's warranty.
Size: 15.3x23.9x9 inches
Weight: 22 lbs
Motor: 935W (standard US 120V/60Hz outlet)
Vacuum: 28' Hg, dual piston, fan-cooled
Vacuum Modes: Automatic and manual
Max bag width: 15-in.
Storage space for bags? No
Roll cutter? No
We love this sealer as a heavy duty option that's going to hold up and do big sealing projects with ease. Some of the reviews concerned us--a lot of people have issues with the heat sealing element--we had no issues in testing and think that this sealer should hold up for the long haul. If you're concerned, buy the Amazon extended warranty with it.
Pros: Powerful motor with excellent vacuum strength, extra long sealing bar, adjustable sealing time, 2 yr warranty.
Cons: No accessory port, heavy, some reviewers have issues with sealing element, expensive, won't do liquids any better than other edge sealers.
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Best Chamber Vacuum: VacMaster VP210 Chamber Vacuum Sealer
Chamber vacuums require an outlay of cash that pretty much commits you to the vacuum-sealing way of life. No worries, though, because with estimates of annual food savings around $2,700 for the average American family, it would be hard to pay more than what a food vacuum sealer will save you, even if you decide to throw down the big bucks for a chamber sealer.
In addition to the overall cost of food savings, there are other considerations. The bags for chamber sealers are cheaper than edge sealer bags. This is because they don't need to have the special ridged lining that edge sealer bags need in order to create a good seal. You might also consider the fact that many value-priced edge sealers last only a year or two under moderate to heavy use--and you are likely to use your sealer a lot more than you think you will. (Trust us on this!) So if you add up the cost of replacing an edge sealer every year or so vs. owning a heavy-duty chamber vac that will last for decades and use cheaper bags besides, well, the high initial investment might start to look like the smarter way to go.
The VacMaster VP210 Chamber Vacuum Sealer is one of the best choices on the market right now. It's got a maintenance-free dry piston pump that is robust enough for bulk sealing projects. This vacuum sealer, at about 83 pounds, is going to hold up for a very long time and pay for itself in about a year's time if you use it regularly.
Here are some of its coolest features:
- Adjustable vacuum time, sealing time, and cooling time
- Automatic operation: just close the lid to start the process
- Emergency stop button that cancels vacuum and seals bag instantly
- 10.25-inch seal bar, removable for easy cleaning
- Double seal
- Maintenance-free 2 cylinder dry piston pump
- 460W motor
- Pulls 27-29"Hg
- Full-view polycarbonate lid
- Comes with 2 filler plates to decrease vacuum time
- Designed for repetitive sealing (but may require some cool downs if a very long job)
- Easy-to-clean stainless steel chamber with rounded corners.
Color: Brushed stainless body, tinted polycarbonate lid
Size (WxDxH): 14 x 20 x 15 inches
Weight: 83 lbs
Chamber: Stainless steel, rounded for easy cleaning
Power: 460W (standard US 120V/60Hz outlet)
Sealing Bar: 10.25 inches (10-in. width maximum)
Chamber Size (WxDxH): 15.5x11x5 inches
Maximum Bag Width: 10 in.
Maximum Bag Size: 10x13 in.
Warranty: 1 year.
As with the VacMaster Pro380 edge sealer, the controls on this chamber vac are not as easy as press-and-seal like on most low-cost edge sealers. But once again, that's because you have a lot of options. You can set the vacuum level and the sealing time, and cooling time.
No doubt there's a learning curve with this sealer. But once set, you'll find that you rarely have to change the settings. One setting works well for most foods--solids and liquids. So once you know your most commonly used setting, you will rarely have to worry about figuring it out. You should be able to just turn it on and let it run until it's finished.
And even though it's more complicated to use than most edge sealers, this also means that you have more control over the process, which is always a good thing.
- 75 bags in assorted sizes
- 2 filler plates (used to decrease the vacuum time)
- User manual.
Buy This Vacuum Sealer If:
- You want to seal liquids as well as solid foods
- You want a sealer that you can use repeatedly without having to wait for the pump to cool down
- You need a vacuum sealer that can withstand continuous and heavy use.
Pros: Excellent quality, durable, strong vacuum, can seal liquids.
Cons: Expensive, no canister port.
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We believe that every kitchen needs a food vacuum sealer--at least, every kitchen where saving money and wasting less food is a priority. We hope we've convinced you, as well. Even if you're not sure you want the expense and commitment of a chamber vac, even a small, inexpensive edge vacuum sealer will save you an enormous amount of money and help you waste less food.
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