April 4

LEM Vacuum Sealers: Everything You Need to Know

By trk

Last Updated: April 4, 2022

LEM sealer, vacuum sealer reviews, vacuum sealers


LEM MaxVac vacuum sealers are heavy duty sealers that cater mostly to hunters, fishermen, gardeners, and other people looking for high-volume sealing. How do they compare to other commercial brands like VacMaster and Weston? And is their consumer model as good as a FoodSaver? We'll take a detailed look at the LEM line of MaxVac vacuum sealers to help you make your decision.

LEM MaxVac Vacuum Sealers at a Glance

LEM

LEM Model

Features

LEM 1379 MaxVac 100

About $90

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see it at Home Depot

LEM 1379 MaxVac vacuum sealer

-12" seal bar

-22.4"Hg vacuum pull/120 watts

-Up to 26 consecutive seals

-Stainless steel locking lid

-Accessory port

-14.5x6"; 4 lbs

-ETL certified

-1 year warranty

-Comes with 10 quart and 10 gallon bags.

LEM 1393 MaxVac 250

About $210

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LEM 1393 MaxVac 250 vacuum sealer

-13.4" seal bar

-25"Hg vacuum pull/250 watts

-Aluminum housing

-Up to 250 consecutive seals (5 hrs cont. use)

-One-handed locking lid (no pressing)

-Accessory port

-Built-in bag holder (up to 11") and cutter

-ETL certified

-1 year warranty

-22" x 20.25" x 9.75"; 11 lbs

-Comes with one 8"x10' bag roll.

-14" seal bar

-22"Hg vacuum pull/462 watts

-One-handed locking lid (no pressing)

-Automatic and manual seal

-Aluminum housing

-Up to 500 consecutive seals (5 hrs cont. use)

-Removable bag storage (for easy storage)

-Accessory port

-2 year warranty

-Detachable 6' power cord

-1/4" heat strip

-20x9x22"; 14 lbs

-Comes with 8" x 25' bag roll.

LEM 1088B MaxVac 1000

About $530

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see it at Home Depot

LEM 1088B MaxVac 1000 vacuum sealer

-14" seal bar

-24"Hg vacuum pull w/piston pump/880 watts

-Automatic and manual seal

-Stainless steel housing

-Accessory port

-Sensor automatically stops sealing and lifts lid

-Up to 1000 consecutive seals (10 hrs cont. use)

-Bag storage and cutter 

-1/4" heat strip

-21x21x8.5"; 22 lbs

-5 year warranty.

LEM MaxVac Pro Chamber Sealer

About $1000

see it on Amazon

see it at everythingkitchens

LEM MaxVac Pro chamber vacuum sealer

-10" seal bar

-29.5"Hg vacuum w/180W rotary oil pump

-Stainless steel housing

-Dual sealing strips 1mm/3mm

-Adjustable bag holding rack

-Controls for vacuum, seal time and seal temp

-Overall Size: 14.5" x 19" W x 18"; 100 lbs

-Chamber size: 13.25" x 16" x 3.25"

-5 year warranty

-Comes with 80 bags.

About LEM

LEM is an American company headquartered in Chester, Ohio. They are best known for their meat and game processing equipment, including grinders, sausage stuffers, canning supplies, food dehydrators, grilling equipment, kitchen equipment, and of course, vacuum sealers. 

LEM products tend to be heavy duty and geared toward serious home users: hunters, gardeners, fisherman, and others interested in preparing and packaging their own food in bulk.

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Why Buy a Vacuum Sealer?

The biggest reason to get a vacuum sealer is to save money on food.

Americans waste up to 40% of all the food they buy. This is an astonishing statistic, but true. 

Vacuum sealed food lasts longer in the fridge, freezer, and pantry. Removing air from the bag means removing potential pathogens; this is why vacuum-sealed food lasts up to 5 times longer than food stored in other containers.

Also, if you have a vacuum sealer and a freezer, you can take advantage of lower prices at big box stores, from local farmers and farmer's markets, and sales at your grocery store. 

One fabulous aspect of vacuum sealing is that because air is removed, you don't get freezer burn. This allows you to keep frozen food much longer than in non-vacuum sealed containers.

Overall, a vacuum sealer can help you save hundreds or even thousands of dollars a year on food. In general, a vacuum sealer will pay for itself in the first year of ownership, regardless of how much you spend on one.

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Do You Need a Vacuum Sealer for Sous Vide?

Sous Vide food cooking

Sous vide cooking, which involves cooking food sealed in bags in a low temperature water bath, has become quite popular. "Sous vide" translated from French means "under vacuum" because original sous vide always used vacuum bags.

The truth is, you don't need a vacuum sealer to cook food sous vide. You can use the water displacement method to remove air from a bag. However, vacuum sealed food cooks more evenly because a vacuum sealer can remove more air from a bag than any other method (air pockets are the enemy of good sous vide). 

Vacuum bags are also sturdier than zip top and other plastic storage bags, so you have fewer worries about a bag not surviving a whole cook (this is especially true for cooks longer than 6 hours).

In fact, for long cooks, you may want to use extra thick vacuum bags (more about bags below).

Also, there are so many other uses for a vacuum sealer in your kitchen, and you will save so much on your food budget, we strongly recommend getting a vacuum sealer whether you use it with sous vide or not.

Finally, you do not need a special "sous vide vacuum sealer." Any vacuum sealer will work with sous vide--though more powerful ones may provide slightly better results because they can remove more air. 

For more info on sous vide, check out our sous vide articles.

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Edge Sealers Vs. Chamber Sealers: The Differences Explained

When people think of vacuum sealers, they typically think of edge sealers, also called external or channel sealers. The bag sits outside the sealer and you insert the top of the bag into the sealer, and the air is removed from the bag. 

Edge sealers require special bags that have a textured lining, which is required to "push" air out of the bag during sealing. 

Edge sealers are best for solid foods because they will draw liquids into the vacuum pump if you're not careful. there are workarounds, such as freezing or using a "Gentle" setting, but neither is ideal; you will never be able to effectively seal liquids with an edge sealer.

With the growing popularity of sous vide (as well as other things, like harvesting your own food), chamber vacuum sealers have gained popularity in recent years. Chamber vacs have traditionally been extremely heavy (around 100 pounds) and heavy duty machines, with heavy duty vacuum pumps that will run for hours on end without requiring a cool down. They've been considered a commercial product made for heavy use in restaurants and other food-oriented businesses, though there are some home users sold on their virtues.

There is now a new generation of vacuum sealers that are geared to the home user that are as light as 25 pounds or less, yet they can still do all the things a heavy chamber vac can do and have similar robust pumps. They are an ideal choice for home users. For more information, check out our article Chamber Sealers: The Best Deals on Amazon.

Why would anyone buy a big, bulky chamber sealer? We can give you three excellent reasons:

  • They pull more vacuum
  • They seal liquids
  • The bags don't need to be lined, so they're cheaper (actually quite a lot cheaper).

If you're an enthusiastic vacuum sealer and realize how much they can reduce your food waste and allow you to buy in bulk, you might want to consider a chamber vacuum sealer. LEM's chamber vac is an old school sealer that weighs almost 100 pounds, so there are other options you may prefer--but the LEM model has a rotary oil pump which will pretty much run forever.

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Pros and Cons of Edge Sealers

Pros:

  • Less expensive than chamber sealers (though good ones are a few hundred dollars)
  • Easier storage
  • Come in a wide price range and with a variety of options and settings.

Cons:

  • Must use embossed bags, which are more expensive than chamber sealer bags
  • Inexpensive ones (under about $200) are throwaway items that may only last a couple of years (depending on use and care)
  • Can't seal liquids.

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Pros and Cons of Chamber Sealers

Pros:

  • Can seal liquids
  • Very strong vacuum pull
  • Can seal liquids.

Cons:

  • Heavy
  • Expensive
  • Chamber size limits the length of bag you can use.

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LEM Vs. Weston: How Do They Compare?

LEM and Weston are going after the same market: home gardeners, hunters, fisherman, and other people who take their vacuum sealing seriously. While both companies make consumer-grade sealers, they're both best known for their tough, commercial-grade products: not just vacuum sealers but meat grinders, meat slicers, sausage stuffers, and more.

Both LEM and Weston make heavy duty vacuum sealers that will run forever and last forever. Both offer replacement parts so you can keep your machines in great shape. Both have excellent customer service (although LEM's is probably better).

The biggest difference between these two companies' vacuum sealers is the vacuum pull: Weston's sealers are more powerful across the board, with their highest edge sealer rating at 28"Hg. 

LEM's highest rated edge sealer is just 25"Hg. This may not sound like a lot, but it's a fairly significant difference. The whole reason you spend the money on a commercial grade sealer is for the superior vacuum pull because better vacuum pull means longer food storage and less waste. 

(This does not apply to the chamber sealers, which are both rated at 29.5"Hg.)

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About Vacuum Sealer Bags (What You Need to Know)

Bags are your largest ongoing expense of vacuum sealing, so they are an important consideration before you buy a vacuum sealer.

Edge Sealer Bags

You can buy edge sealer bags as individual bags or in rolls (like toilet paper), which you cut to the length you want. Rolls are the cheapest way to buy edge sealer bags, and being able to make bags as long as you want is a great feature. (You have to seal the bottom of the bag without vacuum in order to make a bag--most edge sealers have a seal only function.)

Edge sealer bags and bag rolls have an embossed lining that is required to work with a suction sealer. Without this embossing, bags won't work with an edge sealer, so you must always use these special bags:

Edge sealer bags

Largely because of the special embossed lining, edge sealer bags are expensive. The lining also makes them harder to clean and re-use, and only recyclable in special programs.

You can seal other types of bags--junk food bags, mylar bags, chamber vac bags--but you can't pull any vacuum. 

NOTE: You do not need the same brand of bags as your vacuum sealer. Any brand of bag made to use with edge sealers will work.

Chamber Sealer Bags

Chamber vacuum sealer bags don't need a lining because of the complete vacuum created in the chamber, so they are plain, 3 mil (or thicker), clear bags:

Chamber vacuum sealer bags

Chamber sealer bags are much cheaper than edge sealer bags. The cheapest roll of edge sealer bags will cost more than the most expensive brand name chamber sealer bags.

So in the long run, a chamber sealer is less expensive to operate, even though the initial investment is greater. 

Bag thickness: Standard chamber vacuum bags are 3 mil thick, but you can find thicker bags for a chamber sealer. While 3 mil bags are great for most vacuum sealing tasks, consider using 5 mil bags for long sous vide cooks (more than 6-8 hours) and for long-term freezer storage. Thicker bags generally mean a lower failure rate (in both instances).

If the thickness of the chamber vac bags isn't given, it's probably 3 mil.

As with edge sealer bags, you don't need to buy bags that are the same brand as your vacuum sealer. 

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Important Features on a Vacuum Sealer

When you shop for a vacuum sealer, there are several things to look for. Not all of them are important, but many are, and others may be important to you. The point is to educate yourself so you know what to look for before you buy.

Vacuum Strength (Or Pull)

Oxygen is how pathogens spoil your food. So the more oxygen (air) you can remove from a container, the longer your food will stay fresh. This is why vacuum strength is the most important thing to think about when you're buying a vacuum sealer.

Many consumer-grade vacuum sealer makers sell their products without providing vacuum strength specifications, yet this is the most important feature of a vacuum sealer. For example, FoodSaver considers this proprietary information; perhaps because their sealers pull somewhere around 15-20"Hg, which isn't great in comparison to commercial grade sealers.

Most consumer grade vacuum sealers pull about this much vacuum, although you can find some that pull as much as 23"Hg.

What Is "Hg? 

"Hg, or "inches of mercury," is a unit of pressure. There are many other units, including PSI, bar, and Pascals, but "Hg is the standard used across the vacuum sealer industry. Since vacuum sealers are removing air, this is actually a negative number, but the minus sign is generally omitted from the vacuum strength spec. But if you see one with a minus sign, you'll know why.

So What is Good Vacuum Pull? 

This depends on your perspective. If you just bought your first FoodSaver that pulls about 15"Hg, it will be several times better than zip top bags or Tupperware. But it's fara from what a commercial grade edge sealer or a chamber vacuum sealer can pull. 

Here are some numbers to help you understand good vacuum pull:

Perfect vacuum--unachievable on planet Earth--is 29.92"Hg. 

Consumer grade edge sealers: 15-23"Hg

Commercial grade edge sealers: 25-29"Hg

Chamber vacuum sealers: 26-29.5"Hg.

As you can see, the heavier duty edge sealers and chamber sealers can pull considerably more vacuum than the consumer grade sealers.

Since they are also more durable, built to last for a long time, and have replaceable parts, there is a strong argument in favor of investing in a heavier duty sealer.

But there are arguments for the consumer grade sealers, too: they're much better than no sealer at all. 

Whichever type of sealer you decide to go with, you now understand the importance of vacuum strength.

HELPFUL HINT: If vacuum strength is given in a unit different than "Hg (inches of mercury), you can use Google to convert the units by typing in (for example): "What is 25kPa in inches of mercury"?

Build Quality (Consumer Vs. Commercial Grade)

Build quality is strongly related to the vacuum strength discussion above. It is an important consideration in your vacuum sealer purchase. 

In general, consumer grade vacuum sealers (e.g., FoodSavers and their competitors) tend to be made primarily of plastic, including their vacuum pumps. Thus, they not only pull weaker vacuum, they also wear out faster. 

Most consumer grade vacuum sealers--with plastic housings and cost less than $150 or so--are considered throwaway items. People use them until they stop working, then replace rather than repair them. They can last just a few years or several years, depending on how much use they get and how careful you are when using them (for example, sucking liquid into the vacuum pump can shorten their life considerably).

More expensive commercial grade edge sealers and chamber vac sealers have a stainless steel or aluminum housing, as well as more durable internal parts. The pumps are made of steel and are air-cooled, both of which extends their lives and allows them to be used continuously without a cool down (a great feature).

Higher end sealers pull stronger vacuum, as well, which will keep your food fresher for longer. 

When parts wear out, you can buy replacement parts to repair them, and they'll be as good as new. Some parts on a vacuum sealer need occasional replacing, such as the gasket and heating element for the seal. You can even find these basic parts for many consumer grade sealers.

(Hint: If your vacuum sealer has stopped pulling vacuum, it might just need a simple gasket replacement, which you should be able to find for most vacuum sealers on the market, including inexpensive edge sealers.)

If you're on a tight budget or reluctant to spend the money for a commercial grade sealer, an inexpensive one is the right choice. But if you're sold on vacuum sealing and know you'll be using your sealer a lot, you will save money in the long run by buying a heavy duty vacuum sealer.

Another point about build quality is the pleasure of using the machine: an object with good heft and a solid feel is more pleasurable to use than one that feels cheap and chintzy.You should consider this before buying anything, because it may seem like a small thing, but well-made products enhance your quality of life, while cheap, poorly designed products detract from it. 

Settings and Features

LEM 1253 MaxVac 500 control panel

A vacuum sealer really does just two things: it removes air from a container (usually a bag), and it seals the bag shut. But there are several sealing options you may want to consider.

Many basic, low-cost edge sealers have just a Vacuum button and a Stop or Cancel button, and you have to hold the lid down while sealing.

Other edge sealers have more settings that give you more options. Here are the most commonly seen ones.

Many edge sealers have a Dry/Moist and/or Normal/Gentle (or High/Low) buttons. Because moist foods can destroy the vacuum pump if it sucks liquid in, the Moist or Low setting pulls less vacuum to help prevent this from happening. You still have to keep an eye on the food and stop the sealing process manually if liquid starts to get sucked into the machine, but the lower vacuum strength makes this easier to do.

(And yes, lower vacuum pull means that there will still be a significant amount of air left in the bag, so food preservation won't be as long. But it's still probably better than a zip-top bag or other non-vacuum sealed container.)

Normal/Gentle is similar: for hard, solid foods, you'd use the Normal setting. For soft foods like bread, you'd use the Gentle setting. This way you won't crush the soft food--but as with the Moist setting, you have to monitor the sealing process and press Stop or Cancel if the soft food starts to compress.

Pulse is another setting you may find on an edge sealer. Pulse will start and stop sealing as you press the button, giving you complete control over the whole process.

Pulse is a great feature and is found on more expensive consumer sealers and some commercial sealers. In general, it allows better control over the sealing process than the Dry/Moist, Normal/Gentle settings. 

Another feature is Seal, which is mostly used when you want to seal a bag without vacuum. For example, if you have a bag roll and want to seal the bottom end of the bag before adding food, you'd use the Seal feature. Seal also stops the vacuum and seals a bag immediately, though you can do this with any vacuum sealer by just pressing the Stop or Cancel. 

The LEM MaxVac 500 and MaxVac 1000 do not have a Pulse (or Manual Seal, same thing) setting. The other LEM edge sealers do. 

NOTE: Of all the settings a sealer can have, we think Pulse is the most useful.

Some sealers also have an Accessory (or Canister) button, which you use to seal external containers with the hose attachment. We talk more about the accessory port below.

Some sealers have an accessory port but no button, and the sealer automatically switches to accessory mode when you put the hose in the accessory port. All of the LEM edge sealers have an accessory port, but not all of them have a button on the control panel. 

Accessory Port

If your edge sealer has an accessory port, it may have an Accessory setting, or may automatically switch to accessory mode when you attach the accessory hose (no setting). This hose allows you to vacuum seal external containers. You can use them with food storage containers, mason jars, bottle stoppers, and marinade containers. 

All the LEM edge sealers have an accessory port. The LEM chamber vacuum sealer does not.

It's a nice feature, and if your sealer has one, you should use it. It allows you to vacuum seal many different containers. Since this will also reduce your plastic use, it's a win/win for you and the environment.

One great thing about accessory ports and hoses is that they tend to be universal, so if you have equipment from an old FoodSaver lying around, it should work with LEM sealers (the LEM website confirms this). If you don't, the FoodSaver hose is inexpensive, or you can go to the LEM website to buy theirs (we prefer the FoodSaver hose).

FoodSaver also sells the greatest variety of containers, and all should work with your LEM edge sealer.

An accessory port is a great feature, but it does require investing in different infrastructure. However, we love the idea of reusable containers because they save on plastic waste.

Roll Storage and Bag Cutter

Some edge sealers have built in roll storage, as you can see on this LEM 1253 MaxVac 500:

LEM vacuum sealer with bag roll callout

Bag storage has pros and cons. The main pro is that the bag roll is always with the sealer, so you have to keep track of one less thing.

The main drawback is that the storage space is usually small, so you can only fit small bag rolls into it.

Another is that bag storage makes the sealer bigger and bulkier. 

If an edge sealer has bag roll storage, it often comes with a built-in bag cutter, which makes it easy to get straight cuts. It's not a must-have feature, but it's handy. 

The LEM edge sealers that have bag storage also have a bag cutter. 

Automatic Sealing

Some edge sealers have automatic sealing: just pop in the bag and press a button, and the sealer does the rest. 

Some FoodSaver vacuum sealers are fully automated and will even cut the bag and feed it into the sealer for you. 

Others are completely manual, and you have to press and hold the sealer down while sealing.

In reality, even many "automatic" sealers require handling to get it to work. Edge sealers can be tricky to use. If the bag isn't positioned correctly or if you don't have quite enough pressure on both sides of the lid, it won't work. So "fully automatic" often means, "when you get the bag in the right position and the sealer latched down properly, it will finish the job for you." 

So, even automatic or "one-button" sealing usually involves more effort than it sounds like it will. 

Some of the LEM edge sealers have automatic or one-touch sealing, but they will require some pressure on the lid to work.

Whatever vacuum sealer you buy, you'll get the hang of using it. But some are definitely harder to use than others.

Starter Kits (Bags and Other Accessories)

Some edge sealers and a few chamber sealers come with accessories to help you get started, usually bags and sometimes other things, like an accessory hose. Largely because of FoodSaver, this is known as a Starter Kit.

It's not a deal breaker if a vacuum sealer doesn't have a good starter kit, but if you're torn between two models, the starter kit could swing it for you. This is especially true if you're buying at the lower end of the market, where a generous starter kit can be worth half the cost of the sealer.

LEM starter kits vary quite a bit, with some being very generous and others not so much. Their chamber sealer comes with 80 bags (that's a lot), tools, oil for the pump, and some replacement parts (very generous). The LEM edge sealers come with a bag roll or two; also a nice extra. 

A starter kit shouldn't be a deal breaker, but it is a great feature, since bags are going to be your biggest ongoing expense with your vacuum sealer. 

Chamber Sealers Only: Pump and Chamber Size

Rotary Oil Vacuum Pump

A rotary oil vacuum pump.

Pump

You can ignore this section if you're sure you're buying an edge sealer.

If you're buying a chamber vacuum sealer, you have two pump options: 1) maintenance-free dry piston pump, and 2) oil-cooled rotary pump that requires occasional oil changes. 

Oil-cooled pumps are more robust, but they require occasional oil changes. They can seal pretty much forever without a cool down period. The LEM chamber vacuum sealer has an oil-cooled pump.

If you're handy and don't mind doing the maintenance, an oil-cooled pump is a good choice. 

A maintenance-free pump never needs servicing, but is not quite as robust as an oil-cooled pump. You can still seal for a really long time without a cool down period (probably upwards of 50 seals), so it's robust enough for most home users. 

If you're not handy, go with a maintenance-free pump (which LEM does not make). 

Chamber Size

Since they all pull strong vacuum, chamber size is probably the most important feature in a chamber sealer. You will learn to use whatever chamber sealer you buy, but you should consider size before buying. There can be a huge difference in chamber size--which means there is a huge difference in the size bag you can use, as well as how much food you can seal at one time. 

Most old-school chamber sealers have a 10-inch seal bar, including the LEM chamber sealer. Some newer models of chamber sealers have longer seal bars.

Chamber height is one of the most important factors in chamber size. Height varies quite a bit among chamber sealers. The LEM chamber sealer is 3.25" high, while the VacMaster VP210 chamber vac has a chamber height of 5". This is a fairly significant difference.

If you want to compare chamber sizes of chamber vacs, check out our article Chamber Sealer Vacuum Reviews: The Best Deals on Amazon.

Warranty and Customer Service

Warranties are only as good as the company backing them up, but a good warranty should be a consideration when buying a vacuum sealer. Most vacuum sealers come with at least a one year warranty. Some of the LEM sealers have a 2-year or a 5-year warranty.

Warranties and customer service are important for any product you buy, and they should be part of your buying decision. An extended warranty through Amazon can also go a long ways toward creating peace of mind.

LEM is a company much-loved by hunters, fishermen, and other users of commercial grade products, and they are known for their excellent customer service. Thus, even though the vacuum pull on many of their edge sealers aren't the greatest, customer service may convince you to go with a LEM sealer.

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Drawbacks of Vacuum Sealing

If you're still on the fence about vacuum sealing, you might appreciate some thoughts about the its drawbacks.

Bags Are an Ongoing Expense

Bags are the biggest ongoing expense of owning a vacuum sealer. 

Though it isn't recommended, you can re-use some bags if you wash and dry them carefully. You won't always have a lot of bag left after you cut one open, but if you do, you can certainly wash it and re-use it. 

Another way to save money is by buying rolls of bags instead of boxes. Rolls cost quite a bit less, and there's the added feature of cutting bags to the desired size, which can also save you money.

You can also save by buying generic bags rather than brand-name bags. LEM makes exceptionally durable bags, but you may not need all that durability.

As long as you buy the right type of bag (remember, edge sealer bags are lined, chamber sealer bags are not), you can buy any brand. You do not need to buy bags that are the same brand as your vacuum sealer.

Also, though a chamber sealer is a bigger initial expense, the bags are much less expensive, so it cuts down on your long-term costs of using the sealer. 

Plastic Waste

Plastic waste is another drawback of using a vacuum sealer, and it's rather a big one. 

If you hate the idea of having more plastic in your kitchen, think twice about buying a vacuum sealer. (Same goes for sous vide.)

On the other hand, there is no substitute for long-term freezer storage than vacuum bags. They are the best at preserving food and keeping its peak flavor for as long as possible. 

So if you want to cut down on plastic use (and who doesn't?), it might be wise to look at other things and keep the vacuum sealer--it will help you save so much in the long run, and waste so much less food, it's probably the best place to invest in your plastic use.

Can you re-use vacuum sealer bags? The answer is a qualified maybe. If the bag had dry food in it or you are able to thoroughly wash and dry it, then yes, you may be able to re-use the bag. But in many cases this is hard to do because vacuum bags are tough to turn inside out and wash.

Can you recycle vacuum sealer bags? Again, maybe. You can't throw vacuum bags (either type) in the recycle bin with glass and plastic, but you may be able to recycle them with your plastic shopping bags. The information on this is sketchy, but it seems to be a possibility.

For more info, see our article 5 (Or So) Ways to Minimize Sous Vide Plastic Use.

Not All Foods Can Be Vacuum Sealed

bread products

Not all foods can be vacuum sealed. Or at least, not without great care. 

Vacuum sealers crush bread, crackers, and other soft foods. You can use the Soft, Moist, or Pulse setting to pull less vacuum, but you may be better off just storing the food in a zip-top bag or other container. If you can't pull good vacuum, you aren't gaining much by putting these foods in a vacuum-sealed bag. 

Wet foods are also an issue with edge sealers. If liquid gets sucked up into the vacuum pump, you can have a real mess on your hands. Again, you can use the Moist setting or otherwise control the vacuum pull (even just by stopping the vacuum process), but without a tight vacuum, you aren't getting optimal storage conditions.

You must also avoid sealing foods that can create botulism toxins in anaerobic environments (i.e., environments with no oxygen). These include raw mushrooms, garlic, and soft cheeses such as blue, brie, ricotta, and other soft or unpasteurized cheese.

You should also avoid sealing freshly cooked vegetables--you can seal them, just wait until they've cooled to room temperature.

Some Seals Will Fail

No matter how much you spend on a vacuum sealer, or on bags, you're not going to get perfect seals 100% of the time. 

Seals can fail for several reasons, including:

  • Defective bags
  • A sealer needing new gaskets
  • Heat seal strip is too hot and melts bags
  • Bones or other hard pieces poking tiny holes in the plastic
  • Operator error. 

Expect to have a small percentage of failed seals with any vacuum sealer and any brand of bag. It's going to happen. We estimate it to be about 1-2%.

Some of the time, it's "operator error," meaning that you have to get the hang of using the sealer because if you don't push the lid down hard enough of haven't inserted the bag straight enough, you won't get a good seal. (If you read reviews on Amazon, you'll see that a lot of people have trouble using a sealer at first; this is true for every brand of vacuum sealer.) 

We think that even with a small failure rate, vacuum sealing is worth the investment and ongoing expense. You'll save more food than you lose, and by doing so you'll save money.

Storing the Vacuum Sealer

If you've got limited storage space, a vacuum sealer may present a space issue. Some are small enough to fit in a drawer, but most--including most models of LEM MaxVac sealers--are fairly bulky. 

The higher quality the sealer, the more it's going to weigh, making it harder to store. So if you're interested in buying a heavy duty sealer like a LEM vacuum sealer, be sure you have a place to park it, and that you won't mind putting it into storage when you're not using it. 

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Review: LEM 1379 MaxVac 100

LEM 1379 MaxVac vacuum sealer

See the LEM 1379 MaxVac 100 on Amazon

See the LEM 1379 MaxVac 100 at Home Depot

About $90

What we like: If you're looking for a consumer grade edge sealer--that is, one that is small and light, with mostly plastic parts and a decent-but-not-great vacuum pull, this is certainly worth consideration. The vacuum pull is comparable to other major brands or slightly better. 

The 12" seal bar is great. 

It has all the features you could want, including a Pulse button, Normal/Gentle and Moist/Dry settings, and an accessory port (hose sold separately).

The sealer comes with 20 bags, which is a decent starter kit.

For a sealer at this price point, 22.4"Hg is decent vacuum pull. 

What we don't like: The VacMax 100 gets some really terrible reviews. People had trouble using it and even getting to pull any vacuum at all. This isn't all that unusual, as many vacuum sealers require way more pressure when you close the lid than people think they will. This is one that you have to push very firmly on both sides at the same time to get it to lock down. 

Part of why that's frustrating--aside from making it hard to use--is that this sealer is mostly plastic, and pressing down can feel like you're going to break the sealer. 

Features and Specifications

  • Stainless Steel Top
  • 22.4Hg Pump
  • 12" Seal Bar
  • 14.5 x 6"; 4 lbs.
  • Pulse setting
  • 35" cord
  • Locking lid
  • Up to 26 consecutive seals
  • ETL-certified
  • 1 year warranty
  • Made in China.

Operation

The LEM 1379 MaxVac 100 has all the features you could want in a consumer grade vacuum sealer. It has a Pulse button for start-stop sealing, Auto Seal, Manual Seal, and Normal/Gentle and Dry/Moist settings for delicate and wet foods.

The Pulse button will also run the accessory port. The Stop button will stop vacuum and seal at any time during the sealing process.

Here's the inside of the sealer:

LEM 1379 MaxVac 100 vacuum sealer open

Included

  • Includes 10 Quart Bags and 10 Gallon Bags.

Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Small and light, easy to store
  • Pulse button as well as Normal/Gentle and Dry/Moist settings
  • Accessory port
  • Generous starter kit (20 bags)
  • 12" seal bar (most sealers at this price have an 11" seal bar).

Cons:

  • Not great build quality (lots of plastic)
  • Hard to press down and get it to seal properly
  • No bag storage or cutter.

Recommendation

It takes a bit of practice to use this vacuum sealer, but for the price, it's a good choice. If you want a small, light, consumer-grade sealer that has all the features you need and decent-but-not-great vacuum pull (about what you should expect at this price point), and if you don't mind the two-handed lid lock and using a bit of pressure to get it to go, the LEM 1379 MaxVac 100 is a good buy.

LEM 1379 MaxVac vacuum sealer

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*Review: LEM 1393 MaxVac 250

LEM 1393 MaxVac 250 vacuum sealer

See the LEM 1393 MaxVac 250 on Amazon

About $210

What we like: The LEM 1393 MaxVac 250 is a nice little sealer. At 11 lbs, it's easy to move around yet still hefty enough to feel like it has a commercial build. The stainless steel housing is durable, yet it has the look and feel of a consumer grade sealer, meaning that it's prettier than the other more industrial-looking LEM sealers.

The control panel is simple and very easy to use. The one-handed locking lid is a nice feature because you know for sure that the bag is locked down and the sealer is ready to go. 

The Pulse button is a great feature that every edge sealer should have.

The 13" seal bar is good sized, as most edge sealers have an 11" bar. (If you want a longer seal bar, the two models below have a 14" bar.) However, the bag roll holder will hold just 11" wide bags.

250 consecutive seals is probably enough for almost anyone (but if you want more, check out the sealers below). 

But our favorite thing about this sealer is its vacuum pull: at 25"Hg, it has the strongest vacuum pull of all the LEM edge sealers. This is a little strange, because for other brands vacuum pull goes up as price goes up. But if you want a LEM edge sealer with the strongest vacuum pull, the MaxVac 250 is the one to get.

What we don't like: It's weird that the bag roll holder will only hold 11" bags when the seal bar will take larger bags. Why not have a bag holder that's the same length as the seal bar?

The sealer is easy to operate, but the latch is hard to push into place: you have to use quite a bit of force to get the sealer to latch. And because the latch is mostly plastic, it's unnerving to push so hard because it feels like it might break. 

The roll cutter also feels a little cheap, like you have to be careful with it.

In fact, this sealer has more plastic on it than the 500 and 1000 models. This is good for keeping the sealer light weight, but it makes it feel more like consumer grade sealer.

And even though this sealer has the highest vacuum pull of all the LEM edge sealers, 25"Hg isn't all that great. But it's not bad for a $200 sealer. If this is the top of your budget, this sealer is a good choice. But it's not really commercial grade vacuum pull.

Features and Specifications

  • Stainless steel housing
  • 25Hg pump
  • 13.4" seal  bar (up to 13"-wide bags)
  • 25"Hg vacuum pull/250 watts
  • 17.34x12x4.63"; 11 lbs
  • One-handed locking lid
  • 250 or more consecutive seals
  • Pulse setting
  • Accessory port for external sealing (hose sold separately)
  • Built-in bag roll and cutter; hold/cuts up to 11" wide roll
  • Detachable 40" power cord
  • ETL-certified
  • 1 year warranty
  • Made in China. 

Operation

Operation is easy, and the sealer has all the sealing options you could want, including automatic Vacuum Seal, Pulse, Cancel (to stop vacuum pull at any time), Seal Only (for making bags or sealing without vacuum), and Canister (for sealing external containers--hose sold separately).

Here's a side view of the MaxVac 250 open, showing the bag holder area and the vacuum area:

LEM 1393 MaxVac 250 vacuum sealer open

The accessory port is located in the vacuum channel. 

Included

  • One 8" x 10' bag roll
  • Quick start guide
  • Instruction manual
  • Extra heat seal bar.

Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Best vacuum pull (25"Hg) of all the LEM edge sealers
  • Easy to use (though can be hard to latch)
  • Pulse button for excellent manual sealing
  • 13" seal bar longer than average 11" bar 
  • Up to 250 consecutive seals
  • Accessory port.

Cons:

  • The build quality isn't as sturdy as other LEM edge sealers
  • Latch is hard to push down and feels a little cheap
  • Bag cutter feels a little cheap.

Recommendation

The LEM 1393 MaxVac 250 vacuum sealer has more plastic than more expensive LEM sealers, and the latch is a little hard to use. But it also has the strongest vacuum pull of all of LEM's edge sealers--25"Hg. This is very good for the price. The MaxVac 250 is our pick of all the LEM edge sealers. 

LEM 1393 MaxVac 250 vacuum sealer

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Review: LEM 1253 MaxVac 500

LEM 1253 MaxVac 500 vacuum sealer

See the LEM 1253 MaxVac 500 on Amazon

See the LEM 1253 MaxVac 500 at everythingkitchens.com

About $320

What we like: The LEM 1253 MaxVac 500 is another commercial grade sealer built for heavy duty use. The aluminum housing keeps it lighter than other LEM models (14 lbs), but still very sturdy. The fan-cooled pump will run for 500 seals straight, which is impressive. 

The sealer is easy to use, but there is no option for manual sealing (a miss if you want to do soft or wet foods).

The 14" seal bar is great for large bags, and the extra wide trough contains spills really well.

Bag storage and cutter, plus an accessory port, are nice features on a commercial grade sealer.

And the accessory port is great, along with the Canister button which makes it easy to use.

What we don't like: The latch is a little hard to work, the bag cutter feels a little delicate (if you handle it carefully it should be fine), and there is no manual sealing option to control the vacuum for soft or moist foods.

Our biggest issue with this sealer is that it pulls just 22"Hg vacuum. This is only a little bit better than a FoodSaver, and nothing near a comparable Weston Pro 2300, which pulls 28"Hg for about $70 more.

Features and Specifications

  • Aluminum housing with one-hand locking lid
  • 20x9x22"; 14 lbs
  • 14" seal bar
  • 22"Hg vacuum pull/462 watts
  • Rated for 5 hours and 500 consecutive seals
  • Circuit breaker for unit protection
  • Built-in cooling fan
  • Bag holder and cutter
  • Auto mode vacuum and seal
  • Accessory port for external storage containers (hose sold separately)
  • Cord length is 6' (minimum of 14 gauge is required when using an extension cord)
  • Extra large spill trough
  • 1/4" heat strip
  • 2 year warranty
  • ETL-certified
  • Made in China.

Operation

This sealer is easy to use. There's a "one-handed" latch you use to lock the lid, making sure the top of the bag is in he sealing trough (or just on the heat strip for making the bottom of a bag).

You use the Manual Seal button to seal the ends of bag rolls, the Start button to start the sealing process, and the Stop button if you want to interrupt the automatic sealing cycle.

There are no options to Pulse or otherwise control sealing. This is fairly standard for a commercial grade machine.

There is also no automatic release, so you have to lift the latch manually when sealing is complete.

Included

  • One 8" x 25' roll of vacuum bag.

Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Heavy duty build quality
  • 14" seal bar for extra large bags
  • Seal cycle is fast
  • Accessory port
  • Easy to use
  • Up to 5 hrs/500 consecutive seals
  • Bag storage and cutter are great.

Cons:

  • No manual controls (Pulse setting) for sealing
  • The vacuum pull is just 22"Hg, low for a sealer at this price point
  • Bag cutter feels a little cheap.

Recommendation

The LEM 1253 MaxVac 500 is extremely well built and will run for 5 hours straight. But the low vacuum pull of just 22"Hg makes this about the same as a FoodSaver. There's a lot to like about this machine, but the low vacuum pull makes it not a great choice. You can find other commercial grade edge sealers for about the same price that pull significantly more vacuum.

See our Avid Armor review for more information

LEM 1253 MaxVac 500 vacuum sealer

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Review: LEM 1088B MaxVac 1000

LEM 1088B MaxVac 1000 vacuum sealer

See the LEM 1088B MaxVac 1000 on Amazon

See the LEM 1088B MaxVac 1000 at Home Depot

About $530

What we like: The LEM 1088B MaxVac 1000 is a powerful edge sealer with a fan-cooled piston pump that will run almost forever: it's rated for 10 hours or 1,000 consecutive seals. If you're looking for a good machine for bulk sealing your harvest or meats, this is a decent choice.

We love the extra wide 14" seal bar so you can use extra large bags. And we love the wide vacuum channel and large spill trough that help keep messes to a minimum. 

The sealing process is easy to do whether you're using the automatic or manual feature, and the auto release lid is a nice feature, too.

The removable bag roll is a great feature too, as it's a big, bulky sealer that might be hard to find space for. We also like that it includes bag storage and a cutter; many commercial grade sealers do not.

The detachable power cord is also a nice feature.

The sealer is easy to use with its auto sensors and automatic lid release when done. The control panel is simple and straightforward.

What we don't like: The sealer was a little hard to get the hang of using. You have to press down fairly hard to get it to go. 

The bag cutter feels a little cheap--it felt like it needed to be handled gently or it might break. 

Our biggest issue with this sealer is that it pulls just 24"Hg vacuum. This is only a little bit better than a FoodSaver, and nothing near a comparable Weston Pro 2300, which pulls 28"Hg for about $100 less.

LEM 1088B MaxVac 1000 vacuum sealer, open

Features and Specifications

  • Stainless steel housing with one-hand locking lid
  • 21x21x8.5"; 22 lbs
  • 24"Hg vacuum pull/880 watts
  • Piston pump with cooling fan
  • One touch digital controls
  • Rated for 10 hours and 1000 consecutive seals
  • Circuit breaker for unit protection
  • Auto lid release
  • Auto sensor shuts off pump once full vacuum is achieved
  • Bag holder and cutter (removable for easy storage)
  • One touch manual vacuum and seal control
  • Auto mode vacuum and seal
  • Accessory port for external hose connection (hose sold separately)
  • Detachable 6' power cord
  • Extra large spill trough
  • Wide vacuum channel 
  • 1/4" heat strip accommodates 14" wide bags and provides excellent sealing
  • ETL-certified
  • 5 year warranty
  • Made in China.

Operation

The LEM 1088B MaxVac 1000 is easy to operate, with only 5 buttons: On/Off, Stop, Vacuum, Seal, and Manual Seal.

You can seal automatically by pressing the Vacuum button, and stop the process at any time by pressing the Seal button.

You can seal without vacuum by using the Seal button alone (no vacuum). 

And you can do a manual seal with the Manual/Seal button, which allows you to pulse vacuum as needed, completely in your control. 

It doesn't have dry/moist or other controls, but the Manual button is actually better because it gives you total control over sealing, no matter what you're trying to accomplish.

Indicator lights tell you what mode the sealer is in. If you want to use the accessory port, simply plug it into the hole (located in the vacuum channel), and it will automatically switch to accessory mode.

We found that the lid was a little hard to close, which is standard on many edge sealers. You may have to futz with it a few times to get the hang of using it.

The bag roll and cutter make it easy to customize bags to the length you want. 

Included

  • One 8" x 25' roll of vacuum bag.

Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Heavy duty build quality 
  • 880 watts makes the sealer cycle very fast
  • Up to 10 hrs/1000 consecutive seals
  • Automatic and Manual sealing options
  • 14" seal bar for extra large bags
  • Easy to use 
  • Removable roll storage and detachable power cord for easier storage
  • Accessory port (hose sold separately).

Cons:

  • The vacuum pull is only 24"Hg, low for a sealer at this price point
  • A little tricky to get the vacuum pull going--have to press down on the lid
  • The bag cutter is a little cheap
  • Expensive for an edge sealer.

Recommendation

We love the heavy duty feel of this machine, that it will run pretty much forever, and that it's easy to use. But the vacuum pull is mediocre, and powerful vacuum is the whole reason you spend the money for a commercial sealer (more vacuum equals longer food life).

LEM 1088B MaxVac 1000 vacuum sealer

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Review: LEM MaxVac Pro Chamber Sealer

LEM MaxVac Pro chamber vacuum sealer

See the LEM MaxVax Pro Chamber Sealer on Amazon

See the LEM MaxVax Pro Chamber Sealer at everythingkitchens.com

About $1000

What we like: If you're looking for a heavy duty--and heavy--chamber sealer, the LEM is made as tough as they come. It's got a tough stainless steel housing and heavy polycarbonate lid (for easy viewing).

The digital control screen is easy to use, and LEM has many excellent online videos if you need help getting going (we link to one below in "Operation.")

The LEM's rotary oil pump will run forever without overheating--but it does require occasional oil changes, which aren't difficult, but may put you off if you're not handy.

We also really like that it comes with a generous starter kit, including not just 80 bags (unheard of with chamber sealers), but extra parts, tools, and oil for the oil changes.

Finally, LEM is known for their excellent customer service, so if you have any problems at all, they'll be there to help out.

What we don't like: The sealer weighs almost 100 pounds (97 to be exact), which is big. And the chamber is on the smallish side: the 10" seal bar limits you to bags no wider than 10 inches; this is pretty standard for these behemoth, old-school type sealers, but newer models have longer seal bars, so you can use bigger bags. Also the chamber height is 3.25", so it's a little shallow; similar VacMaster chamber sealers have a 5" chamber height, and the lightweight VacMaster VP200 (see it at webstaurantstore.com) even has a 4.7" chamber height, plus a 12" seal bar for about half the price and a fraction of the weight.

Also, this chamber sealer doesn't have an accessory port, but most chamber sealers don't, so it's a small miss. Remember, you can seal small jars right in the chamber (larger jars on their sides, as long as the contents aren't liquid, because you have to leave the top slightly loose or the jar will implode).

To compare, check out our VacMaster vacuum sealer review.

Features and Specifications

  • Stainless steel housing with transparent polycarbonate lid
  • Total size: 14.5" x 19" x 18"/97 lbs
  • Chamber size: 13.25" x 16" x 3.25"
  • 10" seal bar
  • Largest bag: 10"W x 15"L
  • Dual 3mm and 1mm heat seals
  • Power: 560w 3/4 HP motor/180w 1/4 HP vacuum pump
  • Vacuum pull: adjustable up to 29.5"Hg
  • Pumping rate: 3.6 CFM (cubic feet/minute)
  • Customizable settings for bag rack, sealing time, vacuum, sealing temperature
  • Three preset programs
  • Easy to use digital controls
  • Quick-stop button 
  • 6' detachable cord
  • Easy clean up with a flat top and removable sealing bar
  • Designed for dry foods, meat/fish, and liquids
  • 5-Year Warranty
  • Made in China.

Operation

LEM MaxVac Pro chamber vacuum sealer control panel

The LEM MaxVac Pro is easy to use. The control panel is simple, and vacuum sealing is automatic once you have all the settings where you want. You just put the bag (or jar) in the chamber, adjust the bag holder as you want it, and hold the lid down for a few seconds until suction is established. The sealer does the rest, and the lid opens automatically when the sealing process is complete.

LEM MaxVac Pro chamber sealer bag holder

You can toggle through settings and use the arrows to adjust them (vacuum time, seal time, cool time, and yield, which tells you the total number of cycles the machine has run). 

There are three programmable presets you can also use for frequent settings.

If you want to see a dome, check out the LEM instruction video.

Included

  • 40 - 6" x 6" storage bags
  • 40 - 10" x 13" storage bags
  • Compressor oil
  • Extra rubber gasket
  • Extra heat bar
  • Allen wrench
  • Phillips screwdriver
  • Flat screwdriver
  • Teflon tape.
  • Pros and Cons

    Pros:

    • Powerful
    • Easy to use
    • Can seal liquids and jars
    • Will seal virtually forever without overheating
    • Bags are less expensive than for edge sealers.

    Cons:

    • Very heavy (almost 100 lbs)
    • Pump requires oil changes
    • Expensive (about $1000)
    • No accessory port
    • Chamber height, 3.25", is a little small (compare to a VacMaster VP210, with a height of 5").

    Recommendation

    The LEM MaxVac Pro Chamber Vacuum Sealer is a super powerful, super heavy duty machine. Its rotary oil pump will run pretty much forever without overheating. It has an easy to use interface and comes with a generous starter kit. It's a great machine, but its chamber height is a little low compared to similar VacMaster models (e.g., VP210 and VP215). This limits the number of larger items it can do, such as whole chickens, large roasts, and bigger jars. For approximately the same price, we would probably go with VacMaster for the bigger chamber, one of the smaller "new generation" chamber sealers for significantly less.

    LEM MaxVac Pro chamber vacuum sealer

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    Final Thoughts on LEM Vacuum Sealers

    LEM Vacuum Sealer Featured Image

    LEM vacuum sealers are an interesting case. Most are heavy duty, commercial grade quality and will last forever as well as run forever. But they have disappointingly weak vacuum pull (compared to other commercial grade sealers), so if you're looking for a commercial build quality and powerful vacuum (and why wouldn't you be?), LEM isn't the best choice.

    Their consumer grade sealer, the LEM 1393 MaxVac 100, pulls better vacuum than most of its competitors, and is a decent choice if you're looking in the FoodSaver market. Though there are many complaints that it is hard to use, we recommend this one for people who are looking to not spend more than $100; a lot of vacuum sealers at this price point are tricky to use. 

    The LEM 1393 MaxVac 250 is our favorite of all the LEM sealers and the one we recommend most highly. It has commercial grade build quality and pulls the strongest vacuum of all the LEM sealers with a rating of 25"Hg. For about $200, you can get the 250 and better vacuum pull than LEMs that cost hundreds more. 

    Thanks for reading! 

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