Vacuum sealing foods

dreamgoddessFebruary 22, 2013

I'm debating purchasing a vacuum sealer for foods to help with saving on groceries. I was looking at a Foodsaver, but the reviews on all of the models are so varied. Some say they are wonderful, other reviews say they are junk.

Does anyone have a Foodsaver? If so, do you like it? Or can anyone recommend a vacuum sealer that is good, but won't break the bank?

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Also check over at the Cooking Forum. Lots of responses over there.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2013 at 7:31PM
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Thank you sushipup! I'll head over there.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2013 at 8:32PM
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I'm on my 3rd FoodSaver (the next one is safe in the basement - bought at a low-low price at Tuesday Morning) and I've been using them since 1986. They were great when we had 2 kids (and all their friends) still at home, and even better now that there are only 2 of us. The FoodSaver is a way of life in our home.

I do home food storage so a lot of the food I store is vacuum-sealed in bags as well as canning jars (using the FoodSaver Jar Sealer and the canning lid). Removing the oxygen extends the shelf-life and is the best way to prevent pantry pests. If there are any pantry pest or their eggs in your dry goods, they will die from lack of oxygen. I store large amounts of dry grains/seeds/beans and a large assortment of other dry goods. I also use freeze-dried foods, and when I open a #10 can I transfer the food to canning jars, in user-friendly amounts, and vacuum-seal it shut to extend the shelf-life.

The key to using it is having a place where the FoodSaver is read-to-use. I have a storage shelf next to the refrigerator. Before that I had a cart on wheels with the FoodSaver on the top. On one shelf I have the FoodSaver where the bags can lay flat while being sealed. Under that shelf I have a couple nice baskets with "stuff" I need for the FoodSaver. I have a basket with pre-cut bags and rolls of bags, a pair of scissors to cut the bags, and a Sharpie to mark the bags. In the other basket I have some plastic containers (with lids) I use with my hand-held FoodSaver and my collection of Universal Lids.

Universal Lids are lids that you can use on nearly any rigid container that has a smooth rim. They come in two sizes. I've used them for some odd-sized glass canisters that are bigger than a wide-mouth canning jar. The lids are also more convenient for foods I move from storage to the pantry for use. It's easier to open and reseal a Universal Lid for frequent use than a canning lid. The canning lids need to be heated in hot water for 5-minutes and dried before vacuum-sealing them onto a jar. This process softens the sealing compound, just like when we use them for home canning, and helps assure a good seal. I check all my sealed jars the first of every month to make sure they are still attached. Occasionally a seal will release. I process the lid (or perhaps process a new lid) and reseal the food.

--Some foods seal best in jars or canisters so they remain free-flowing, yet oxygen free (including dry goods like pasta/noodles, dry cereal, crackers/cookies/snack food, which can crush or break in a FoodSaver bag).

--DON'T vacuum-seal flour in bags because there is enough moisture in flour when packed tightly in a bag it can start to smell moldy. This information is from one of the user manuals. You also risk having flour sucked into your FoodSaver which can burn the motor out. If you vacuum-seal it in a jar or canister it will remain free-flowing and that won't be a problem. When I seal a powery item in a jar I'll place a small coffee filter on the top to help prevent the powder from migrating to the lid during the vacuum-seal (which can cause the lid not to seal properly).

--Chocolate chips are best vacuum-sealed in a jar or canister so they remain free-flowing. When they are sealed in a bag you'll end up with a fused "block" of chocolate chips. You can even vacuum-seal marshmallows in a jar or canister.

--Most foods destined for the freezer I quick-freeze before vacuum-sealing in bags. This way those blueberries or strawberries will not crush and will remain in individual pieces. Put them on a rimmed sheet covered with parchment paper and freeze. Using the parchment paper as a funnel, lift the fruit from the pan and fill the bag. Place the bag opening to the side and keep fruit in a single layer, then vacuum-seal shut. When you need a portion from the bag, cut the bag open and give it a tap on the counter and the food will break apart and you can measure out what you need and reseal the bag. I freeze pre-cooked brown rice, beans, grains, etc., then vacuum-seal so they will easily break apart for measuring.

--I "file" food in plastic baskets in the freezer. I have one basket that has fruit and vegetables. I can remove the basket from the freezer and quickly flip through the contents to see what I have or need. I have 2 more basket with breakfast meat and other meat in portions (cooked or uncooked), all filed in FoodSaver Bags. If I purchase a ring of sausage or kilbasa, I'll cut it into "coins", quick-freeze those, then put them in a single layer in a bag and vacuum-seal.

--Homemade soup/stew/chili are frozen in single-serving portions. When the contents are frozen, pop them out of the containers. Stack the frozen "cubes" together and vacuum-seal. Now you have your plastic containers for something else. I do the same with Sloppy Joe Meat, Spaghetti Sauce, Stroganoff..... Cook once and freeze. BTW, I only have the freezer on my side-by-side refrigerator.

--I only make mashed potatoes 3 or 4 times a year (after each potato harvest and when they are buy one bag, get one bag free, and make Freezer Mashed Potatoes. Some I will portion in plastic containers (quick-freeze and remove and stack like I do soup), and some I'll portion using an ice cream scoop. Quick-freeze the dollops on a cookie sheet covered with a sheet of parchment paper, then transfer the sheet of parchment paper and the potato dollops into a FoodSaver bag and vacuum-seal.

Freezer Mashed Potatoes
5# potatoes (peel if you want to, or scrub well if you don't)
Cook in salted water per usual. If you normally add garlic to your potatoes, don't if they are destined for the freezer. Garlic will change in the freezer - usually getting stronger.

Drain. Add 6 oz. cream cheese, 1 c. sour cream, 1 c. sour cream, 1/2 c. butter. Mash.

--When storing food at room temperature you need to be mindful the food is 10% or lower in moisture. Popcorn, for instance, has a higher moisture content, so I don't vacuum-seal it. Brown sugar is another food you shouldn't vacuum-seal. It can be moist enough from the molasses for any botulism bacteria that may be present to grow into a toxin when in the anaerobic (oxygen-free) state of a sealed jar.

Helpful Hint:
-Cover a bone or sharp portion of meat that might penetrate the bag with a wad of plastic wrap before vacuum-sealing.

-I put some of my silver trays and serving pieces in FoodSaver bags so they won't oxidize.

-Be sure to read the user manual!!!

-Which one? There are new features available on FoodSavers than those on the models I've had, usually costing more. All I need is to be able to seal both sizes of bags, a port (hole) for the hose to use on my FoodSaver Canisters, Universal Lid and Jar Sealer.

I wouldn't want to live without my FoodSaver..... :-)


    Bookmark   February 23, 2013 at 9:17AM
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I read the results of a test and they found that freezer bags are just as good as vacuum bags.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2013 at 6:25PM
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Freezer bags aren't oxygen-free like a vacuum-sealed FoodSaver bag, nor are they as tightly wrapped over the food. Oxygen is always an enemy in food storage - including frozen foods. The freezer bags, because of oxygen remaining in the bags, allow for the migration of moisture from the food into the bag, and the moisture forms into ice crystals which equals a loss of moisture and flavor in the food item. Food that is vacuum-sealed doesn't get freezer burn, nor does it suffer from moisture loss like freezer bags do.

If you don't mind, would you please site the information?


    Bookmark   February 23, 2013 at 6:48PM
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"Drain. Add 6 oz. cream cheese, 1 c. sour cream, 1 c. sour cream, 1/2 c. butter. Mash. "

Is there a reason you split out the 2 cups of sour cream?

    Bookmark   February 24, 2013 at 6:26PM
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There is no comparison between freezer bags and a good vacuum sealing system. Personally have seen the difference between fish that is just bagged and fish that is sealed.

I am probably on my third(?) food saver. They do make commercial units but they aren't cheap. I do find that either the wire gets too hot are maybe the motor gets hot, but it will shut down and I have to give it a rest. The only time this becomes a problem is when I am bagging large quantities of salmon.

I use the universal lid to jar lettuce. I usually buy the 6 pack of romaine. I clean, cut, and spin the lettuce and then put in quart jars. Easy to pull out and use for salads. Just gently pry off the lids and you can clean and reuse the lids.

We also use it for stuff you don't want to get wet. I do it for stuff that we carry in first aid kits. The only drawback with stuff you "bag" is that you will also need to carry a knife or scissors in order to open the bags.

Bags aren't cheap but how much are you throwing out? Buying in bulk is cheaper, but only if you don't end up with freezer burn. For me it's more convience than savings. I like going to the freezer and having my homemade food. When you make meatballs do large quanities and freeze. Use the same principle for your other favorites. Today I was using it to bag some prime rib that was cooked on the traeger for a party last night. We also had steelhead that was removed from a food saver bag.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2013 at 12:48AM
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Listen to Grainlady. She knows what she's talking about when it comes to food preservation.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2013 at 12:50AM
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Thanks for catching my mistake. The recipe should read:

5# potatoes (cooked and drained)
6 oz. cream cheese
1 c. sour cream
1/4 c. butter


I'm with you.... Lettuce, vacuum-sealed in a canister or a 1/2-gallon jar, keeps fresh for much longer. Vacuum-sealing is specially good when picking fresh leaf lettuce in the spring.

A vacuum-sealed FoodSaver bag VS a freezer bag example:

I found 3 vacuum-sealed All-Beef Fairbury Franks from Nebraska (an expensive item here in Kansas when you can find them ;-) that were sealed Dec. 2010. I think I was saving them for a special occasion, but they got lost in the rotation shuffle. Anyway, they got cooked for our 42nd Wedding Anniversary last week because we were in the middle of "The Blizzard of Oz" and didn't want to go out to eat. They were as good as the day I vacuum-sealed them. You'd never get anything other than freezer burned, dehydrated, hot dogs if you stored them 26-months in a zip-lock freezer bag! We had them with a gift jar of home-canned sauerkraut and Freezer Mashed Potatoes. This is as good as it gets when it comes to a favorite meal for me. And one we'll remember as the Anniversary Special.


    Bookmark   February 25, 2013 at 5:19AM
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It was reported on TV when they first came out. It didn't really interest me because I have never kept more than a month's supply in the freezer. I try to keep life simple and I don't go into fancy tools like a lot of people do. I use mostly soap and water for cleaning. I bought a swifter mop and when I got ready to buy more replacement cloths, I was shocked at the price, so I use old thin wash cloths on the mop and throw them in the laundry.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2013 at 11:42PM
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I've just glanced through the replies as I just popped in here for a minute before heading out to work.

Grainlady, one comment you made did catch my eye and I wanted to ask about it. You mentioned freezing strawberries. How do you do this? Every time I've tried freezing strawberries, I end up with a mushy mess that is totally inedible.

I can't wait to get home tonight and really sit down and read all the comments!

    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 8:06AM
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You will get good results with strawberries by quick-freezing them on a cookie sheet first, then vacuum-sealing them. Make sure you put them in a single layer in the bags (with the bag opening to the side) when you vacuum-seal the bag.

I quick-freeze nearly everything before I vacuum-seal it in a bag to store in the freezer.

Hope that helps you out.


    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 8:58AM
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I freeze bacon, smoked sausage and a few other things by putting them on a cookies sheet in serving sizes, then bagging them. It's a wonderful to way to keep food fresh for a single person.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 12:37PM
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"You will get good results with strawberries by quick-freezing them on a cookie sheet first, then vacuum-sealing them"

Quick freeze???
As in faster?
How do you get them to freeze faster?

I am familiar with flash freezing, but that is not possible with a regular household freezer.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2013 at 11:02AM
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"Quick freeze" is freezing them ONLY until they are solid enough to withstand vacuum-sealing. You could also call it flash-freezing, but technically flash-freezing requires a much colder temperature than what most home freezers are set at. "Quick freezing" is also a term used in my FoodSaver manuals. Anyway, once a food item is frozen you should vacuum-seal it as soon as possible to prevent moisture loss in the freezer, which can affect the flavor and texture.

I often load the FoodSaver bag with the food in a single layer and lay it on a flat surface in the freezer. When the food is frozen (15-60 minutes depending on the type and thickness), then I vacuum-seal it shut. Things like blueberries, cooked grains or beans can be done this way, or you can place them on a rimmed cookie sheet lined with sheet of parchment paper. Once frozen completely, lift the parchment paper to loosen the food items and use the parchment paper as a funnel to fill the bag/s.

Hope that helps...


    Bookmark   April 1, 2013 at 2:07PM
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This thread has been so enlightening. I hope someone can help me. I am not generally a stockpiler, nor do I have experience with many "emergency" type foods. I found you guys through a google search.

I am preparing a box to send overseas to a friend who lives in South Sudan where fruit and meat and dairy are difficult to come by. She has asked for freeze dried things and I have found a local store that sells them in 10# cans.

I can't mail the cans due to their size and weight. I am going to be buying freeze-dried chicken and freeze-dried mozzarella. Can I open the 10# cans and put their contents into foodsaver bags and vacuum seal them before mailing? I notice that you said some things can't be stored in bags but I could not determine if meat and cheese were among those things.

Would putting them in the foodsaver bags extend their shelf life and make them ok to mail (it takes about a month for them to get their mail as it's brought over from Kenya once a month)?

Thank you in advance for your help!

If it matters, the products I am looking at are:

    Bookmark   July 27, 2013 at 11:10AM
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According to the site you linked to, the non-refrigerated shelf life of the food is one week after the can is opened. I don't believe that the home vacuum sealing bags and machines can give you the completely airless environment needed to safely store the meats.

    Bookmark   July 28, 2013 at 1:04PM
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I would give the friendly folks at Honeyville Grain a call (888) 810-3212 for guidelines and information. They may suggest mylar bags with an oxygen absorber instead of a FoodSaver, or perhaps adding an oxygen absorber to the FoodSaver bags.

I gleaned this information from Chef Tess Bakeresse web site (she's a Honeyville Grain representative). She repacks whole meals made from freeze-dried foods in canning jars (it can also be packed in mylar bags), and that might be something you would want to send. She has lots of recipes and videos at her web site and don't miss her new book - "The Gourmet Food Storage Handbook - by Stephanie Petersen (aka Chef Tess).

NOTE: The repacking of Freeze Dried Meat must be done within 24-48 hours of opening the can and must be done in a dry environment. Once repacked you must use an oxygen absorber to make sure there is a vacuum oxygen free environment.

I would measure the cheese or meat in small amounts - not more than 1-2 cup per bag - and would probably double-bag it and vacuum-seal shut. Place the small bags into a large bag and vacuum-seal it shut with an oxygen absorber for shipping and longer storage. This way the entire #10 can amount won't have to be used quickly once it's open. Each small bag can be used as needed.


Here is a link that might be useful: Chef Tess Bakeresse

    Bookmark   July 28, 2013 at 6:24PM
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