Do they suck or do they suck?
April 6, 2011 8:36 AM   Subscribe

What's the best way to package and store food? Do vacuum-sealer machines suck like they're supposed to? Or do they suck in a different way?

For years, I've wanted a FoodSaver device (like this) so that I can buy bulk meats, cheeses, etc., and store them without freezer burn. Thing is, reading the reviews for this device and just about everything like it doesn't instill a lot of confidence in the vaccuum-sealing industry. Do you own this machine? Does it work well? Is just sucking the air out of a ziptop bag just as effective?
posted by bluejayway to Food & Drink (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
My Uncle has one and likes it. He buys entire tenderloins and cuts them up to make nice think steaks. These get frozen two to a pack and vacuum sealed. He hasn't had any instances of freezer burn or anything bad yet, but then again I don't have one and just make sure to press the air out and carefully package things in the freezer and neither have I.
posted by koolkat at 8:41 AM on April 6, 2011

I own the basic model and have been using it for years. Works great for frozen meat, but I don't use it as much as I'd like to as the bags can be expensive.
posted by wongcorgi at 8:52 AM on April 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

The FoodSucker (as Mr. ROTFL and I call it) not only works, it works really well. We've had ours for about 10 years, and before that had a more primitive model that we only retired because a better model became available. It's saved us countless hundreds of dollars. Plus, it allows us to preserve homemade foods, which saves both money and time. Especially if you get the Mason jar attachment, there's hardly anything you can't FoodSuck. If you buy in bulk at Costco or other warehouse stores, it's a lifesaver for portioning food out for later use. I'm a baker, so I use it a lot for yeast, and also for whole grains, which can get rancid if stored for any length of time. One tip: Freeze loose foods destined for the freezer before you FoodSuck them, to avoid smushing them. So in short: FoodSavers rock.
posted by ROTFL at 8:53 AM on April 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: bluejayway, I not only own one, I have owned several. The first two died within two years of purchase, and with only light use. Overheating is an issue, so you need to take a semi-tactical approach: Make a lot of correctly-sized bags in advance, over a period of time. I raise pigs and the day that we get pork home from the butcher, my husband and I are always frantically making bags...waiting for the machine to cool down...and making more bags. We then vac-pack a LOT of meat. The good news is that 1) you can spot bag-fail right away, before you put anything in the freezer, and 2) the vac-packs seem to hold up over a period of months. My husband is the packer in the family. I'll see if I can get his words of wisdom for you.
posted by MonkeyToes at 8:53 AM on April 6, 2011

I've used one, bought new, for several years, and it still works great. I use it for bulk-purchased cheese (stored in the fridge, not the freezer, or else the texture suffers) and a variety of meats. I do have to be less impatient and space out the freezing if I'm doing a lot, but it has never broken down on me. I use it less these days, preferring sandwich bags for small cuts of meat that I'll use within a few weeks just because I'm lazy, but for roasts and whole chickens and larger cuts that may spend time in the freezer, it's perfect.

As far as price goes, you can cut down, thoroughly wash, air dry and re-use the bags. (This is another reason why I've gotten lazy). The manual advises you not to re-use the bags that have stored raw meat, but hey, I'm not dead yet. Rinse thoroughly, wash with hot soapy water, rinse again, and let air dry, reversing the bag and making sure the corners have been rinsed and aren't crumpled.

Finally, you may be able to find a used unit in a thrift shop. Thrift shops are awesome( she says, looking at her $5 Cuisinart bread machine.)
posted by maudlin at 9:08 AM on April 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

Very happy with our Foodsaver. Works waaaaay better than sucking the air out of Ziploc bags. Maybe it was my technique or some other factor, but whenever I sucked the air out of Ziplocs, when I went to get the food weeks or months later, air had gotten back into the bags. No such problems with the Foodsaver.
posted by puritycontrol at 10:10 AM on April 6, 2011

I second everyone who loves their Foodsaver. I also have a jar sealer, which is great for things like a little bit of flour, or some leftover soup, or extra dog treats.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 12:33 PM on April 6, 2011

Best answer: Another approach you might consider is to use regular ziploc freezer bags, but instead of sucking the air out, immerse the almost-closed bag in a big bowl of water. The water pressure tidily forces all the air out, and then you loc the last little bit of the zip. It takes a tiny bit of practice to avoid getting any water in the bag as you seal it, and sometimes you'll get one that just isn't airtight and will have to do it again with a new bag -- but even with that bit of wastage it still comes out cheaper than buying the machines and their special-purpose bags.

We freeze a ton of CSA meat and vegetables every year to last us through the winter, and it works really well.
posted by ook at 12:43 PM on April 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I was deeply dubious about our FoodSaver before SO purchased it because its marketing totally smacks of as-seen-on-TV (and ours came with a hilariously bad informercial VHS tape in the box that was a half hour of some hairy guy repeating the same three lines of instruction) but I've been sold ever since I've found some year-old Foodsucked wild duck breasts misplaced at the bottom of our freezer without any sign of freezer burn, which isn't something I can say for our previous attempts of forcing air out of Ziplock bags.

Get one at Costco, if you can, for the generous return policy: our first one crapped out a year after we purchased it despite having only been used for for a 3 month period right after purchase (duck season, yo). Costco not only replaced the bad unit with an entirely new box without any fuss, they took out the half used rolls from the original unit and told me to keep those too.
posted by jamaro at 1:08 PM on April 6, 2011

n+1 for the FoodSaver. Mine has been very, very handy.
posted by Citrus at 1:20 PM on April 6, 2011

Something else: If you're packing bloody or otherwise runny meat, fold a paper towel flat between the meat and the sealing area. Bags don't seal correctly if the contact spots are dirty; during suckage, the juices will still run toward the suction source, but placing the paper towel between seal and meat keeps the juices from interfering with the seal.
posted by MonkeyToes at 1:07 PM on April 8, 2011

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