As harvest time rapidly approaches, many people are looking to get or replace the equipment they need to preserve the fruits of their hard work. Vacuum sealers have been around for home use since the 80’s and with so many companies out there, your available choices can leave one feeling overwhelmed and unsure. Arming yourself with some basic criteria before you go selecting a vacuum sealer will save you sanity, headaches, and another trip to return the sealer in favor of one that will better suit the needs of you and your family. Before you buy anything, you should ask yourself a few questions:
- What will I primarily use this for? (meat, veggies, etc)
- How often will I use this in a year?
- How long will the average package sit in the freezer?
- Will I need to use the sealer outside or only inside?
- Do I want/need a hose adapter on the sealer?
What will I use this for?
While most people buy vacuum sealers for food purposes, there are others out there who use it to preserve non food items as well. Consider whether you plan on using the sealer for mostly meats, which stay sealed better with a thicker seal band, or if you are going to use it just to freeze veggies and dried goods. A sealer with a thinner seal band is acceptable for veggies and dried goods.
How often will I use this in a year?
This is very important because, if you are like me and seal large batches a couple of times a year, you need something more heavy duty than the average $75 or less sealer. More sparing usage would be a dozen or so packages sealed at a time. For myself, it takes a full day to package up all the meat I buy twice a year (on sale, of course!).
I take time to make the bags the length I want and let the machine rest between every dozen or so bags. Most sealers have a safety system that will not allow it to run when overheated – but not all of them – and you can burn your machine out. Be sure you are certain that when you are selecting a vacuum sealer, it can handle the work load you will be putting it through. Better to spend the extra money for something that will work as you need it to for years versus saving $20 on a cheaper model that dies after one year of use.
How long will the average package sit in the freezer?
This is important for several reasons. If you expect food to sit in the freezer for a year or more, you will need a sealer that has a nice, wide sealing band which helps keep the bag sealed. With a thinner seal band (or seal line), you run the risk of it not sealing fully, especially if what you are sealing is moist. Moisture will prevent a solid seal from forming. If you think you will go through the sealed foods more quickly, a thinner seal line may serve you just fine.
TIP: When packaging moist meats such as fish, first wrap it in some Glad Press and Seal. It makes a world of difference!
Will I need to use the sealer outside?
This may seem an odd consideration for many people who use vacuum sealers. The sealer we have is designed to be taken into the field and used to preserve your food. It has an extra long cord and came with a 12 volt car adapter that plugs into the cigarette lighter jack. It also has a handle and locking mechanism that keeps the unit closed while carrying (if you do not have it in the carrying case, of course).
Some, but not all, vacuum sealers have an adapter where you can attach a hose and use it to seal other containers such as wide and regular mouth canning jars or vacuum seal containers specifically made to be sealed and frozen. I can tell you from personal experience that it is worth it! The options this gives you are endless! I have dehydrated veggies from the garden and then layered them in a quart jar with some spices as a stew starter. It is all sealed up with the adapter and will last for at least a year!
A vacuum sealer in the right hands can do so much more than just preserving food to last and protect against freezer burn. All it takes is a little imagination and you can amaze yourself!
LeAnn in Alaska
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