Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Kalyn's Kitchen Picks: FoodSaver Vacuum Sealer Machine

FoodSaver Vacuum Sealer MachineI'm years behind in spotlighting the FoodSaver Vacuum Sealermachine as one of my Kalyn's Kitchen Picks, because this product is something I've owned for over 20 years and use all the time to freeze or store foods I buy in bulk. Interestingly, what has kept me from featuring the FoodSaver is also a good reason to recommend it, because the one I use is now so old it doesn't look much like the newer models, so I didn't want to take a photo of it. After I'd had my original FoodSaver about 10 years it quit working (completely my fault, because I had sucked water into the machine when vacuum-packing Feta cheese). I called FoodSaver and for a very small fee they sent me a refurbished model that I've used ever since! (Just for the record and to keep the FTC happy, FoodSaver has no idea I'm featuring this product, and they have never given me samples or paid me in any way to promote their vacuum-packing systems.)

One of the main ways I use my FoodSaver is to store meat in serving-size packages in the freezer, like this photo where I cut up some pork into cubes ready to be made into kabobs and then vacuum-packed them into a FoodSaver bag. I also use the FoodSaver for storing blocks of cheese, freezing herbs, and freezing pesto or other herb mixtures. The FoodSaver will preserve things for several years in the freezer, and I've kept cheese for many, many months in the fridge.

The FoodSaver works best with foods that are solid enough that they don't collapse when they're sealed in the bag, although some softer foods can be pre-frozen and then vacuum-packed. It's also a great way to preserve fresh vegetables that are going to be frozen. I haven't had much experience using it to preserve fresh vegetables or herbs in the fridge, and I'd probably use the OSO Fresh Food Storage Containers for that.

More About FoodSaver Vaccuum Sealing Machines:
Food Saver Vacuum Sealing Machine (official company website)
Freezing Garden Produce with the Food Saver from In My Kitchen Garden
How to Freeze Zucchini with a Food Saver from Farmgirl Fare
Using a FoodSaver for Sous Vide from Ala Cuisine
FoodSaver Product Review (and good photos of how to use) from Food and Fire

Share Your FoodSaver Tips in the Comments:
I'm pretty sure I'm not the only food blogger or cook who's discovered the joys of the FoodSaver Vacuum Sealing machine! If you have a FoodSaver (or any other machine that helps you save food by vacuum packing) please share your thoughts or tips for using it in the comments.

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51 comments:

  1. I need to get a food saver. Adding that to my list:)

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  2. I use my foodsaver much like you do. I learned about using a folded paper towel at the top of the wetter foods as a barrier so liquids aren't sucked up into the machine, but are sucked into the paper towel. It just freezes with the rest of the food. I have to do that with ground turkey. I also learned about freezing chili (or soup or stew) in an open bag first, and then sealing it once it's frozen. I now buy rolls of generic bag plastic through ebay - for a fraction of the cost of foodsaver bags or rolls.

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  3. Just curious - my parents have one of these (I don't know what brand) and they have a lot of trouble with it sucking up juices from meat (into the machine) and then it is hard to clean. Do you have this problem? I'd love to get one but that makes me hesitant.

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  4. I buy so much meat in bulk that I really need to consider buying a FoodSaver. What I spend on plastic wrap and ziploc bags would probably offset the cost of one of these handy tools.

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  5. I got one for Christmas, and I have yet to sit down and figure ot out. I should though. :)

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  6. The Food Saver has an attachment that vacuum-packs regular or wide-mouth mason jars with the appropriate dome lid. This works great for preserving fragile vegetables such as lettuce or sliced mushrooms in the refrigerator. Fill the jars as firmly as you can without damaging the produce.

    I've had lettuce last in the fridge for up to two weeks when packed this way, although prying off the dome lid ruins it for sealing again, just as with regular canning.

    Using canning jars is also good for crackers and cereals that would otherwise be crushed in the plastic bags.

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  7. I am currently on my 3rd FoodSaver. The first one was my grandmother's and died after close to 20 years of use. The second had a nasty death when my ex left it next to the gas stove turned on high :-( I waited several years before buying my current one and I wish I had bought it years ago.

    I use it constantly now for storing single serving and double servings of meals. This way, my son is able to pull something healthy from the freezer for his dinner on nights I am not home.

    I will make a large meal in the crockpot, have dinner for 3 for 2 nights and seal the rest for the freezer. I also buy fresh fish at the grocery when it is on sale (3 or 4 pounds at a time). Have them put a marinade on it free of charge, then bring it home and seal it into 2 or 3 piece servings for the freezer.

    I buy generic bags at Menards (don't know if Lowes or Home Depot have them) for a fraction of the cost of the name brand bags and rolls.

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  8. I absolutely love mine. Sometimes when packaging meat, I will put the meat in the bag, then freeze it like that....then the next day, I will vacuum seal it and that way, no juices run out. I have had mine several years.

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  9. I had my first FoodSaver for 10+ years and the heating element strip gave out. Got a new one last year and I love it!
    It has a 2 stage seal for wet items like meat. So I don't have to use the paper towel method at the top to catch the liquid.
    I marinated a steak 2 years ago, vacuum sealed it and just grilled it last week. It was perfect!
    This machine is worth every penny and so easy to use. Find a YouTube video if you are unsure how to use it.

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  10. I can't live without mine either! I love the jar attachment and use it all the time for pantry items.

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  11. I love my FoodSaver, too! I love going to the bulk food stores like Sam's and buying massive quantities of EVERYTHING and then parceling it all down into packages that work for my family and freezing or refrigerating them. I did that this week, actually, which almost guarantees that I will now lose power in this stupid ice storm that's blowing in, but c'est la vie. Viva le FoodSaver!

    Oh, and mine isn't hard to clean if it sucks in meat juices... the little tab thingie just comes right out so I can wash/sanitize it and pop it right back in. Never had a problem.

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  12. I love that so many other people also love this machine. Thanks for the tips on how to prevent juices getting sucked in. I have the older "low tech" version, so I do put a paper towel in there sometimes. It also helps to keep things in their original package (cut the package in pieces if necessary) and put it in the bag so an open end of the package faces the end of the FoodSaver bag.

    I haven't seen the no-name bags; will definitely look for those.

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  13. I agree whole heartedly--I love my FoodSaver so much, I've given a few away as gifts. Haven't had a single complaint yet!

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  14. I too love my Foodsaver. I just wanted to comment that I have used the off brand bags and I have found them to be substandard. Many times the seal is lost and if trying to seal a frozen item they don't seem to have a good airtight seal like the good bags. It's my hope that hubby will buy me the new hands free model for my birthday. I use it alot for him as he is a long haul truck driver with type 2 diabetes. I make all his meals and he's lost 80 pounds!

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  15. I buy the huge box of Cheerios and use the foodsaver to compress them to a nice block that I put in my suitcase to take to my grandsons in Switzerland. Doesn't crush them at all. Mine is on the blink now though. Must call the co.

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  16. Janet, I'm fascinated by that. Never thought of using it for that sort of thing, but for me it would be a great way to store things like crackers or granola bars that I buy occasionally but don't eat very often. Thanks for the tip!

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  17. I love my food saver. I use it on brown sugar so that it doesn't dry out. At first I make a big bag for it and then seal it up everytime I use it.

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  18. I adore my foodsaver. I have a newer model that also vacuums canisters. I had a older version that my mother-in-law confiscated and I did replace it for years. I haven't frozen meats since I prefer to get them fresh daily. All my leftovers get vacuum sealed and refrigerated and they last so much longer. I also do my cold cuts & cheeses. I buy big blocks of feta and cut them into cubes and put them in a vacuum sealed container. We use it alot for salads and cooking. Nothing goes bad anymore, so the machine paid off very quickly. I also use it as a very quick and efficient marinator - thow marinade into the canister with chicken or beef and you cut your marinating time drastically.

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  19. Ror years I've always wanted a Food Savor but was never sure I wanted to pay the money. You just confirmed I NEED one!
    I'll tell my hubby "I need one, Kayln said so"!

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  20. I've had a Food Saver forever too. I was seduced by the nicer looking new models a couple of years ago - the 30-yr.old one still worked, so I passed it on to someone else. I love it for meats and bulk items for the freezer and cheese in the fridge. My favorite use is for individual or meal-size servings of homemade soups. They stack nicely once they are frozen and I don't have to store a big bunch of freezer containers. I keep mine in the counter-top appliance garage so it's always ready when I need it.

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  21. It's really fun hearing how many good cooks have this machine!

    Megan, if you're someone who cooks much at all, the machine will pay for itself. It keeps things in the freezer and fridge for longer than you could ever imagine, so you're hardly ever having to throw away food.

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  22. Kalyn, I've been using Ziploc vacuum bags for a long time. The foodsaver looks awesome but the ziplock bags fit in the drawer in my apartment where there's not a lot of space for another machine and they are a little less expensive.

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  23. It looks like I need to get one of these after reading all the positive comments. Kalyn, since I found your website I think I would get anything you recommend. I am thoroughly enjoying all of your recipes and recommendations. Thank you for everything!

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  24. Kathy, thanks so much for that feedback. I am pretty picky about recommending things, so I try hard not to steer people wrong.

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  25. For wet foods like soups and sliced macerated fruit, I freeze it in a rectangular refrigerator dish (the ones I use are vaguely 4 1/2x7 1/2x2"), pop out when solid, and vacuum seal. Live alone, cook in big batches, and freeze in individual servings.

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  26. Thanks for the write up on the FoodSaver. I got one from my husband several years ago and was SO EXCITED about it. But when I tried to freeze things with liquid, it either wouldn't seal properly or would suck liquid as you mentioned.

    But freezing items first, then freezing is a brilliant suggestion. I tapped my forehead and said, "Why didn't I think of that?"

    Well, I'm excited again and am going to dig it out of the back cupboard for use.

    You are the best! Thanks Kalyn!

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  27. I totally agree with you Kayln. I used mine just yesterday after bringing home some bulk meat supplies.
    I use it all the time to make convenient meal size portions to freeze and you can use it for just about anything.
    I keep a supply of the bags and the roll on hand. The roll of plastic film is ideal because you can cut it to just the size you need.
    Ladies, I agree with Kayln this is one kitchen accessory you will get loads of use out of.

    Cheers

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  28. I use a simpler process, but I could be talked into a Foodsaver. I've been using the Ziploc vaccuum bags and their little hand pump. I blanched and froze beans last summer in vaccuum bags. So far, the veggies we've thawed have been delicious.

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  29. I love this machine and I don't even have one yet. I'm really sick of waste and lack of storage space, so I'll be on look-out for it soon. The jar attachment sounds especially promising for sending pantry pests on their way. Thanks for the tip, Kalyn.

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  30. My hubby is the Food Saver magician in our family, I'm just the lovely assistant! LOL!

    This thing has been a real life saver for us. DH was unemployed for nine months after retiring from 20 years in the military, and money was very tight. I shopped sales, used coupons, did anything and everything to save money, and the Food Saver let us buy in large quantities when we found a good deal and USE all of the food.

    Once, we got a large bag of cat food for a ridiculously cheap price (it was a markdown with a tear in the bag), took it home and repackaged it in smaller Food Saver bags-the kitties ate for six months on what would have ordinarily been the cost of a 6 week supply of kibble.

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  31. Nothing is better than vacuum packaging for vegetables, fruits and other perishable items. Vacuum packing is a procedure for removing air from a special vacuum bag or vacuum container in order to shield the food from the harmful effects of contact with oxygen that accelerates the pace of deterioration of the food, moreover it helps significantly preserve the nutritional value and natural flavor of food.

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  32. I have had a foodsaver for over 20 years. I leave mine on the counter top as I use it several times daily.
    I live in Hawaii where food gets stale very fast so I use the canisters for flour,crackers, and nuts. Also the mason jars are great.
    I freeze leftovers in "tofu" containers then food save them in bags.
    Yahoo groups has a great foodsaver site that gives lots of hints in its archives.

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  33. Thanks to everyone for all the FoodSaver tips! I'll have to check out the Yahoo group.

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  34. I am quite late with this message, but the person who says that you can only use mason jar lids once is wrong. I use a spoon normally to get the lids off, placing the rounded edge against the metal lid and prying real slow. As a lot of the directions mention, but not all. Or sometimes I just use my fingers, well basically the thumbs, underneath the metal lip in two different places using both hands if I'm feeling particularly strong. I've been using the same lids for years. Every once in a while one has to be tossed, but not often. Great machine is what the foodsaver is, many many uses.

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  35. Larry, thanks for the info. I agree, the FoodSaver is great!

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  36. I have just, thankfully, stumbled on your site...I am trying to find out about the best way to freeze fresh fish using a FoodSaver Vacuum sealer. We usually try to filet out fish before freezing. Should I freeze these on a tray before going in the vacuum sealer, should I put them in bags, freeze, and then use the sealer. I just got the sealer today...Spring is here and the fishing bug will soon hit my husband..I could sure use some help! Thanks!

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  37. Dianne, if you have the newer type of FoodSaver (that can't suck water into the machine) you could just vacuum the fish fillets and then freeze. However, pre-freezing and then sealing is always a good method. Lucky you to have all that fresh fish!

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  38. I don't think I have the newer version...mine is a V2440...it does have the choice of wet or dry, but I have been reading that it is best to pre-freeze everything that is wet before using the vacuum. I just worry that the food will be kind of messed up if you freeze it openly on cookie sheet first...call me slow, but I just would like to do it right before messing up a lot of good food..and, yes, I am blessed to have so much fresh fish!
    Dianne

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  39. Dianne, I'd freeze the fish just for 4-5 hours (until it's no longer wet), then vaccuum seal and freeze the rest of the way.

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  40. I'm on a very tight budget. I can get a used foodsaver on ebay for $30 or so, but the "foodsaver bags/rolls of bag material" are cost prohibitive. Can I use regular ziploc bags?

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  41. I don't think regular ziploc bags will work, the Foodsaver bags have a textured side that has to be facing down when you suck the air out of the bag. With a regular bag, the machine will seal, but it won't suck the air out. Sorry not to be more encouraging, but I'm quite sure regular bags won't work the way the machine is intended to.

    BTW, in reply to some earlier questions about wet foods, since I wrote this post I got a newer model upright FoodSaver, and it has a special setting for moist foods (prevents liquid from getting sucked into the machine.) It's a tremendous improvement; still love this product.

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  42. Catherine, there are different models with different prices, but about $100-$200.

    I now have a new upright model that stores a roll of the bag material inside and I love it. It was $179, but I got it on sale for $99.

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  43. I just received the upright model for Christmas, and I love it! What an improvement over previous models. The removable drip Ray alone was worth it, not to mention the gentle and wet cycles. I know I am very late to the party posting is comment, but I ran across this entry while doing a google search, and I thought you might have the answer I am looking for. I recently received a huge box of grapefruit, more than we can possibly go through before they go bad, but I cannot find any information anywhere about the best way to vacuum seal them. Just throw some in a bag and go for it? Do you have any experience vacuum sealing citrus fruits whole?

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  44. I've never used the FoodSaver for sealing fresh fruit, but I honestly don't think it will help to keep the fruit from spoiling.

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  45. Sometimes it's hard to tell if something is a well-meaning comment or someone who's trying to promote another product, but I'm going to err on the side of caution and not let people post links to other vacuum-seal products.

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  46. I love sealing in mason jars.

    They can be frozen and a big plus is that they keep the insects out. I live in Hawaii and have to seal my rice and almost all other grains because of the bugs.

    I just opened up a jar of raisins that I had saved two years ago and they were still plump and fresh.
    You will need to get the jar attachment to use with the hose.

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  47. Judy I recently bought the jar sealer attachment (which I think I had a threw away years ago!) I use it to seal lettuce in quart jars all cut and ready for salads. Love hearing how you're using it.

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  48. I recently purchased a Foodsaver and I love it! I got the Mason Jar Lid attachments and have been storing brown sugar and other baking items that are not used daily. Lettuce (chopped up and ready to eat) and herbs keep beautifully for at least a week stored in the jars and kept in the refrigerator. The Foodsaver has enabled me to buy lots of lettuce, wash and chop it up all at once, and then have salad ingredients all ready to go throughout the week....and I'm not throwing away wilted lettuce anymore as we are using all of it! I've switched to using Mason jars alot instead of the old plastic storage containers. They're more attractive (in my opinion), come in several sizes, can be used over & over and are great for storing items that might be crushed in the vacuum bags..plus they're inexpensive. Haven't tried the off brand bags yet, but I'm going to look into it.

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  49. Donna, thanks for all the great tips. I hadn't thought of using it to seal herbs in the glass jars; great idea! I couldn't imagine cooking without the FoodSaver.

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