After I shared in this post about using our Food Saver to vacuum-seal some meat for the freezer, a couple of people had questions about my experience and opinion on the product. So, here are my thoughts! :)
I have never used a Food Saver like you have pictured, but I've seen them advertised. I'd love to hear your opinion about them. How well do they work? Are they worth the money (and then the space to store it, and the time it takes to set it up and then clean up)?
We have a Food Saver (brand) vacuum-sealer, and it works very well. Joshua bought it about 6 years ago (not too long before we were married) and it's still working great. (Update: we're still using ours 10+ years later!)
Most foods seal quite well; the only exception is meat with sharp bones or anything sharp -- like dried bell peppers, with pointed, sharp edges -- that can puncture the bags. The bags (we use Food Saver brand bags) are quite thick, though -- thicker than normal zipper freezer bags. There is a manual seal option as well, so if I vacuum-seal something like bread or cookies, I can stop the suction before it has smashed the food flat. ;)
Food does keep much better/longer in the vacuum-sealed Food Saver bags. It doesn't get freezer-burned (though I haven't tried storing anything for more than 2 years). I definitely think it's better than just using zipper freezer bags, which tend to allow ice crystals to build up, and get punctured easily. If a Food Saver bag does get an air leak, it's easy to spot, and on the few occasions that it has happened, I just made sure to use that package of food first.
And, food takes up less freezer space when it is vacuum-sealed. I'm not sure exactly how much less... maybe 50% less space for something like cooked meats, which is one of the main things I vacuum-seal. With a smaller freezer, the extra space is nice, though it may not matter quite so much if you have a large freezer.
I have found a great way to freeze casseroles using FoodSaver bags, and it saves on dishes/containers as well as space, all while protecting food from freezer burn!
The Food Saver bags can also be used in the microwave (which we don't have, so I haven't tried that) or put into a pot of boiling water to heat the food while it's still in the bag. I prefer to thaw the food in the fridge and then heat it in a pan on the stove as I normally would, since the boiling water method seemed to take a long time to heat the food thoroughly.
The bags can also be washed and re-used, as long as they don't have any holes and haven't has raw meat stored in them. When I open a bag, I cut the top seal off, and it leaves a slightly smaller bag for re-use. I have re-used many bags twice, at least.
The box and instructions for the Food Saver are very optimistic about the many uses it has, but I have never done some of the things they suggested. Vacuum-sealing leftovers for the fridge? Vacuum-sealing my pantry staples? I don't leave the appliance out on my kitchen counter, and I'm not sure how realistic all of their suggestions actually are, at least for our home. And though the bags can technically be opened and re-sealed numerous times (like for an item you use from and then need to continue storing), it takes a couple inches from the top of the bag each time, meaning you need to use bigger bags (which cost more money) -- so I usually open the bag and use all the contents at once.
I use the Food Saver for longer-term storage items. When I have meats to freeze, I prefer to use the Food Saver. I also like to use it for freezing mashed potatoes.
I store the Food Saver in its box on our enclosed porch, and while it takes a little effort to lug it into the kitchen when needed, the actual bringing-in-and-setting-up only takes 5 minutes at most. So it's not a big bother, but like anything, it's more efficient when you have a number of things to seal instead of just one or two.
Now, the real question: Is it worth the money?
I think it depends on your home and how much you use it. Honestly, since I am NOT a gadget-type of person, I would never have bought one for us. But, most of our kitchen appliances have been originally Joshua's idea and not mine -- I just don't tend to want new appliances -- so take that for whatever it's worth! :)
But, since we do have one, I will admit that I really like using it. I would miss it if we didn't have one... and without the Food Saver, I definitely wouldn't be cooking up large batches of meat to freeze for later, because using normal freezer bags just isn't as nice (taste-wise) as the vacuum-sealed ones.
So while I do view a Food Saver as a "luxury" (since it's not really necessary), I think it's a really nice luxury to afford. ;) I think we all have various "extra" things, some of which are important to us, but that our neighbor wouldn't have any use for! I'd choose a bread machine over a Food Saver, but I'd definitely take the Food Saver over a microwave... I guess I don't feel qualified to say "It's worth every penny!" because it might not be to you. I do like having one though! :)
Any of you out there with vacuum-sealing devices -- I'd love to hear your thoughts on them, and what foods you've found most useful to seal! :)
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