Twenty-four hamburger patties, five pounds of chicken, four cans of pineapple, three loaves of bread and a box of cereal. That’s the food we vacuum sealed over three days of testing nine different vacuum sealer models.
And after a week of watching the sealed food for any signs of spoilage, we feel that the FoodSaver V3240 is the best for most people. It’s easy to use, does a great job suctioning out air, creates a decent and secure seal, doesn’t have a problem sealing juicy foods and is a good deal overall.
Among the vacuum sealers we tested, the FoodSaver V3240 is the easiest to use. It doesn’t take a lot of strength to lock the lid in place, the controls are easy to find, and they are clearly marked.
The full vacuum and seal process is fast and the final seal is tight. It draws enough air out of the bags to lock the bag tightly against the food you’re preserving, even with awkwardly shaped meats or chunks of cereal.
This food sealer has suction cup feet on the bottom to keep it securely in place, and the cord is short enough to help keep the machine out of children’s reach. This FoodSaver comes with five bags and supplies to make several dozen of your own. It also has a vacuum tube for canning and a five year-warranty. With all that, the price tag of around $150 is still a really good deal.
There are some drawbacks, however. This machine is loud, so it isn’t possible to have a conversation while using it. Also, if you have juicy foods they may need to be drained or prefozen before being vacuum sealed because excess moisture can affect how well the FoodSaver seals.
We loved the Hamilton Beach NutriFresh 78220 because of how well it seals and its ease of use. The suction was good in our tests; the sealer bags formed tightly against the food we preserved, and even the pineapple rings got a snug seal despite the juice in the bag.
During the sealing process you can choose to lock the lid or hold it down yourself. If you choose to lock the unit, the Hamilton Beach automatically unlocks when it’s done, emitting a very distinct sigh sound as the air in the chamber is released.
The lock is a little tricky to use because you have to hold down the manual unlock buttons while pushing down on the lid with enough pressure to snap it into place. This isn’t easy, but does give your arms a good work out! Also, this sealer is really loud. In fact it’s too loud to have a conversation without raising your voice quite a bit.
There are three speeds on this machine. Hamilton Beach suggests using the Extended setting for moist foods and the Pulse for delicates. On top of all its great features, the Hamilton Beach NutriFresh 78220 is a good value.
Even though it isn’t the cheapest food vacuum sealer, it comes with a lot of bags, a large roll of textured plastic to create your own bags, and a one-year warranty. All in all, it is a good buy.
Best for Sous Vide Cooking
The SousVide VS3000 is really easy to use and seals foods, both wet and dry, without a problem. We’ve used this, and other sealers, as part of our testing of the best sous vide machines. The SousVide VS3000’s seal is thick and holds well, so we can recommend using it with any sous vide device you have.
It has just one lid lock release instead of two on either side of the lid like most other sealers. This makes it easier to open after you’re done sealing your food – and easier to lock the lid in the first place – compared to other machines that took a lot of effort and muscle to latch.
It comes with some bags, but the bag length that required to feed into the sealer meant there wasn’t a lot of room left to space out more than one hamburger patty, chicken breast or pineapple ring. This limited the space around each item and caused some air to become trapped between them.
But this shouldn’t be an issue if you’re using this sealer for sous vide cooking since it is recommended that you only seal one food item at a time.
Note that the SousVide VS3000 lights up red during the sealing process and changes to green when it’s done. This is different from all other machines we tested; they show red when they’re done.
Best for Wet Foods
Seal-a-Meal is the best vacuum sealer for juicier foods and liquids. When we tested this machine with four pineapple rings, it quickly vacuumed and sealed the food while extracting only 0.25 ounces of juice. Most other vacuum sealers extracted four times that much.
Plus, the seal was firm and the bag compacted against each ring so there wasn’t a lot of air left around the food. Even after a few days, the pineapple still remained tightly sealed. The little bit of juice that fell onto the catch tray was easy to clean up because the tray is removable.
But this vacuum food sealer does have its issues. The biggest is that Seal-a-Meal doesn’t have a lock. Instead you have to hold down the lid as the sealing process begins and keep holding it until the Hands-Free indicator light comes one.
We found that we generally ended up holding the lid tightly during most of the process, which caused our hands to become sore pretty fast.
Best for Big Game & Fish
Our favorite choice for preserving large chunks of meat, including big game and fish, is the Weston Pro 2300. While this is a commercial-quality vacuum sealer, it works well in home kitchens, too.
It handles storage bags that are 15 inches wide, which accommodates good-size cuts of meat. Also, you get both automatic and manual sealing modes that give you some control over the vacuum pressure.
The see-through acrylic lid lets you see into the machine to make sure the bags are lined up correctly, and it comes with a two-year warranty.
This vacuum seal is pretty heavy at 22 pounds, which makes it inconvenient to pull out for a quick seal.
How we tested vacuum food sealers
We’ve been evaluating food vacuum sealers for over four years, and we’ve spent even more years testing and researching other small appliances like food processors and turkey fryers.
We also use vacuum sealers in testing other small kitchen appliances like sous vide machines, so we have a pretty good idea of how they work and what to look for.
Still, we made sure to chat with other users, read consumer reports to learn of any safety recalls and check in with several associations, like the FoodSave.org and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) to get more information on how to properly store food using a sealer and how long certain foods can be stored before spoiling.
We spent three days vacuum sealing hamburger patties, chicken breasts, cereal, slices of bread and pineapple rings. Each of these foods let us see just how much air is pulled by the sealer and how tight the bag gets around the food. The pineapple rings let us observe how well each machine seals wet foods and how much juice is extracted in the process.
After each food was sealed, we lined them up side by side to see the differences between each vacuum food sealer. We looked for any air bubbles, checked whether the seal was complete, noted how well the sealed bags laid flat and checked if the seal stayed secure. A few items initially seemed tightly sealed, but after resting for a bit we could see they had much more air surrounding the food than we first thought.
We placed the meats in our lab’s freezer and watched over several days to see if there was any discoloring of the food, air bubbles, freezer burn or ice crystals that form inside the sealed bags.
As part of our information gathering and evaluation process, we talked to several people who use vacuum food sealers at home for both short-term and long-term storage. They offered useful insights and real-world perspective.
Because overall value is also a big consideration for consumers purchasing a food vacuum sealer, we looked at how much each machine costs, what is included with the purchase price, and the warranty included.
What about the VacMaster VP210?
We wanted to test the VacMaster VP210 because it is a favorite among big game hunters. But with a suggested retail price of almost $1,200, we couldn’t justify the cost in this round of testing. While we didn’t include this vacuum food sealer on our side-by-side comparison, we have evaluated it in the past. You can check out our review of the VacMaster sealer. Just note we weren’t able to verify a lot of its claims for ourselves.
What to keep in mind when considering a vacuum sealer
How much does a vacuum food sealer cost?
For a decent vacuum food sealer you can expect to pay at least $125. There are less expensive machines, but they are usually less functional. Big game hunters could easily spend between $600 and $1,000 for a vacuum sealer. But for most home projects, you can get a good sealer for much less.
Can I use ziploc bags in a vacuum sealer?
While this may be tempting and more convenient, and maybe cheaper, zipper-style and sandwich bags are not made to withstand the pressure and heat from vacuum food sealers. Vacuum sealer bags are textured on the inside. This helps draw air out of the bag and fit it more closely to your food during the vacuum and seal process. Vacuum sealer bags are also designed to be reusable.
Most of the vacuum sealers we tested come with sealer bags designed for that machine. But you can also purchase a roll of sealer bags designed to work well with all the machines we tested.