Tag Archives: #Which vacuum sealer to buy

Which Vacuum Sealer Should You Buy?

This post is the third of three posts on the topic of vacuum sealers. In this post, I’ll attempt to guide you to a vacuum sealing system that is right for you. The prior two posts present a wealth of information if you would like to do a deep dive on the topic.

First, a few thoughts.

Don’t be afraid to use generic bags. This is especially true for channel sealer bags (embossed bags), as the brand-name ones are quite expensive. I have used many different off-brand bags, and they have all worked for me. Their cost can be one-third to one-fourth of the cost of a brand-name version. If your bags are less expensive, you are more likely to use the sealer. I recently vacuum sealed half of a lemon, which was perfectly usable three days later when I stuffed a chicken with it. 

If you are planning on using a vacuum sealer regularly, make sure that it is accessible. When my wife was our primary cook, she moved my vacuum sealer to basement kitchen storage. I still brought it upstairs, but only for major tasks, like breaking down bulk packages of meat into meal-size portions. Now that I do much of the cooking, I have created a little vacuuming station, and it is easy to vacuum seal items like half of an avocado. We live in a world where people are starving, so wasting food seems shameful to me. 

If possible, leave your sealer on the counter. If not, try to store it in an easy-to-grab spot. If you are storing a unit, consider purchasing a simpler, lighter one as it will not only be easier to store but also easier to grab.  

The Decision Tree

I’ll present several case scenarios; find the one that is most suitable for your needs. 

  1. You mostly want to preserve fresh food. You want your strawberries and salad greens to last longer. You would like your blocks of cheese to stay fresh. You want your lunch meat to be usable longer. You want to quickly marinate foods by placing them with a marinade into a vacuum canister. You want a simple, easy system that anyone in the family can use. Go to A.*
  2. You want to save money by buying bulk foods and freezing them into smaller portions. You are considering other freshness options, like freezing away leftovers that you can reheat for future meals. You want to try out sous vide cooking. You are the kind of person that likes to try out new things, but you don’t always stick with them. You are very value-conscious or on a limited budget. Go to B.
  3. You want to do all of the above, but you prefer to go with a name brand. You want the security of having a product that you can return locally if you don’t like it. You want a product that will likely offer replaceable parts, such as a sealing ring if needed. Go to C.
  4. You want all of the above, but you have heavy-duty needs. You are a prepper who does bulk storage of large amounts of foods. You are a hunter who needs to process and prepare for freezing an entire animal. You have used home-level machines, but they quickly burned out because of your high demands. You may need a machine that can seal bags that are wider than 11 inches. Go to D.
  5. Your needs are similar to #4, but you frequently vacuum seal a large number of items on a regular basis. You need reliability and dependability. Go to E. 
  6. You are an experienced vacuum sealer, and you want to use a product that uses the least expensive consumables (cheap bags). You want to vacuum seal liquid foods without freezing them first. You want to achieve the highest vacuum possible because you plan on storing items, like meat, for years at a time. Go to F.
  7. Your needs are consistent with the user described in 6. However, you sometimes have to vacuum seal large items that do not fit into a chamber sealer. Consider purchasing two systems—one from category F and the other from categories D or E.

*If you plan on sealing canisters, but you think that you will be sealing some bags, find a system from category B through E that is most suitable to your needs. Make sure that the device has an accessory port that would allow you to vacuum external seal containers.  

The categories

A

There are a number of canister and food storage systems that come with containers and a little hand-held manual or electric vacuum pump. These systems are small, practical, and maybe all that you need if you want to keep your perishable foods fresh longer. Expect to pay from $30-100.

We use this system at home. The simple hand-operated vacuum pump requires a lot of strokes, but it is easy for everyone in the family to use. It came with a number of storage containers. We use it to store items like salad greens, and fragile fruits like strawberries. Cost around $60.
This Nesco unit is battery-operated and comes with a few containers and zipper-style bags. It sells for around $60.

B

There are many no-name brand vacuum sealers. Some offer many features at a very reasonable price. Others offer fewer features, but they are backed by a national store. I have not tested all of the available products (there are many dozens). However, I did watch reviews on many off-brand machines, and I did test a few. Surprisingly, they performed about as well as brand-named consumer products. These can be a great option if you want to try vacuum sealing, but you are unsure if you will stick with it. Will they last as long as a brand-name product?  Likely, but I can’t say with absolute assurance. Expect to pay from $25-$60.

I bought this no-name Tisou sealer for under $30. It worked well and was surprisingly feature-rich. I have no idea how well its warranty will be honored or how long it will last. Construction seemed comparable to basic brand-name devices.
This Ambiano unit is sold at Aldi stores for around $30. It has a good warranty and it is backed by a solid company (Aldi). However, it doesn’t have a vacuum accessory port. The port is only needed if you plan on vacuum sealing special canisters, Mason jars, or special zipper-type bags.

C

Brand-name products will possibly have better overall quality control. In addition, it is possible that you will be able to buy user-replaceable parts, such as sealing gaskets, if needed. Note that many generic products give you an extra sealing gasket for free, so the above may be a moot point. Basic machines will do everything that you may need, and most of them will offer an accessory port to vacuum canisters external containers. More expensive machines will be more aesthetically pleasing, and many offer some additional convenience features, most of which are unnecessary. Expect to pay from around $50-$200.

Seal-A-Meal is a sub-brand of FoodSaver. This is a very basic unit that has very few options and doesn’t have an accessory port. Walmarts sells it for around $50. If your needs are very simple this may be all the unit that you need.
This basic FoodSaver device costs between $50 to $80 (depending on Amazon’s changing logarithms). It offers everything that the majority of customers need at an affordable price.
Here is a fancier FoodSaver. It typically sells for around $150, but I sometimes see it at Costco for around $100. It adds some style and convenience features.
This Nesco vacuum sealer is solidly built, has many features, and has an accessory port. It sells for around $80.

D

These prosumer machines are designed for heavy-duty or specialty use. Some have 12-volt operation for field use. These units allow for more seals per session than a typical consumer-level sealer. They may be constructed with thicker plastic, a stronger pump, or more solid construction. Every machine is different, so figure out your needs and then check around. Many machines have a standard 11″ -12″ sealing bar, but some have larger bars that allow for specialty bags that are wider. Expect to pay from around $200-$400.

This GameSaver (a sub-brand of FoodSaver) is more ruggedized than a home unit. Some versions can operate on 12-volts and can accommodate bag widths that are larger than 11 inches. These machines can do up to 80 seals in a row before needing a 30-minute cool-down. Most home machines can only do 20-40 seals before you have to rest them. $170-$270 depending on the model.
This Nesco may look similar to the Nesco shown in the “C” category, but it features a dual-piston pump as well as dual sealing strips. Its manual doesn’t list its duty cycle but you can assume that it will do more seals than a typical consumer machine before it needs to cool down. The cost is around $120.
Weston makes professional machines. This is their entry into the prosumer market. It is sleek, and industrial in its design and costs around $200.
This Primal Tek unit is near-professional level. It has very solid construction, smart circuitry to allow more sealing per session, and a cooling fan for longer operation. Cabellas sells a version of this unit as does Avid Armor. The different units may have different control panels. The use of a lot of plastic makes this unit a prosumer item instead of a professional sealer. You can get units with 12″ and 15″ sealing bars. Prices range from $300-$400.
This LEM unit can do an amazing 250 seals before it needs to take a cooling-off break. LEM manufactures professional food processing equipment. This is their prosumer offering. The cost is around $230.

E

These machines are light-duty professional machines. Some will include consumer-level options, like an accessory port. Others will not. They are designed for continuous use on a daily basis. Often allowing many seals without taking a break. They are big and bulky and not very easy to store in a cabinet. They are serious machines for serious users. Many machines have a standard 11″ -12″ sealing bar, but some have larger bars that allow for wider specialty bags. Expect to pay $300-$600.

Avid Amor makes high-end products for home consumers. This unit has some consumer features, such as an accessory port and a pulse function. However, the construction quality of this unit makes it suitable for light-duty professional use. The number of seals is not listed. However, the Avid Armor website says, “Double Piston Pump with Cooling Fan for Continuous Bag Sealing.” It has a 12″ sealing bar and sells for around $300.
This LEM unit has some consumer features, like roll bag storage, a locking lid, and an accessory port. However, it has professional features like stainless steel construction and it can operate for 500 seals or 5 hours without having to have a cool-down period. It has a 14″ sealing bar. It sells for around $350.
This is a classic Weston 2000 series unit. It is very well built and has a 15″ sealing bar. It sells for around $430. It is a workhorse and will last a long time. However, it does not have consumer features, like an accessory port.

F

These chamber sealers use a different technology than traditional domestic channel sealers. Chamber technology is commonly used in shops and by large volume users as the consumables (bags) are cheaper, parts are replaceable, and it is easy to seal items like liquids without freezing them first. In addition, chamber sealers can pull a stronger vacuum than a channel sealer. This may be important if you plan on storing foods like frozen meats for years. Bag size is restricted to the size of the machine’s chamber, which is why some users have both a chamber vacuum sealer and a standard channel sealer. Channel-type sealers allow the user to make custom-sized bags, but that is not possible for chamber sealers.  

This is the brand-X chamber sealer that I currently own. I bought it for under $300 on eBay (its price has since gone up a bit). It works great, but its components are not as robust as a name-brand product, like VacMaster. I also have a standard channel sealer for those times when I need to vacuum seal larger items. With that said, I can vacuum seal a 4.5-pound chicken or a 4-pound chuck roast in its chamber. It is able to seal bags that are up to 10″ wide.
This is a high-quality prosumer-level chamber sealer from VacMaster. It has very good construction and components. However, it only has a 9″ sealing bar limiting bag width to 8 inches. This is fine for many things but is likely that an owner of this machine would also need a channel sealer for larger items. It does feature an accessory port and some consumer-oriented features like a marinate cycle. It sells for around $700.
This VacMaster 215 is a light-duty professional machine that is highly desirable for serious heavy-use consumers. it is very well made and has a large/deep vacuum chamber. However, it weighs almost 100 pounds and it won’t win any beauty contests in a high-end home kitchen. It sells for around $1000.