Saturday, May 07, 2016

My Food Saver: Vacuum Sealer

I picked up this kitchen appliance last spring. These babies are NOT cheap! However, because I wasn't ready to make a big financial investment, I kept checking Kijiji until I found one. Score! I paid $40 for my Food Saver, probably a $200 savings. I took it home and started playing with it that evening. The seller was kind enough to give me a single roll with some plastic left on it.

The best place to buy the special plastic you need to seal your food with is at Costco. I paid about the same price as the Food Saver for a box of a variety of sizes of plastic. It has some bags in it, but mostly rolls where you seal one end, insert the food, then seal the other end.

In this box I got;
  • 36 pre-cut bags that are 1 quart
  • 1 roll that is 8 inches wide and 20 feet long
  • 4 rolls that are 11 inches wide and 16 feet long
I checked the other day and the price is pretty much the same, $39 for the box.
Bags are pre-sealed on 3 sides
You need some tricks to use this tool properly. For example it's tough to vacuum seal something that is relatively moist. Most of my camping food is dehydrated, so that's not an issue. But I tried using it to seal bags of freshly peeled and sliced apples to put in the freezer. I ended up putting a strip of paper towel inside the bag at the end I was sealing to catch the juice. 

It took me a while to be able to judge how big of a bag I would need. This plastic is expensive, and I wanted to get the most use out of my rolls of it.

I got into the habit of writing down not only what the contents were, but what I had to do with them (how much water to add, if I needed to boil it and for how long, how many servings, etc.) with a Sharpie on the outside of the bag.

Chef Glenn suggests putting in a paper towel on one side of the bag to help ensure that hard, spiky food doesn't poke through the bag and it provides a better backdrop to read any writing on the bag.
Just sitting here minding its own business....

I don't leave this appliance on my counter. it takes up a lot of space for me. My sister bought one recently (she has a tent trailer, so she camps with refrigeration) and she uses it a lot. It's excellent for freezing fresh meat into individual packets. It works well for splitting a large block of cheese.

For camping this past summer I tried it for a variety of things. Some worked and some didn't. My purpose in having this appliance was to shrink size of a food item, help in preservation, and make the food bag pack better.

When I repackaged a box of Kraft Dinner it created a solid block of pasta with the cheese sauce inside. I had been using just a Ziploc bag before and in this case the Ziploc bag is the better choice. The block just didn't fit in the food bag as easily as the Ziploc bag did.

I used it to package soft flour tortillas for a single meal (4 instead of the 8 in the package). This also did not work well as when the air was squeezed out of the tortillas they got stuck to each other. Ziploc wins this one too.
Open, ready to slice the length of bag you choose

I bought some soft, juicy jerky from Costco last summer. Pork Teriyaki (yes, it was delicious!). It packed quite well in the vacuum sealed bags. This was a win. It also helps keep the jerky from spoiling. However one must be careful as sealing alone might not be a solution for food preservation as other bacteria can flourish in a vacuum sealed bag.

I sealed turkey pepperettes in individual bags as well. I would put 8 inside a bag of its own for one of our snacks. I cut up another 8 to be put on a pizza or mixed into KD. Cutting up ahead of time really worked well. 
Turkey pepperettes, the uncut version

I have purchased some mini-snack-sized baggies (no brand name) that hold a much smaller amount of contents. I will put several of these into a larger vacuum-sealed bag for a meal when I don't want to mix the contents ahead of time. For example, pasta sauce, veggies, pasta.
Sealed, dried apples

I have put a single serving of a dehydrated chicken, rice and veggies meal in one vacuum-sealed bag, perfect to dump into my Thermos at breakfast to eat at lunchtime.

Overall I'm very happy to have this kitchen appliance in my toolkit for food prep. It gives me some peace of mind to know that all the food we've got packed in our food bag has a high level of durability, helps keep food fresh and dry, meal items are packaged together, and it is easy to tell what is in each bag.
Meals sealed and ready to go