In my opinion, Vacuum Food Sealers are the best thing since sliced bread. Even though some may have a hefty price tag, the money you will save in food cost and car gas savings alone will make up for the initial investment. Food sealers may be used for dry goods, frozen or refrigerated foods all with equal success. Our freezer is worth a fortune in the fall after harvesting the garden, as well as during the rest of the year after we have purchased our 1/4 Black Angus beef and a 1/2 pig, both all sliced up to the perfect cuts and vacuum packed in the freezer. The storage life will dramatically increase when the air has been removed from the product properly and totally sealed and put into the freezer.
Since there are so many different brands and levels of vacuum food sealers, do your homework first and decide which will be the best model for you. They range from just a bag sealer, which only seals the bag without removing air, all the way up to a commercial grade sealer that allows you to vacuum bags without having to wait for the sealer to cool down as much.
Here are some tips that I believe are quite important when vacuum sealing foods.
1. When you start a project, make sure you have plenty of material, either bags or rolls. Nothing is worse than having say ten pounds of beef and only enough material for eight of those ten pounds.
2. If you have a normal type vacuum sealer, don't make a production line out of the process. In other words, don't bag everything up and then seal them all up one right after the other. Your vacuum sealer will heat up and probably shut off for a period of time before letting you continue. Instead, fill one bag, clean the inside sealing portion of the bag and seal it up before moving on to the next bag. A good commercial grade vacuum sealer will allow you to seal multiple bags at a time, however, they are quite expensive.
3. When sealing, make sure you leave ample room above the food in the bag. About three inches is just fine and gives you plenty of room to work with the food and the bag at the same time.
4. When possible, always by bags by the roll. This way you have total control of how large you want the bags to be. If you buy gallon size bags, which usually are 20 or more bags to the box, you may be sealing more food in one bag then what you would eat at one setting. With the rolls you can make the bags the perfect size for your meals. If you're a single person or cooking for an entire family, make the bags your size.
5. Liquids in your food. This can cause quite a mess when vacuum sealing. There are several methods you can choose so that you don't ruin your machine by sucking the juice into the sealer. If you use a marinade, try a dry or wet rub instead before packing. Dry rubs are all the rage today when cooking on the grill. If there is juice in the foods, like fruits for example or after cooking down the squash, bag it and put it into the freezer for a few hours until the liquids are frozen, then vacuum seal the bag.
6. Here's a neat trick for freezing soups. Freeze them first in plastic microwaveable bowls, then run them under running hot water to pop them out of the bowl, put into freezer bag and seal. Instant soup for later.
7. Some foods, (like hamburgers, baked goods, etc.), are a little tricky to vacuum seal as the sealer may be too strong for the food and squish it making it kind of unappetizing to cook. As I said earlier, do your homework first when buying your machine. There are sealers that have settings so that less air is pulled out or the machine senses when it needs to stop so that foods don't get squashed. Or, shape them and freeze them first before bagging and sealing.
8. When you will be opening and resealing the bag, make sure first of all that you make the bag long enough to be able to reseal it with ample room. That's the reason I use the three inch rule above. When you open the bag, cut it right at the seal, remove what you need, then reseal the bag and put back into the freezer.
9. Most bag materials can stand the test of repeated sealing as long as you follow this simple measure: Wash the bag with hot water, simply turn the bag inside out and put on top rack of your dishwasher or wash it under running hot water right in the kitchen sink and make sure the bag is dry before using again. The exception is with raw meats, just throw the bag away, this reduces the possibility of cross contamination.
10. Lastly, read the directions that came with your vacuum sealing machine. I know, most people don't read the instructions, but at least browse over them just to get familular with your machine to prevent any messes while using. Remember, using your machine incorrectly will cause problems in the future and messes at the present.