small appliances

The 7 Very Best Food Vacuum Sealers

Photo-Illustration: Retailer

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At its core, the purpose of vacuum-sealing is a simple and noble pursuit: Make food last longer. But until I talked to a bunch of experts for this story and tested a number of vacuum sealers myself with great success, the idea of buying and using the actual appliance was one I also found overwhelming. They’re such bulky-looking machines with so many buttons, I thought. (Not always, it turns out). How in the world do you use them? (Answer: it doesn’t have to be that complicated.) Are they really worth it? (Yes, they can be.)

If you’re interested in buying food in bulk, or even just in bigger portions than you can eat in one sitting — meat, yes, but also dry goods — vacuum sealers extend the life of anything you want to last by days, and sometimes even months. They also make super efficient use of storage space, whether in your freezer, fridge, or pantry, by compressing all the air out. But what I learned from speaking to experts who use vacuum sealers often is that there are other cooking perks, too: They allow you to sous-vide, infuse, cure, and ferment. (You simply have to buy rolls of plastic to put into the machine, and every brand on this list makes their own, so you know it will fit into whichever one you have.) Many have attachments that seal cans for goods like pickles and jam, and others have a wet-seal setting that allows you to marinate in a fraction of the time it usually takes, thanks to the sealer’s compression method. To find the best models for home use, I asked professional butchers, homesteaders, fermenters, and recipe developers to recommend their own favorites. And if you’re looking for more food storage solutions, you can find my extensive guide here.

What we’re looking for

Type

There are two types of vacuum sealers: external and chamber. The former makes up the vast majority of ones on this list, as they are specifically designed for regular consumers. You put your food inside a bag, insert the open edge into the machine, secure the lid, and then press a button that suctions air out of the bag and seals it shut. You can watch the whole thing in action: The walls of the bag contract to wrap super tightly around whatever is inside. The latter is the method used in commercial settings, whether a giant factory or a mom-and-pop butcher shop. They’re much bigger and more expensive, fully enclosing your bag with the food inside and sucking the air out with super-heightened power. While most home cooks won’t need such an intense contraption, I’ve included one relatively small and affordable option on this list.

Size

Of course, adding another appliance to your kitchen means you’ll have to consider storage. As such, I’ve written out the dimensions of each.

Best food vacuum sealer overall

Type: External | Size: 5.8” x 7” x 4.3”

The Anova Pro was my first foray into vacuum sealing — and I was pleasantly surprised by how easy it is to operate. You open it by clicking two buttons on the side, line up the edge of your bag across the chamber, and close it (there’s a very audible sound, so I always knew for sure it was secured). The machine is super simple to navigate (I watched this short demonstration on YouTube before jumping in). One button seals until it automatically senses all the air is gone, and another lets you pulse seal, only pushing the air out as you press a button so you have a bit more control. There’s also an option to double seal for extra insurance; even when I shook a bag filled with tomato sauce, there was absolutely no leakage.

The fact that it’s easy to use isn’t only a plus for beginners like me. James Peisker, co-founder of Porter Road in Nashville uses it for food storage and sous viding and assures it gets the job done. “There aren’t a lot of buttons or bells and whistles,” he says. “It’s very straightforward — very user-friendly.” He says he appreciates the accessible price point, too, a sentiment shared by Dave Yasuda, director of marketing at Snake River Farms. Yasuda is responsible for generating a lot of the photography his company puts out — meaning he sous-vides a lot to ensure a consistent look of the plated pieces of pork and beef. In the office they have a big, expensive machine. “But I often have to take this show on the road,” he says. “I’ve tried a lot of different ones, and sometimes they can be wimpy. This has a lot of suction. It’s powerful.”

Still, it’s the smallest model on this list (with the exception of Zwilling’s handheld system that comes with accompanying containers), imperative for someone like me who lives in an apartment and doesn’t have that much storage to give up to nonessential appliances. I’ll also note that I think it looks sleek with its matte black exterior, and the parts truly feel well-made. The less expensive models below come highly recommended but don’t have quite the same full-package appeal.

Best less expensive food vacuum sealer

Type: External | Size: 18.3” x 5.1” x 11.8”

The price of the Anova isn’t bad, but I wanted to find a reliable machine for even less, especially given that some folks might be making a foray into vacuum-sealing for the first time. So I turned to Ryan Dolliver, owner of Palmetto in Brooklyn, whose main priority when picking one out was affordability. “I bought it for the bar, and I didn’t know if it was going to work for us, and I didn’t want to spend a bunch of money on equipment we might not have ended up using,” he says. But it did indeed work, and he’s been relying on it for about a year now. He turns to it primarily for infusing and preserving ingredients for cocktails, a practice where “consistency is paramount,” he says. Other methods for flavoring creams or syrups can suffer from variations in temperature and movement, but with vacuum sealing, recipes turn out the exact same every single time. The machine also allows him to keep seasonal produce fresh for months. Finally, because he lives down the street from his bar, he sometimes uses it to seal foods to store in his own freezer or to sous vide at home. Overall, “it’s a very low cost of entry and does what it says it does every time,” he says. “It’s a consumer-grade product, but I use it in a professional setting, and it still works great.”

Best simple food vacuum sealer

Type: External | Size: 16 x 6.3 x 3.5

Russ Flint, owner of Rain Shadow Meats in Seattle, uses Amazon’s in-house brand vacuum sealer to package sausages in his shop because “the simpler, the better for me,” he says. He appreciates that it is fairly lightweight due to its smaller size (though it does still fit standard 11-inch bags) and has an indent at the bottom for the cord to tuck into when not in use. But mostly, he likes that the mechanisms — a regular seal, a vacuum seal, and options for dry and wet foods — are straightforward. “Other ones have all these frills and whatnot, which are just other places for it to fall apart and break,” he says. The price even comes in at slightly less than the Nesco, above.

Best compact vacuum sealer

Type: External | Size: Multiple pieces

The Zwilling Fresh and Save Starter Set is one that doesn’t quite fit the mold of the others on this list: It’s a handheld cylindrical pump, less than a foot tall, that works in conjunction with specific Zwilling bags and containers by sucking the air directly through valves on each receptacle. Indeed, it’s like a cross between vacuum-sealing machines and regular food-storage containers, which is why you’ll find it in my guide to those, too. It’s a system that looks and feels a bit more approachable to the average cook, one of the reasons it comes eagerly recommended by recipe developer and cookbook author Jessie Sheehan and recipe developer and food blogger Nicole Modic. It’s also much easier to store than a full machine. “If I had a big one I wouldn’t use it,” Modic says. “And the containers themselves are multipurpose. I can use them without vacuum sealing if I know I’m going to eat something within a day or two.”

Both pros say the tool is incredibly easy to use and that you can see the air being sucked away in less than a minute. “It really appeals to the make-ahead girl in me,” Sheehan says. “I love that you can prep ingredients — carrots, celery, whatever — and maybe you’re not touching those chopped up veggies for a week, but they stay fresh.” Modic says she’s amazed how it makes berries, a highly perishable ingredient because of high moisture levels, last two weeks in the fridge. While she doesn’t use the bags quite as often, Modic says she appreciates them for marinating meats in a fraction of the time it would take otherwise. And, she says, the charge lasts months.

Best vacuum sealer for canning

Type: External | Size: 7.2” x 16.3” x 7.6”

FoodSaver is probably the most recognizable brand on this list to the average cook. It’s certainly the first, and really even only, vacuum-sealer brand I was aware of before delving into the topic. Still, I gave it this specific designation — that it’s best for canning — because, according to the experts I spoke with, it’s especially good for that function (and it’s also more expensive and bulkier than my best overall pick). For Kimberly Plafke, chef and general manager of Standing’s Butchery’s soon-to-come second location in Los Angeles, the FoodSaver’s canning attachment, which is nestled in a compartment at the top of the machine, has been helpful for making jam. It lets her seal the lid once she’s filled the jar and extend the life of the spread from just a couple of weeks to up to a few months. The machine is generally a solid and reliable one, too, even if you don’t plan on using the canning attachment. “I find it super helpful,” Plafke says. “It’s a space-saver because you’re taking all the air out. You can organize your fridge and freezer so much better. I’m a crazy coupon lady and if I see a good deal on something at the grocery store, I can divide and then vacuum-seal and save it for ages.”

Anthony Accardi, owner of Brooklyn’s Transmitter Brewing, uses his FoodSaver four to seven days a week — “probably as much as my stove,” he told me. “It has long legs outside of straightforward sous-vide use. I use it to make quick pickles, and for fermenting. It takes freezer burn out of the equation. You can marinate something for ten minutes instead of overnight and get the same amount of flavor. I cure pastrami, bacon, and ham in it.” As for the machine itself, Accardi calls it a “well-designed unit.” He particularly likes the view window which helps to manage feeding the bag and to see what’s going on inside. He’s owned his for several years with, as he noted, very frequent use. “I’m kind of surprised that it’s lasted so long for a home unit,” he says. “I don’t baby it.”

Best powerful food vacuum sealer

Type: External | Size: 15” x 12” x 6.3”

Aaron Foster, owner of Brooklyn’s Foster Sundry, has been using this VacPak at home for the past six years. For him, its primary benefit is how compact and organized it makes his freezer and pantry. In the former, he stores meat and sauces, which spread thin when you seal them and then become stackable. He also uses the vacuum sealer to extend a given season, he says, preserving pitted sour cherries and cooked-down sungold tomatoes to pull out in the winter. When it comes to dry storage, he tightly closes any unfinished packages of pasta, beans, and grains. “It’s much better than having a bunch of open clipped half bags in our cabinet,” he says. Foster also appreciates that the machine accommodates one continuous roll of plastic “so if you’re sealing a tiny bag of yeast versus something bigger for a sauce, you can get exactly what you need and cut it off to your specifications.”

Kate Kavanaugh, co-owner of Western Daughters Butcher Shoppe, and her husband — who not only own a butcher shop but are also avid homesteaders — also use this machine. (In fact, they have the 16-inch model to accommodate larger cuts of meat, but believe the 12-inch should be plenty big for most tasks.) “We use it pretty heavily,” Kavanaugh says. “We raise all of our own meat, as well as enough to cover a small share program, and have had this one for over two years. It’s never going to be as good as chamber machines, but I can’t imagine a regular consumer needing that. And it is more powerful than the FoodSaver. It has really decent suction power, and a decent seal bar.”

Best chamber food vacuum sealer

Type: Chamber | Size: 13” x 19” x 14”

If for any reason you’re interested in serious vacuum-sealing, this chamber model is actually somewhat reasonably sized for an industrial-quality machine (whereas others literally wouldn’t fit in a home kitchen) and reasonably priced (compared to the upwards of several thousand dollars those can cost). Stefano Diaz, owner and head butcher at The Meat Wagon in Kingston, New York uses a slightly bigger version of it. “We’re doing heavier sealing,” he says, “but it’s also very user-friendly. You have to change the oil with it, like you do with a lawn mower, but it’s easy. Surprisingly enough, a customer told me the other day they have one. If you do a crazy amount of cooking it might be worth it. It holds more, and it’s faster.”

For slightly more money (though still quite moderate for a commercial machine), you can get the VacMaster, recommended by Chris Carter, the other co-founder of Porter Road. “If you have the space for it, it’ll be there forever, and you’d be inclined to really utilize it,” he says. It’s a couple of inches bigger than the VacPak and while “it might look intimidating just because of the size, it’s actually very easy to use,” he says. “You put whatever in the bag, lay the bag across the rail on the inside, close the lid, and turn it on. That’s it.”

Some other food-storage products we’ve written about

Our experts

• Anthony Accardi, owner of Transmitter Brewing
• Chris Carter, co-founder of Porter Road
• Stefano Diaz, owner of and head butcher at The Meat Wagon
• Russ Flint, owner of Rain Shadow Meats
• Aaron Foster, owner of Foster Sundry
• Kate Kavanaugh, co-owner of Western Daughters Butcher Shoppe
• Nicole Modic, recipe developer and food blogger
• Ryan Dolliver, owner of Palmetto
• James Peisker, co-founder of Porter Road
• Kimberly Plafke, chef and general manager of Standing’s Butchery
• Jessie Sheehan, recipe developer and cookbook author
• Dave Yasuda, director of marketing at Snake River Farms

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The 7 Very Best Food Vacuum Sealers