For safe storage of cooked and pre-cooked meat, some people suggest investing in a vacuum sealer. Vacuum sealing foods is a time-consuming task, so is it really worth the investment?
Why Vacuum Sealing Is Popular
People invest in vacuum sealers for a reason: They help keep food fresher for longer. One of the culprits in food (including meat) going bad, is the addition of air (which aids in breeding bacteria).
Putting food in a plastic zipper-sealed bag or a plastic storage container leaves air behind. Even pushing the air out of a plastic bag by hand isn’t going to vacuum seal it. That air-tight seal might make your meat go from lasting only one to three days to being good for up to two weeks in the fridge. In the freezer, vacuum sealing can help prevent freezer burn and lock in flavor.
The Cost of Vacuum Sealing
Before you can determine if it’s worth it for you, consider how much meat you buy and eat in your household. Also, factor in other times you might need to vacuum seal foods, like when using a precision cooker.
A vacuum sealer is definitely worth the cost if you eat meat regularly in your home and find you’re tossing stuff too soon because you didn’t get to it in time. If you hunt or fish, a vacuum sealer will help you keep your large stock of meat fresher in the fridge and freezer.
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A good countertop vacuum sealer will run you around $50 for a basic but very dependable model. If you want something with a lot of bells and whistles, like attachments for sealing cans and such, expect to spend closer to $150-200.
The initial investment in the machine isn’t where costs add up though; it’s in the bags. Bag costs can vary and are definitely more costly than normal sandwich and freezer bags. While you can use generic bags, most people report better luck using the brand name bags—the texture of the bag plays a roll in how the vacuum-and-then-seal function works, and cheap bags often have shallow and poorly designed texture, which makes for a poor experience.
Using a vacuum sealer is a little more time-consuming than throwing your meat in a zippered freezer bag, but you’ll still get the same amount of waste between the two so that’s not really a consideration.
On the fence? Focus on the workflow in your grocery shopping and kitchen. Do you buy meats and use them immediately in dishes? Unless you’re getting into sous vide cooking, a vacuum sealer probably doesn’t have much appeal. Buy meats in bulk and deep freeze them? A vacuum sealer will be your best friend.