on October 9, 2011
I'll admit I was skeptical at first - I wasn't convinced that vacuum-sealing would make any impact in reducing the outrageous quantity of food my family wastes in the deep, dark, forgotten recesses of the freezer. But in just two months of use, it actually has. Granted, much of the savings are attributable to more enthusiastic management of the freezer, but it's working. We are now also purchasing meats, cheeses, poultry, etc. in quantity when they're on sale and also cooking sauces in quantity and sealing in multiple bags. The unit has officially paid for itself in our two months of use. The ability to freeze "pre-leftovers" is convenient and saves money. And the quality of the vacuum sealed foods is practically the same as fresh-prepared.
Based on reviews (though mostly of other models), I was concerned about the quality and durability of the sealer, but this unit is well built and performs very consistently. No doubt in my mind that it wouldn't hold up to commercial use, but for family use - weekly and occasionally in-between - I'm confident it will last at least one or two years without problems. Certainly, vacuum pumps are never long-lived and will probably be the demise of the unit, but a unit with a serviceable, commercial grade vacuum pump would cost much, much more and would also require periodic maintenance. This unit is inexpensive enough to justify replacement should it fail.
When ordering we also purchased an assortment of rolls along with the two standard sized bags. I wish we had passed on the rolls - we haven't sealed anything yet that didn't easily fit into either the quart or gallon bags, but I suppose if you are sealing excessively long (and narrow) items like full racks of ribs the rolls would be helpful. The bags are far more convenient and not that much more expensive. Here's another trick - when you need an ice pack immediately or for food transport, just seal some cubes in a bag. For some reason, the ice seems to melt much more slowly in a vacuum bag, and you can even reuse it.
So, my advice is go ahead and try it. If you're not running a home meat packing business I'll bet it will be a good fit for any average family. Read the instructions - an hour of pre-freezing before sealing prevents the vacuum from sucking out juices and is essential when packing sauces and liquids. Doing this I have not even had to clean the sump tray even once. And besides quantity of use, I'm certain aspiration of contents into the vacuum pump is the primary reason the units fail.
on May 1, 2012
You need to know that this is a light duty, one bag per use, product and that the sealing gaskets have to be maintained properly and replaced yearly before you decide to buy it. If you don't expect to use it that way, look for a heavier duty model.
I have had an old model 2200 since 2004 and decided to get this because the seals on the old FoodSaver were degrading and making it impossible to get the vacuum feature to work. Unfortunately, without the vacuum function, it is useless because the seal function will not engage until the vacuum registers the bag or container as emptied of air.
This unit has a seal only function as well as the vacuum function. Just as well because it stopped vacuuming the air out of the bags after the 4th use. I bought it in February and it stopped working in April. That's 2 months. I was able to keep the old unit working for 8 years, by wetting the rubber gaskets so that they formed a tight seal. That trick doesn't work on this unit. Nor does reseating the bag or leaning on the cover to make it seal even tighter than the latch lever can make it.
The vacuum motor runs, and runs, and runs. It just doesn't pull any air out of the sealing bag. In case anybody wonders, I am using genuine FoodSaver bags purchased this past January. So it isn't a compatibility problem with the bags.
If I had known the issue was this pervasive with the product, I would never have purchased it.
Since I am now past Amazon's time limit for a return, I will have to rely on the manufacturer honoring their warranty. I will update when I have any further information.
EDIT: I spoke to Customer Service and it appears that the sealing gaskets were at fault. If you want to prevent the problem, try storing the gaskets outside the unit in a separate bag (do not crush) and periodically wash them in warm soapy water, rinse, and dry with a non-shedding cloth. Also, never seal more than 4 bags at a time; and wait at least 30 minutes before sealing a 5th bag, if you have one. The unit is only a light duty, occasional use model and cannot take marathon bagging sessions.
Meaning it isn't good for typical household use where one comes home from the supermarket and starts to bag a lot of items to store, or after a fishing trip, etc.
Finally, you have to replace the gaskets at least once a year. They are a consumable part. It will cost about $14 for a pair of them.
That raises my star count to 2 for the unit still working; I still feel that a unit that will fold and die under normal household use and needs periodic servicing to boot just isn't for the typical consumer.
EDIT 2: By periodically soaking the gaskets in warm soapy water for a minute, rinsing and patting them dry (no squeezing), I have kept this unit going for nearly 3 years. I will be replacing the gaskets with new ones soon, and it should be good for another year or two. Raised rating to 3 stars.
The unit still has the problem of a max 4 bags at a time with a minimum 1/2 hour rest between sets. That is troublesome for someone wanting to bag up items from a recent shopping trip or when cooking for freezer storage. This limit on continuous usage is a real problem.
Through my entire life I've had a bit of a fascination with food vacuum sealers, I'm a bit of a gadget person, but I always hold back on kitchen appliances-- I already feel like I have too many. I like to keep a clean counter top and I wasn't sure if I was ready to commit to another kitchen appliance.
Why get one?
Some people buy this to buy bulk food and keep it fresh through consumption. Some are "preppers" and want to prepare for disasters. I happen to be someone who lives alone and travels a lot for work. It breaks my heart and conscience every time I have to empty out uneaten perishables from my refrigerator before I leave on a week or month long work trip. It's a downer every time I travel. I bought this device to help my conscience at the deepest level, and on the surface, I wanted to keep my food longer and in a more organized way.
When you first get one of these, you may have the instinct to vacuum seal everything in sight-- everything in the fridge, the freezer, the pantry and maybe even the electronics storage bin! Do it! I learned so much about what can and can't be sealed, about the bags, about the unit itself.
The first week you have this unit you'll realize that food really does stay looking and is really fresher longer once it's been sealed. The dilemma is do you seal something every time you use it? If you seal carrots do you re-seal it every time you open it? Do you do small batches of carrots in smaller bags? Are there some things you use so frequently that it won't make sense at all to seal them? All of those questions are valid, and you will figure it out.
About the assumptions and superstition--
Let me first get out of the way a couple things that I thought, "Wait! They didn't tell me that in the commercial!" The first thing was about watery or liquid foods. The vacuum process isn't made to handle that and you won't get a good seal if you do it. It won't harm the unit as it has a drip tray in it that catches the raw chicken breast liquid, but you suddenly realize after reading the manual that they want you to freeze everything first before vacuuming it if it has liquid. That can really get to be a pain and an extra step of work. They do now offer some bags that have a small absorber in there, but.... yeah. Another step adding complication to a device that is supposed to simplify my life.
What you save in money on wasted food, and time you spend going through the fridge and throwing away bad food may very well be balanced out by the time you spend on sealing food, and depending on your bag usage policy, may even equal out the amount you spend on bags. It all depends on how many are in your household, if you waste more expensive foods like meats or less expensive foods like bags of salad, and how dedicated you are to the sealing process.
So does it seal successfully? Yes. I would say 95% of the time it seals successfully. The other 5% of the time is a mix of a bag that got pierced from the inside by the object I sealed, liquid in the seal, or the least likely, an incomplete seal. I have found the unit to be an expert sealer compared to things I've had in the past that would fully burn through the bag at the sealing point. If you don't have liquid in the seal area, it will seal completely, every time. Every time--- if you properly smooth out the bag before you close the lid. DING! The next lesson.
There is a heating element that seals the bag just outside the oval area where the sucking takes place. You need both layers of the bag to lay flat against each other where the heating element is, without any wrinkles for a good seal, and you need both edges of the bag to be fully submersed into the sucking oval. It becomes an art-- often the weight of an object or the width in the middle will make the bag sort of "buckle" at the top, so you have to take extra care to keep it smooth and stretched out. The easiest way to do this is to hold the bag about 1" off the counter top to relieve the pressure on the top of the bag. It works well. Small things you learn. As well, you will learn that the top of your objects to seal need to be ultra level across the top if you're a bag stretcher like me. I don't mean that I stretch the bags, but that I try not to be wasteful with how large I cut them to make them fit appropriately, but without waste. This leads me on to bag selection.
About the bags
It took a bit longer to learn my lessons on the bags. At this point, I prefer to have pre-cut quart bags, and a wide roll for larger items. I find that I waste less when I have a quart sized bag, and I do often trim off the top. I have tried the FoodSaver brand, I've used some ZipLoc brand made for vacuum sealer machines, and I've "repurposed" some Ziploc brand vacuum bags that are meant for the manual hand pumps. The pre cut bags are no issue-- they work as you expect, and they work just as well. The roll, when you use the FoodSaver brand, is a little tricky. Imagine for a minute that you seal something and make a cut. You have a little bit left that fits this one object just right, and you try to seal it... nothing. Nothing! I won't take the air out at all. This is because the FoodSaver brand rolls are _directional_ with the little air channels built in to one side of the bag. This means they will only vacuum out air up and down, in the way that the roll unrolls. If you happen to have a small piece left and put an object in it "sideways" it won't vacuum out. At all. In comes the Ziploc brand roll, which has a universal direction built in for the air channels. You can cut those up any which way you prefer and it will vacuum out with no complaints. There is one downside to the Ziploc brand bags though: They are the air channel material on both front & back. This is less visually appealing than the FoodSaver bag, because one layer of it is ultra smooth clear plastic which makes your object look really great on display. FoodSaver giveth, and taketh away. Same with ZipLoc. They both work, both have different features and nuances, but in my experience work equally well. I plan to use some of the ones I can locate on Amazon to see what kind of experience I get out of some that are a little bit better priced.
What about sealing... that!? (And it's not food)
I have done a TON of sealing objects that are not food, simply for organization and space savings: electronics, cables, cloth containers, velcro zip ties, a variety of things. What I can say is that objects that are plastic and look like they are solid may not be... and the suction may collapse them in ways you do not intend. In the way that you have to hit the SEAL button as soon as you think it's had enough pressure on a delicate food, you need to do this as well with your electronics. I nearly collapsed the side of a cable modem and a wifi router by letting it seal in a bit too much. And also a warning-- the plastic may depress power buttons on devices that you seal so watch out for that or take care. It has done great with things like batteries, laser pointers, and very very small objects-- it's a great way to keep track of micro USB flash drives, WIFI adapters, and things like that. Ok... sorry I let my inner nerd get out there for a moment.
Back to the raw truth-- food sealing
I have sealed chicken breast, a variety of vegetables, salad mix, cheese, sliced cucumber and have been completely satisfied with all of the results. I've also sealed coffee beans very successfully. The only inhibition is with needing to freeze things first before bagging. There is always the liquid absorbing bag option. I also re-bagged/sealed a lot of frozen fruit meant for smoothies. They were totally fully sealed but had already started freezer burn in their own sealed bag. This is exactly where this unit shines and helps your food last longer.
It has..... optional accessories!?
I am a huge Mason jar user and I often use them for house drinking cups. I also make batches of pickles and fresh salsa each summer that I can (Jar... why is it called canning!?) so I had plenty of regular mouth Mason jars around. I did some test sealing with those, and it does work well, but I would advise that you try it a few times. The first time I sealed a jar the machine shut off and I thought... hmm., ok, it's done! I popped the seal off pretty easily. I did the same thing again and it got a much tighter seal. You will learn what is normal and what is not. The sound that comes from the pump is a huge giveaway. It has a very specific faster/higher sound when a solid seal has been reached and it has maxed out its depressurization.
Needing a home
The unit still sits on my counter top. I'm using it regularly enough that I haven't put it away yet. I am suspecting that at some point once I've sealed every object that I own, I may find a spot right under the kitchen sink where I can whip it out quickly.
So that's the long and short of it. It does what it says, but it is like any other kitchen appliance-- if you want to use it to its maximum capability there is some additional learning that will come with repeated use. I recommend that you seal a LOT in your first week so you can really understand if it is a device that will be useful in your life, and to know for sure that you've had enough experiences that you fully know how to use it and what to expect.
If there were a few suggestions for improvement-- the unit could be slimmer front to back and top to bottom. I don't know why it's not smaller. When you pull down on the lock lever to engage it for sealing, it seems to seal the right side of the unit more than the left side. Functionally this makes no difference-- it works, but it makes it look cheap that one side is pulled down a lot more than the other. Finally, the foam oval sometimes wants to get dislodged or come out of place. I know this is a replaceable item and I suspect it could be made more durable than it is. Oh, one other: Some people mentioned that they didn't like the short cord. It's exactly perfect for me. I wouldn't know what to do with more cord under my counter top.
If you have any specific questions I am more than happy to do my best. Ask below and I'll answer as soon as I can!
on June 7, 2011
I would recommend to anyone buying this that they wait one year before posting comments. Mine quit one year after purchasing it through Amazon, after the warranty expired. So all these people who are posting positive reviews after a week or a month may change their opinions after a year. Customer service was willing to sell me a new one, but not repair the one I had. That tells me the company considers this a disposable product whose warranty is designed to expire just prior to the machine quitting. It would appear they have done their research and they know their product.
07/27/2011 - I bought a Rival vacuum sealer, which worked with the remaining Food Saver rolls of bag material, and although it isn't as automated a process, it performs a superior job to the Food Saver. I do believe the Rival bagging material on a roll is more expensive than Food Saver's, but I suppose you get what you pay for. The Rival seems to produce more vacuum so all in all, so far I'm pleased.
04/18/2013 - My Rival vacuum sealer just quit. I believe I sealed about 60 bags over that nearly two-year period. However, the Rival is now on sale for $38.97 so I ordered a replacement Rival. It's either $39 every couple of years or $400 +/- for indefinite. I'll do the $39 option.