Food waste is one of the hottest topics in the food world right now. The FDA estimates 30 to 40 percent of our food supply is tossed into landfills (or spoils before it's eaten), so more and more consumers are trying to help lower that statistic. One easy solution: Buy a vacuum sealer. These kitchen tools are among the best ways to keep food fresher longer. Vacuum sealers can extend the shelf life of fresh and frozen items in the refrigerator, freezer, and pantry—at times longer than the best food storage containers, not to mention your items will take up less space.
To help you spend wisely, we chose five highly-rated vacuum sealers and used each one to see how well they sealed frozen meats, potato chips, fresh and frozen fruit, and bread. Our winner, the Food Saver FM3920 Vacuum Sealer(available at Amazon for $289.23) is particularly easy to use and packed with useful features. But if you want to spend less, the FoodSaver FM2000 Vacuum Sealing System (available at Amazon) is also a good choice.
Here are the best vacuum sealers we tested, ranked in order:
FoodSaver FM3920 Vacuum Sealer
The FoodSaver FM2000 Vacuum Sealing System
Nesco American Harvest Deluxe Vacuum Sealer Model VS-12
Weston Professional Advantage Vacuum Sealer
Ziploc V203 Vacuum Sealer Machine
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Our top choice for avid vacuum sealers is the FoodSaver FM3920 Vacuum Sealer. In addition to being very easy to open and close, it has storage for one roll of plastic from which you can cut bags using its onboard bag cutter. It also has a built-in retractable handheld sealer which can be used on zip-top bags, the brand’s containers, or the marinate setting with its Marinator Container. There’s a moist food setting to use on items that contain liquids to make sure the liquid doesn’t interfere with the sealing process. If any juices do drip into the tray beneath the channel where the top of the bag rests, you can remove it for washing. We wish all manuals were as well written and easy to understand as the FoodSaver’s which includes lots of guidelines and troubleshooting tips. This is one of the larger machines we tested, but it has cord storage to help reduce clutter. To get you started, one roll and a collection of precut bags are included.
If you’re looking for a basic, easy to use, and not too pricey model, The FoodSaver FM2000 Vacuum Sealing System is your best bet. It doesn’t have a bag cutter or room to hold a roll of plastic so you will have to find room in a drawer for a roll and keep a pair of scissors handy. If you like, you can buy a handheld sealer or canisters to use with it. The tray which catches any drips that occur during the vacuuming process, can be removed for cleaning, and there’s cord storage to help you keep your countertop or cabinet tidy. In the well-written manual, you’ll find excellent advice on vacuum sealing and food safety and there are also instructions right on the machine. One roll and an assortment of bags comes with the system.
Hi, I'm Sharon Franke, and I’ve been reviewing kitchen equipment for more than 30 years. Before that, I cooked in New York City restaurants for seven years. Increasingly, I’ve been concerned about food waste and its effect on climate change. That’s why I’m doing everything I can to keep food fresh and toss less. Now that I’ve tested vacuum sealers, I know they’re an easy way to preserve everything from frozen meats to items I buy in bulk like blocks of Cheddar, nuts, and raisins.
We tested five vacuum sealers. In each one, we sealed, then froze, hamburgers and chicken breasts and checked them for ice crystals and freezer burn after two, and again at three weeks. We sealed both fresh and frozen raspberries and bread slices to see if they got squished. After sealing potato chips, we subjected the bags to a hot and very humid climate to see if the chips stayed crispy over four days. In a bag from each sealer, we sealed a piece of paper and then submerged the bag in water to see if the paper stayed dry.
Of course, we also evaluated how easy each machine was to use, how quickly it sealed, how much noise it made, what special features it offered, and how much room it would require on your countertop or cabinets.
How to Choose the Best Vacuum Sealers
These electric appliances suck air out of a plastic bag or canister and then seals it. They are very effective at producing a tightly sealed package. In our tests, even when packages were submerged in water, nothing seeped in. Vacuum sealers work very well for frozen foods as they remove any air that could cause ice crystals or freezer burn from dehydration. In addition, they’re great for packaging items like blocks of cheese and dried fruits that easily dry out if not tightly covered. However, our tests found that when vacuum sealed packages of chips were left in a warm, humid environment, they didn’t stay fresh and crunchy. Our deduction is that moist air traveled into the bags through the plastic itself. In fact, chips stayed crispier in conventional storage containers.
Every manufacturer offers precut bags as well as rolls of plastic that you can cut to form bags customized to your needs. They also offer canisters to use for food storage or marination that you can vacuum seal by connecting them to the machine with a hose.
Other Vacuum Sealers We Tested
Nesco VS-12 Deluxe
You’ll find lots of features on the Nesco American Harvest Deluxe Vacuum Sealer Model VS-12. It has room to hold a roll of plastic and a built-in bag cutter. In addition to both high- and low-pressure, pulse, and marinate settings, it has a display that counts down the vacuuming progress. You can buy a hose and accessory canisters to use with the machine if you like. When you’re not using the Nesco, you can wind the cord in the back to keep it from cluttering up the counter or cabinet. Our only wish is that the manual included more information on food storage and safety. To get started, you get two rolls of plastic in different widths to create bags.
The Weston Professional Advantage Vacuum Sealer was the most expensive of the models we tested and sucks out the most air. That meant fewer ice crystals on frozen hamburgers and chicken breasts stored in Weston bags and very tight packages of chips. However, while air was sucked out, it still entered the sealed bags through the plastic, so chips didn’t stay as crisp as in an unopened package. By using the pulse feature, you can control the vacuum process and stop before crackers or pretzels become crushed. A lighted bar shows you the progress of vacuuming and you hear a ding at the end. It has a marinate mode and you can buy accessory canisters to vacuum seal with a hose accessory. Unfortunately, there’s no bag cutter on board or place in the appliance to store a roll of plastic. And to activate the machine, you have to press very hard on either side so if you don’t have much hand strength, we don’t recommend this model. However, if you buy a lot of meat at a warehouse store for long-term freezer storage, you’ll find this sealer worth the big bucks. Along with the Weston, comes 15 sealable bags.
If your priority is spending as little as possible, the Ziploc V201 Vacuum Sealer Machine is the one for you. It works just as well as some pricier models and takes up less space. But it doesn’t have storage or a bag cutter on board, so you have to pull out a scissors to cut a length of plastic off a roll and find room to store the roll. But the Ziploc’s biggest drawback, and the one that kept us from dubbing it our best value, is that it’s not easy to use. Before sealing, you have to press down quite firmly on either side of the machine before it will operate. On the positive side, there are instructions printed right inside the machine so if you need a refresher course in how to use it, you don’t have to pull out the manual. An assortment of bags, a roll, and a hose to use with containers are included
We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.