Thursday, November 4, 2010

11 tips on using a vacuum sealer

  1. Make your bags long enough to reuse. I make the bags I put 3 lbs. of rice in 5 marks long, which is plenty to enable reuse, and in the odd chance that the seal's no good for some reason [sometimes the seals get too hot and melt a bit] and I lose vacuum, I can then re-seal the offending end because I still have enough to work with. 
  2. If you plan on reusing bags, keep meat and non-meat separate so that you don't transfer any bacteria between the two. Wash your bags inside and out with hot soapy water and rinse them in a large bowl with hot water and a bit of vinegar to get the soap out. Dry them thoroughly using some gadget like the bag dryers shown here.
  3. If you've sealed something that has liquid with it like chicken breasts, treat the packaged item, before and after freezing and before using, just like a package of meat from the store and wash your hands after handling it.
  4. Put a large bay leaf or two small ones in with any grains or beans and freeze for 48 hours. Also works for flour.
  5. At the end of the roll, sometimes you may find you can't use the last two or three feet because the sealer can't get a good vacuum. I have an old bag sealer I use to do the tail end of the bag piece, then vacuum seal the other end, cut off the size bag I want, and continue until I'm out of usable bag.  The bag sealer's fine for the smaller bags but not the larger, wider ones, so I do two passes with it, crossing the seal lines in the middle, making them as close to a straight line together as I can.  OR, near the end of the roll, seal the open end, remove the plastic from the roll and seal the tail end.  Then, cut off a bag, seal the end again, and repeat.  Watch when you use bags near the end of the roll that you don't have any wrinkles at the seal; wrinkles don't seal well.
  6. Because I may not use all of a bag of lentils or split peas or whatever that I've purchased [not in a position to buy bulk right now, so it's pound bags at the grocery store on sale], I leave them in the bag, puncturing a small hole in one corner, and vac-pack them intact, but again, with a bay leaf. That way, when I take the bag out I still have both the directions and the original bag that I can seal up with a twist tie if I don't use all the contents at once.
  7. I put my FoodSaver on the edge of the counter over a drawer and put the bag to be sealed in the drawer to keep the contents at the bottom. If the bag's too short to reach the FoodSaver, I put something underneath it to raise it up.
  8. Older FoodSavers sometimes get too hot to seal. This is normal; what I usually do with mine is fill a bag, seal the bag, and then I don't run into problems. If I do a bunch at a time like chicken breasts or hamburger, I seal each one and then take a break every four or five to let the thing cool down a bit.
  9. Don't just stick your vacuum packed items in your chosen location; check them after 24 hours to see if they have lost vacuum. If so, you'll need to re-vac them.
  10. If you are doing small amounts of rice or beans and have the counter space available, put the end of a bag to be sealed in the device and lock down the lid. Gently pat the contents down a bit to flatten the mass, then seal. You end up with something that isn't round, but more flat and thus easier to store.
  11. Put things like powdered spices in a Ziploc baggie that will fit in the vac-pack bag, and almost but not totally seal it up. Then vacuum it; this helps with sealing things like flours and spices that are easy for the machine to suck up into the seal area.