We Tested 10 Vacuum Sealers—Here Are the Best Ones
Posted in Serious Eats
July 23, 2022

We Tested 10 Vacuum Sealers—Here Are the Best Ones

multiple vacuum sealers on a marble surface
Serious Eats / Taylor Murray

If you’re into sous vide cooking or want to extend the shelf-life of ingredients or ensure the ground beef you bought (but aren’t looking to use quite yet) doesn’t get freezer burn, a vacuum sealer is a worthwhile investment. In short, vacuum sealers keep food fresher, longer.

There are two types of vacuum sealers available commercially: suction and chamber. Suction vacuum sealers work by literally sucking the air out of a compatible plastic bag before sealing it by melting the ends of the bag together. 

Chamber vacuum sealers evacuate the air from the chamber and anything inside. This type can offer more flexibility and control, typically allowing you to adjust the amount of vacuum used. With a chamber model, you don’t even need to use a plastic bag to marinate or compress food. For example, sliced cucumbers can be turned into pickles instantly and without heat by simply placing them in a dish in brine inside the chamber and running a cycle. The vacuum created by the machine pulls the brine into the cucumbers using force. “This is also useful for quick marinating and tenderizing of meats and fish,” says Shannon Martincic, former chef de cuisine at Elizabeth in Chicago. However, chamber vacuum sealers are much larger and expensive (they can cost thousands of dollars). This is why they’re most commonly found in professional kitchens or other industrial settings.

For the purpose of at-home use, we limited this review to suction vacuum sealers, testing 10 models to find the ones that’ll suit a variety of needs and budgets.

The Winners, at a Glance

The Best Vacuum Sealer (Co-Winner): Nesco VS-12 Deluxe Vacuum Sealer

With clearly marked, intuitive controls, durable double-seal technology, and a wide range of features and functions, this sealer aced all of our tests. 

The Best Vacuum Sealer (Co-Winner): Anova Precision Vacuum Sealer Pro

The Anova Pro offered a wide range of settings and was easy to use, thanks to features like a built-in bag holder. Its rock-solid, double-seal technology stood up to super-high temperatures and long-term freezer storage.

The Best Affordable Vacuum Sealer (Under $60): Mueller Vacuum Sealer

For those looking to seal without breaking the bank, the Mueller vacuum sealer brings a lot to the table for a great price. It’s worth noting that it didn’t do as well with delicate foods, and it lacks helpful features like built-in bag storage and a bag cutter.

The Best Compact Vacuum Sealer: Anova Precision Vacuum Sealer

The Anova Precision vacuum sealer was sleek, simple, and easy to store thanks to its small size. We’d recommend it for beginners, those short on space, or both.

The Tests

A vacuum sealer sealing a bag with six ping pong balls in it
Serious Eats / Taylor Murray
  • Delicate Food Test: To see how each vacuum sealer does with delicate foods, we placed 1/2 cup of Chex cereal in a bag and sealed the cereal on all available settings (automatic, manual, pulse, delicate, etc). We assessed how much of the cereal was crushed during each sealing.
  • Irregular-Shaped Food Test: To evaluate how well each vacuum sealer does with irregularly-shaped food, we placed six ping pong balls in a bag and sealed it. We evaluated how well the machines removed the space around the balls. 
  • Short Sous Vide/Seal Test: To discover how each vacuum sealer does with sous vide and a large cut of meat over a relatively short amount of time, we placed an 11-ounce, bone-in pork chop in a bag and sealed it. We timed how long it took to seal and weighed it (in grams) before cooking. We then cooked the chops at 160°F for four hours (using an immersion circulator), then dried the exterior of the bag, evaluated the seal, and weighed once more. 
  • Long Sous Vide/Seal Test: We sealed five bags (each filled with one new, dry kitchen sponge and 1/3 cup neutral oil) to see how each vacuum sealer did with wet ingredients subjected to a very high temperature for a prolonged period of time. We weighed the sealed bag before testing, then placed the bags in a water bath set to 197°F (using an immersion circulator) for 36 hours. We fully dried each bag, then weighed again to determine if any water entered the bag and visually evaluated the seal.
  • Long-Term Seal Test: To determine how well the vacuum sealers sealed food for a prolonged period of time, we placed 1-pound of ground beef in a bag and sealed it, then froze it for three months. We evaluated the ground beef every month, noting when freezer burn or ice crystal development began to occur. We also placed 1-pound of beef in a regular, zipper lock bag as a control.
  • Usability and Cleanup: Throughout testing we evaluated how simple each sealer was to use, how intuitive its controls were, what features it had and if they were helpful, what the volume level was during use, and how easy it was to clean and store.

What Do You Use a Vacuum Sealer For?

The Mueller vacuum sealer vacuum sealing a bag of Chex
Serious Eats / Taylor Murray

Food can get stale or rot because of exposure to oxygen or moisture. Vacuum sealing removes the surrounding air from a food or ingredient, thereby prolonging its shelf-life, whether that be a pantry item or a Ribeye steak bound for the freezer. Vacuum sealing “is also useful to preserve essential oils of fresh ingredients, like pistachios or lemon zest," Martincic says. "This style of storage combined with freezing will preserve the aromatic oils to make them smell and just as aromatic as the day of harvest.” Like with canning, spoilage can still occur so it’s important to brush up on food safety in anaerobic environments and botulism.

Ground beef sealed with a vacuum sealer vs. a ZipLoc bag
This is what frozen ground beef looks after two months: the left in a vacuum sealed bag and the right in a standard, zipper lock bag.Serious Eats / Taylor Murray

Outside of storage, vacuum sealers offer a host of culinary uses. Marinating can be done in a fraction of the time, as the suction of the machine draws flavors into the food. For sous vide, a vacuum sealer ensures water-tight seals and can cut down on prep time (marinating things and even freezing them ahead of time, then popping them into a water bath).

What We Learned

More Time and Higher Temperatures Bested the Weaker Seals

A sponge in a vacuum sealed bag whose seal has broken
A look at a vacuum-sealed bag whose seal broke after an extended period of time at a high temperature.Serious Eats / Taylor Murray

For several of our tests, especially the ones where length of time was a factor, we discovered that the quality of the seal really mattered. Some of the seals, like the Nutrichef and the Food Saver V4840, failed after their time in the water bath exceeded 12 hours and when temperatures over 160°F were applied. According to a source over at Anova (which also make one of our favorite sous vide machines), the quality and durability of the final seal is a “combination of heat and how long the heat is applied.” In general, a seal that fails over time is often attributed to the bag having a bad seal to begin with. This can come from an overly filled bag, a wet bag, or a faulty sealing bar. The Anova vacuum sealers (along with the Nesco Pro), use a double-seal technology to strengthen their seals. And, indeed, we found they had the best seals of the bunch.

Powerful Suction Is a Double-Edged Sword

A bag of vacuum-sealed Chex
A gentle setting or a slow, yet effective manual setting worked best for delicate foods.Serious Eats / Taylor Murray

When testing delicate foods we found that pulse and manual settings offered the most control when sealing. In order to avoid breaking the cereal, we had to stop suction before 100% of the air was removed. 

Coupled with the results from the frozen beef test, quick, powerful suction may not necessarily be entirely beneficial when it comes to vacuum sealing. Instead, look for low-and-slow suction and a machine with, which can remove more air without damaging the food. While the Nesco Deluxe took longer during the gentle suction test of delicate foods, it broke a very minimal amount. During the frozen beef test, it had one of the smallest amounts of freezer burn out of any of the sealers. This suggests that even though some machines have a high capacity for maximum vacuuming, it’s helpful to have more control over that suction.

Bag Headspace Mattered

When we conducted our liquid-rich test, we started out using bags that came with each machine, if any. These bags varied in length and size. After the first round of sealing, we learned that the amount of space between the food item and the seal mattered a lot (this is called "headspace"). For bags with less than 10 to 12 inches of headspace, oil was pulled into the machine and prevented sealing, even when tested with the same type of bag on the same machine. To further isolate performance with liquid-rich foods, we decided to use the same length bags (12 inches long) ordered from a third-party seller with all the machines that were compatible (the Oliso doesn’t allow the use of third-party bags and was therefore excluded from the test). Once we had isolated this variable, we were able to conduct the test to determine the effect of the high temperature and length of the water bath on the seal. 

Versatility and Usability Observations

pork chops in a sous vide bath and a pork chop cooked
Serious Eats / Taylor Murray

All of the vacuum sealers we tested were able to completely vacuum and seal the ping pong balls and bone-in pork chops. After cooking the pork chops for four hours in a 160°F water bath, none of the seals failed. This showed us that, for the average person that plans to use their sealer for its most common purposes, they all perform about the same.

This means that for many people differentiation will come down to special functions and features, such as a hose attachment for use with canisters, a specific compartment and cutter for rolls of bags, and functionalities for delicate and wet items. Another key feature is the amount of time in between each sealing. Some of the machines make you wait up to two minutes in between each seal, which can drastically increase the amount of time it takes to complete a sealing project. A short refractory period (i.e., the time between seals) makes a huge difference in the ease of use of any vacuum sealer.

The Criteria: What to Look for in a Good Vacuum Sealer

The Anova Pro vacuum sealer with text points around it
Serious Eats / Taylor Murray / Amanda Suarez

Any good vacuum sealer should be able to produce a vacuum-sealed bag with a reliable seal that can stand up months in the freezer and several hours in a sous vide water bath. The vacuum should be strong enough to remove air from even irregularly-shaped items, yet gentle enough not to damage delicate food. It should have a short refractory period (good for high-volume sessions) and handle some intake of liquid without failing to seal. Unless there’s a very good reason, a sealer should not require you to use brand-specific bags, allowing you to shop around for the best price. 

When looking for a vacuum sealer, consider what types of projects you intend to do. If you want something simple and easy to use, you may have to forego some functions. For example, if you really only want a sealer to preserve cuts of meat, extra features like gentle suction or a hose attachment for sealing cans won’t be worth the extra cost.

The Best Vacuum Sealer (Co-Winner): Nesco VS-12 Deluxe Vacuum Sealer

What we liked: Test after test, the Nesco VS-12 Deluxe outperformed every other sealer. Powerful suction (with a manual option for delicate foods), intuitive controls, and a wide range of functions make this sealer a standout. This sealer was strong enough to eliminate enough air from beef and prevent freezer burn, yet delicate enough not to crush cereal. Unlike any other model we tested, the Nesco gives you the option of a single (dry or moist) or double seal, whereas all the others only provide one or the other. The roll storage and cutter are perfectly positioned to feed directly into the sealing bar.

What we didn’t like: Its size could be a dealbreaker for some. You aren’t allowed to store this machine with the handle in the “lock” position, which makes it a bit more awkward than some of the other, more streamlined designs out there. It was on the noisier side and didn’t have a removable drip tray, however we didn’t have any blowouts during testing. It had the longest refractory period of our favorite sealers.

Key Specs

  • Weight: 6 lbs
  • Dimensions: 15.5 inches wide x 8 inches deep x 4.5 inches tall
  • Included Accessories: Includes (10) 6-inch x 11.8-inch quart-sized bags and (10) 11-inch x 15.75-inch gallon-sized bags; hose accessory for canister sealing
  • Highest Actual Pressure: 25 inHG
  • Time-Out Period Between Sealings: 60 seconds
Nesco vacuum sealer on a marble countertop
Serious Eats / Taylor Murray

The Best Vacuum Sealer (Co-Winner): Anova Precision Vacuum Sealer Pro

What we liked: The Anova Pro is one of only models that explicitly allows liquids in the bag and can seal even with moisture on or in the bag. The high power double-seal stood up to every test we put it through. It also allows for immediate sealing bag after bag (up to 100 continuous sealings, according to the manufacturer) with no refractory period. A simple design makes clean-up a breeze and it’s lightweight and easy to store, compared to other models with similar attachments and features. The body comes with a chamber for holding a roll of bags and an attached cutter that feeds perfectly into the sealing area. During testing, we often ended up using this machine to cut bags for other models because of how easy it was to do so.

 What we didn’t like: It was hard to think of something not to like about the Anova Pro. When not on sale (as it is at the time of publication), it’s more expensive than the Nesco.

Key Specs

  • Weight: 5 lbs
  • Dimensions: 14.75 inches long x 7 inches deep x 4 inches tall
  • Included Accessories: 1 18.9-inch hose attachment; 1 roll of bags (28 cm x 6m)
  • Highest Actual Pressure: 22 inHG
  • Time-Out Period Between Sealings: None
Anova Pro vacuum sealer on a marble countertop
Serious Eats / Taylor Murray

The Best Affordable Vacuum Sealer (Under $60): Mueller Vacuum Sealer

What we liked: The Mueller comes with all the major functions at a great price. It did pretty well in every test we put it through, even against models sold at triple the price. It’s one of the lightest sealers we tested and isn’t bulky or clunky to move or store. 

What we didn’t like: The Mueller vacuum sealer doesn’t explicitly allow for use with liquids and doesn’t come with a double-seal, though it was able to keep the seal strong during prolonged periods of sealing. Its refractory period is 40 seconds, which is on the longer side. During our testing, this model lost some points with delicate foods: it lacks a manual function and crushed the Chex. There’s also no storage or cutter for bags, so you’ll have to cut your own.

Key Specs

  • Weight: 2 lbs 12 oz
  • Dimensions: 13.5 inches long x 5.5 inches wide x 3 inches tall
  • Included Accessories: Air suction hose (for canister vacuum), 5 medium vacuum bags, 1 extra-long vacuum bag roll (7.8 inches x 79 inches)
  • Highest Actual Pressure: 19 inHG
  • Time-Out Period Between Sealings: 40 seconds
Mueller vacuum sealer on a marble countertop
Serious Eats / Taylor Murray

The Best Compact Vacuum Sealer: Anova Precision Vacuum Sealer

What we liked: If space is an issue, the Anova is a great option. This model is great for beginners as well, since the controls are simple to use and there aren’t a ton of extra features to navigate (it just has three buttons: vacuum and seal, just seal, and manual pulse vacuum).

What we didn’t like: The Anova (compared to its sister the Anova Pro) isn’t recommended for use with wet items, though we didn’t have an issue during our liquid-rich test. It didn’t do quite as well during the frozen beef test, possibly due to its lower vacuum strength. There isn’t a cutter or bag storage included, but it does come with 10 pre-cut bags to get started.

Key Specs

  • Weight: 2 lbs 5 ounces
  • Dimensions: 14.75 inches long x 5 inches deep x 3.25 inches tall
  • Included Accessories: 10 pre-cut Anova bags
  • Highest Actual Pressure: 13 inHG
  • Time-Out Period Between Sealings: None
The Anova Precision vacuum sealer on a marble countertop
Serious Eats / Taylor Murray

The Competition

  • Oliso Pro Frisper Smart Vacuum Sealer: This sealer failed basically every test and was difficult to use. The need for brand-specific bags that can only be reused up to seven times is a tough sell, especially when those bags are in a limited range of sizes and shapes. 
  •  Nutrichef PKVS Sealer: Even though the initial seal was strong, this sealer failed our liquid-rich test after the 36-hour water bath. The manual does not recommend use with wet items but the prolonged time and temperature of that test seems to be what caused the seal to fail.
  •  FoodSaver V4840 Vacuum Sealer Machine with Automatic Bag Detection: It offers all the same features as the Anova Pro, but in a much larger package and for $100 more. The sealer is bulky to store and on the heavy side for pulling in and out of a cabinet. The automatic bag detection is clumsy and can get frustrating at times. If, for example, your bag curls up at the end, the machine will have a hard time detecting it and won’t start the cycle. It also requires at least an inch of bag before it even recognizes it, so you end up wasting a lot of plastic. The FoodSaver’s single seal (as opposed to the Anova Pro’s double-seal) gave us some trouble when subjected to long-term and high-temperature testing.
  •  Potane Vacuum Sealer Machine: This model comes with everything that the Mueller vacuum sealer does at a higher price. Vacuum and seal time took longer than other models, too.
  •  FoodSaver Vacuum Sealer Machine FM2000: This model doesn’t have a pulse or gentle setting for delicate foods and was explicitly not recommended for use with wet items. It often “walked” on the table during use. 
  •  Nesco Food Vacuum Sealer Starter Kit: While this model from Nesco was lightweight, it was still bulky. It also required a whopping 2 minute refractory period between between each seal, so forget about large-scale sealing projects. 


What foods should you not vacuum seal?

Vacuum sealers create low oxygen environments, and foods that harbor bacteria that thrive in anaerobic conditions should never be vacuum sealed, such as raw garlic, raw onions, and mushrooms. These foods will produce gasses if vacuum sealed, either by themselves or combined with other foods, which can enlarge and break the seal of a vacuum-packed bag. 

Most kinds of cheeses, but especially raw and soft cheeses, should also not be vacuum sealed. Cheese itself is a living thing, and allowing it to breathe by wrapping it in just some wax (or cheese-specific) paper will greatly reduce spoilage.

Can you use ZipLoc bags with a vacuum sealer?

One of the most commonly-asked questions when it comes to vacuum sealing is whether or not ZipLoc bags can be used in place of the vacuum sealer-specific bags. Generally speaking, the kind of plastic used in these two types of bags is very different and it isn’t so much about whether it can vacuum, but whether it can seal properly. You can use vacuum sealers to suck air out of many types of bags, including the type of mylar bag potato chips come in. In this way, you can use ZipLoc bags with any vacuum sealer on manual mode, then simply seal the bag using the zipper top of the ZipLoc bag. However, if you’re going to get a vacuum sealer, we’d recommend just buying compatible bags, too.

How long does vacuum-sealed meat last?

The shelf life of raw meat can be extended up to 10 days when vacuum-sealed. This depends on the age of the meat before sealing and it must be kept refrigerated the entire time. If you plan on freezing the meat, it can last up to three years depending on the type of meat, compared to only a few months for non-sealed meat. 

Taylor Murray July 23, 2022 at 03:43PM

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