If you purchase a vacuum sealer for your home kitchen then you are going to need a regular supply of vacuum sealer bags.
Unfortunately, a selection of zip-lock sandwich bags isn’t going to cut. You will require bags that are compatible with your particular vacuum sealer.
A quick online search will show you that there are as many types and brands of vacuum sealer bags as there are vacuum sealer machines.
It can all be a bit overwhelming. So to help cut through the confusion, we’ve taken a look at what’s currently available and listed the pros and cons of various vacuum sealer bags.
Here are a few pointers:
Why Buy Special Vacuum Sealer Bags?
There are a number of reasons why you should invest in properly designed vacuum sealer bags:
Different Vacuum Sealers = Different Vacuum Sealer Bags
Sadly, not all vacuum sealer bags are created equal and not every bag will work with every machine. So whilst some vacuum sealer bags can be used with a variety of machines, this isn’t true across the board.
As a general rule, vacuum sealer manufacturers will recommend bags to go with their appliances as you can’t simply use any old plastic bag. If you’d like some tips on using vacuum sealer bags, you can read more here.
Obviously, vacuum sealer bags are an ongoing purchase and manufacturers want you to continue to purchase your vac bags from them, rather than going to a competitor.Think espresso coffee machines and espresso pods. The big brands like FoodSaver often include a Starter Pack of bags if you purchase one of their vacuum sealers.
Many manufacturers have invested considerable time and money patenting various designs and technologies (such as meshes and dots on the insides of bags) in an attempt to gain an edge over their competitors.
However, it can be hard to tell if a swish-looking, trademarked pack of vacuum sealer bags is really worth the extra money, so consider the following before you make a decision:
Do Your Research!
- Which bags go with your particular vacuum sealer?:
Make sure that you know what your options are and whether there are cheaper alternatives available (if that’s what you want), before you invest.
- Be fully informed on handheld vacuum sealers:
Don’t get me wrong. Handheld vacuum sealers are a fabulous gadget to have in your pantry. However, these appliances use special vacuum sealer bags with a valve in them that fits the mouth of the sealer. This can lock you into future purchases from the same brand. So whilst handheld models lie at the cheaper end of the vacuum sealer market, they may cost you more in the long run as you have less flexibility in the bags that you can buy.
- If the manufacturer of your vacuum sealer recommends a particular vacuum sealer bag (no doubt theirs!) can you source a cheaper alternative? Or is their product the only option?
- What are the long term costs of buying vacuum sealer bags?:
If you can only use bags which are comparatively expensive, maybe you should look at another brand of vacuum sealer.
- Are the vacuum bags readily available?
If you can only get vacuum sealer bags from one manufacturer, what happens if they stop making them? Supply chains can become unreliable (like during a global pandemic!) and sometimes suppliers go out of business. Generics are sometimes best as they offer guaranteed supply.
Food Grade Materials
Do you really want to store your food in any old plastic bag that you find lurking at the back of a drawer? No, of course you don’t. This is especially true when considering the concern about possible links between some plastic products and health risks like cancers.
Look for vacuum sealer bags that are BPA free and if they are FDA approved, even better. And if you are interested in learning more about plastic food packaging and safety, you can read more here.
High Quality Materials
Vacuum sealer bags have to be durable and versatile. They must be able to withstand the rigours of being chilled or frozen, simmered or boiled, microwaved or steamed.
Not only do they have to withstand a range of possible cooking methods, but they may have to stay intact for long periods of time, without perishing or leaking chemicals into the food being stored.
Look for vacuum sealer bags that have either a mesh or dotted pattern in the plastic to help reinforce the bags – see below for more on this.
Many vacuum sealer bag manufacturers have patented technology built into their products. As mentioned earlier, mesh or dotted patterns are often visible on the inside surface of the bag. The mesh design helps to both strengthen the bag and also to make the seal leak-proof.
Some brands claim that their special ‘dot’ design helps facilitate removing all of the air out of a bag at the vacuuming stage.
Can you customise the size of your vacuum sealer bags yourself, or can you only buy specific sizes, dictated by the manufacturer?
Some vacuum sealer models are compatible with vacuum sealer rolls which you can cut and seal precisely to your needs.
Again, vacuum sealer rolls are arguably more environmentally-friendly than packs of bags. You can tailor them to fit whatever type and size of food you are vacuum sealing. After all, it is a waste of plastic (and money) to seal a single lamb chop in a large bag when a small one will suffice.
Similarly, if you have used a vacuum bag for a large item like a leg of lamb, can it be washed, cut down to size and reused for vacuum sealing a steak? Single use plastics are on the way out and for good reason.
Sufficient Range For A Variety Of Uses
If you are simply looking to bag up a few coffee beans or the odd pack of vegetables when you get home from the supermarket, then standard vacuum sealer bags should be fine for your needs.
However, if you want to store heavy chunks of meat complete with sharp bones, you will want a thicker, tougher vacuum sealer bag.
Always consider what you are most likely to vacuum seal and for what purpose, as well as how you plan to store it and for how long. You may find that one bag doesn’t fit all and that you may need a range of bags for different uses. If you are butchering a lamb and freezing it you may want different bags to ones that you’d use for sous vide cooking.
If you’d like to know more about the delights of the sous vide cooking method, you can read more here.