I was shopping for a vacuum sealer today. I sure was interested in a inexpensive source of bag for them. The units themselves were not too bad, but the price of the refills is outrageous. The rolls worked out to about a dollar per foot of material, which got me thinking how much I would have to save by buying bargain packs of meats and still come out ahead.
Buck a foot looks high, but they are not cheap. You can easily re-use them though. I cut the bags a few inches longer than would be needed. When cut open, you lose about an inch so you can use them for something smaller when they get too short for a roast.
Wash them out with regular liquid soap, rinse, put then over a bottle to dry. Or put them in the dishwasher turned inside out.
Black and Decker FreshGuard was markedly less expensive than the others. It has a hose port and was very inexpensive – the other equivalents were at least twice as much. I hope that does not mean this model is cheaply made and shabby. It works, but it requires that you sit and hold the bar down until it finishes, while I noticed that some of the others have a press and release feature. Hopefully the accessories are interchangeable!
However, someone had also stated that the plastic bag rolls were pricey. So I checked them out. I got the impression that the sealer units were like computer printers, sold cheap so they can get you on the refills. I was astounded at the price of the refill rolls. Between the cost of the unit and the cost of the refills, I am wondering if there will be any savings at all.
My first sealer was a Tilia (FoodSaver) and the one I now own is a B & D (Black & Decker). Although they say you can use "most bags from other manufacturers", I found the gallon-sized Tilia bags were – 1/2 inch WIDER and not easily useable.
Comparing the 2 machines, my overall vote would go to the Tilia; it was faster and the bags seemed to stay sealed better. My B & D has problems with the larger bags of their own. They just do not seal as well.
Beware you do not suck much, try not to get any liquid down the vacuum port. That is what supposedly killed my Tilia and they wanted a repair fee just to look at it. That is why I bought the B & D.
Why could not you take a regular ziplock baggie, and cut off the zipper part, put your food in it, and then seal it with the machine .. would that work?
Not very well. The ziplocks are smooth. The Tilia bags are manufactured with microscopic ridges that do not compress, and serve as air channels to allow the vacuum pump to suck out all the air from the entire volume. You can still get trapped air with a ziplock.
What I'd like to know is, how much vacuum can it pull? If it pulls 29 inches Hg or more, I'd buy it for rescuing wine that had gone into second fermentation (fizzy red wine is awful, but if you can remove the fizz, it often gets restored to better than original).