Introduction – Vacuum Sealing, a core part of Sous Vide Cooking
An excellent sous vide machine isn’t the only part of the puzzle that you need to solve if you want the best results from sous vide cooking. Because, yeah, you can “kinda, sorta” manage with zip-lock bags – but if you’re serious, a vacuum sealer is an incredibly important investment. Additionally, cooking in ziplock bags or other plastic bags that are not rated for long high heat cooking, can result in bad flavor, leaks, or even dangerous chemicals being leeched into your food. These concerns are why, if you are serious about sous vide cooking, a vacuum sealer is an important and necessary investment.
A good vacuum sealer will give you better results than you could hope to achieve without it, and perhaps even more importantly, it’ll give you consistency. A perfect seal every time. A bad vacuum sealer, on the other hand, will give you approximately the same performance that zip-lock bags would at the same time that it makes your wallet quite a bit lighter. So: let’s talk about how we’re going to find the best vacuum sealer for sous vide. First, below you’ll see our top choices, as you scroll down you can read a more detailed reviews of all the vacuum sealing machines on the market.
Our Top Choices
This machine can handle most projects you will throw at it. It is compact and affordable (under $100).
A larger machine with a more robust feature set, this high-end FoodSaver allows you tackle bigger projects, is easier to use, and hand sealing attachment that allows you to seal using different bags and reusable containers.
A chamber vacuum sealer that is commercial grade. It is powerful and reliable. If you are serious about sous vide cooking, and have the budget to back it up, this is your choice.
Top Brands Compared
Okay, first: as with any appliance, there’s not a single “best” option. You need to weigh a multitude of factors against each other – performance, size, price, ease of maintenance. The objectively best vacuum sealer would be a fast, portable, easy-to-use chamber model with no-hassle cleaning and a dirt-cheap price tag. This machine does not exist. No matter what you decide on, you have to compromise on something; we’re going to evaluate several different options, but it’s important for you to understand that none of these is inherently better than the others. They’re simply suitable for different purposes and consumers.
FoodSaver Brand Machines
FoodSaver is probably the best known brand in vacuum sealers, and that’s not simply a factor of advertising. They have a huge lineup of high-quality products on offer. Don’t dismiss their offerings just because of the name – sous vide cooking may not be their main target market, but a vacuum sealer needs to do substantially the same thing whether it’s sealing in a steak for cooking or just preserving some leftovers.
The FoodSaver V2244 is probably the first thing to note. It’s their best-selling item right now, and with good reason; it’s relatively affordable at $80 dollars, incredibly easy to operate, and produces a perfect vacuum seal. In short: it does the job, and it does it fairly cheaply, making it a great choice as an entry-level model. This is why it won our best entry-level machine award. It does, however, struggle with ingredients that contain too much moisture in some cases.
Going slightly upmarket for something like the V3240 is probably a better bet if you’re buying the machine for sous vide; it’s still obtainable without breaking the bank, and it’s quite a bit more rugged, giving you more security if you want to have the machine handle a lot of moisture. Do note, though, that “moisture” here still doesn’t mean that you can have the machine handle liquids. A particularly succulent piece of meat, sure – but if you want to do something in a marinade (for example) you need to be looking at a chamber vacuum.
Finally, topping out the FoodSaver brand is their top model, the FoodSaver 4840. The 4840 has a Built-in Retractable Handheld Sealer and is automated whereas the lower-end models above require manual closure to initiate the bag-sealing process.
One word of caution related to the higher-end FoodSaver models though, is that, as a general rule, they include lots of bells and whistles and optional accessories that, simply put, you don’t need if all you are doing is sous vide cooking. Now, if you intend to have a multi-purpose machine for all household uses, the 4840 is a great choice due to its versatility, and that is why it is our best all around machine. At under $200, its power, versatility, and feature set are hard to beat. But, if you’re serious, and you’re willing to spend a bit of money (3x-5x more), what you really want is a chamber vacuum.
Chamber vacuum machines vs. bag seal vacuum machines
Let’s start with a few words of warning regarding chamber vacuums in general before we get into the nitty-gritty. These things are big, heavy, and expensive – that’s pretty much true of every model on the market. But they also offer features, and versatility that the bag based sealers like the vacmaster simply can’t match. First of all, chamber vacuum sealers are much better at sealing liquids. Second, they can seal multiple items at once especially the larger VP-120 below.
Here is a great video example of just how powerful chamber machines are, and how great they are at sealing liquids.
Chamber vacuums are indisputably the best option for doing sous vide cookery, but if you’re just starting to experiment, you probably shouldn’t consider taking the dive until you’re ready to commit. Because if you aren’t sure that you enjoy sous vide, that you’re willing to wait, that you like the results you can produce with sous vide cooking enough to warrant the expense – well, then you probably shouldn’t be considering something this expensive yet. In that case, I’d start with our entry level choice, the FoodSaver V2244. But if you’re an enthusiast and you want to have the best of the best, read on.
Vacmaster Brand Machines
Okay, now that that’s out of the way: the VP-112 is an incredible piece of kit. Depending on where you buy it, it can run you around $600, but it’s worth every penny. It boasts fine-grain control over the amount of pressure it exerts, allowing you to ensure that you don’t mangle more delicate ingredients. The chamber is huge enough to let you seal very large ingredients but comes with inserts to raise the bottom for smaller things. It can handle basically whatever ingredients you want to throw at it without breaking a sweat.
Remember, though: this is a commercial appliance. It’s more than two feet long and it weighs 55 pounds, so you want to make sure you have a good place for it before you place the order. Also, it’s worth noting that the lid can crack if you don’t handle it properly; you can get it replaced for free, but it’s still kind of a hassle. Just remember to lift from both sides without applying torque and you should be good.
Remember – the Vacmaster line is intended for commercial use. The VP-112 already generally provides everything that you, as an individual sous-vide cook, should need. The VP-210, however, provides you with slightly more usable chamber space, more automation, and arguably more rugged construction. For home kitchen use, the increased build quality would seem like the most compelling angle, but realistically the VP-112 is already probably going to be the toughest thing on (or under) your countertops. It’s a solidly built machine with a stainless steel housing and chamber, just like its big siblings; you would need to be putting it through some pretty severe abuse to make the difference in build quality matter.
It’s also worth noting that the higher-end Vacmaster machines have even more granularity in terms of pressure, vacuum cycle time, etc. This would probably be the strongest actual case for a home consumer to purchase one – but if you already know that you need this functionality, you’re not looking for help buying the best vacuum sealer for sous vide. It’s worth noting, though, that this granularity comes at the expense of ease of use; you’ll need to devote some time to playing with the machine to experiment and see what works for you. Also, almost paradoxically, these higher-end machines generally have lower priced bags, so if you plan to do a lot of sous vide cooking, and sealing in the process, over a long enough period of time the VacMaster may actually end up being the cheaper option.
Ultimately, you cannot really go wrong with the options we have reviewed above,. All these machines can do the job. The question really comes down to how robust a machine you want, and the price point you are willing meet. Knowing how much I love sous vide cooking, and how I view it as a long term investment, not only in delicious food, but of delicious and healthy eating, I would make the investment in the VacMaster VP210 if I was starting from scratch. Again, though, the choice is yours and I hope you found our comprehensive review of the best sous vide vacuum sealers helpful.