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Old 13-06-2011, 06:06   #1
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Vacuum Food Sealer - Critique My Idea

Hi all. The other half has asked for a food sealer for Father's Day...his idea being this--

We are both "foodies" and figure we would be able to cook some of our favorite foods prior to long passages, then freeze them in vacuum sealed packages..double servings. Throw them in boiling (salt) water to reheat for easy meals. Since we aren't "out there" yet, I'd like feedback--Will this work? And if not, why? And any recommendations of food sealers? While searching threads, I saw one post stating the commercial models were worth the extra money. Obviously space is a big consideration. Thanks!!!
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Old 13-06-2011, 07:11   #2
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Re: Vacuum food sealer---Critique my idea

Food/kitchen vacuum packers are one of the most useful things on a cruising boat bound for long cruises.
- - Besides storing meals as you described they can also be used to vacuum pack bulk quantities of grains, cereals, and other food stuff that would rapidly deteriorate due to salt water sea atmosphere that gets into every nook and cranny of a cruising vessel.
- - And another very valuable use for the vacuum packer is to vacuum store the boats various parts, pumps, etc. We carry large amounts of spare parts onboard since it is both expensive and sometimes impossible to obtain them in the islands and other regions of the world. Problem is by the time we need the part it is rusted/corroded and not usable. But if you vacuum pack the part it will stay dry and perfect just like the day you bought it.
- - As to brands/models, I use the popular kitchen Foodsaver model - available in most discount and large stores. I also purchased a few extra rolls of the bags in all the sizes available. There is no need to a high priced specialty vacuum packer, the simple models work just as good. But be sure to buy the "biggest" or widest bag model. Bilge pumps and other mechanical stuff need the biggest width bags. You can probably find them on eBay for even less.
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Old 13-06-2011, 07:43   #3
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Re: Vacuum food sealer---Critique my idea

Absolutely you want a vacuum sealer! We started out with the Foodsaver model then sold at Sam's Club and Costco. Unfortunately, our boat is 220-240v and I forgot to plug it into the step-down transformer one day and instantly burned it up. Since there is no on/off switch and the unit is automatically powered as soon as it is plugged in, it was instantly fried. The only replacement I could find was a 240v model in New Zealand -- same Foodsaver brand and supposedly the top-of-the-line model, but no where near the features of the previous American version. But the 240v model is less than half the size of the 110v model, so space savings was a trade-off for fewer convenience features.

We vacuum seal all crackers, cookies, grains, oatmeal, pastas, flours and anything else that might harbor insects. Three times in the past 5 years of cruising full-time, having items vacuum sealed saved us from getting insects loose in the boat lockers -- once in oatmeal, once in pasta, and once in flour. Bread flour quality and texture is not affected by vacuum sealing, but all-purpose flour must be only loosely vacuumed or it will clump badly. Tubes of Pringles can be vacuum sealed and will last for at least 2 years and still be crispy and have no rancid taste. I know this because we recently found a couple of packages that had been purchased in Panama in March 2008 and were not consumed until December 2010.

We also vacuum seal all kinds of spare parts. Prevents rusting (and, yes, even stainless rusts because most of the SS is not 319 or higher), and prevents salt-air damage to rubbery items. Just be very careful not to seal O-rings too tightly and deform them.

Before long passages, I normally cook pasta dishes and stews and freeze in appropriate size bags for meals for 2. Sometimes I heat the defrosted bags in simmering water and sometimes I empty the contents into a pan for heating -- just depends on the liquid content of the meal. It is easier to heat meals containing lots of liquid by simply pouring into a pan, as it is difficult to handle a hot liquid pouch at sea without making a mess or getting burned.

When available, I also buy pre-cooked rotisserie chickens at local supermarkets and de-bone and seal in meal-size pouches. These make good quick meals on long passages -- just add mashed potatoes and gravy or rice and gravy and some kind of vegetable if seas are calm; or fold into slices of bread if seas are rough. Very easy, very fast and provides good hot meal.

Can't recommend a vacuum sealer more highly. Don't see the need for a professional model. The discount store models work just fine.

Judy
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Old 13-06-2011, 07:58   #4
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Re: Vacuum food sealer---Critique my idea

We have been using food sealers for years and think they are really wonderful on boats. We use ours (a Costco model) quite a lot to preserve fish and prawns that we catch locally. Also good as has been mentioned for spare parts. We find that even though we double seal both sides of the bags, that some significant percentage of our sealed bags have leaked after a year. Several other cruisers we know have had the same problems. So, we have started to consider purchasing a more robust unit. On the other hand, if someone out there can suggest what we are doing wrong, I would be happy to stick with the one we have now.
thanks
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Old 13-06-2011, 08:07   #5
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Re: Vacuum food sealer---Critique my idea

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Originally Posted by DiverChick71 View Post
then freeze them in vacuum sealed packages..double servings. Throw them in boiling (salt) water to reheat for easy meals.
We use a "Seal a Meal" and it's great, but for more liquid stuff like chili or soup, just spoon it into a heavy duty Ziplock, freeze and toss into boiling water as you describe. No vacuum bagging needed. I tried the vacuum bowls that are sold with these things but they didn't hold a vacuum for more than a day or 2.

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Old 13-06-2011, 08:16   #6
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Re: Vacuum food sealer---Critique my idea

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. . . We find that even though we double seal both sides of the bags, that some significant percentage of our sealed bags have leaked after a year. Several other cruisers we know have had the same problems. . . . Steve
With my Foodsaver unit which has a flat wide heat sealing element I find it very important to be sure the bag material is slight larger than needed. This is so I can take extra care to "stretch" the bag material just enough to be sure there are no wrinkles or puckering where it lays across the heating element.
- - Also some parts, etc. have sharp corners or shapes that wear holes in the bag, so I double bag those items.
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Old 13-06-2011, 08:21   #7
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Re: Vacuum food sealer---Critique my idea

Try to get a vacuum sealer that doesn't have bags but a roll so you can make the bags as large or as small as needed..

As above, spare electronics are good to keep in them. I bought 2-1.5 terabyte hard drives to copy my movies onto. Every time I get a new DVD I copy it to both hard drivrs, so far 950 movies on each. When we start cruising, one hard drive will be vacuum sealed to keep it good until needed...
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Old 13-06-2011, 08:24   #8
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Re: Vacuum food sealer---Critique my idea

There's some very persuasive logic in this thread, and I'm glad I got a bigger inverter. I realize the power draw is brief, but is likely high. Any idea of the typical amp draw on these devices?
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Old 13-06-2011, 08:27   #9
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Re: Vacuum food sealer---Critique my idea

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Originally Posted by DiverChick71 View Post
We are both "foodies" and figure we would be able to cook some of our favorite foods prior to long passages, then freeze them in vacuum sealed packages..double servings. Throw them in boiling (salt) water to reheat for easy meals. Since we aren't "out there" yet, I'd like feedback--Will this work?
It works fine. Fold up a dish towel or terry rag in the bottom of the pan to protect the plastic bag from melting to the bottom of the pan.

If you get a Foodsaver brand sealer, sign up for the e-mail list on their web site -- they have regular special sales. Get the rolls -- cheaper than pre-made bags and you can make bags any size you like. WalMart carries the rolls also. I buy case-lots direct when they have a good sale.

The sealer vacuum pumps don't seem to like modified-sine-wave inverters. Mine runs fine on a Mastervolt pure-sign-wave unit and on a diesel generator. It's easy pluged in at the dock, but when I do a big cook on the hook I usually run the generator so I can have aircon.
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Old 13-06-2011, 09:02   #10
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Re: Vacuum food sealer---Critique my idea

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Originally Posted by DiverChick71 View Post
Hi all. The other half has asked for a food sealer for Father's Day...his idea being this--

We are both "foodies" and figure we would be able to cook some of our favorite foods prior to long passages,

I love cooking on long passages So I definitly would not use them for that.

What else is there to do on passage anyway? When Nic was on we would always challange each other at cooking dinner
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Old 13-06-2011, 13:59   #11
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Re: Vacuum food sealer---Critique my idea

Some ideas for food sealers: seal anything you want to stay clean and dry--not just food items: important papers, spare parts. Warm up food yes, but you can also cook in them. Break raw eggs into bags, puncture yolks and freeze. Lower into boiling water until solid and mash for egg salad or cut up to put in fried rice. Put pancakes in one bag, heat maple syrup in another, cooked sausage in another and you have an entire hot breakfast in one pot of warm water. Nice for warming up cooked oatmeal too. I once met a chef at a big hotel who bought meat and fish in bulk, then cut it up in individual portions and sealed for the refrigerator. Even though this was not for long-term storage or freezing, he felt the vacuum packing was worth it to maintain peak freshness as well as portion control. My only beef with vacuum packs is that they can shrink into odd sizes and can be awkward to stack and stow.
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Old 13-06-2011, 15:04   #12
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Re: Vacuum food sealer---Critique my idea

That's awesome...thank you! I plan to cook as much as I can on passage but gotta be prepared! I had wondered about how much power it would draw also...glad to know the Costco brands will work. Thanks everyone!
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Old 13-06-2011, 15:13   #13
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Re: Vacuum food sealer---Critique my idea

Quote:
Throw them in boiling (salt) water to reheat for easy meals. Since we aren't "out there" yet, I'd like feedback--Will this work?
Good enough to do on land too!

When packed fresh you'll extend the storage life even in the fridge and maximize the life in the freezer. The cost and availability of the supplies its really the only issue I see. It's not the same as canning but it helps a whole lot and as you say boiling salt water is pretty basic and just what you want for a quick really good hot meal.

An oversized pot would be advised for those times when the motion of the boat might be exuberant (poor route planning). Flying boiling water just won't do the skin any favors. With the added salt you'll hurt bad for a long time. Don't mess with boiling salt water!
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Old 13-06-2011, 15:15   #14
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I'm with mark. One of the nicest things is to cook underway. Why eat from a bag.

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Old 13-06-2011, 15:31   #15
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Re: Vacuum food sealer---Critique my idea

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I love cooking on long passages So I definitely would not use them for that.
If you have nice weather and a really long time then cooking is a great hobby (OK, even if you don't). Out working hard on the water (or maybe like Mark not working hard at all - ever) the taste and anticipation of food is a great motivator. Enjoyment of such should always be a priority. Wine lockers are assumed as standard equipment.

The boiled in hot salt water meal may not be the best but it is a premium "insurance policy". Better to eat well in any case. The value of good food is never over estimated and the crew will always be happy (unless there is no wine. Beer or hard liquor usually substitute). Sailors are picky but at the least are flexible. At the worst hot and large portions works in a pinch. Desert really is not optional on a hard day - plan for it.
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