11/25/07 - 19:29 Filed in: FoodSaver | Gear | Review
Thanksgiving leftovers reminded me that I have been meaning to write about an appliance that I feel is essential to enjoying BBQ: the FoodSaver. The FoodSaver is a vacuum sealing device that does several great things. First: It allows you to extend the storage times of your leftovers significantly. Secondly: The reheated leftovers often taste almost as good as the first serving. Third: Items One and Two give you new approaches to your BBQ. It makes sense to take advantage of extra grill or smoker space to make extra food. Fourth: Less waste as once you open something you are able to reseal it and keep it around longer. There are all sorts of creative uses for the FoodSaver, I’m sure you would come up with many more. At the end of this entry I will describe more uses. If you are a “Cut to the chase person” you can skip the procedures portion of this blog. Go read the last part “ADVANTAGES” first, to see why you might want a FoodSaver.
BACKGROUND FoodSaver is like Kleenex. Kleenex is one type of facial tissue but no one I know says “Give me a facial tissue”. Technically this device is a vacuum sealer, but the FoodSaver was the device that originally started this category for home use. As a result most people call these devices food savers. This was a very clever name because the device’s name is wh
at it actually does. There are several lines of vacuum sealers, so why did I choose the FoodSaver? Since FoodSaver started this category for home use, I figure they have the longest experience and when it comes to food safety this is a good thing. They also have a broad product line with all sorts of accessories to extend the use of the device. Their storage bags are widely available making it convenient to restock quickly. Having decided on the FoodSaver brand, the next decision was which model.
The VT2860 with the vacuum hose attached to a medium sized canister containing extra sauce.
MODEL SELECTION I bought a model toward the higher end of their product line.The V2860. This model had more settings to fine tune the storage method: Dry or Moist foods, Normal or Gentle. It also had a hookup for a vacuum hose accessory allowing the use of various types of storage canisters. These are for wet foods like sauces and also dry fragile foods like cereals that might be crushed in a vacuum bag. I wanted to make sure that the device I bought gave me some flexibility so I would actually use it and use it often. I will also admit that appearance played a big part too. The models in the price range I chose were much nicer looking than the lower cost models. They were made of stainless and black plastic as opposed to the beige plastic of the lesser cost models. The units in the series I bought also have a feature where they can be tilted vertically when storing, thus taking up less room on the counter. Another decision was which bags to use. While there are less expensive bags out there, I have stuck to the FoodSaver line. When it comes to food safety I have zero problem spending a little more. The peace of mind is worth something too.
SEALING PROCEDURE So what is the process to vacuum seal your food? There are three different width bags for my machine. The bags are sealed along both sides and open on the two ends. The roll is stored inside the machine. You lift up the “hood” of the machine and pull out the bag and place the bottom edge along a heat strip at the front of the machine. You close and lock the lid and use the “Seal” button to heat seal the bottom edge. You reopen the “hood” then pull out enough bag to store your food, plus another 3 inches (7.5 cm). There is a built in cutter you slide across to cut your bag off the roll. The portion of the bag with the food is placed on the counter and the extra 3 inches (7.5 cm) of bag gives you enough bag to place the open end of the top in a slot in the base of the machine. The “hood” is closed and locked and the bag has the air drawn out of it and then it is sealed. This whole vacuum and seal procedure takes about 30 seconds or less.
The food is placed in the bottom of the bag which is sealed & the extra 3” (7.5 cm) at the open end of the bag is placed in the vacuum slot (left) The lid is closed and a knob on the right locks the lid (right)
After sealing the lid you push the Vacuum & Seal button (left) & the air is removed from the bag & it is sealed (right)
The next step is to freeze or refrigerate your food. Items whose storage time is measured in days now often have times measured in weeks. Weeks become months and months years. Unlike a plastic bag or aluminum foil, there was no warm moist air inside the bag when it was sealed. As a result freezer burn or frost are a thing of the past. There is a convenient area on the bag where you can write the date the bag was sealed and its contents.
A candy thermometer which clips to the side of the pan helps make reheating a breeze. Here it’s a serving of pulled pork.
Reheating can be done one of several ways. First you can simply discard the bag and reheat any way you’d like. Secondly you can clip off one corner of the bag to vent it and use the microwave. The last method is in my opinion the best method: You can place the sealed bag in a pan of water heated to 170 degrees (77 C) to reheat. This method is very gentle, as you are not really cooking the food. For most items I reheat, this takes about 45 minutes to an hour. Frozen items take longer. Once again because you are not cooking the food as you reheat it, you can err on the side of caution. You can keep the bags in the water longer with no real penalty for doing so. You can mix and reheat many different types of food at once this way. I am not a big leftovers fan, but most of the time the food tastes just about as good (and in some cases better) as the first time around.
ADVANTAGES So what advantages does the FoodSaver give you? I am going to peak in terms of BBQ, but most of these apply to any type of cooking. First your food last longer and you waste lees. Next why make say one brisket or Boston Butt when you can make two or 3. So in the winter instead of braving the cold outside, you brave the cold of the freezer to pull out a bag of pulled pork. Some foods are actually better after being vacuum sealed. Pulled pork tastes better as the vacuum process acts like a super marinator drawing the sauce deep into the meat. This can change how you make pulled pork. Rather than shoot to have it done just before your meal you can plan on having it done hours or days before. You are not trying to guess does it take 16 hours or 20? You cook it when it is convenient, you are not sweating out a precise finish time and you eat it when it is convenient.
There is something to be said for making several items at once. You have to have the smoker going anyway why not fill it full of food? In September at my so called Mini Grill Camp I ended up making food that I used i a BBQ smorgasbord. It started out simple but as I got into it I started making a bunch of items. I was trying new things and a secondary goal was to have a BBQ feast on Labor Day Weekend. I reheated a half dozen different foods in two large pans and had them all come out at once. The toughest thing I had to do was keep the water at 170 (77 C). Now that I have been making more food it is fun to have a Pot Luck Meal. I pull out portion sized bags of the foods I have stored in the fridge or the freezer and people pick and choose what they’d each like to have. I mark the bags so I can remember who had what and toss them all in a big pan.
SUMMARY: Bottom line: you may think the FoodSaver is an expensive device that you’ve never really needed. I’d say think again. In the long run I feel it will save you money. You’ll throw out less food and eat better leftovers. And on those inclement days where you’d rather not be out grilling or smoking you can go to the fridge for leftovers as good or in some cases better than the first time around.
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