Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Rival Seal-a-Meal™

My friend, Ange, gave me this Rival Seal-a-Meal vacuum food sealer as a gift last week, and I was really excited to try it out. I think within 3 minutes of her leaving my house I was hunting down something to seal. I'd never had a vacuum sealer before, so I was curious to find out how easy or hard, how useful or worthless this gadget would be.

The set-up is pretty easy. The Seal-a-Meal comes with a starter roll of bags. I cut the bag to my desired size (the instructions recommend cutting it large enough so that you have at least three inches between where your food will stop and where you will be sealing) and then I formed the end seal. This was done by closing the machine over the bag and pressing down until the machine heated and sealed the end.

Once the bag had an end, I put in my food. I'd bought a "value pack" of beef for pot roast and it seemed like the perfect candidate for vacuum-sealing. Leaving plenty of room on the unsealed end, I put the bag in (unsealed side) the machine and pressed down on both sides. It started vacuuming out air and the bag started shrinking a little. I could definitely see the thing working. It sucked out a little beef juice (or blood, if you want to be technical about it), but there's a removable drip tray where the blood collected. Within about a minute and a half, the food was vacuum-sealed. I was pretty impressed! There were a few air pockets, but I've decided that this happens when your bag is big.

I've experimented with lots of different types of food, and it seems like the more you fill your bag or the lumpier it is, the more air pockets you'll have. All in all, this is a pretty handy gadget. I've been using it to seal prepared meals so that they keep for several days. You might call me a sealing fool. I cut up uncooked potatoes into small cubes, sealed them and froze them for my potato hash. I made a mixed grill over the weekend and sealed that too. I even thought about vacuum-sealing a bag of ice for the cooler, but the ice tray was empty...

I also found out that the bags are reusable. To reuse a bag, cut both sealed ends and wash the bag out thoroughly. Then just reseal one end, put your food in, vacuum, and seal.

My only complaint, and it's more of a suggestion than a complaint, is that the Seal-a-Meal website doesn't have any information on reheating. The site has recipes for foods you could prepare and seal, but that's where the information stops. If it were up to me, I would have instructions on how to reheat prepared meals. For example, if you vacuum-seal cooked rice, could you drop the bag in boiling water to reheat? Or if you have sealed grilled meat (which I did), can you put the whole thing in the microwave (plastic and all), or do you need to puncture the bag? I guess I will have to conduct my own experiments. I have a tendency to buy in bulk to save money, and then I end up throwing a lot of stuff away. I have a feeling I'll be wasting a lot less food now.

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