Straightforward, one-touch operation
Creates a tight, even seal
Compact and easy to store
Only one setting
Bar must be held down manually
Short power cord
We purchased the Seal-a-Meal Manual Vacuum Sealer System so our reviewer could put it to the test in her kitchen. Keep reading for our full product review.
Vacuum sealers are a tempting purchase for those who want a better way to preserve food like meat, produce, and even soup, and the Seal-a-Meal Vacuum Sealer System may catch your eye, as it costs less than half the price of other well-known vacuum sealer brands—but is its lower price synonymous with lower quality? Or can it really help you preserve food while also keeping a few extra dollars in your pocket? Read on to see what we discovered.
Setup: Open the box and go
There’s absolutely no setup required with the Seal-a-Meal System. All you have to do is open the box, plug it in, and start sealing. You don’t have to finagle with any settings or wait for the vacuum sealer to heat up before using it.
The directions were clear and straightforward, and as soon as we plugged it in, the Seal-a-Meal Vacuum Sealer started working without any difficulties. The product even included four 1-quart vacuum seal bags, which we thought was a nice—and highly appreciated—touch, since we didn’t have a separate box of bags on hand.
Design: As simple as it gets
The Seal-a-Meal’s design is as simplistic and straightforward as the setup process. The body is made of gray and white plastic, and there’s one “Open/Cancel” button on top of the unit. There are also two indicator lights on the machine—the “Sealing” one lights up when the vacuum sealer is sealing, and the “Hands Free” light lets you know when the sealing process is done and you can ease up on the pressure.
The Seal-a-Meal System is quite compact. Although it’s long—about 17 inches in length—it’s just over 9 inches wide and about 6 inches tall. It can easily fit into most kitchen cabinets, a pantry, or a long kitchen drawer without taking up too much excess space. It’s also surprisingly lightweight, coming in at only 1 pound, so it was extremely easy for us to pick up and move around the kitchen.
One downside to the design is that the power cord is a little short, only extending about 1-1/2 feet.
One downside to the design is that the power cord is a little short, only extending about 1-1/2 feet from the back of the unit. While the length is sufficient if you’re plugging the vacuum sealer in on the countertop where you’re working, you’ll likely need an extension cord if you plan to use the machine on a kitchen island or somewhere that’s not within close range of an outlet.
Our breakfast bar was the most convenient place for us to use the vacuum sealer, but since the electrical outlet is close to the floor, we needed an extension cord to plug it in. It wasn’t a huge deal, but it’s something to consider, especially if you’re planning to use the vacuum sealer regularly.
Features: No extras
If you’re looking for the most advanced, multipurpose vacuum sealer on the market, this isn’t it. However, if you want simplicity and a user-friendly design, the Seal-a-Meal has you covered.
There’s really nothing fancy to it. The vacuum sealer simply has one button, and while there’s certainly nothing to brag about in the features department, it’s an ideal choice for someone who wants to add longevity to their food without having to figure out complicated technology.
There’s also no requirement on which brand of bag you use, as long as the size fits.
One standout feature of the Seal-a-Meal Manual Vacuum Sealer System is its versatility when it comes to bag choices. You can use 8-inch, 11-inch, 1-quart pre-cut bags, or bag rolls with this machine. There’s also no requirement on which brand you use, as long as the size fits the bill. This is a nice departure from more expensive brands, which always suggest that you use their name-brand bags (that tend to cost more) for the best results.
Performance: Exceeded our expectations
The Seal-a-Meal Vacuum Sealer System does exactly what it says it will. All you have to do is fill up your bag, making sure to leave about 2 inches of space between the food and the bag’s opening. From here, simply lift open the vacuum sealer and position the filled bag on the sealing bar. Finally, close the sealer bar and press down on each side with your hands. When the vacuum sealer is properly engaged, a light goes on to signify that the machine is sealing.
To get a proper seal, we had to hold the sealing bar down with two hands for about 15 to 20 seconds. While that doesn’t seem like a long time in the grand scheme of things, our hands did start to get a little tired toward the end. That could have been a testament to our finger strength, but it’s worth noting, especially if you have problems with manual dexterity. There are other vacuum sealers that do the work for you with a press of a button, creating airtight seals without you lifting a finger.
For our sealing experiment, we put the Seal-a-Meal up to some fresh blueberries and ground beef (not at the same time). The vacuum sealer handled both like a champ, sucking all of the air out of the bags and providing a tight, even seal that left us wildly impressed.
To get a proper seal, we had to hold the sealing bar down with two hands for about 15 to 20 seconds.
The Seal-a-Meal also seemed to know exactly when to stop. We’ve worked with other vacuum sealers that suck so much air out of the bag that it crushes the food entirely, pushing all of the juices out in the process. This vacuum sealer did neither. While it did slightly crush the blueberries, only a small amount of juice was lost, and the juice stayed within close proximity to the food instead of getting sucked up to the edge of the bag.
The finished sealing band is only about 2 centimeters thick, which is considerably smaller than more expensive models, some of which have a 6-centimeter seal. However, even though the seal was thin, it didn’t seem to matter much in the long run. The seal was strong, even, and tight.
After we tested the vacuum sealer’s initial performance, we wanted to see how the vacuum-sealed bags compared to regular freezer bags when it came to storage. We placed vacuum-sealed beef in the freezer with another pound of beef that was in a standard plastic freezer bag. After a couple days, the beef in the freezer bag started to get that ice crystal-y appearance that signals freezer burn is coming, but the vacuum-sealed bag looked just as good as day one.
We checked on it again after two weeks, and the meat was still good as new. We then transferred the beef to the refrigerator to let it defrost for a few days to see if the seal was strong enough to handle the juices that release during thawing. After two days, the meat was fully thawed and all of the juices were contained in the bag with no spillage in the refrigerator.
Price: A fraction of the price
At a retail price of $50, the Seal-a-Meal Vacuum Sealer System is considerably cheaper than more well-known name counterparts like FoodSaver. While you won’t be getting any advanced features at this lower price point, the machine still seals food quickly and efficiently.
Competition: More advanced options
Nesco VS-02 Food Vacuum Sealing System: When it comes to vacuum sealer competition, the Nesco VS-02 Food Vacuum Sealing System is probably the most comparable option to the Seal-a-Meal in both price and features. Both systems have a one-touch operation and a compact, portable design that’s easy to store in small kitchens, but there are some distinctive differences between the two. Unlike the Seal-a-Meal, which only has one sealing option, the Nesco allows you to choose between seal only, vacuum and seal, and canister only. The Nesco also offers the option to toggle between normal sealing and extended sealing, which is better for liquids and wet foods.
FoodSaver 2-in-1 Food Preservation System: FoodSaver may be the most well-known name in the vacuum sealer game, but the name also comes with a higher price tag (and some additional features, too). You’ll shell out around $200 for the FoodSaver 2-in-1 Food Preservation System, but in addition to standard vacuum sealing, you’ll also get a built-in retractable handheld sealer, the ability to make custom-size bags, a rapid marinate mode, and more.
Good for basic vacuum sealing.
If you’re looking for a portable, easy-to-store vacuum sealer for meat, fruit, or veggies, the Seal-a-Meal Manual Vacuum Sealer System is the kitchen tool you’re after, but if you need to preserve liquids or canned items, you’ll need something with more advanced features.
- Product Name Manual Vacuum Sealer System
- Product Brand Seal-a-Meal
- Price $49.99
- Weight 1 lbs.
- Product Dimensions 17.1 x 6.2 x 9.3 in.
- Item Model Number FSSMSL0160-000
- Warranty 1-year limited warranty
- What's Included Seal-a-Meal Vacuum Sealer and four 1-quart vacuum seal bags