The folks at Reynolds sent me one of their Handi-Vac Vacuum Sealing Systems to test out, and I have to say, it’s wonderfully easy to use. The Handi-Vac works with a special zip-top freezer bag that’s easy to close. You then just put the Handi-Vac on top of the little specially marked escape hole and suck all the air out. It is a little tricky getting the sealer into the exact right position, but once it’s there, it works quickly. I didn’t even have to read the directions to figure out how the system works. And not-quite-three-year-old Alex was able to operate the sealer while I held the bag in position for him.
The Reynolds folks claim that “[s]toring food with the Handi-Vac System helps to preserve the texture and appearance of fresh foods by virtually eliminating freezer burn.” I haven’t had my pancakes in the freezer for very long, but I can tell from the lack of air in the bag and past experience that there will be less freezer burn than there would have been otherwise.
But would I actually recommend that you buy this product? It depends. For one thing, you probably don’t need yet another gadget in your kitchen (I certainly didn’t). And for another thing, the bags aren’t cheap. Plus, unlike traditional vacuum sealers, you only have the choice of quart-size or gallon-size bags (from my understanding of traditional vacuum sealers, as gathered by watching a few infomercials over the years, you can customize the length of your bag). A box of 14 quart-size bags was $2.84 or 20.3 cents per bag (a box of 10 gallon-size bags was the same price). I can buy 40 Target brand quart-size freezer bags for $2.17, or 5.4 cents per bag. And use a straw to suck the air out of the bag – this has worked reasonably well for me in the past.
I freely admit, though, that the straw method isn’t quite as effective as the Handi-Vac. And if you have a lot of trouble with freezer burn, then I think you might easily make up the cost of the bags in the amount of food you don’t end up throwing out. Also, Reynolds recommends against re-using bags because of cross-contamination, but I think you could re-use bags if nothing’s leaked. For example, my frozen pancakes are individually wrapped in plastic and I see no reason why I couldn’t re-use the bag once all of the pancakes are gone. I have no idea if the bags are washable or if that would damage the seal, but I’ll let you know if I remember to experiment (I re-use bags all the time, but I’ve never been converted to the Tightwad Gazettewashing crowd).
Another nice thing about the Handi-Vac compared to traditional vacuum sealers is that you can take out a portion of what’s in the bag, suck the air out, and throw the remainder back into the freezer again. This works beautifully with my individually wrapped pancakes.
The bottom line: If you’ve been wishing for a vacuum sealer and the limited bag sizes won’t be a problem for you, this is a good option. The Handi-Vac starter set, which comes with three quart-size bags, is $9.49 at my local Target.