When I was a kid, the groan of a vacuum sealer always filled my home. My family used one often to preserve venison meat (the result of my grandfather’s semi-successful deer hunts) and enormous bundles of chicken breasts (the result of always-successful Costco hauls). I’d watch my mother pack both at the kitchen table. She’d hunch quietly, the sealer sitting out in front of her, and tighten the transparent packing sheets over each independent piece of freezer-bound raw meat with the care of someone readying organs for transplant. Preservation was essential.

And preservation is still so key to many, which is why vacuum sealers are still so in demand. The machines shrink-wrap food in specially designed pouches, remove air and therefore lessen the chance of bacteria (or as we like to call it, the original spoiler alert). They’re helpful to big-game hunters, bulk shoppers and sous vide practitioners, as the sealing process greatly increases the life span of dry goods such as coffee and cereal, as well as cured meats and cheeses. With one in hand, you can store certain foods for years.

As an urban-dwelling adult, I’ve never needed a sealer. It’s just not suited for my current life: I have a small studio apartment and therefore no room or need to store a gross of raw meat, and the only thing I’ve ever shot was a squirrel (it was a blow gun, and he never lost a stride). However, when the Weston Pro-1100, a compact version of the company’s top-of-the-line sealer, arrived at my doorstep, I decided to try it out partly for nostalgia’s sake and partly to see how one could help my culinary life. The 650-watt stainless steel sealer is 11 inches wide and has a quarter-inch sealing lip; it boasts both manual and automatic modes and has a fan to keep it from overheating. There’s even a bag cutter. Here’s how it fared.

The 1100 does what it was designed to do, and does it well. Armed with it, and several dozen embossed plastic bags, I set out to seal three pounds of chicken breasts, two steaks, some just-cased sausage and a container of dried apples. I fitted the sealer bags onto the 1100’s bulk roll holder, and its embedded cutter was helpful for customizing the bags to fit my needs.  The 1100 is a vacuum sealer, which means you zip the food into the bag and a valve sucks the air as a hot bar melts the bag shut. It does not have adjustable vacuum settings; there is, however, a pulse button that you can press to dial in the levels of vacuum pressure. Either way, the controls are incredibly simple. I split my time using the manual seal and automatic sealing modes, and everything was sufficiently packed and air-free.

After a month, I checked on my goods. The seal on one of the steaks had broken, and it was scarred with freezer burn. But I’ll chalk that up to user error; everything else was sealed and fresh.

Bonus round: Straight sealing purposes aside, the 1100 is available with plastic vacuum tube containers that help speed up such processes as preserving. I filled two containers with some pickled coleslaw ingredients, ran the vacuum tube from the sealer into the containers, and used the sealer to suck the air out. Within an hour, I had quick pickled cabbage in what would normally take three or four hours.

The 1100 is a commercial-grade machine, not an appliance. And even though it is a more compact model, it is still heavy and loud. This isn’t a deal-breaker, more like something you should be aware of. There’s also the matter of the heat bar: The directions recommend users wait 20 seconds between sealing to let the heat bar cool down. This is problematic because, well, no one’s going to wait 20 seconds between sealing times when they have a massive amount of meat to vacuum pack. (This could lead to melted, and therefore useless, bags and also ruin the heat tape; the 1100 does, however, come with additional tape.) Finally, there’s the bag issue. The 1100 only accepts specially embossed bags, not standard kitchen bags. This is not a mark against the machine, but a warning to anyone who thinks they can seal with any material. You can order additional bags easily online.

Were I a big-game hunter or a Costco shopper, the 1100 would have a dedicated spot in my home. It’s efficient, durable and best of all, provides a tight, long-lasting seal. $300; westonsupply.com.

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