If you’ve purchased a food vacuum sealer and use it only for sous vide cooking, you’re missing out. Although they're great for that purpose, they're an extremely versatile (and often overlooked) kitchen tool.
Tennis Balls, Butter, and Other Surprising Things You Can Vacuum-Seal
Whether you’re a Costco loyalist or a CSA subscriber, you can benefit from a vacuum sealer that helps extend the shelf life of meat, produce, and spices that you’ve spent your hard-earned dollars on. And they’re especially useful for a solo cook!
But the argument for owning a vacuum sealer doesn’t stop there. There are so many things that can benefit from storage in an oxygen-free environment, and not all of them are food.
Here are some of our favorite out-of-left-field items to vacuum-seal.
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1. Loose-Leaf Tea
For some serious tea folks, having a wide variety of loose-leaf teas on hand is a must. But once the bags are open, the delicate tea begins to deteriorate and lose its flavor if not consumed quickly enough. The good news is, in some tea packaging, tea is kept fresh in vacuum-packed bags. You can easily replicate this method at home by using a food vacuum sealer.
2. Coffee Beans
Nesco (the manufacturer of our winning vacuum sealer) recommends portioning and vacuum-sealing your beans in smaller bags. If you’re like me and recently switched to buying a 5-pound bag of beans at a time to save on cost, this tip is for you. Like many food products, oxygen is coffee’s biggest enemy and it’s not very likely you’ll go through that five pounds of beans before oxygen does. Additionally, storing your beans in a cold and dark spot (preferably the freezer) is ideal.
Whether you’re taking a hiatus from baking or have leftover spices from that one time you made mulled wine for the holidays, you can store your seasonal (and often expensive) spices such as whole allspice berries, star anise, or cinnamon sticks in a sealed bag for later usage.
It’s always good to keep butter on hand for an emergency batch of Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies, and you should keep it in the freezer to extend its shelf life. For an extra protective layer against freezer off-flavors, you can vacuum seal your butter. To thaw frozen butter, you can leave it in the fridge overnight and it’ll be ready to use, or follow our tips for softening butter on the fly. (And then do yourself a favor and slather that butter on a breakfast sandwich.)
The Best Countertop Vacuum SealersIf you regularly buy or prepare food in bulk, a vacuum sealer can save you time and money—but only if the machine is quick, effective, and easy to use.
5. Tennis Balls
Popped open a fresh tennis ball can for a friendly game of tennis, only to put down your racket and not pick it up again for months? Reseal your tennis balls in a vacuum-sealed bag to preserve their freshness until your next game (another Nesco tip!). Keep in mind that unopened cans of balls are still better staying in their cans because the cans offer a pressurized environment, which is the most ideal for tennis balls.
6. Silver Flatware and Jewelry
Whether it’s your favorite jewelry or your grandmother’s sterling silver flatware, silver’s biggest challenge is oxidation, which causes tarnish that takes out the shine. To protect silver pieces, sealing them in an oxygen-free bag is a smart move.
7. Seasonal Candy
Looking to cure your Cadbury Creme Egg craving year-round? Or maybe you want to indulge in a mini Snickers or two months after Halloween is over? Stock up on these seasonal and holiday-centered treats when they’re on sale and vacuum seal them to keep the candy fresh. Don't forget to label the bags with the buy date so you can keep organized.
8. Items in a Cooler
No matter how well-insulated your cooler is, the ice in there will eventually melt. And that means that whatever you have in your cooler will get soaked in water, especially in a hot climate. This is a camper’s worst nightmare. Nesco suggests vacuum-sealing your items to keep them waterproof. This tip is best for items you’re only going to use once (such as a piece of fish or burgers), not something you want to be resealing repeatedly. Check out our other cooler-packing tips before your next beach day.