How does the handheld food saver work? The Ultimate Guide

A handheld food saver is a compact, portable vacuum sealing device that helps keep food fresh up to 5 times longer. It works by removing air from specially designed bags, then uses heat to seal the bag shut. This prevents oxygen and moisture from reaching the food, slowing down spoilage. Handheld food savers provide an easy and effective way to reduce food waste and prolong shelf life right from your kitchen counter.

Overview of Handheld Food Savers

Handheld food savers, also called hand vacuum sealers, are small, lightweight devices that allow you to vacuum seal food in bags or containers. They work similarly to larger, countertop vacuum sealing systems, using suction to remove air before heat sealing the bag.

The main components of a handheld food saver include:

  • Vacuum pump – Creates the suction to remove air from the bag
  • Sealing mechanism – Uses heated wire or adhesive strip to seal bag
  • Nozzle/hose – Inserted into bag opening to remove air
  • Charging port – For battery powered models

Handheld models are cordless and rechargeable, making them highly convenient for sealing snacks, leftovers, and pre-portioned meals. They also take up very little counter space.

Benefits of Handheld Food Savers

Handheld food savers provide many advantages over other food storage methods:

  • Extend shelf life of foods up to 5x longer
  • Prevent freezer burn and dehydration
  • Retain flavor, moisture, and nutrients better
  • Enable sous vide cooking and marinating
  • Allow buying in bulk and meal prepping
  • Reduce food waste and spoilage
  • Compact size for easy, portable use

How The Vacuum Sealing Process Works

Using a handheld food saver involves a simple vacuum sealing process to remove air and seal in freshness:

  1. Place food in bag – Food is put into a vacuum sealer bag, leaving about 3 inches open at the top. For liquids, leave extra space.
  2. Attach bag to nozzle – The open end of the bag is fitted tightly over the handheld unit‘s nozzle. Make sure the bag is straight and flat.
  3. Remove air – When the handheld vacuum is turned on, air is extracted through the nozzle, tightly vacuuming the bag.
  4. Seal the bag – Once vacuum pressure is achieved, the heating mechanism melts the bag to create an airtight seal.
  5. Release bag – After sealing is complete, turn unit off and gently remove bag. Refrigerate or freeze as desired.

The key to getting a good seal is ensuring the bag is properly aligned on the nozzle so that no air remains inside. Removing as much air as possible prior to sealing is also critical.

Types of Bags for Handheld Units

Handheld food savers require special vacuum sealing bags:

  • Vacuum zipper bags – Reusable bags with an airtight zipper seal. Easy to open and reseal.
  • Fresh bags – Pre-cut, disposable bags specifically for handheld units. Come in quart and gallon sizes.
  • Universal bags – Designed to work with most handheld food saver brands.

Bags are made of BPA-free, food grade materials to safely prolong food freshness. Appropriate bag size depends on the items being sealed and the handheld model. Always refer to manufacturer guidelines for compatibility.

Tips for Proper Use

Follow these tips when using your handheld food saver:

  • Fully charge unit before first use and between sealings
  • Allow at least 3 inches of bag material beyond item being sealed
  • Align bags properly on nozzle to remove maximum air
  • Avoid overfilling bags or sealing wet materials
  • Use gentle pressure when holding bag to nozzle
  • For best results, refrigerate or freeze item after sealing
  • Clean nozzle/hose after each use to prevent clogs

Proper technique helps optimize vacuum pressure and sealing for maximum food preservation. Take care not to overfill bags or attempt to vacuum seal liquids to prevent messes or appliance damage.

Comparison to Countertop Vacuum Sealers

Handheld food savers provide advantages over larger countertop models:

  • Compact size – Easily fits in drawers and requires little storage space.
  • Portability – Lightweight and cordless makes them easy to use anywhere.
  • Affordability – Lower cost alternative to full-size vacuum sealers.
  • Efficiency – Provides similar vacuum sealing capabilities for small amounts of food.
  • Simplicity – Very easy to use with minimal parts or accessories.

However, countertop units are better suited for higher volume, bulk sealing as they have larger chambers and stronger suction. Handhelds work best for small portions, snacks, and left overs.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you use Ziploc bags?

Yes, Ziploc bags can be used by securing bag material firmly over the handheld nozzle. Make sure there are no wrinkles or creases in the bag. Only use heavy duty freezer Ziplocs.

What foods can be vacuum sealed?

Most foods can be sealed including raw and cooked meats, cheese, produce, baked goods, snacks, and more. Foods with high liquid content may not seal well.

Is the seal air tight?

The bag material melts together creating an air-tight, water-proof seal that locks out oxygen and moisture. As long as sealing is done properly, the seal should remain intact.

How long does sealing last?

Foods sealed with a handheld device typically stay fresh in the fridge for 2-3 weeks and in the freezer for 2-3 months before sealing again. Use sealed foods within this timeframe for best quality.

Can you reuse bags?

Vacuum zipper bags can be washed, dried and reused multiple times. Fresh bags are not reusable. Always inspect for damage before reusing bags.

Foods That Store Well When Vacuum Sealed

Many foods benefit from handheld vacuum sealing:

  • Meats – Raw and cooked red meats, poultry, fish
  • Cheese – Soft and hard cheeses
  • Fruits and Veggies – Fresh and dehydrated produce
  • Baked Goods – Cookies, breads, muffins, dough
  • Coffee and Grains – Beans, rice, pasta, oats
  • Nuts and Snacks – Trail mixes, chips, dried fruit
  • Leftovers – Soups, stews, roasted veggies, casseroles

Carefully vacuum sealing these items helps retain maximum freshness and shelf life compared to traditional storage methods.

Potential Drawbacks to Consider

While handheld food savers provide many benefits, potential downsides include:

  • Not designed for large volume, bulk sealing
  • Limited bag size options
  • Can have learning curve for proper technique
  • Seal may fail if too much liquid is vacuum sealed
  • Not resistant to bugs or rodents like rigid containers
  • Bags take up storage space compared to reusable containers

Following manufacturer guidelines for proper use helps minimize any issues. Handheld models also may not suit large batch meal preppers or those sealing large cuts of meat.


Handheld food savers provide a fast, inexpensive way to keep everyday foods fresh using an easy, portable vacuum sealing system. They help reduce spoilage and waste by removing air and blocking moisture, oxygen, and contamination. With proper use, handheld models can extend food shelf life in the fridge or freezer significantly. For small portions, leftovers, and snack items, a handheld food saver is an indispensable kitchen tool for any home cook.

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