For those without much kitchen storage space -- or cooks who simply don't need to vacuum seal too often -- a handheld vacuum food sealer may be all you need. These tools use reusable, resealable bags with a sealing port meant for use with one particular sealer model. Handheld sealers are powered by batteries (some rechargeable, some single use) and tend to have a little less power than countertop models. But what they lack in power, they make up for in space savings; most handheld vacuum sealers fit easily in a drawer.
Reviewers say the FoodSaver FreshSaver Handheld Vacuum Sealer (Est. $20) is a great choice for the casual user. Owners say it quickly and efficiently seals the FoodSaver-brand resealable plastic bags. For smaller tasks, it can extend the shelf life of foods by a few days or weeks. However, reviewers say it won't work as well for long-term freezing or larger quantities; the small, battery-powered motor can't vacuum enough on a small charge, and the seal isn't strong enough to hold freezer burn at bay.
While this may sound like a flaw specific to the FoodSaver FreshSaver Handheld Vacuum Sealer, this is actually the norm when it comes to handheld sealers. Reviews for the Caso My Vac 200 Hand Vacuum Sealer (Est. $80) , another popular option, include the same complaint. While the Caso My Vac has a more powerful motor and does a good job of vacuuming, according to owners, seals can spring lose on Caso bags, too.
In fact, bags tend to be one of the biggest complaints for both handheld food sealer models. Owners say the Caso bags can be finicky when it comes to wet or greasy foods -- the slightest greasiness can prevent bags from sealing, which is why some owners recommend using them for dry foods, like cereals. The FoodSaver FreshSaver bags, on the other hand, work well for the first few uses, but reviewers say they start to not seal as well after a few opens and closes, so they're not recommended for items that are used daily. While bags tend to be problematic, the FoodSaver FreshSaver seals FoodSaver-brand canisters while the Caso My Vac seals wine bottles -- a feature users rave about.
All things considered, there isn't much that distinguishes these two handheld sealers. They can both be used effectively for small tasks but tend to fail for long-term storage; reviewers voice similar concerns about the resealable bags. Both offer the bonus of sealing other containers as well. While the Caso model has a two-year warranty and the FreshSaver only one, there are reports of both malfunctioning for some users. Neither model is a perfect substitute for a countertop vacuum sealer, but for small, occasional tasks, the FoodSaver FreshSaver Handheld Vacuum Sealer is a better value.