Deprecated: trim(): Passing null to parameter #1 ($string) of type string is deprecated in /home/davecampbell/foodwatcher.com/wp-content/plugins/feedwordpress/feedwordpress.php on line 2022

I Used the Anova Handheld Vacuum Sealer for Over a Month—It Was Fast, Reliable, and Portable

We tested the palm-sized handheld vacuum sealer from Anova—it was quick, easy to use, and portable.

someone using the anova precision sealer to vacuum seal pork chops
Serious Eats / Nick Simpson

A chef I worked for about 30 years ago did a stint at Thomas Keller’s Rakel in Manhattan and told me about “cooking food in Cryovac,” to which I made jokes about boil-in-bag meals, not understanding the concept. But over the next several years, sous vide gained wide acceptance, and vacuum sealers (previously niche products) rose in popularity. The most ubiquitous is the external sealer, which slowly sucks the air out of a bag, though there are also chamber sealers, which use pressure to evacuate air; both are large and take up a good amount of storage and countertop space.

I’ve had extensive experience with both types, using an external for prepared meal storage and a chamber when doing whole animal butchery. I appreciate them for what they are—benefits, limitations, and all. So, I was curious about a new, petite handheld sealer from Anova. What could this tiny sealer do? I put it through a battery of tests for over a month to find out how well it vacuum-sealed food.

The Tests

someone using the anova precision sealer to vacuum seal pork chops
Serious Eats / Nick Simpson
  • Crush Test: Vacuum sealers often have variable settings, letting users adjust suction and seal strength. But the Anova Precision Port Handheld only has a single setting, so I was curious to see how it would fare when handling fragile foods. Would the vacuum be too strong and crush them? To find out, I vacuum-sealed one cup of cereal and opened and emptied the bag after to see how well it held up.
  • Moist Food Test: One issue commonly found when vacuum-sealing food is moisture extracted from the food interfering with sealing the bag; the vacuum will work fine, but the bag won’t seal completely, allowing air to re-enter the bag. To see how well the Anova Precision Port Handheld dealt with this issue, I packed and vacuum-sealed pork chops, chicken thighs, and faux ground meat to see if water or actual or simulated myoglobin affected the bag’s sealing capabilities.
  • Freezer Tests: I sealed a pound of faux ground meat and a considerable amount of leftovers before putting them in the freezer for approximately two weeks. At the end of the test period, I looked for loose-fitting bags and any evidence of freezer burn or frost on the food inside.
  • Sous Vide Tests: To test the seal, I vacuum-sealed two bone-in pork chops (the bones tested the bags’ puncture resistance) with some butter and herbs, weighed them, and then sous vide cooked them for four hours. After cooking, I weighed the pork chops again to see if there was any weight loss via a poor seal or if the heat affected the seal.
  • Usability Tests: Throughout the testing, I collected general observations that included ease of use, clarity of instructions, how easy the bags were to seal, and the state of the bags after cooking, storage, and cleaning.

What We Learned

The Vacuum Sealer Was Intuitive to Use

plugging in the charging port in the anova handheld sealer
Serious Eats / Nick Simpson

The sealer came with 10 reusable bags, a USB charger cord, and some mainly pictographic directions. Written instructions stuck mainly to safety issues, while those for operating relied on diagrams. Luckily, the basics of using this sealer consist of closing a zipper lock at the top of the bag, matching the round “mouth” of the sealer with a grommet near the top of the bag, and pressing a button, so it was easy to figure out. 

The instructions covered some basic troubleshooting topics, though there were only a few options for the vacuum not working: Either the zipper lock wasn’t completely sealed (a common issue), the sealer misaligned with the grommet, or the grommet was wet. The bags were stiff on first use, which made fully sealing the zipper lock challenging, an issue that often didn’t come to light until applying the sealer and seeing no air leaving the bag. But, once I got the hang of it, this was less likely to happen.

It Vacuum Sealed Well

the anova handheld sealer with a bag of sealed chex mix
Serious Eats / Nick Simpson

Throughout the testing, as long as I checked all the operational boxes, meaning I’d fully sealed the bag, kept the grommet clean and dry, and aligned the sealer correctly, I experienced next to no leakage. During the sous vide test, the pork chops started at a weight of 680 grams and finished at 676 grams, which was within the margin of error to say it lost no liquid over four hours. 

The crush test wasn’t as promising at first, though, since cracking was audible when I vacuum-sealed the cereal. However, after opening the bag and pouring the contents out, I witnessed only a 2% crush loss, which was a more-than-satisfactory result and was honestly quite surprising.

I had no problems with the moist food tests—every item stayed sealed without a hitch. The faux ground meat spent 15 days in the freezer and emerged without frost or freezer burn, and with the bag still sealed tightly around the product. Leftovers fared similarly; I’d given the Anova instructions to protect leftover stuffing at all costs, and it complied. 

It Only Works With Proprietary, Reusable Bags

a photo of the proprietary bags for the anova handheld sealer
Serious Eats / Nick Simpson

If there’s a gripe with the Anova Precision Port Handheld Vacuum Sealer, it's that it works only with its specific, proprietary bags. Many vacuum sealers aren’t married to a particular bag (provided you use bags of the prescribed thickness) and most also allow you to buy rolls of plastic and create custom-sized bags to suit your needs. 

While lots of sealers also have a heat bar for sealing the bags, the Anova uses a different method. Instead, it comes with a starter set of 10 resealable, reusable zipper lock bags with a special grommet to attach it to the device. This dependency means you’ll use the same size bag for all items, no matter the size, which was a bit irksome when fighting for freezer space. The zippers proved very stiff and demanding on first use, which led to some false confidence in fully closing the bag before applying the Anova sealer. After a few repetitions, it became evident that if the bag wouldn’t vacuum easily, the zipper didn’t fully seal. This is an excellent time to mention the sealer’s speed, which was quite fast after conquering the zipper. The pork chops took 13.5 seconds to seal with no bubbling on the bag’s surface, and the Chex Mix took only a little over six seconds.

The news on these bags isn’t all bad, we’re happy to say. Although the bags are fairly stiff and rigid on their first use, they lose that rigidity when exposed to heat. Heating the bags could be done via sous vide, hot tap water, or by running them through the dishwasher (there are some special considerations with the grommet system when machine washing; you have to remove the valve’s inner pieces, so follow the directions closely). The more relaxed bags made the game of freezer Tetris considerably more pleasant, and the zipper sealed much more easily. In the interest of sustainability, the reusability of the bags almost negates any of their foibles, and I’ll not let that detract from the sealer as a whole.

The Verdict

Pros

You don’t often encounter a palm-sized, handheld vacuum sealer; if you do, you might doubt its efficacy. But the Anova Precision Port Handheld Vacuum Sealer is tiny but mighty. It easily fits in a kitchen drawer, and the reusable bags roll up into a small bundle, so it’s great for the space–conscious user. It seals quickly, is significantly cheaper than many of its peers at $50, and, after a slight learning curve, seals wholly and effectively. This sealer is perfect for long-term food storage, sous vide cooking, or even meal prep.

Cons

I’d like to see some rearranging of the pictogram directions to illustrate the order of operations better. The one-size-fits-all proprietary bags were annoying in their stiffness and freezer space requirements, but the bags relaxed after first cleaning and became easier to seal and more flexible for storage.

Key Specs 

  • Weight: 10 ounces
  • Number of settings: 1
  • Dimensions: 3 x 3 x 3.7 inches
  • Included accessories: USB battery charging cable, resealable bags
  • Highest actual pressure: N/A
  • Built-in bag storage and cutter: No 
  • Continuous seals: 150
  • Time-out period between sealings: N/A
  • Pulse setting: Manual
  • Warranty: Two years

FAQs

What’s different about the Anova Handheld Vacuum Sealer?

A few things make the Anova Precision Port Handheld stand out from its contemporaries. The first and most obvious is its size. At three by three by nearly four inches, the Anova fits in the palm of your hand versus the more common countertop models on the market. The size makes it easily storeable and portable. The next is its bag compatibility. Because of its size, the Anova doesn’t have a heat-sealer bar like many models do and instead relies on a proprietary zipper-lock bag with a special port to attach the sealer to. That can be an annoyance, but the reusable bags make a big difference in the sustainability aspect of vacuum sealing.

What can you do with a vacuum sealer?

Although the popularity of residential vacuum sealers rose with consumer immersion circulators for sous vide cooking, vacuum sealers are far from limited to cooking food in plastic bags. Vacuum sealing increases the shelf life of many foods, whether in the refrigerator or freezer. Vacuum-sealed bags are also convenient for those who do weekly meal prep, eliminating the bulk and weight of storage containers. For the adventurous, and when armed with the proper knowledge and equipment, vacuum-sealed bags are a vital part of wet aging meats at home or aging certain homemade cheese, should you want to pursue those avenues.

Why We’re the Experts

  • Greg Baker is a former James Beard nominated chef from Tampa Bay, Florida.
  • He’s written about sous vide machines and pizza gear for Serious Eats. 
  • For this review, Greg used the Anova Precision Port Handheld Vacuum Sealer for over a month, examining its ease of use and results. 

This Is the Most Versatile Herb Oil Infuser on the Market

Infuse oil, as well as cream, honey, or vinegar, with the push of a button with the Lēvo Lux.

the levo lux oil infuser in black on a wooden surface with a greenish blue textured background
Serious Eats / Grace Kelly

Sometime in the early 90s, a chef I worked for introduced me to infused oils for cooking and finishing plates. This was radically different from the stodgy “country club cooking” that dominated that time—plus, making the oils took more effort/time than you’d think. For example, a vanilla version required 14 days of steeping beans in oil before use; herb oils took three to four days.

As I progressed through my career and worked for various chefs, I would adapt my herb-infused oil technique to each chef’s standards, mostly built upon beliefs, anecdotes, and a little trial-and-error (we didn’t have the internet resources we do now). It ran the gamut: Infuse herbs in hot oil; no, put the oil in the freezer for two hours before blending; use raw herbs; no, use blanched herbs—wait, no, use blanched herbs, but thoroughly dry them…infusing oils was a dark art. But like the immersion circulator, rotovap (a.k.a. a rotary evaporator used to distill individual components from food items—cue the molecular gastronomy), or any number of precision temperature control appliances, borrowing existing tech from other industries has stabilized, if not improved, the herb-infusion game.

Since cooking involves considerable multitasking, I’m always looking for tools that will free my hands and attention span without suffering poor results as the tradeoff. When researching oil infusion systems, I found the Lēvo Lux. I was impressed that it wasn’t as single-purpose as many of its contemporaries and took the multi-method oil infusion puzzle off the table.

Good to Know

What Is an Oil Infuser?

Oil infusers have been gaining popularity in home and commercial kitchens because they can replicate results without running through the matrix of options I previously mentioned. Just insert herbs or spices, add a liquid, set the time and temperature, and walk away for a while. The infuser uses precise times and temperatures to optimize your infusion while sequestering your herbs in a strainer basket, extracting the desirable elements, and leaving other components, like chlorophyll, which muddy the oil’s flavor, behind.

What’s the Best Oil Infuser?

I really like the Lēvo Lux— it’s a versatile machine that removes the variation and guesswork from infusing foods. To use it, place fresh herbs in the hopper (located inside of the fluid reservoir), add the oil of your choice (be it olive, butter, coconut, or something neutral like grape seed), and select the time and temperature on the touchscreen control panel to start the infusion cycle. Lēvo provides an online infusion calculator to help minimize any guesswork. The Lēvo Lux applies the necessary temperature and times the process. Then, once infused, place a storage container under the dispensing spout, select dispense from the touchscreen menu (they have options for thin and thick liquids), and the Lux delivers your filtered oil or other liquid. 

cardamom seeds in the interior of the levo luxe in a small metal container
Serious Eats / Grace Kelly

Another feature worth trying is the dry setting. The machine can actually dry herbs for you and improve the shelf-life of your oil by removing water (which can hasten rancidification). This drying also removes any strong chlorophyll taste that can overwhelm your palette. Some herbs have more chlorophyll than others; parsley is a particularly strong offender in that aspect, and the Luxe leaves you with its inherent grassy flavor but not the “green” taste. The one downside is that your oil might not have that vibrant green shade anymore, but it will last longer. The Levo Luxe also has settings for infusing and dispensing water-based liquids, like vinegar or dairy (pre-infuse your milk with herbs for ice cream?), as well as options for sweet liquids such as honey (with Tellicherry peppercorns?) or maple syrup.

The Levo Luxe Is Customizable and Easy to Use and Clean

a user pressing the dispense button on the levo luxe with honey dispensing from the machine into a pyrex glass
Serious Eats / Grace Kelly

What’s also cool about the Levo Luxe is that you can customize your time and temperature settings for the extraction of your liking—and quickly replicate your results on the next run. The herb hopper has a 1/2 cup capacity, and the liquid reservoir holds one pint of liquid. The removable reservoir has a ceramic coating, especially handy for cleaning sticky liquids like honey. On the whole, the unit is very easy to clean, as all the components are machine-washable. 

While there’s considerable competition in the oil-infuser field now, I like the Lēvo for its ease of use, versatility, and capacity. It’s suitable for making small-scale (as well as restaurant-sized, if you’re looking for big quantities) batches of infused liquids and adds a bit of fun to your cooking routine.

The Verdict

Pros

  • Customizable
  • Intuitive touchscreen controls
  • Also capable of infusing water-based liquids
  • Easy to clean

Cons

  • Pricey
  • About the size of a coffee maker, so it'll eat up countertop space

Key Specs

  • Dimensions: 7 x 8 x 13 inches
  • Care instructions: Dishwasher-safe parts
  • Warranty: 1 year

FAQs

How does an oil infuser work?

An oil infuser holds the liquid and the herb you’re infusing at a precise temperature for a pre-determined time. This precision increases the infusion's strength, minimizes variation between batches, and removes chances of burning, like if you left a pot of oil on a stove burner and forgot about it.

What’s the best oil infuser?

While you can use an immersion circulator like the Anova Precision Sous Vide 3.0 to infuse oil, we like the Lēvo Lux for its versatility, ease of use, and consistent results.

What can you make with an oil infuser?

One of the great things about infusers like the Lēvo Lux is that you’re not limited to simply oil-based infusions. That’s not to say that oil isn’t a great medium for flavor, like fresh herbs (like basil, chervil, lavender, or cilantro) or spices like black peppercorns, cinnamon, or coriander. But you can also directly infuse herbs and spices into dairy (like for makrut lime butter or lavender-peppercorn ice cream), vinegar, or other sticky liquids like honey. Want to infuse guajillo chiles into maple syrup? Go right ahead. The beauty of the infuser is the precise heat and time control, which gives you maximum extraction and minimizes chances of burning, especially when it comes to sweet items like honey.

Why We’re the Experts 

The Anova Precision Sous Vide 3.0 Immersion Circulator Is the Fastest, Most Accurate Model Yet

We tested the newest version of our winning sous vide machine, and it was quick, reliable, and easy to use.

the anova precision sous vide 3.0 on a cambro with a white backdrop
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

Sous vide cooking wasn’t invented so much as it morphed into being. It originated in the 1960s, arising to improve food preparation consistency, and entered the fine-dining realm in the mid-1970s, where it slowly gained traction. Then, in the early 2000s, it earned widespread acceptance because of chefs like Thomas Keller, who used this new way of cooking to heighten their dishes. The idea is fairly straightforward: you place food in a vacuum-sealed bag and cook it in a water bath at controlled temperatures for a certain amount of time. The yielded product is more tender and consistent than, say, roasting or braising. The prohibitive factor that kept sous vide out of reach of home cooks was that the immersion circulator, the machinery responsible for maintaining the water bath at a consistent temperature, was expensive.

But about 10 years ago, companies like Anova broke down that entry barrier with immersion circulators for home use. Anova has been an innovator in the circulator field ever since, leading the pack in our reviews. In our previous testing, we named the Anova Precisions Sous Vide 2.0 one of our winners because its app-integrated controls made monitoring time and temperature easy. At the same time, its onboard display ensured that setup and calibration were not app-dependent, allowing someone with messy hands to avoid using their phone to complete the task. So when Anova announced the latest model of the Precision Cooker, we wanted to put it to the test to see how it stood up to previous iterations.

The Tests

sous vide bath with chicken in plastic bag and sous vide to the right
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez
  • Water Bath Test: We started with a gallon of cold water (54°F) and timed how long it took to reach 190°F, a typical temperature for cooking vegetables sous vide. We then held it at 190°F and monitored it every 10 minutes for an hour to ensure it kept a steady temperature. To verify its accuracy, we compared the temperature reported by the circulator with an instant-read thermometer
  • Cooking Chicken Breast Tests: We added two gallons of tap-temperature water to a cambro (in my case, 85°F; I live in Florida, okay?) and timed how long it took the device to reach 150°F. After it reached the target temperature (verified by an instant-read thermometer), we added a vacuum-sealed 10-ounce chicken breast. We cooked it for one hour and then checked the internal temperature. We performed this test twice, once utilizing the onboard controls and once via the app, to ensure the results were the same.
  • Vessel Versatility Test: We attached the Anova to various vessels; a Cambro, a 5.5-quart Dutch oven, and a 12-quart stock pot to examine how easily it adhered.
  • Usability Tests: Throughout the testing, we collected general observations that included ease of setup, clarity of instructions, and app functionality.

What We Learned

It Was Intuitive to Set Up and Use

a closeup of the controls on the anova
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

The directions were largely pictographs that detailed the features of the cooker. With that, the setup was quite simple; attach the cooker to the vessel, add water, and then set your time and temperature. The new dual-line display was a nice touch, allowing you to view both time and temperature during the process rather than switching between them, like the older models required. 

The app was equally easy to set up and walked you through the process of connecting to Wi-Fi. Another new feature was dual-band Wi-Fi connectivity, which uses the different speeds on your router, increasing the strength of your connection. From there, you can set the cooking time and temperature and monitor the process from your phone. The app also had many presets and recipes like steak, chicken, pork chops, and potatoes, as well as some other niceties.

It Heated Up Quickly and Maintained Temperatures Well

taking the temperature of the water bath of the sous vide
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

Another new feature is an upgrade to 1100 watts of power, which heated water faster than the previous model. In our last review, the Anova Precision Cooker 2.0 took 60 minutes to heat up to 190°F, while this model cut that time nearly in half, heating the water bath in about 33 minutes. In our chicken breast test, we compared the results of the 3.0 and the previous model, both of which we used to heat two gallons of tap-temperature water in a Cambro to 150°F. Starting at 85 degrees (Florida room temperature water), the 3.0 achieved the target temperature a full five minutes faster than the previous model, clocking in at about 23.5 minutes. And it only took the 3.0 about nine minutes longer to go from 54°F to 190°F in our water bath test. During our initial water bath test, the Anova 3.0 maintained its temperature within 0.6 degrees of 190°F for an hour—quite impressive. For our chicken breast test, the internal temperature of the meat after an hour of cooking fell just two degrees short of the target of 150°F, but we can attribute that variation to the size of the breast and possible cooling before testing the temperature.

It Was Versatile When It Came to Vessels

the anova precision cooker attached to an orange dutch oven
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

The 3.0 attached easily to Anova-designed Cambros, but it also did so with a 5.5-quart Dutch oven and 12-quart stock pot. One drawback is the length of the cooker (which clocks in just shy of 13 inches long), which requires a greater amount of water in larger vessels since the minimum fill line sits three inches below the clamp at the cooker’s lowest position. 

The Verdict

Pros

The Anova is very easy to use, and we liked having the option of using the app or onboard controls. It also heated faster than previous versions and held temperatures over time with minimal temperature variation. It functioned well outside of a perfect-world environment, allowing you to use a variety of vessels for cooking.

Cons

There was very little we didn’t like about the 3.0. If we had to find a gripe, the unit’s length required more water to reach the minimum fill line.

Key Specs 

  • Dimensions: 3.07 x 5.43 x 12.8 inches
  • Weight: 1.98 pounds
  • Temperature Range: 32˚F-197˚F (0.2° accuracy)
  • Warranty: 2 years
  • Power: 1100 watts
  • Price at Time of Publish: $199
the anova precision cooker sous vide on a cambro with a plastic wrapped chicken cooking in the water bath
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

FAQs

What’s different about the latest Anova Precision Sous Vide? 

The Anova Precision Cooker 3.0 is upgraded to 1100 watts of heating power (the previous iteration was 1000 watts), allowing it to heat faster and hold temperature better. The dual-line display enables you to view time and temperature simultaneously. Finally, Wi-Fi connections are updated, allowing it to take advantage of a router’s dual-band capabilities.

Do you need to vacuum seal to sous vide? 

Sous vide translates to “under vacuum,” so cooking your food in the absence of air is a requirement. That doesn’t mean you need a vacuum sealer to accomplish that, though. The water displacement method, where you place your food in a zip-top storage bag and submerge it, forcing the air out of the top, and then sealing the bag is an effective method when you don’t have a vacuum sealer.