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I bought a Seal-a-Meal for sous-vide cooking. It felt like a bargain at the time, it was very inexpensive because it was a close-out model. It seals great, I'm not having any problem with leaking, but it only pulls out the air maybe one out of five times. Other times it doesn't seem to suck any air at all. So the bag wants to float and there is too much air insulating the food from the water bath.

I don't want to spend any more money at this point, I want to make this machine work for me. Is there a trick I'm missing?

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    I think the old say "To good to be true" applies here. Looking at the reviews for that particular product the "does not remove air" statement seems to repeat (23 times). Personally I've never had any luck with a vacuum sealer for less than £300, and even they can be temperamental, especially when a young commis takes a metal scourer to the seal (Having said all that, as a Chef I'd probably use a sealer more in one day than the home cook does in a life time :/) – Doug Feb 1 '15 at 22:56
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    Have you tried any of the other methods for air displacement? Some of them are perfectly useful for sous-vide cooking. This topic has some options: cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/25579/… – Catija Feb 2 '15 at 0:46
  • I agree with @Catija. I rarely use my vacuum machine for low temp cooking (one of the reasons I don't like calling it sous vide). Just use a ziplock freezer bag and displace the air as you lower your product into the bath. Some liquid in the bag helps to force the air out. – moscafj Feb 2 '15 at 10:32
  • @moscafj Every time I have used Ziplocs (the name brand freezer bag) they've badly leaked. – Jolenealaska Feb 3 '15 at 1:00
  • @Jolenealaska I have only used Ziploc Brand freezer (make sure you get freezer, not sandwich) bags...never have had an issue with leakage. Maybe work on your seal technique? cookingissues.com/index.html%3Fp=3908.html#sectionII3b1 – moscafj Feb 3 '15 at 11:38
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One of the things I've found critical with getting a vacuum using a fairly similar style unit is to make sure the air has a way to escape from the bag reliably. The best bags I've found are ones that are smooth on one side and have a cross-hatch ribbing on the other side, I've had limited success with bags that are smooth on both sides that presumably are OK with commercial machines.

Apart from that it seems important to cut the bags fairly straight if not using pre-formed ones and to make sure the end of the bag is in the center of the channel right the way along. I've also found it's worth trying to keep the end of the bag slightly open so don't try and push it down just let it sit there and rely on pressure from the lid to hold it down while operating it. You also seem to get best results with a nice even pressure on the lid, I use my palms rather than fingers to press down and keep them towards but not right on the end of the lid.

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