July 22, 2013
Gear Review: The GameSaver Silver Vacuum Sealing System
By David Draper
Last fall I replaced my Cabela’s CG-15 vacuum sealer with a new model from FoodSaver—the GameSaver Silver (GS-500), which is marketed toward sportsmen. I had originally picked up the CG-15 as a refurbished unit in Cabela’s Bargain Cave, but after probably a decade of hard use that included several elk, a couple dozen deer, a few bear and antelope, and several seasons worth of geese and ducks, it was starting to show some wear and tear. When the folks at FoodSaver reached out offering a test model of their GameSaver Silver, I was happy to take them up on it. If nothing else, I wouldn’t have to cart that beast of vacuum sealer that was the CG-15 up and down my stairs anymore.
One problem I’ve had with a lot of vacuum sealer—including so-called “commercial-grade” models—is that after a season or two of intensive use they start to suck, in that they lose some of their vacuum pressure. You might get the device to remove a lot of the air, but it doesn’t have that extra oomph to really get a good, airtight package. So far, I’ve sealed a couple of deer, one antelope, countless ducks, geese, and pheasants, and about 50 pounds of redfish fillets—and the GameSaver Silver still has enough suck to flatten an empty aluminum can, as you can see in the accompanying photo.
Of course, there’s also the case of too much vacuum, especially when you’re sealing soft or delicate foods. That’s where the GameSaver’s seal override button comes in. While sealing these pheasant sausages, I was able to stop the vacuum pressure before it flattened the tubed meat by hitting the oversized seal button.
Other features I like are the handle and locking lid, which makes toting the lightweight unit easy and makes me more likely to pack the thing along on extended hunting trips. It also comes with a 12-volt adapter cord to run off a vehicle’s electrical accessory port, or, to us old timers, the cigarette lighter plug. I am a little concerned about the ruggedness of the GameSaver’s construction, but so far it’s survived nearly a year of my handling, which is saying something.
There are a few things I don’t like: The heat bar seems like it takes a long time to seal, longer than any other units I’ve tested. Some online reviewers have also complained about a tendency for the unit to overheat and shut down for a period of anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes. I personally haven’t had that problem, even when packaging an entire deer’s worth of meat, but it is worth noting.
Of course, there’s also the problem with sealing fish, chicken, or other high-moisture items. As the vacuum is running, the liquid is sucked to the top of the bag preventing the heat bar from creating a full seal. Every vacuum sealer I’ve ever used has this same problem, although the GameSaver Silver seems to be even more finicky than most. I usually combat this with either a folded-up piece of paper towel placed inside the bag or by stopping the vacuum and sealing the bag before the moisture makes it way to the seal bar. FoodSaver does sell Liquid Block bags that feature a moisture-absorbing pad. I’ve used them and they do work, but at a buck per bag, I’ll stick with my more primitive, cheaper methods.