Whether you’re planning to stockpile foods for a family emergency or build up a stash for a possible apocalypse, knowing the ins and outs of food preservation is essential.
You’re not alone if you’ve never dehydrated food before. Dehydrating food is a simple process, but it’s one that takes a little practice to perfect.
In this article, we will help you out by showing you how to dehydrate food effectively so you can have your own pantry full of delicious treats for years to come.
So what exactly is dehydration? How do you choose the right food to dehydrate? And most importantly, how can you make sure your dehydrated foods are safe to eat? These questions will be answered in this article.
If you’re looking to save money and reduce the amount of food you waste, this guide will help you pick the right foods, store them properly, and avoid the most common mistakes.
What Is Dehydrated Food:
What is dehydrated food? Well, it’s food that has been processed in such a way that moisture has been removed. It is sometimes also called dried food.
This can be done through a process of dehydration, which is basically leaving the food without any water. It’s a fairly simple process of food preservation.
The food is most commonly placed on trays or plates and then exposed to low heat for an extended period of time.
The process of exposing the food to low heat causes moisture to evaporate from the food. This means the food is no longer moist and thus “dehydrated.”
Dehydrated food has many benefits over regular food. One of the big advantages is that it will last longer without spoiling. This is especially true if you keep it in a cool, dry place.
Different Dehydration Methods:
While electric dehydrators are the main way people like to dehydrate food these days, there are other options as well.
We are going to go over the different options you can use to dehydrate your food so you have it for long term storage and is not wasted.
What’s an electric food dehydrator? It is a small kitchen appliance that dries fruits, vegetables, and other food items by exposing them to hot air.
As the food dehydrates, it loses its moisture content and becomes crisp and chewy. It is used in place of sun drying or using the oven. The main advantage of using this tool you can use it anywhere and anytime because there is no need to preheat the oven.
There are different kinds of electric food dehydrators available in the market. Some of them are very expensive and some are much cheaper. But you must know that not all dehydrators are created equal.
In fact, some of them may not even be manufactured by well-known companies. So, it is important to know the features that make one product better than another.
How many pounds of food can your dehydrator dry per day? Obviously, the more the merrier! Make sure the capacity of your dehydrator is enough to meet your needs.
Next, let’s talk about temperature control. Most electric food dehydrators have an automatic thermostat that controls the temperature inside the dehydrator. But some of them do not have this feature. If yours does not, then you need to make sure that it can be set to either low or high.
While a food dehydrator is the most common way to dehydrate food you can use the oven. This simple strategy requires no special equipment, only some food and time.
You can use an oven to dry out fruit and vegetables, herbs, and more. All you need to do is spread the food on a baking sheet or wire rack, set the oven to its lowest setting, and wait until the food is dry.
If you like making healthy snacks but don’t have a lot of time, the air fryer is an amazing tool that will save you a ton of time.
Using it as a dehydrator instead of the oven is a great way to preserve and store foods for longer periods of time.
Did you know you can dry aka dehydrate food by just using air? You can simply place things like herbs in net bags or drying racks to dry out.
You can also dry in bunches hung upside down. Simply tie a bundle of things like rosemary together with a string and then hang it upside down until it is dried.
However, this method does not work with all foods. Why? Because it is a much slower way to dry the food. Things like meat and some fruits need to be dried much faster so things like bacteria do not set in before it is dried.
Solar Dehydrator For Food Preservation:
You can also use the sun to dehydrate your food for food preservation. What is solar dehydration? Well, in simple terms, it is a process where food is dried using the sun’s energy. You can use this technique to dehydrate fruits, make dehydrated vegetables, herbs, tea, and even dehydrated meat.
How does solar dehydration work? Well, during the process, the food absorbs the sun’s rays when in direct sunlight and gets heated up which makes the water inside the food evaporate.
This process is very slow at first but, after some time it will speed up as the food dries. This way food dries out and preserves all its natural flavors.
There are a few different ways to do solar dehydration.
Tips to Dehydrate Your Own Foods:
How to dehydrate your own foods depends on the method you choose to use. Each method we named has just slightly different ways of being done. It will also depend on what food you want to dehydrate.
You can use a food dehydrator (in my opinion this is the best way), you can use the oven, you can use the sun, you can use a simple drying rack, and so on.
It’s up to you. Just make sure that whatever method you use, you don’t put the foods on too high of a temperature, or else they will get cooked before they can be dried out.
Also, be careful when you are using a food dehydrator. Make sure the dehydrator is set at the proper temperature and also make sure that the door is closed properly. Don’t forget to rotate the foods every few hours or else all of the foods will not dry out equally and that won’t be good.
Another important thing to remember when dehydrating your own food is to try and cut the pieces into thin slices. That way they will dry faster. You also want to try and cut all the pieces to about the same thickness so they all dry at about the same time.
There are a few tips you can use to achieve that even slicing. One is to use a tool like a mandoline instead of hand cutting with a knife. That way all the pieces will be cut about the same thickness.
If cutting things like meat it actually works best if you slice it when it is slightly frozen. That way it is a little firmer and can be sliced easier.
The next thing you want to remember when drying food is to allow space. Do not pack the trays so the food is super close together or even overlapping. You want to allow them to have a little space between each other so they will dry out properly.
Food Preservation Dehydration Temperatures:
It is super important that your dry your food at the correct temperature. If you don’t dry your food at the correct temperature, you might be putting your food in the “danger zone” for too long and risk bacterial growth.
If you have to speed up the dehydration process, just turning up the heat to higher temperatures is not an option. The only way to speed it up is to start small pieces or thinner pieces.
When you try to turn up the heat to speed it up it toughens up the exterior of foods, but it doesn’t mean it is fully dried. When this happens food will mold or spoil faster.
Always make sure you dry your food until the proper dryness is achieved for you, and test a few pieces to be sure.
Below you will find a guide of what temperatures you should use for each type of food.
- Dry Fruits At 135°F
- Vegetables 125°F
- Herbs 100°F
- Meats 160°F
There is a great deal of variation in temperatures depending on the food. So make sure you are following the correct time for the food you need to dry for safe food preservation.
How to Store Your Dehydrated Foods:
One thing you should consider is how you are going to store your newly-dehydrated foods for safe food preservation. As I mentioned earlier, once foods are dried, they are relatively stable for long-term storage.
However, the way you store them will determine their shelf life. There are three basic options for storing your dried foods.
If you put them in a container or glass jars and seal them tight, they should last a month or two and are fine for short term storage.
If you put them in an air-tight container with a silica gel packet, they should last for several months.
Then there is the method of using a vacuum sealer to store your dehydrated foods. When you use vacuum sealing, it should last as long if not longer than the air-tight container and silica gel packet. Making it a great option for long term food storage.
The two things you should do no matter which way you choose is to store them in a dark, cool place and allow them to cool to room temperature before packaging.
Dehydrated Foods and their Uses:
There are many different kinds of dehydrated foods including dried fruit, nuts, meats, breads, rice, and even vegetables.
Dehydrated foods are great for survival situations for food preservation when you don’t have access to fresh food. They’re perfect for backpacking and camping.
They are great additions to add energy bars, trail mix, and other types of survival foods.
They can also be added to soups, stews, and chili. If you have dehydrated fruit, try adding it to a nice hot bowl of oatmeal, muffins, or some homemade pancakes.
When you add them to your cooking or things like smoothies, the dehydrated foods will absorb the moisture and become rehydrated. That is one of the great things about dehydrated foods as they really are versatile!
What Foods Should You Not Dehydrate:
I don’t think there are any foods that should definitely not be dehydrated. However, there are some that are way riskier to try on your own food preservation at home.
My advice is to err on the side of caution and only use this technique with foods you know are safer to dehydrate at home.
Some of the foods you should not try to dehydrate on your own are;
- Fatty Meats (you should always try and stick with lean meat)
While most of these are available to buy in a dehydrated form of some kind, it is not recommended you try to do it at home.
Big facilities have much better equipment to dry foods much faster than we can at home. Making it much less likely for things like e.coli and botulism and other forms of bacteria to set in before it can be dried out.
If you are wanting to keep dehydrated foods like this on hand you can find them easily online.
However, if you have these items from your own home, farm or homestead, there are other preservation methods you can use at home.
Such as freezing! It is a much safer alternative for preserving these foods. Be sure to check out our tips on Freezing Preservation- Preserve by Freezing.
Food Preservation Conclusion:
In conclusion, dehydration is the process of removing all the water from a food source. This process removes 99.9% of the water content from most foods.
Dehydration is one of the oldest and most effective ways to preserve food. It can be used safely with many different types of food.
During the dehydration process, some food quality and the vitamins, minerals, and other beneficial components may be slightly lost to a degree.
They are also a much more concentrated form of nourishment than their original form. In other words, when you eat dehydrated food, you are getting more nutritional value per unit of food.
This means that you can eat less of it and still get the same amount of nutrition that you would if you were eating the “wet” version.
It is possible to reverse the dehydration process and bring back much of the water value that was removed during the dehydration process. When you use the food in your cooking, drinks, soups, or anything that has a high liquid content.
There are many benefits to eating food that has been stored properly in an unrefrigerated location.
The main benefits are that it will last for a long time. There are three basic guidelines to consider when choosing where to store your food. Choose a location that is: Cool (not freezing), Dark and Dry.
It is recommended that you put your dried foods into airtight containers or plastic bags. This prevents them from coming in contact with oxygen which slows down the rate of oxidation.
In this guide, you will learn about the various kinds of dehydration equipment available. How to use it safely, and the easiest way to get started.