15 Things to Know Before You Dehydrate Food
Dehydrating food is one of my favorite ways to conserve fruits and vegetables; I enjoy it very much. Also, f you’ve got a dehydrator in the kitchen that you’ve got, get it out. Because let me tell you, it can do so much more than drive you nuts!
First, let’s back up a bit. What if you don’t have a dehydrator? Well… you have to get one, or if you really must, an oven could work for very few foods. But, the first step in dehydrating your own food is to find a proper dehydrator.
This one, which I’ve used a lot, is around $60. It’s not one of the high-end dehydrators like the Excalibur, but it’s certainly getting the job done. I hope to persuade you to try it because it’s interesting, simple, and flexible. You can comfortably, efficiently, and securely construct full food storage.
Dehydration is an ancient form of food storage. If you extract 90 to 95 percent of the water content from the food, the bacteria that assist in the decomposition process cannot survive.
Your diet is stored in a kind of suspended state, waiting for you to put the water back to fuel your body.
Here are some important things you should know about this great food preserving method.
Let’s dive in.
1. Start by learning your dehydrator
Dehydrators can be classified into three categories: bottom fan, top fan, and back fan. Many people will suggest a back fan dehydrator because it facilitates even drying. However, and with a back fan, you’ll need to switch the trays around to ensure even and constant drying.
2. Materials You Need
You don’t need to use a dehydrator. Interestingly, an open oven or toaster oven at the lowest setting (140-170°F is a common range) may be used to dehydrate some foods. Bear in mind that the oven’s cooking time is longer than the dehydrator, meaning that the formula must be changed.
In fact, several of the recipes involve the dehydrator and oven measures. However, I’ve discovered a dehydrator that makes the operation simpler. Here is a list of the supplies I use to dehydrate the food:
3. About Vacuum Sealed Bags
To store dried food securely, the National Center for Home Food Preservation recommends you to:
- After dehydration, cool food fully (warm food=bacteria)
- Dehydrated food can be packed in either (1) clean canning jars, (2) Tupper freezer with lid, (3) freezer bags, or (4) vacuum seal.
- Store in cold, dry, dark places.
- Dehydrated goods will usually last six months at 80°F or one year at 60°F.
Knowing this, I wanted to vacuum all my dehydrated food products for the trail. This vacuum sealer was used as a minor investment to save hundreds of dollars of dehydrated food.
I strongly recommend vacuum sealing since I think it is the only way to avoid moisture from entering the container, which allows the product to spoil. Conversely, the food must be fully dehydrated for vacuum sealing to function – where there is moisture or condensation, bacteria will develop.
4. Use your oven or air dry if you don't have a dehydrator
Every leafy green – mint, lemon balm, sage, oregano, spinach, or carrot tops – can be air-dried. The herbs are easy to dry. All you’ve got to do is hang them in a dry room.
If you’re using this process, make sure the sun doesn’t touch the herbs. Depending on the herb pack’s size, it will take anything from a few days to a week to absolutely dry. Herbs can be crisply dried and crumble quickly.
5. Do Not Dehydrate…
Stop dehydrating foods rich in calories, such as avocados, butter, milk, and lean meat. The fat content allows the food to go rotten fast, and it’s easier to enjoy the food as it is. Personally, I prefer not to dehydrate these, but I’m pretty sure Google search has the answers on how to dehydrate these. Instead, I’m buying them commercially.
6. Vital Food Safety
The primary goals of dehydration:
- Dehydrate at a high enough temperature to kill enzymes and microorganisms that contribute to dangerous bacteria’s growth.
- Remove moisture at a high enough temperature to deter unhealthy bacteria from developing, but not so hot that it reduces food consistency, such as nutrients, taste, and color.
- Safely store food products, preventing reabsorption of moisture.
Depending on the food component, caution must be taken before and after drying. Usually, the moisture content of the dehydrated food varies from 5% to 20%. Here it is important to note that the preparation is special to each food item. So, do your research on how to dehydrate a given food item to get vital information.
7. Tricks for drying evenly while drying in the same family of food
Strive to have fruit and vegetables cut to the same thickness. And never combine with fruit and vegetable bits, since they disrupt the air passage and keep the food from drying out. The exception is greens since they are quickly loose and dry, even with a few light layers on the tray.
8. You can dehydrate any fruit or vegetable regardless of quality
If everything is too ripe and sluggish, you can still purify it. Although using the best quality fruits and vegetables will result in the best quality of the dried products, note that the aim here is sustainability, not perfection.
Don’t be scared to dehydrate the battered, overripe, and mildly broken items. Just make sure you don’t place the mold in the dehydrator as it will spread and infect the rest of the food.
9. Fruit purees are a good way to store overripe, funny shaped, or damaged fruits
Small apples are stunningly made into fruit leather, and overripe plums, peaches, and berries still perform well in fruit leather. You can mix most of the other fruits with apples to create a versatile leather ideal for snacks and emergency energy.
If you do not have a dedicated puree tray as an extension for your dehydrator, it is easy to cover the usual tray with some cello wrap and dry on it. However, if you are using cello wrap, please make sure to turn the leather before the top is dry to dries entirely on both sides.
10. Drying hot peppers or onions requires your dehydrator outside in a well-ventilated area
Be prepared to clean the dehydrator trays with soap and vinegar. For peppers, the oils will become airborne in the first part of the dehydration period and can be an eye irritant.
The oils will still stay on the trays, so be vigilant when washing them and putting the dried peppers away. Onions are more airborne than peppers, so make sure there’s plenty of airflow around the dehydrator while dealing with them.
11. Berries can be a challenge to dehydrate
They’re small, but they’re a controlled fruit. Many berries are small enough to dry whole, but big grapes can be split in half. If you wish to dry the planted grapes, you should cut them in half to extract the seeds and dry them. Berries can be over-dry quickly, so you want to watch and make sure they’re slightly supple and not too crisp.
12. Different foods will require different dehydration temperatures
Test the dehydrator thermostat to make sure it is correct before starting to dry meat or fish. Often, please try to clean your dehydrator from one family to another or from making meat or fish and some fruit or vegetables.
13. You can also use your dehydrator to make chips
If you’re making some kale chips with oil and spices on them, you’ll want to ensure that the trays are cleaned before they dry fruit or something that doesn’t go along with the garlic.
14. You don't have to waste
One fun way to get the best out of your summer plants, and your dehydrator, is to dry and powder things you would otherwise get rid of. Is there an overabundance of late-season lettuce, chard, beet greens, or carrot tops?
Dry all of them and powder them in a food processor – it makes it easy to store vitamin powder for late winter soups and stews. When you make tomato sauce, take the skins you would usually throw away and dehydrate them.
Then the skins are powdered, and you’ve got your own tomato powder that’s perfect for pouring into sauces or bread. You should dry the skins of tomatoes and hot peppers at the same time if you like a spicy tomato powder.
16. Storage is very important for any preserved food
Place your dehydrated items in heavy-duty zipper bags in a metal tub or store them in a dry, clean glass container. If you want to store in plastic bags in a larger can, keep food families apart.
Don’t try to store the broccoli in the same can as the peaches as an example. If you do, both of them will pick up traces of flavor from the other, which will not taste so well. I consider using Mylar bags for long-term packing.
I realize it’s shocking how much food drying knowledge there is. But, I hope this article will make it easier to understand dehydration fundamentals, including food safety.
Of course, preparing your own dehydrated food will take time, but I love cooking and learning about cooking, so it was fun for me to write this. As this is not the case for everybody, thankfully, some great dehydrated and freeze-dried food businesses are out there. Explore your choices and experiment!
I hope you found this article useful and you found at least one fact you liked and could share. Consider following us on our social media accounts if you would like this article!
I am a survival practitioner, and I have been doing everything possible to prepare for when SHTF since 2009. I am an outdoor enthusiast, and I am a preparedness expert. Learn more