Dehydrating food is one of the best ways to preserve it for the lone term. Learn these 8 tips that anyone serious about dehydrating should know.
Long considered the “holy grail” of preservation, food dehydration is a must-have skill for preppers.
Today we’re going to go beyond the usual instructions to let the food dry and we’re going to give you the inside scoop that’ll have the results of your dehydration efforts looking amazing every time.
In the homesteading and prepper lifestyle, having your food last much longer or not go to waste is pretty dang important, especially if you’re a prepper and your life might depend on it.
It’s never been easier to dehydrate your food without having to compromise on either taste or appearance.
In addition, between the reduced food wasting, the better recipes, and the consistent results, the ability to dehydrate food is a must-have if you’re a prepper or a homesteader.
8 Facts You Should Know About Dehydrating Food
1. Pre-Steaming Can Go A Long Way
As anyone who has done this for a while can tell you, some foods lend themselves to dehydration more naturally than others. However, there are certain vegetables, such as broccoli or certain types of beans that will benefit from pre-steaming before dehydration.
Are you the sort of person who is very particular about how your vegetables look? If you are, pre-steaming or a quick blanching before you dehydrate will allow your veggies to maintain their color and their nutritional content.
2. A Dedicated Machine Isn’t Really Necessary
A quick search on Amazon or Google will show you that food dehydrators are apparently all the rage for folks who are committed to dehydrating their foods. Many of these will cost as much as several hundred dollars. Here’s a little secret that companies don’t want you to know about dehydrating your own food: you don’t have to fork out for your own machine.
The truth is that you can use your oven or your toaster oven to dehydrate your food. If you’re living in a climate that’s up for it, sun drying is another option and in a pinch even a microwave can work for quick-drying foods.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with using a machine if you want to. However, if you’re just trying out food dehydration, there doesn’t have to be any upfront costs either.
3. If You’re Not Team Vacuum Seal…You Should Be
How would your approach to food supplies change if everything you prepared would still be good for up to 20 years? How much food could you store? What kind of an impact would that have on your ability to stretch your food budget?
Well, none of this is hypothetical with vacuum seal.
With other types of storage, moisture can creep back in and mold can sometimes take hold. By using vacuum seal, you’ll be able to ensure maximum freshness for the next 20 years.
4. The Secret To “Done” is Moisture
If you ask us, there’s a simple reason for the reputation that food dehydrating has in certain circles: the food often comes out too dry.
Cookbooks may have themes but at the end of the day most people don’t necessarily want to be navigating the finer points of “Dehydration” cuisine. Similarly, folks want to sit down and enjoy their meals without every bite tasting like the Sahara Desert.
It doesn’t matter if you’re dealing with meat, fruit, or vegetables. Drying food out doesn’t necessarily have to mean removing all of its moisture.
As a general rule your vegetables should be easy to crush at 5% of moisture, fruit should be bendable at about 10% moisture content, and meat can have as much as 20% of its moisture.
5. Separate Your Food Groups
Although it’s normally recommended that you keep your diet balanced with members of all the food groups, but you can and should be ignoring the doc’s advice while you’re dehydrating food.
Drying everything at once may seem more convenient because all the food done in a single batch, but the problem with this is that different foods have different temperatures and required moisture levels. Even without knowing the intimate details of your machine, the results are still likely to turn out uneven.
On the other hand, if you can separate the food groups by type instead of by general categories, that’s even better.
6. Rehydration Takes Time
So you’re getting dinner ready when the tomatoes you dehydrated last year suddenly start to cross your mind. Perfect addition to your rice dish! You’ll just take a quick trip to the basement, toss the tomatoes in and presto!
Well, ok, not quite.
Just like how the process of dehydration can take time, rehydrating has also been known to take several hours. So if you’re planning to use your dehydrated food any time soon, this is a lesson we didn’t want you to learn the hard way.
7. Make Specialty Foods With Dehydration
Dehydrating food isn’t just about storing food for the winter or upcoming lean times. When you decide to dry your food, ironically, it also provides you with a legitimate opportunity to think bigger.
If you’re one of those people who is constantly on the lookout for newer and healthier recipes, this is your chance to creative.
Have you ever thought about making kale chips? Does the idea of making customized beef jerky for family movie night sound interesting?
Food dehydrating doesn’t have to be representative of the same old, boring approach to storing food. It’s also a legitimate opportunity to dust off your spice rack and see what type of snacks you’re able to come up with.
8. The Two C’s of Storage
We touched on this point earlier with the whole discussion on vacuum seal entry, but it can’t be stressed enough. The quality of your storage can really make or break your efforts.
If moisture creeps into your containers or if the food is left in an environment that’s too warm, the food may start going bad within just a few days.
So when it comes to storage, it all comes down to the two C’s and one D. Cool, Clean, and Dry are the essential keys that you have to remember. If the plan is to use the garage as storage, don’t forget to make sure that your packaging is tear-proof.
One of the best parts about homesteading is the opportunity it gives you to acquire new skills. Not all of your talents are going to be needed all at once, but when you’re looking at an abundant harvest or a crop that may otherwise go to waste, food dehydration is an ability that can go from interesting to practical really quickly.
Acquiring food without a grid to rely on can be a feast or famine exercise. Luckily, if you can make the most of the good times, managing food during lean times becomes that much easier to do.
On that note, if an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, knowing how to dehydrate your own food is worth its weight in gold.