Drying food preservation lets you prepare more interesting dishes and eat healthier – vegetables and fruits retain most of their nutritional value after dehydration. Food dehydration can change the way we treat products in our kitchen.
What is very important, with a food dehydrator you will be able to preserve your vegetables and fruit harvest and not throw away food surplus. Good for you, good for environment.
It is also a wise choice to have some food stack prepared for unexpected situations. You can keep dried food for a relatively long time. Food dehydrator might be just a perfect choice for that.
And last, but not least – have a lighter backpack while you go hiking or backpacking. Dehydrated food for backpacking is well known choice of many outdoor lovers. So, yes, dehydrated food is good for you. And for the environment.
Food Dehydration In Simple Words
Food drying is a simple process if you have the right equipment. A food dryer in the kitchen can be a very useful device to help you eat healthier and, especially during the cold season, diversify your diet with dehydrated products.
Here are some practical observations about using the dryer for drying foods:
1. How to store dehydrated food?
The average dryer model in the market occupies no more space than a microwave oven. Push unused kitchen utensils sideways, the fruit dryer will fit in any kitchen.
By the way, one doesn’t need to dry only in the kitchen. Any premise with average 18-22°C (64-72°F) room temperature will be acceptable.
Dried food “shrinks” more than twice. So, one cabinet shelf will be enough to store a substantial amount of food.
2. “Best before…” How long dehydrated food can be stored?
The season of fresh fruit and vegetables might be quite short. Food drying can extend this season all year long. If you have the right storage conditions, you can store stocks of dried fruit and vegetables for up to 12 months.
We saw indications in the food drying literature that you can store dried food for more than 1 – 3 year.
What’s the taste?
And we tested it with dried strawberries. The taste was still perfect. However, it is important to check the quality of your dehydrated meals if you store it and do not eat all of your stock during the winter.
3. What is dehydrated food?
Answer is simple – it’s food with most of it’s moisture removed.
You can dry almost anything in the dryer. And this is a great advantage. If you have too much fruit or vegetables – dry them.
If you have mushrooms – you can prepare a mixture of dried mushrooms for a stew and place in a cupboard. We can extend this list more and more.
4. Cheap preparation
The fruit dryer uses little electricity. If the air in the room is not wet or cold, the device, for example, will dry 2.5 kg (5.5 lbs) bananas for about USD 1.70 – 2.20. Of course – these numbers are very average and depend on many conditions.
However, compared to the prices of dried food in stores, the economy is obvious.
5. Onions with bananas (…and horizontal airflow dehydrators)
Do you know, that you can use horizontal air flow food dryers to simultaneously dry very different products.
Smells don’t mix, everything stays in its place.
6. Really simple process
Drying food preservation using the average dryer available on the market is very simple. It is really difficult to damage drying products or deteriorate their quality in any way.
Can you burn it?
If the product happens to be too wet or too dry, you will have to dry for a few more hours, or dip it in the water for a short time before use. Unlike in the oven, you will never burn the food dried in the dryer.
7. “I know what I eat”
The fruit dryer lets you use your garden goodies for longer than just a vegetation season.
You can dry the surplus and you will always know what you eat. You need no preservatives, not even salt.
Advice for raw foodies:
Use food dryer at a temperature not exceeding 40°C (104°F) when drying food. Drying will last longer, but the food will not be heat-treated. Comparison – if you dry naturally in the sun, the temperature also reaches 35-40°C (95-104°F) heat.
How To Dehydrate Food at Home
Drying food preservation is one of the oldest methods of harvest preservation.
However, it is, perhaps, pushed aside a bit by other food preservation methods at the moment, but it is no less beneficial and attractive way to preserve your food and develop culinary skills.
Here are some useful, practical tips for drying fruits and other foods at home.
How much moisture remains in the product?
In properly dried foods, the moisture content can range from 5 percent up to 25 percent of product mass. Apart from the natural moisture content of the product itself, successful drying also depends on the following additional factors:
- During the drying food preservation process, the air must be heated to evaporate the moisture, but not reach the baking temperature.
- Air humidity of the room in which it is dried. If the environment is wet, the dryer will absorb and warm the humid air, which will slow down the drying process.
- Suitable air circulation inside the dryer during the drying cycle.
Successful drying of fruit and vegetables requires proper temperature
If you dry food, it is essential to choose the right temperature to ensure that you can remove the moisture content of the product as quickly as possible. The temperature should be such that the taste, texture and color of the product are not severely affected.
If the temperature during the drying food preservation cycle will be too low, microorganisms in the food can survive and even multiply until the food becomes sufficiently dry and microbial processes slow down.
On the other hand, if the temperature is too high and the product is not very moist, its surface can harden quickly. The hard surface prevents moisture from leaving the product and the food dries out insufficiently.
Although drying is a fairly simple way of preserving food, it is obvious that it is not possible to set universal drying rules for all products.
The test and error method, as always, is the best way to master the subtleties of food drying.
Who Can Benefit From Drying Food Preservation?
Hobbyist gardener, willing to preserve his own vegetables and fruit for the winter, as well as all gardening lovers who grow tomatoes, cucumbers and various leafy vegetables on the balconies and rooftops of apartment buildings.
The food dryer is also suitable for preppers who buy seasonal vegetables in the market and prepare their long-term storage. You can save money buying vegetables and fruit in bulk quantities when it is their season and storing them for later use.
For a healthy food lover, a raw foodie or a vegetarian – a person who chooses products with great care and knows what kind of food he needs. The food dryer enriches the diet with natural-prepared, healthy and nutritious products.
For hiking, cycling or kayaking. Dried meat, vegetables and fruit products are used as an extremely nutritious, lightweight and uncomplicated answer to the question – what is best for breakfast, lunch and dinner when you’re in the wild?
For anyone who prefers a taste of garden vegetables more than the taste of those bought in the supermarket. Dry your own vegetables during the season, and enjoy the stock in the autumn and winter.
Professional chef. Dried fruits and vegetables are not just for hobbyist kitchens. You can discover new flavors, tastes and colors by using dried products in the kitchen. Worth mentioning, that food dehydration allows you to serve non-seasonal vegetables or fruits on the table.
Drying Food – How Long Does It Take?
Drying food preservation process must be smooth and gentle. We don’t want to roast or cook our vegetables or fruits. Therefore the dehydration process can take anywhere from 10 to 20 or more hours, depending on the size and moisture of the pieces, to be dried. Room humidity and temperature also plays a significant role here.
By setting the temperature to 104-131°F (40-55°C), you will prevent the product from being damaged by overheating. Nutritious elements and vitamins mostly remain in the product because you don’t damage the product structure. In other words, after dehydration, the products are still in the raw state but have lost a large part of their water content.
How Much Electricity Does a Dehydrator Use?
Food dehydrator is an electric appliance. So eventually you will have some electricity costs.
Energy consumption is something that you should check before buying food dehydrator.
The average energy consumption may vary depending not only on dehydrator model, but also on the room temperature.
If the room is cold, thermostat will make the heater and the fan work much more intense in order to achieve desired drying temperature. The key takeaway from this – put your dehydrator in the house, not in the garage or cellar.
As mentioned before, average energy consumption, however, should not make you more than 1.70 – 2.20 USD per 24 hours of drying. Wrapping everything up, it is still considerable less than buying raw food or beef jerky in supermarket or do dehydration process in conventional oven.
How Do I Know When a Product Is Already Dry?
Drying food preservation allows you to experiment. There is no single rule, since the “proper” level of dryness will always depend on the product you are drying and when you intend to eat it.
For example, if you intend to eat the dried snacks immediately after removing them from the food dryer, the products may have more moisture as they will not be stored for a long time.
So, if you are going to eat dried products immediately, it is advisable not to dry them to a crunchy state. Unless you want to make yourself healthy vegetables or fuit chips of course. Most dried foods should have about 20 percent of the remaining moisture. This will make it easier and more delicious to eat.
How should I check the moisture content of the product?
Precise measurement would require equipment that is not usually found in the kitchen. However, it is also possible to determine the correct or to high humidity of the product in the following simple ways:
- Cut a few pieces of dried product in half. Inspect the inner part – you should not see any traces of moisture, and the product should not have moisture on the surface.
- Some fruits and berries, such as bananas or strawberries, remain flexible, but no longer sticky or gummy.
- If one piece of the dried product is cut in half, one side must not stick to the other when squeezed between fingers.
10 Drying Food Preservation Tips
In order to enjoy the fruits and vegetables during the cold season, it is necessary to take care of their drying and storage.
Preparation for drying:
Choose only good quality fruits and vegetables. As in the case of canning or freezing, the dried products will be good and delicious as long as they are good and delicious before drying. For drying it is best to choose a fully mature, non-shattered fruit and vegetables. Just like what you would like to eat here and now.
Prepare the products you want to eat. It means that if you intend to eat dried apples as a delicious apple chips, chop them into appropriate pieces. However, if, for example, you want to produce fruit snacks, crush the fruit into the mash before drying and put a solid mass in the dryer.
Try to cut products into pieces of uniform size and thickness. Evenly cut products slices will dry at the same pace. Thin slices dry faster than thicker.
Avoid brown color: before drying, you can treat light colored fruits and vegetables with steam, or use a low concentration solution of lemon or ascorbic acid (vitamin C). We also recommended to steam or blanch vegetables before drying. This slows the enzymes chemical reactions.
During the drying process:
Select the appropriate drying mode and temperature. As mentioned earlier, there is no universal drying mode for all products. Experiment and discover the most suitable for you.
Check if the products dry already. Typically, using the pre-programmed drying cycles, the food dryer completes the drying cycle automatically (like your washing machine).
However, we advise you to to open the dryer during the process, pull out random tray and check – maybe this time slices are thinner and you may dry shorter than the last time.
Let the dried fruit cool and do conditioning: if you plan to store dried foods for a longer period of time and pack everything into vacuum containers or bags, allow it to “breathe” for several days before doing so. Why do you need that?
When you remove the product from the dryer, it still has some moisture (which is normal) which may vary according to the size and thickness of the pieces.
While you ventilate, the moisture is distributed evenly across all the pieces, so you can reduce the likelihood of mold or rot occurring later, when you pack the food in a vacuum package.
Ventilate the dried fruit as described in point 7 by placing the dried fruits removed from the dryer in plastic or glass containers. Do not overfill, dried products should remain a bit loose inside to let circulate the air inside the vessel. Do not close.
Close and check the containers after several days. It is enough time for the pieces with more moisture to “transfer” them to the drier pieces, thus ensuring a uniform moisture throughout the product and avoiding mold.
Shake the containers occasionally to separate the pieces from each other and check for moisture (condensate) in the container. If you spot it, you will have to return the product back to the dryer and further dry it.
Of course, there is always an alternative to eat product right now and dry the next batch for long-term storage.
After conditioning, pack and store dried products in a dry and dark place. For more packaging and storage tips, see our peace of content HERE…
Dehydration of Vegetables and Fruits
Crispy beet-root chips. Dried tomatoes. Apple chips. When it comes to food dehydration, dehydrated vegetables and fruit play the most significant role.
Have you ever tried any of those three products mentioned above? We have, and we can say with confidence that intense and fresh flavor of dried products will make you raise your eyebrows.
Making dehydrated vegetables and fruit is relatively simple process of withdrawing moisture from your products.
More About Intense Flavor of Dehydrated Vegetables
Dehydrated vegetables may have increased aroma level because drying food preservation removes most of the water content (approx. 7-15% of water remains). Even though some aroma is lost, it now “spreads” over the decreased product mass. As a result, dehydrated foods taste more intense than the original product.
A room where you dehydrate gets the scent of the products you put inside. Banana and strawberry aroma might not be a problem at all. However, consider the smell factor when you dry onions or make beef jerky.
How To Dehydrate Vegetables? Preparation Steps
There are many fruits and vegetables that can be dried – onions, zucchini, carrots, beets, dill, apples, pears, strawberries, bananas. Product to be dried can be chosen according to season, your taste and need, but regardless of what fruit or vegetable you choose, it is advisable to consider some basic rules:
- Fruit and vegetables are picked up ripe (but not overripe) and mature, – the dried product will be the most delicious and of the best quality.
- Harvested fruit or vegetables gradually begin to change their color, taste, texture, sugar and nutritional qualities. To stop these changes, prepare the products for drying immediately and start drying.
- Wash thoroughly and wipe dry products. Dry well. If you are drying vegetables with leaves, make sure that there is no dirt between the leaves.
- Find the products that have started to rot. Crushed fruits or vegetables, softened and blackened on the sides, should also not be dried.
Zucchini, pumpkins, tomatoes, mushrooms, potatoes, cabbage, chili peppers, bell peppers – all can find their way to the dryer. We have prepared some simple and clear recommendations and you might find it useful.
Rehydrate Dried Vegetables
Unlike dried fruits, most dried vegetables are recommended to be rehydrated before use to regain their shape and smell. When measuring the amount of ingredients in a dish, note that, for example, if one glass of dried vegetables is rehydrated in water, the volume of rehydrated product may increase almost twice, i.e. already have two glasses of the product!
Use rehydrated vegetables for garnish or fillings. If you prepare soup, or put dehydrated vegetables in the stew or sauce – you do not need to rehydrate them. There is also no need to rehydrate leafy vegetables.
Do not leave dried vegetables in water for too long, otherwise they will become too soft, will lose taste and appearance.
How To Dry Fruits at Home?
There are many fruits to dehydrate. And you would like to try most of them.
Apples, pears, plums, cherries, strawberries, bananas, pineapples, and many other fruits that you dry will make delicious and sweet snacks.
Fruit drying in a dryer is a popular way to preserve any kind of fruits, as well as to diversify your diet throughout the year by using your own garden goods and fruits from the supermarket.
We have prepared some short drying food preservation recommendations for the most common fruits and berries. Every single one of them can be easily made into healthy and crispy snacks.
Want to get rid of artificial sweets and excessive amounts of bad carbohydrates? Dehydrated fruits come here to help you. Several pieces of dried banana are perfect replacement for that afternoon cookie.
Cut whole apples or apples without peel and core into slices 6-8 mm thick. It is all it takes to prepare healthy apple chips! Dried apples are also suitable for use in bakery or dried fruit mixes, etc. In addition, apples contain a lot of fiber, especially if the peel is not being removed.
Preparation is the same as apples. Small sweet fruits can be dried half cut, larger fruits – sliced. Perfect for eating as a TV snack without any additional additives or for use in baked goods, fruit salads and dried fruit mixes.
Cut in half and remove the dice. You would like to do blanching by briefly putting plums in boiling water for 30-60 seconds before drying. Blanching helps to soften the peel so you can dry plums much more successful and quicker. You can eat dehydrated plums as they are, or use in bakery or dried fruit mixes.
Exotic Fruits to Dehydrate
You should peel the pineapple and cut it into slices about 6-10 mm thick. Flip the slices of the fruit periodically to avoid sticking to the drying tray. The pineapple has a lot of water content, so dehydrated pineapples will reduce significantly in size, but retain excellent aroma, taste and color. Eat it as a healthy snack, or put into fruit salads or dried fruit mixtures.
Dehydrated banana is one of our most favorite dried snacks. Taste and smell are very intense and pleasant. Want to make your own dried banana chips? You would like to cut them into slices not more than 5-7 mm thick. You can use a sheet of baking paper to avoid product sticking to dehydrator trays.
Dried bananas are a bit brown and get sticky due to the very high content of natural sugar. The best substitute for those who love to chew something sweet constantly!
These are a very easy fruits to dehydrate. Depending on the size of the fruit, you should cut it in half, or into large slices and remove the stone. Flip frequently while drying. It is not necessary to peel before drying, although it might prolong drying cycle a bit.
Dried peaches and nectarines are healthy dessert, perfect for use in bakery products, dried fruit mixes and more.
Kiwi is another easy fruit to dehydrate. You should peel it and cut into slices about 7-10 mm thick or divide the fruit along in four parts. It is necessary to flip from time to time to avoid sticking to the dehydrator tray. Dried kiwi retains pleasant color which makes it a tasty deserts decoration. Dehydrated kiwi retains very intense taste. Perfect for use in various bakery recipes, dried fruit mixes and more.
Dried persimmons lose their bitterness. You should only cut them into slices of 7-10 mm thick. Even better, if you dry not fully ripe fruit. The taste of dehydrated persimmons will be more intense. Dried persimmons have excellent taste and retain their color. You can eat them as a snack or put into dried fruit mix.
Home made raisins?
Why not. Just know that grapes dry slowly due to the rather thick skin. You can speed up the process by keeping the berries in boiling water for 10-20 seconds before drying. Raisins can be used in lots of recipes, eaten raw, or even used for brewing. You can also use them in mixtures with nuts.
You should cut in half and pit the apricot before putting it into a food dryer. Overgrown fruits may become brown after drying, but this does not harm their pleasant taste. Dehydrated apricots are one of the most beloved fruits to dehydrate. Suitable for chewing while watching TV or as an outdoor snack. Also widely used in cakes and other bakery.
You would like to dry orange with peel. Cut it into slices approximately 5 mm thick. Because of the high level of fructose, oranges may stick to the drying pad, so should be flipped from time to time.
Orange is perhaps the only fruit on this list, which you will not eat when it’s dehydrated. So why to dry oranges? Because you can used dehydrated oranges as a decoration, especially for Christmas decorations, as well as for various pastries. You can also grind and use the orange-flavored powder to spice up cakes and biscuits.
Not Exactly Fruits To Dehydrate, But Perfect Fit
You would like to cut larger berries into slices. The smaller ones may be cut halfway. You can even try to dry very small berries without cutting them, but keep in mind that this will require a longer drying period. Do not use too high temperatures to preserve the natural color of the product. Something around 45°C (113°F) will do just fine.
Dried strawberries are a perfect fit for a variety of snacks, yogurt, as well as energy bars and teas. Or you can just grind them and use to spice up various bakery dishes.
You should cut the berries in half and pit them. Although it is not an easy process to pit large amounts of cherries, you will be rewarded with a very intense taste and aroma of dehydrated cherries. Perfect for herbal teas as well as addition to any sweets.
What Foods Are Not Suitable For Drying Food Preservation?
So, what should stay away from dehydrator? Can the fruit dryer dry milk?
Yes, fruit dryer can dry milk. Like cheese, butter or even fruit juice. Drying food at home can be an endless experiment. The other question is, will you enjoy the result you get from drying these products? So, what foods can you dehydrate?
It’s good to know, that almost all fruit and vegetables, as well as many other products or even pasta, are very suitable for drying. Using a food dehydrator you will evaporate most of the water contents from food and have a delicious and long lasting product.
However, you should keep some products away from the dehydrator in your home kitchen. What are these products?
Inclusion of products in the list below does not necessarily mean that they cannot be dried. You can dehydrate them, but the result may be disappointing, and the quality of the dried product will quickly deteriorate, so you won’t be able to prepare lettuce for winter storage.
You won’t get good results by drying these products at home
If you’re considering what foods can you dehydrate, below is a quick read about some of the products we tried and failed to dehydrate successfully:
If you love avocados, better eat them without waiting for anything. You can dry avocados, but we would not advise such an option. Because it is a high-fat product, it quickly gets bitter and deteriorates fast after being dried. So, eat avocados without drying.
You can try, but you won’t like it. In this case, unfortunately, drying olives will only be a spoil of a good food. Recommendation – prepare dried tomatoes, zucchini, and carrot salads at the end of the season, and add some fresh olives on top.
Here we are talking particularly about lettuce. Other leafy vegetables and herbs, such as spinach, dill, and many others, are perfect for drying and do not lose their valuable properties. Meanwhile, drying lettuce leaves will give you something similar to hay.
Various fruit juices
Want to try juice drying? It would be a really interesting experiment. It’s a lot of fun to get a freshly squeezed orange juice concentrate, mix it with water and bring to the table as fresh orange juice. Here is the theory.
In practice, powdering of juices or other liquids is a complex technological process that would be difficult to perform with quality if you use a usual household food dryer.
So, buy fresh fruit, squeeze juice, dry them, make jams, marmalade, but don’t put the juice in the dryer. The result may not meet expectations.
This product will give you a lot of hassle while drying and the result will not be suitable for long-term storage in the cabinet. The more fat the meat has, the more difficult it is to remove moisture and make it suitable for long-term use.
Fish, poultry, lean meat – are much easier to dry. With a little experimentation you can get great results!
How to make milk powder? For home drying we advise you to use less than 1% fat milk. However, not many nutrients remain in such a lean milk after its pasteurization at ultra-high temperature.
So, you can try to make milk powder at home from such a raw material, but the taste might be not very pleasing and nutritional value will be questionable.
At home, butter and cheese are sometimes dried. There is also a lot of fat in them, so, just like with fatty meat, at home butter or fermented cheese can be dried only for sake of kitchen experiments.
However, much better idea is to dry cottage cheese with caraway!