How To Store Dehydrated Food – Principles, Actions and …Moisture
Dehydrated vegetables and fruit allow you to accumulate sufficient vitamin reserves until the coming season of fresh harvest. However, if you dry large quantities of food in the food dryer, you must take care to store them properly. So, what is the best way to store dehydrated food?
It is very important to say that the way of how you store dehydrated food plays the critical role in the shelf life of your stock. Below you will find:
- Most important principles of storing dehydrated fruit and vegetables.
- Commonly used appliances for storing dried fruit.
Just follow these trusted principles and choose the best storage method that suits your needs and requirements.
Here are some practical tips on how to store dehydrated food removed from a food dryer. How to properly pack dried vegetables and fruits, where and how long can they be stored?
How To Store Dehydrated Food In Mason Jars?
- Use mason jars for short term kitchen storage only.
- Take the food out with dry spoon or use plastic gloves to keep moisture away.
- Store at stable room temperature.
- Keep away from light.
Mason jars look nice in any kitchen. Almost any kind of products can be stored in mason jars and dehydrated food is no exception. We advise choosing mason jars for daily use of dried products.
Even if you store dried products in larger batches, you can open that large storage only occasionally. Just take out as much dehydrated food as you need for a week or two and store it in mason jars.
It’s more convenient this way than constantly opening your main storage. It is possible to store dehydrated food in mason jars even for a longer time than one or two weeks if the temperature and humidity are not too high in your kitchen.
Mason jars usually do a good job of protecting dehydrated food from direct moisture, flies, and bugs, as well as from direct light. You should wash and dry mason jars carefully before storing dehydrated food. Any remains of moisture or smell of previously stored products will decline your product quality.
Open the lid only when you need to take out some dried products. After that close it carefully and put away from heat and sunlight.
Other Dried Food Storage Containers
Key takeaway: storage types such as airtight bags, glass jars, plastic containers or even vacuum sealing technology are well suited for dehydrated food long term storage.
Mylar bag is a very popular storage choice for long term dehydrated food storage. You can find these bags with already prefabricated closing seals or you can simply just seal them by using iron. The last option is perhaps even more convenient since you can get the bag size you want. Sealed mylar bag completely prevents air circulation inside the package. So you can store dehydrated food for extended periods in such environment, especially if you keep The Big Five Principles described above.
As always, products containing more fat, like meat, can only be stored up to one year. Low-fat products, such as fruits can be stored for several years and vegetables even longer.
Glass jars with lids
Perfect for long or short term storage. If you put a conditioned and well dried food inside and close the lid tightly, glass jar will be almost as perfect storage as vacuum sealed bag. Glass lets the light in, so keep away from sunlight.
Plastic containers and boxes
Use food grade plastic. There is no workaround to this. You don’t want some dangerous chemicals would get into your dehydrated food during long term storage. The plastic container must have an airtight lid. As discussed above, it is advisable to choose smaller boxes or containers. However, you can use large boxes as a storage for many separate packages of dried food packed in vacuum sealed plastic bags, smaller plastic boxes or jars.
Vacuum sealing technology
Dehydrated food vacuum storage is probably the most expensive way to store your food long term. If you keep all recommendations indicated in this post, most likely you will be more than fine without vacuum machine and airtight bags. However, if you are ready to invest a bit more, this technology has a lot to offer.
Vacuum Sealing Dehydrated Food
So you buy a vacuum machine, special vacuum bags and in addition to that you pay for electric power to make it all work. What do you get out of this?
Just to assure you again, vacuum sealing of dehydrated food is not absolutely necessary for long term storage. Just keep The Five Big Principles discussed above and you will be fine. However, by causing you additional expenditure vacuum sealer gives the following advantages and savings:
Extend storage term
It is no secret – vacuum sealed dehydrated food has the longest storage term. Since this method removes oxygen from the package, anaerobic environment is created. This prevents bacteria and mold from spoiling dehydrated food.
Keep in mind that it is impossible to completely eliminate bacteria in house conditions. So, there will be bacteria in your dehydrated food, however, vacuum sealing will considerably slow down its spread.
Save money by storing more
Longer storage term means you can prepare more reserves of dehydrated food and consume it during a longer period.
This enables you to buy food in bulk quantities and save money this way. It makes a real difference in the long term if you make it into a habit.
Organize your storage better
Vacuum sealed food reserves require considerably less storage pace.
It is important when you want to store large amounts of products. If you keep your dehydrated food in a fridge, vacuum sealing also helps to save some energy, because you can put more products in one fridge without needing to extend freezing capacities.
Long Term Food Storage – How Long?
- No matter how long dehydrated food has been stored – it still must smell, look and taste as… Food.
- You are responsible to evaluate and decide.
People frequently ask us this question. It would be nice, if we could answer by giving trusted and exact shelf life terms.
However, the best way to store dehydrated food and its shelf life are closely related topics. Read more about main principles of dehydrated food long term storage below.
And here, let us talk first about the magic number of days (months, years?) your dehydrated food can be stored and used safely.
How long will dehydrated food last?
We tried to answer this question based on preselected periods of time and certainty with which we can be sure, that after this period dehydrated food will still be in good condition. That’s of course, if you kept in mind food storage recommendations!
3 to 6 months? Sure, no problem!
You can store dried food without any problems during this period. Dehydrated food is still rich in nutrients and amount of nutrients will be still the same after half a year. Some say dried vegetables and beef jerky are best up to six months only. Sure, you will lose some taste after this period, but you will still be really happy with the overall quality of your stock. Just remember to avoid some crucial mistakes, such as…
Storing dehydrated fruit and vegetables in non-airtight containers or bags! If you let air pass through your stock, it will bring moisture. And moisture is enemy No. 1 when we talk about dehydrated food quality.
Up to 12 months? Absolutely, just remember to keep the main storage principles
The recommendation is to finish your dehydrated food within 12 months. It makes sense after all!
Think about it. If you dehydrate fruit and vegetables during the season, you can stock up until the next season. This way you will maintain the best quality of your dehydrated food and resupply your reserves with fresh and crispy products from the garden when the season comes!
It is normal if over time dried food will lose the crunchy effect. It may happen, especially if you open storage quite often, take out some dried food and seal it again.
Some moisture will get in. Dehydrate it again or pack dehydrated food in small quantities.
As a general rule, dehydrated fruits and dried herbs may be stored for 12 months. You can even put airtight containers into freezer to slow down micro organisms from doing their job. However, usually storing food at room temperature is enough.
Between 1 and 3 years? It’s possible, however…
We have tried strawberries dehydrated 2.5 years ago. We also tried mushrooms dehydrated 3 and even 4 years ago. It was good. Actually, the smell and taste were almost the same as if those products were dried three or five months ago. The taste as well.
Food will lose some of its value, look and taste after such period on the shelf. However, it will be good to eat. Just be sure to inspect it very well before producing your meals. Look for:
- Smell it. The Golden kitchen rule is – Don’t Use Anything That Doesn’t Smell Good!
- Look for mold. There must be none.
- Check general condition. Does it still look like good food to eat?
If you store products for longer periods, don’t forget to make labels with packaging date. Dehydrated food in your storage which has an earlier packaging date should be used before the food with the later date.
20 years plus? Are you sure you want to try this?
Honestly, we have never tried it. Please leave a comment about your experience if you have. Some sorts of products, such as apples or herbs, are more suitable for long term storage. However, anything above 5 years is already considered as very long term storage.
Take extra care before eating such dehydrated products.
What about fridge?
It is a good choice if you have enough space and technical capacities. Freezer temperature should not go below 41°F (5°C) and should be stable. This way you can store very well dehydrated food in airtight or vacuum bags for even longer periods of time. Just keep in mind added storage expenses for electricity and, possibly, additional fridge.
So, how long can you store dehydrated food? 6 months? 1 year? 20 years? It depends on what quality you expect to have when you open dried food jar after a certain period of time.
How To Dehydrate Food For Long Term Storage
- Choose top quality products for dehydration.
- Open and reseal rarely.
- Store at stable room temperature.
- Keep away from light.
- Keep away from moisture as hard as you can.
Food dehydration is a well known technique, tried and tested by humans for ages. And these are the principles you need to follow if you want to prevent formation of mold and enjoy good results.
The main principles – Let’s call them The Big Five
1. Product Quality
Food dehydration does not increase product quality.
So, if you put spoiled product into food dehydrator, the result will not be as good as it would be with top quality product.
Of course it is OK to slice and dehydrate handful of forgotten tomatoes in your fridge or several overripe bananas.
What we are saying is, that products intended for long term storage should be of the highest quality possible. Dehydrated fruits and vegetable quality deteriorate with time, so choose the best starting quality you can.
It is impossible to avoid oxygen using simple home preservation techniques. All you can do is to put your dehydrated food in airtight containers. Reopen and reseal as rarely as possible. Each new contact with fresh air brings new portion of moisture into your storage container. Just pack smaller portions of dehydrated products, which you can consume one time without needing to reseal it again.
More sophisticated way could be a vacuum sealing method. We discuss it at the end of this post.
Storage temperature should not fluctuate over time. It should remain within the same range, couple degrees more or less.
Cool or warm?
Cooler temperature is better for long term storage. Mold and bacteria are more active at higher temperatures.
There is really no need to put your dried food into freezer. To be on the safe side just keep your storage at room temperature of 65-73°F (18-23°C).
NOTE: “room” is the important word here. Neither cellar nor garage is suitable for long term dehydrated food storage.
Keep your storage of dehydrated food away from light. Light is life, bacteria and mold is life too. And we want to avoid this kind of life in our storage. You may use containers which do not let any light in.
However, you can choose any transparent airtight containers or jars if you wish. Just put them where there is no direct sunlight. Or, even better, no permanent light source at all.
What dehydration does? Correct, it removes almost all moisture from the product, thus letting you to store this food for much longer periods of time.
So, it is a very good idea not letting moisture come back. If dehydrated food is exposed to moisture source or even air with high humidity, mold and bacteria will definitely come in. And ruin all your stocks. Principle number five is perhaps most important for long term food storage.
You must never let moisture come back to your dehydrated food during storage time.
What can you do to avoid it?
Actually, a lot. Right after dehydration of fruits, you should put them into plastic boxes, mason or glass jars loosely. Do not cover tightly and let them ventilate for at least couple of days. Check for any signs of water condensate and dry again if you noticed any.
Why? You will never get the same size and same humidity pieces of dehydrated product. The bigger ones remain more humid and increases chances of mold. Ventilation helps to spread remaining moisture equally in all dried pieces of product and reduce possibility of product spoilage.
If you keep The Big Five principles, last important step is proper packaging for long term storage. Next we will speak about the best ways how to store dehydrated food.
Questions About Packaging Dehydrated Fruit and Vegetables
You will notice, that some answers almost directly repeat The Big Five Principles discussed above. This only proves how important those principles are if you want to dehydrate food for long term storage. So, let’s answer some of your questions!
Q: Food looks dry. Can I package it immediately after dehydration?
Packaging your dehydrated food right after drying process would be a mistake. The heat, remaining in pieces of your dried product must go away first. This is because the heat can, and most likely, will cause water condensation inside jars, if you package your food not completely dried.
Q: What is conditioning and how should I do it correctly?
When we say, that dried fruit must be conditioned, we basically mean that you should leave dehydrated fruit not packaged in vacuum jars or lids before the remaining moisture spreads evenly through all pieces.
Jar without lid
Of course you can put them into jars but do not fill them up to the top and do not cover the lid tightly. Just let the dried fruits breathe a bit before you close the lid for long term storage.
Q: Do I need conditioning for dried veggies?
No, you do not, if you dried them properly. As stated by food professionals at The Pennsylania State University, consistency of dried vegetables lets us store them directly after dehydration is over.
Simply check for any signs of moisture. If you see none, put your dehydrated vegetables directly into airtight containers or jars. Properly dried vegetables should be crisp and you should be able to brake peaces between your fingers easily.
Q: Does dehydrated food lose its quality when stored in large batches?
The size of the batch doesn’t directly relate to food quality. However, larger storage usually means that you won’t be able to finish all the products at one time. You will open the lid, take some dried food out and close the lid again even several times in a row.
Air will get inside your storage and may deteriorate the quality of the whole batch. Many small jars take more storage space than one big box, however, you should take this trade-off in order to keep your food quality for a long term as high as possible.
Q: How can I tell if my dehydrated food is already outdated?
There are several kinds of checks, when we are dealing with dehydrated food quality.
Just ask yourself these questions:
- Visual check – any signs of moisture or mold?
- Smell check – does it still smell like food you’d like to eat?
- Taste check – if first two checks pass, try this last one. Always trust your senses when you are in the kitchen.
- Another important advice would be to use labels. You do not necessarily need a labeling machine, just make sure those labels won’t fall down during storage.
- Label should contain information about:
- Date of packaging
- Product inside – sometimes it is really annoying to open a jar of what do you think are apples and find zuchinni slices instead.
Q: What is the best way to store dehydrated food?
Keep in a dark place and avoid any moisture. Maintain stable room temperature. The heat will decline the quality of food. So, depending on the storage temperature, it is possible to estimate the amount of time you can store the dried food; the higher the temperature, the shorter the storage time.
Keep in mind, that the storage period for vegetables is much shorter, about half as much as fruits. Of course, storage periods are very conditional and depend on interaction between The Big Five principles described above in this post.
Q: Does dehydrated and packaged food need any additional care?
You should always check if the quality of your dried supplies is not deteriorating and carefully evaluate the quality of the food you consume. During storage, occasionally check for moisture. The easiest way to do this is to store dried food in transparent glass or food grade plastic containers. If you notice moisture (water condensation on the walls of the container), remove the product immediately and evaluate its quality. If it is not damaged, you can eat immediately or dry it again.