Dehydrating food is not something new. The practice can be traced back to thousands of years ago, when people in ancient Greece and Egypt used to dehydrate various food items. In today’s world, with the help of a food dehydrator, you can get things done more quickly and efficiently. In this article, we will show you how to dehydrate food with a dehydrator.
The process is easy, simple and immensely rewarding. When you remove moisture from fruits, they still retain flavor and nutrients. Pre-packaged food is not as good as dehydrated food, and the reason is clear: pathogens can not grow in dried food. Read on to learn how to dehydrate food with a dehydrator.
Choosing a food dehydrator
There are different types of food dehydrators, and prices vary wildly (from $30 to more than $300). Your choice should be determined by your needs. When choosing a food dehydrator, you have to pay attention to 2 key features: multiple temperature settings, and the fan.
Different types of food require different levels of temperature, and multiple temperature settings help you get the right temperature. The fan distributes heat evenly. Too much temperature will over-dehydrate your food.
The process of dehydration takes up to 14 hours. If you need to dehydrate lots of food, choose a dehydrator with a larger surface area. Remember, round trays do not hold as much food as square trays. If you want to know how to dehydrate food with a dehydrator, this is one of the most important things to consider.
Another important thing is a timer. If your dehydrator has a timer, you can leave your home while the food is being dehydrated. You also need parchment paper or nonstick sheets for drying fruit leather, soups and sauces.
Foods that can be dehydrated
You can dehydrate many types of food items, except highly fatty items and dairy products. When you need to dehydrate meat and veggies, you must cook them before you dry them. But you do not need to cook fruits before drying them.
Different dried ingredients can be assembled into meals. When it comes to whole meals such as risotto and soup, first you have to prepare the meals and then dry them. In this way, they retain flavors and you can make them more delicious.
Various food items can be dehydrated at the same time. But you can do it only if all of them require the same level of drying temperature.
As food items lose moisture, they shrink significantly. This is an important thing to consider when dehydrating food. If you dehydrate apples, they will shrink and get reduced in amount. A pound of apples will become just a single cup of apple slices when dehydrated.
To dry food items properly, you may need to slice them thinly. But make sure the pieces are not too small. Too small pieces may get lost when rehydrated.
How to dehydrate fruit
In order to learn how to dehydrate food with a dehydrator, you must know how to dehydrate fruit. A food dehydrator is used mostly to dehydrate different types of fruits. You can dry fruits at least in 2 different ways: slicing and blending. If you want to make trail snacks, you need sliced fruits.
You can mix it into granola or oatmeal and have for breakfast. But what is the exact procedure of dehydrating fruit? Now we will try to describe the process in brief. First, wash and dry the fruits properly. However, you can skip this part if you wish.
Then, if the peel of the fruit is not edible, peel the fruit. Slice the fruit into pieces. Get some bottled lemon juice and spray it on the sliced fruit. It will keep your fruit from browning. However, you can skip this step if the visual aspect of food is not very important to you.
Then spread the slices on dehydrator racks and set the temperature properly. In most cases, the recommended temperature is between 120°F and 140°F. To learn how to dehydrate food with a dehydrator, you must learn how to set the temperature levels properly.
Blended fruits will turn into fruit leather. You can make pudding by rehydrating the fruit leather. For a creamy consistency, you can include bananas. Whether you slice or blend fruits, make sure the temperature is not more than 135°F when you dehydrate them.
How Long Does Dehydrated Fruit Last?
The process of dehydrating fruits in a dehydrator is simple. Dehydrated fruits are tasty, but taste is not the only reason why so many people love these fruits. Dry fruits can not only satisfy your gustatory feelings but also make you feel full.
But how long does dehydrated fruit last? Well, if you store dehydrated fruits properly, they will last for up to one year. From time to time you have to check them to see if they are okay. Two factors that determine the shelf life of dehydrated fruit are drying procedure and storage method.
Raisins, dried cranberries, dried cherries, dried apricots, dried mangoes, dried blueberries and dried plums last 6-12 months in the pantry after you dry them. And in the refrigerator they last 1-2 years. But to get the expected results, you must learn how to dehydrate food with a dehydrator the right way.
How to dehydrate vegetables
You have to remember just one rule of dehydrating vegetables: if the raw vegetables are edible, do not cook them before drying. To some extent it depends on the rehydrating method. You may want to boil your meal for some time or just add some boiling water to your food.
Rehydrating is easier if you steam vegetables before you dry them. You do not need to thaw frozen veggies before you put frozen veggies into a dehydrator. You will find it a bit hard to dry canned vegetables, because they are too saturated.
If you are serious about dehydrating vegetables, we have a good tip for you: never dehydrate onions! The procedure will make your house smelly. If you need some dried onions, you can visit a local grocery store.
For most vegetables, the recommended temperature is 125°F. Moisture content is higher in some vegetables such as cucumber and zucchini. You can set the temperature at 135°F when drying them.
Dehydrating meat and seafood
You can dehydrate meat and seafood, but not in the same way as you dehydrate fruits and veggies. The procedure is a bit trickier. To kill bacteria, you need to heat them properly. Keep in mind that only lean meats should be dehydrated, because fats and oils can ruin your food.
When drying meat, you have to use your dehydrator carefully. Make sure that the temperature is set at 145°F. Keep heating the meat until it is dry and hard. Here is a list of meat and seafood you can try to dehydrate:
- Deli meats like turkey, lean ham and roast beef
- Ground beef
- Pressure-cooked or canned chicken
- Cooked shrimp
- Canned tuna
- Imitation crab
Remember, extra fat will surely lead to spoilage, and that is why you must choose lean meat only. When you are learning how to dehydrate food with a dehydrator, this is one of the most important things to remember.
To provide seasoning and moisture, you can add bread crumbs to ground beef. For every 1 IB, ½ cups of bread crumbs is enough.
Dehydrating meals and sauces
There are some meals that must be prepared completely before dehydration takes place. Examples include dishes like risotto, chili and stews. To dry the meal thoroughly, spread it evenly and thinly on the trays. Stir it often.
Set the temperature of the dehydrator at 135°F and keep it running for 8-10 hours. Make sure it is completely dry, and there is no break up clump. Do the same thing when drying sauces. Spread jarred tomato sauce on parchment paper or nonstick sheets.
How to dehydrate legumes, grains and pasta
You can dry pasta, beans, quinoa and rice ahead of time. Then you can incorporate them into bean soup, veggie and chicken quinoa, and spaghetti. Dried pasta has another benefit. Once you cook it on trail, you do not need to drain it.
To know how to dehydrate food with a dehydrator, you must know how to deal with grains, legumes and pasta. Here are some tips for cooking pasta, grains and legumes:
Rice and quinoa should be cooked the way you usually would. When drying rice, make sure the temperature of the dehydrator is set at 125°F. Keep it on the tray for 4-5 hours. When drying quinoa, set the temperature at 135°F and keep drying for 7-9 hours.
Cook and drain pasta the way you usually do it. Spread it evenly on dehydrator trays. Dry your pasta at 135°F until it is hard. The procedure should not take more than 4 hours.
Noodles can be marinated in soy sauce once you have cooked them. After that you have to dehydrate them. By simply adding some cold water, you can cold-soak it and then serve it for lunch.
An easy way to assemble dehydrated meals
Putting together your meals is easy if you know how to do it. If you can get a bit creative, it is in fact fun. You have to mix two types of things: Store-bought items and your dehydrated ingredients. Store-bought items include spices, cheese, mashed potatoes, bullion, sauces, and milk. To add calories and flavor, you can also use some oil.
To serve meals, you can use vacuum-sealed bags or freezer bags. Write on the bags what amount of water is needed to rehydrate the meals. To prevent punctures, you can consider placing a paper towel
Fruits are a bit harder to rehydrate. If you have fruits that are not completely dehydrated, store them in separate small bags and place those bags inside the meal bag.
For a normal dinner, the recommended amount of dehydrated food is one cup. But do not limit your dehydrated food intake only to your dinner. You can make dessert by combining bread crumbs with rehydrated fruit.
What about rehydrating dried food?
Dehydrated meals require equal parts of food and water, and reconstitution takes 15-25 minutes. The following tips will help you cook your meal:
- Soak your food in equal amount of water for about 5 minutes.
- Pour water into a boil and simmer the water for 10 minutes.
- Stop heating and cover your pot. Leave it for 8-10 minutes. At first your food will become soft and then fully rehydrated.
- Add cheese or something like that, and enjoy!
We have tried to show you how to dehydrate food with a dehydrator, and provided some additional applicable tips. If you follow the tips carefully, hopefully you will be able to make the best use of your food dehydrator.
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