Dehydrating food is a great way to extend its shelf life dramatically, saving you money and providing you with healthy, nutritious snacks year-round.
Before you get to work slicing, dicing, drying and packaging up all your favorite foods, you may be wondering how it works and exactly how safe it is.
Not only is food dehydration safe when done properly, but it is also one of the best ways to prepare and consume food to get the most nutritional value from it. Here, we explain how it works.
How Does A Dehydrator Work?
A food dehydrator usually contains a heating element which operates at a low and consistent temperature, and a fan to circulate the dry air. These combined elements result in steady, consistent evaporation of the moisture contained in the foods you wish to dry.
When food is heated using a dehydrator, it releases most of the moisture held inside, which is then expelled through vents in the unit.
Bacteria and mold thrive in moist environments, so removing moisture from your food limits bacterial growth. Hence, your food is less prone to spoiling and will have an increased shelf life.
Is Food Dehydration Safe?
Food dehydration is an age-old method of food preservation that is absolutely safe when done correctly. There are many different methods of dehydration, and each one has benefits and drawbacks.
When you dehydrate foods, you remove all the moisture, leaving only nutrition and the solids of the food. Bacteria and mold love moisture, so by removing this environment, you are limiting the chances of bacterial growth.
You can do this using an electric dehydrator, a microwave oven, a standard oven, or even the sun. Of these choices, you will get the best and safest results with a properly designed, high-quality food dehydrator.
Food that has been dehydrated using a dedicated dehydrator is more attractive and appetizing. It also lasts much longer and the results are more uniform.
A good dehydrator doesn’t use much electricity, and the money you save on food throughout the year will more than make up for the initial investment.
Using a dehydrating unit is convenient, too. If you use your microwave or oven to dehydrate food, you are sure to find that it interferes with your regular cooking.
If you were to spread food out in your yard to be dehydrated by the sun, you will have problems with bugs. Ew!
Benefits Of Dehydrating Food At Home
There are many benefits involved in making your own dehydrated food. Dehydrating fruits and vegetables when they’re in season is a great way to save money and improve your diet year-round.
You can save money by purchasing fresh fruit and veggies in bulk in season and dehydrate them for use throughout the year.
When you dehydrate healthy, organic foods, you save money in comparison with packaged, processed snacks; also, in comparison with pre-dried, prepared organic dried fruit, veggie and meat snacks.
Not only do dehydrated foods make very flavorful snacks, but you can also rehydrate them for use in recipes.
Although there are many commercially-prepared dehydrated foods, when you make your own, you can be certain of the ingredients. Many commercially-prepared dried fruits, veggies and meat jerky contain undesirable preservatives and additives.
When you dry your own fresh, organic foods you can be certain that the only means of preservation used is dehydration.
Dehydrated foods are remarkably convenient and easy to take anywhere. Once your foods are completely dehydrated, simply store them in convenient plastic or metal containers and carry them to work, school, camping or road trips.
It’s a great way to be sure of having plenty of healthy snacks on hand to save money and keep your energy levels constant.
By making your own snacks and packing them in reusable containers, you reduce waste in a couple of ways: obviously, by using your own containers, you cut down on disposable waste, trash, and litter.
Additionally, you can make good use of fruit that is overripe by simply dehydrating. When you do this, you avoid wasting food.
Is Dehydrating Food Good For You?
Consuming dehydrated food is, in fact, one of the most effective ways to get optimal nutrition from your snacks or meals.
The process is 100% natural, using no nasty additives or preservatives; you get back exactly what you put in.
When you cook food in any manner, you lose a lot of the vitamins, fiber, and nutrients through the heating process. However, dehydrating uses gentle heat over long periods to retain almost 100% of the nutritional content.
In fact, studies looking at dried fruit have shown that there are actually higher amounts of fiber and antioxidants within than the same weight of fresh fruit.
How Long Can You Keep Dehydrated Food?
When you remove the moisture within different types of food, you decrease the chances of bacterial growth and increase the shelf life drastically.
Prepared and stored correctly, dehydrated food can last for years or even decades – often outlasting even canned goods – depending on the type of food.
Vacuum sealing dehydrated food is the optimal way to lengthen the life of your dehydrated goods. Packaging them up with oxygen absorbing packets will also extend their shelf-life.
Store your dehydrated products out of light in a cool area and they potentially will stay good for many years or even decades.
With so many factors to consider, shelf lives of dehydrated foods can vary dramatically.
As a general rule, here are some estimates for different kinds of food:
- Flour – 5 years
- Fruit – 5 years
- Grains and beans – 8-12 years
- Meat – 3-5 years
- Pasta – 5-10 years
- Rice – 8-10 years
- Seeds – 4 years
- Vegetables – 5-10 years