Best practice tips for food dehydrating
Author: Sabine Mordini-Pound
Are you just getting started with dehydrating? These tips cover many aspects of this great practice from a general introduction to preparing food, filling trays, storing and reconstituting.
- Preparing food
- Filling trays
- Storing dehydrated foods
- Contact and support
There is not a set time limit for drying foods. There are guidelines and estimates in your instruction manual but the final dehydration time will vary depending on the type of food and the amount of water it contains, as well as how thickly or thinly it was sliced, even the humidity in the air,... So don't fret if your food is taking longer to dehydrate than the instruction book says: keep drying and keep testing for left-over moisture.
Remember that sugars and flavours concentrate as food is dried so the dried version of the food will have a stronger flavour than fresh (think sun-dried tomatoes and fresh tomatoes).
Experiment! Try treating your produce (with sodium bisulfite or lemon/orange juice), and not treating it, try preparing it differently (sliced in different thicknesses).
You can also experiment with temperature but keep in mind fruit dries best between approx. 54ºC and 60ºC and vegetables around 51ºC. These low temperatures minimise the loss of vitamins A and C.
Jerky needs to be dried at a high temperature to start with (around 70ªC), and half-way through you can drop the temperature down to 60ºC.
Nuts and seeds have to be dried on a very low temperature: 32ºC to 37ºC. Their high oil content will make them go rancid and they will develop off flavours if the temperature used is too high.
Herbs, spices and flowers should be dried as quickly as possible after harvest to preserve their flavour and colour. Use a very low temperature similar to the one recommended for nuts and seeds: 32ºC to 37ºC. We've written an article dedicated specifically to drying herbs here.
If you intend to dehydrate foods for later use, don't season or add spices before drying. Do this once you've reconstituted them, as you're cooking with them.
Many vegetables can be dehydrated and powdered: tomatoes are a great one, you can make delicious pasta sauce or pizza bases by mixing a little water with powdered tomatoes.
Try to slice or cut food all the same size: it will dry in approximately the same time if you do this.
Make thin, flat cuts - but not too thin: 0.5cm to 1cm thickness is fine.
Keep in mind that the larger the cut area, the faster and better the food will dehydrate.
Cut thin stalked vegetables (green beans, asparagus) in half along the long side or with an extreme diagonal cut.
Slice fruit across the core and arrange cut side up on the tray.
Smaller fruit (like strawberries) can be cut in half, but slight blanching (a quick bath in freshly boiled water) is recommended for even smaller berries, to break the skin.
Cherries, grapes, blueberries and plums (any fruit with a waxy skin) must have their skins poked before dehydrating. Depending on their size, count 1 to 2 days to dehydrate.
To peel or not to peel? If the dried foods are intended as snacks, leave the peel to enjoy more of the nutritional value. If the dried foods are going in a soup or pie, best to peel before dehydrating.
Some veggies must be steam blanched from 30 to 90 seconds before being dehydrated, these include broccoli, peas, beans and corn.
Prevent your pears, apples, bananas and peaches from turning brown by dipping them in a solution of sodium bisulfite, or in lemon juice (orange and pineapple works too). This should be done at the last minute - drain the excess on paper towel and place on the tray immediately.
Arrange sliced food on trays in a single layer with a little space in between.
Some smaller foods will fall through tray holes during the drying process due to shrinkage. To prevent this use a solid non-stick sheet, a sheet with finer mesh or baking paper (you can see our selection of non-stick sheets and dehydrator accessories from Excalibur or EziDri).
Spread chopped or shredded food no thicker than about 3mm high. Make sure to expose the tray's mesh insert in a few places to ensure air can properly circulate.
It is a good idea to always leave a solid non-stick sheet at the bottom of the dehydrator to act as a drip-tray, to catch any overflow from very ripe produce.
Dehydrate stews or casseroles on non-stick sheets but remember to spread these thinly. Once dehydrated they can usually be stored for up to 3 months.
Allow your dehydrated food to cool thoroughly before storing it.
Use moisture-proof clean containers with air-tight lids. Plastic or cloth bags aren't suitable containers but you can use heavy zippered plastic bags or heat-sealed bags.
If you notice beads of moisture on the container your food has not been thoroughly dehydrated and should be dried for longer, or it will spoil and go mouldy.
Store your dehydrated foods in a dry, cool and dark place.
As a guideline dried produce like fruit and veggies should be consumed within a year. Jerky or dried meat or fish should be consumed quicker, within one to two months.
Remember that foods that take a long time to dehydrate will take a long time to reconstitute. Most foods can be reconstituted by soaking in water from 15 mn to a couple of hours (depending on the size).
Don't throw away the water you've used to reconstitute foods! Keep it and use it for broths and soups, in pies, to make fruit leathers,...
To reconstitute dishes like stews or casseroles, add hot water and leave for at least 15 mn.
You can always get in touch with any question, and share with us your best dehydrating tips or favourite recipe. We'd love to hear from you!
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