Top Twelve Tips for Dehydrating Food

I’m happy to share my top tips for dehydrating food with you which I’ve only shared in my dehydrating workshops before. I hope you find them useful.

strawberry rhubarb fruit leather
Strawberry rhubarb fruit leather is one of our favourite dehydrated snacks.

Also Read: Tips for Storing Dehydrating Food, My Favourite Dehydrator, Favourite Dehydrating Recipes

Top Twelve Tips for Dehydrating Food

1.Use the Right Temp

Dehydrating is different than roasting or cooking food. It’s drying food and it’s important to keep the heat low! Higher temperatures will harden the outside of the food leaving moisture trapped in the middle. This is called “case hardening” and can lead to mold and spoiled food. Always use the recommended temperature as shown below.

Herbs 95°F/35°C

Mushrooms 100°F/38°C

Vegetables 125°-135°F/52°-57°C

Fruit Leathers or Vegetable Barks 135°F /57°C

Meat, Fish, Jerky 155°F /68°C

2.Control Moisture at All Times

Dehydrating makes food safe for storing at room temperature because bacteria, mold and other pathogens cannot survive without water. Dehydrated food is only safe as long as 80-90% of the water is removed and is not re-absorbed during storage. It’s all about controlling moisture.

3.Prepare Foods Properly

Proper preparation is key to long lasting colour,  flavour, nutrient retention and storage. You have to blanch vegetables, cook meat or eggs before drying, dip fruits like apples, pears and apricots in anti-browning solution and check fruits like blueberries and cranberries to allow moisture to escape. Follow instructions and rely on information from trusted, credible sources.

dehydrated carrots
The same batch of carrots dried and stored in the same way for the same length of time. Only difference The ones on the right were blanched, the ones on the left were not. Blanching preserves colour, flavour and nutrients.

4.Use Quality Produce

Use tasty, high quality food and fresh, ripe, unblemished produce for dehydrating. Remember, what you put in, is what you get out – only in a smaller, drier, more intense form.

5.Don’t Dry Fatty Foods

Fats and foods high in fat (dairy, meat, sauces with oil, nuts and seeds, avocado, etc.) are not suitable for dehydrating. Fat leaves an oily film on food and will cause it to go rancid if stored at room temperature.

hummus
You can dehydrate oil free hummus. After it’s dry, I turn it into powder that re-hydrates beautifully on the trail. But don’t dehydrate store-bought hummus-it is much too oily. Click the photo for a great recipe.

6.Enjoy The Difference of Home Dried

Homemade dehydrated or dried food is not the same as freeze dried or commercial dried food. Freeze drying is a different process and commercially dried food often has other additives. For example, homemade banana chips, apple rings and fruit leather will be different than store bought versions – yours will be healthier with less sugar, salt and preservatives.

dried apple rings
Homemade dried apple rings are drier than store bought because they don’t have any added preservatives or sweeteners. No sulphites here!

7.Use Spices and Sweeteners Cautiously

Flavours become concentrated when dehydrated so use added ingredients like sweeteners, salt, spices or extracts sparingly.

8.Dry Multiple Foods at a Time

You can dry multiple foods at the same time on different trays in your dehydrator. Just be sure they have similar taste profiles to avoid unpleasant cross over of flavours. For example, dry peas and carrots at the same time but avoid drying apples and leeks together.

peas, red cabbage and carrots in dehydrator
It’s possible to dry multiple foods at the same time as long as they have similar flavour profile.

9.Don’t Use Wax Paper

For foods high in liquid, line mesh trays with liners that come with the dehydrator, parchment paper or plastic wrap. Never use wax paper. It will not separate from dried food.

dehydrate sweet potatoes to make bark
Sweet potato bark peels off beautifully from parchment or para-flex sheets. Wax paper does not work like this, don’t use it for drying.

10.Over-Drying is Better than Under-Drying

Err on the side of over-drying rather than under-drying. Remember even a little bit of moisture will allow bacteria and mold to survive. That said, if your fruit leather or food is too dry and brittle you can strategically re-introduce moisture by adding a damp cloth or sponge to the container of dried food. The food will re-absorb some of that moisture, but avoid direct contact between the food and the cloth, use some sort of barrier. For a look at how I recover from fruit leather that’s too dry, watch this brief video
https://youtu.be/gwMJx7TvvWU

11.Store Food Effectively

Storing dried food well is key. Use tightly sealed containers kept in a dry, dark, cool place. The cooler the better. Check out my tips for storing dried food. Vacuum sealing and oxygen absorbers are helpful if you’re planning to store food for more than a year. Otherwise, as long as you follow the general tips for storing dried food, they are optional.

12.Start With Easy Foods

Some foods are easier to dehydrate than others. Fruits, vegetables, herbs, beans and grains are easier to dehydrate than meats, dairy, eggs and whole meals that require more knowledge and careful preparation for good, safe results.

Dried Apple Rings

Dried Pineapple – Fresh, Frozen or Canned

Apple Rhubarb Fruit Leather 

Dehydrated Apple Almond Snack Bars

How to Dehydrate Carrots

How to Dehydrate Potatoes

How to Make Scalloped Potatoes with Dried Potatoes

How to Dry Rice for Instant Rice

How to Dehydrate Basil

Meat Jerky

I hope you find these top tips for dehydrating food helpful.

Do you have any questions about storing dried food? What tips or ideas can you add to the list? I love getting reader’s questions and the opportunity to learn more. Leave a comment below or tag me on Instagram @getgettys and Facebook @GettyStewart.HomeEconomist.

Getty Stewart is a Professional Home Economist,  speaker, frequent media guest and writer dedicated to putting good food on tables and agendas.  She is the author of several recipe books on enjoying and preserving fruit, Founder of Fruit Share, a mom and veggie gardener. Sign up to get articles by Getty delivered to your inbox. You’ll get recipes, practical tips and great food information like this.

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