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How to Dehydrate Fruits, Vegetables and Meats for Long Term Storage

Posted on January 08 2021

How to Dehydrate Food

How to Dehydrate Food

While fresh food is the standard for quality, preserved food has its place. When you remove all the moisture from food, you can stretch its shelf life exponentially. Human beings have been drying foods through much of recorded history, with evidence dating back to 12,000 B.C. The reason for this is clear; it lets limited food stocks last longer, and it can even transform the food into something completely new. Sure, everyone loves a juicy steak, but beef jerky is great too. Although dehydration is a rather dry topic, continue reading to learn this valuable skill.

 

How to Dehydrate Food: Sun Drying

 

The easiest and most common way of food drying happens every day. Sun drying involves exposing food to sun rays, allowing the UV light to squeeze out all the moisture within food. The process could not be easier. The hardest part is having the weather cooperate with you. A sunny day with high sunlight and low humidity will dry your foods easily and more quickly. High humidity will make the process take longer. Low temperatures and low light will also prevent your food from dehydrating properly. To sun dry most fruits and vegetables, follow this guide.

How to Dehydrate Food: Wash and Dry Fruits and Vegetables How to Dehydrate Food: Peel Vegetables and Fruits How to Dehydrate Food: Place in Direct Sunlight
  1. Wash and dry the fruit or vegetable.
  2. Peel and slice, removing the core and any seeds.
  3. Coat with salt and desired spices.
  4. Place on a screen outside in direct sunlight.
  5. Ensure the screen is elevated off the ground and air can circulate underneath.
  6. Cover with cheesecloth or fine mesh screen.
  7. Allow the fruit or vegetables to bask in the direct sunlight for 1 day.
  8. Flip the screen to expose the other side.
  9. Let sit for another day.
  10. Remove and place in airtight zipper seal bag.

Beware that sun drying will only be successful if there is enough light and the low humidity. Be ready to place the food in a sheltered spot during the night and during bad weather. Also, be mindful that the exposed food will attract pests. This is why you must cover both sides of the food with a fine mesh screen or a cheesecloth. Meats can be sun dried, but the risk of food poisoning is too great to risk. For meat dehydrating methods, read further.

 

How to Dehydrate Food: Oven Drying

 

Oven drying is a simpler method that you can do with any modern gas or electric oven. The simple formula is low temperatures for a long time. You will want to heat the foods at around 140 F. You will also need to prop open the stove or leave it ajar so that moisture can escape. This will result in the heat circulating through your house. This is fine in the colder months, but during summer, this may prove to be troublesome. However, oven drying is a great choice for anyone that wants to dry foods without buying additional appliances. Oven drying also lets you dehydrate meats to make jerky. How do you do it? Simply:

For Meats

How to Dehydrate Food: Freeze Meat How to Dehydrate Food: Slice Meat How to Dehydrate Food: Marinate Meat
  1. Freeze meat for 30-60 minutes.
  2. Slice into thin strips.
  3. Marinate in the fridge for 12 hours.
  4. Remove from marinade and dry with paper towels.
  5. Heat oven to 250 F.
  6. Bake for 4 hours, leaving the oven propped open slightly.
  7. Remove and allow the meat to cool for 24 hours in a dry location.
  8. Store in an airtight container like a zipper seal bag.
How to Dehydrate Food: Place Meat in Oven How to Dehydrate Food: Jerky Meat

 

Fruits and vegetables

How to Dehydrate Food: Wash and Cut Vegetables How to Dehydrate Food: Cut Vegetables and Fruits How to Dehydrate Food: Season Veggies
  1. Wash and dry the fruit or vegetable.
  2. Peel and slice, removing the core and any seeds.
  3. Coat with salt and desired spices.
  4. Bake at 140 F for 3 hours.
  5. After 3 hours, prop open stove 3 inches to let moisture escape.
  6. Bake for another 3 hours.
  7. Turn over the food and flatten.
  8. Bake for an additional few hours, occasionally flattening with spatula until the food is completely dry and flat.
How to Dehydrate Food: Oven Dry How to Dehydrate Food: Finished Oven Drying

 

How to Dehydrate Food: Electrical Dehydrator

 

Machines specially designed to dehydrate meats will unsurprisingly do it more efficiently. Dehydrators have multiple racks and operate at low temperatures. You also do not have to prop them open, as there are fans that will remove the excess moisture. This means dehydrators wont heat up the space they are in. They are also more electrically efficient. If you are going to be dehydrating food often and in large quantities, consider investing in an electrical dehydrator. All you need to do when you have one is:

How to Dehydrate Food: Cut Fruits How to Dehydrate Food: Season Fruits How to Dehydrate Food: Place Fruits on Dehydration Rack
  1. Slice the food into ¼-inch pieces.
  2. Marinate or season with desired spices.
  3. Place on top racks of dehydrator. Lower racks will be hotter and cook the food quicker.
  4. Flip after 4 hours.
  5. Continue drying for an additional 4 hours.
  6. Remove from dehydrator and place in airtight bag.
How to Dehydrate Food: Dehydrated Apples

**Time is subject to change depending on food you are drying.

 

How to Dehydrate Food: Smoking

 

For meats, a great method of dehydrating is smoking. You can smoke meats in large outdoor ovens, barbeque pits, or in charcoal grills. Smoking will add a nice flavor to your meats. You can smoke pork, beef, and even fish. You can also smoke fruits and vegetables, but they will not come out nearly as well as meat products. For the best results, follow this guide:

How to Dehydrate Meat: Charcoal Grill How to Dehydrate Meat: Cook Meat How to Dehydrate Meat: Jerky Meat
  1. Fill a charcoal grill with coals.
  2. Light and allow embers to form.
  3. On one side of the grill, add a source of liquid, such as apple juice or beer.
  4. Onto the coals, add hickory or mesquite wood.
  5. Place the rack onto the grill.
  6. Place your meats onto the rack and cover.
  7. Let sit 1-2 hours.
  8. Remove lid, check meat, and flip.
  9. Smoke for an additional one-two hours.
  10. Remove from grill; allow the meat to cool, and then placing in airtight bag.

 

Ending Notes

Review the mentioned methods and determine which dehydration method is the most feasible for you. Each method will result in preserved and safe to eat food that will last longer than the fresh variety. Ensure that all dry foods are stored in airtight bags to ensure that moisture cannot reenter the foods. You can see examples of bags ideal for storing dehydrated foods right here. These Stand Strong™ bags can be made airtight when heat-sealed, making them ideal for housing dehydrated foods. For more information on food preservation, consider reading our blog on the difference between dehydrated and freeze dried foods.

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