In this article, we will discuss the many benefits of food dehydration.
What if there was a way to not only preserve the health benefits of your food but also make it last a lot longer?
What if you could accomplish this by yourself, without any nasty additives or complicated methods?
And what if there was a way to not only retain the tastes of your food, but to actually enhance it?
Dehydrating food has been around for longer than anyone can remember, various methods employed since humans were still living in caves.
During recent decades, the methods of drying foods have grown more popular with the introduction of the internet.
People were no longer limited in their ability to search for new and beneficial food preserving methods.
With cell phones now able to access unlimited sources of information, researching food dehydration techniques has never been easier.
The Different Food Dehydration Techniques Used Today
With food dehydrators now available in all manner of shapes and sizes, as well as ones for every budget, from the affordable to the extravagant, there has never been a better time to jump in and try it for yourself.
But there are other methods you might try, ones used throughout time. They have worked just as well and gave people the benefits of food dehydration long before electricity.
Technique #1: Air drying
One of the simplest methods available and also one of the oldest.
This method can be as simple as tying a bunch of herbs together and hanging them from a rafter or hook.
This method works much better in dry air with decent circulation. Place the herbs in a paper bag to avoid dust, but make sure to add some air holes for airflow.
This method is also more effective in the shade as opposed to the next option.
Technique #2: Sun drying
Sun-dried tomatoes anyone? This method is also popular since historical times. Meat is one of the more common foods dried this way.
Hunting wasn’t always successful and preserving the food through drying meant the tribe could eat during lean times.
It’s recommended that the best way to avoid critters, is placing a second protective layer such as a screen on top of the first.
Don’t forget to pasteurize your final product before extended storage to destroy any insects or their eggs.
Technique #3: Oven drying
This method is a bit of a hit-and-miss method due to the heating capabilities of an oven.
Modern ovens may not be able to provide a temperature cool enough for dehydrating food. Use trial and error by opening the door a little to allow some heat to escape.
Insert an oven thermometer so you can monitor the temperatures with which you’re working. This method is still quite popular and you can find out more about oven drying in this article.
Technique #4: Microwave drying
This is the first method that mixes age-old wisdom with modern technology. There are those among us that are devoted to their microwaves, using them for anything and everything they can.
Food dehydration is quite successful with this method, but take care when attempting it for the first time. The key is to check as often as possible.
Normal fruits can take anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes, while herbs take as little as 2 to 4 minutes.
Technique #5: Electric drying
This is the culmination of all the research and development since time began. An appliance designed specifically to dehydrate food the best way possible.
With every budget able to purchase one of these, anyone can now benefit from the many advantages that dehydrating foods bring.
Discover 11 Benefits of Food Dehydration
Benefit #1: Let’s make it taste better
While normal foods can harbor incredible ways to excite your taste buds, their water content often dilutes the many flavors they contain.
With seasonal variety bringing differing water content in produce, it’s easy to see how tastes can alter when eating fruits and vegetables from one year to the next.
By effectively removing the water content from your foods, you reduce the dilution of the food’s taste, leaving you with the purest form of taste-bud heaven you can achieve.
Depending on which food you dehydrate, some people choose the re-hydrate some before consumption, by either steaming or infusing with other ingredients.
It’s best for you to experiment for yourself, to see which suits your taste buds more.
Benefit #2: Saving money is always good
Let’s face it, who doesn’t love to save money? Several of the subsequent benefits you’ll read about are also reasons for saving even more money but at this point, I wanted to highlight how buying in bulk can be so beneficial.
Most fresh food grocers will sell individual items as well as by the tray or box. The costs can be remarkably more affordable when compared to single pricing.
While a lot of supermarkets rarely offer bulk purchases for fresh fruit and vegetables, fresh food stores thrive on bulk sales with many restaurants and cafes benefiting from the savings.
With your new food dehydrator by your side, you too will soon be benefiting from the buying power of bulk.
So, saving money is one of the many excellent benefits of food dehydration.
Benefit #3: Waste not, want not
How many times have you purchased a punnet of strawberries, popped them in your refrigerator and when it came time to eat them, found them covered in mold?
Unfortunately, all fresh food comes with an expiration date and for some, it’s a lot sooner than we expect.
With a food dehydrator ready to go to work, not only can you prolong the life of all that fresh food you have sitting on your counter, but you’ll also save it from ending up in the trash.
By not wasting as much fresh produce, not only are you saving the planet just that little bit more, but you’re also managing to delay that next trip for supplies.
And like the previous benefit, that means more money in your pocket.
Benefit #4: Move over and give me some room
Depending on size, there’s only so much fresh food you can fit into your fruit bowl and refrigerator.
While a lot of fresh food needs storing in cool conditions, it may not be possible to keep as much at any one time as you may need. So, what’s the alternative?
By removing the water content of your food, not only are you prolonging its life, but you’re also reducing its size.
The dehydrated food no longer needs the refrigerator, now stored in vacuum-sealed containers or zip-locked bags and kept in your pantry.
This benefit will no doubt help you store even more food for when it’s really needed. Just one of the many benefits of food dehydration.
Benefit #5: Give me more time for me
One of my personal favorites, this is the reason I love to use my dehydrator so often. By increasing the shelf life of food I have, I can reduce how often I need to drive back to the store for more food.
Keeping more food in my pantry for far longer than I was used to, dehydrating food has given me back valuable time which I can use for far more important things.
Time is the only commodity we don’t get more off. We must use it wisely and for me, dehydrating food is a wise decision.
Benefit #6: Buying one thing and getting another
There’s something intriguing about being able to purchase one type of food and turn it into something else which you can use in other ways.
Food dehydration is able to take some of your fresh food and give you ingredients that you can use in an entirely different way.
Dehydrating grapes can turn them into sultanas while plums turn into prunes, turn peppers into delicious paprika.
Experiment on your own and see what fantastic ingredients you can create that work great in cakes, bread, soups, and stews.
Benefit #7: Making available what’s not available
There will always come a time when you really feel like a cherry, only when you get to the store, there are none. You ask the grocer and learn that it’s not the cherry season.
If only there was a way to preserve the cherries long enough for when you really needed them.
With your food dehydrator able to work its magic, you can.
Dehydrating and storing a variety of fruits and vegetables that are seasonal will give you the benefit of having them ready and available all year round.
No longer are you limited with what nature makes available because now you can create an on-demand selection in your very own kitchen.
Benefit #8: I’ll make it myself
With the continuing increase in the world’s population and the ever-growing demand for food, new methods for growing food faster are used.
You never know what herbicides or pesticides are used on the food you buy, nor where the food originated from.
Growing your own produce is one way to ensure you know exactly what’s in the food you eat.
Because of limited supply due to the seasonal requirements for certain foods, you can ensure year-round availability, courtesy of your food dehydrator.
By growing your own food and dehydrating it, you are self-sustaining you and your family with produce grown the way you demand, with only the additives you choose.
Benefit #9: More energy with less food
Reducing the water content of certain foods will also concentrate on the energy-giving sugars they provide.
While consuming an apple may give you a fantastic boost for your next exercise session, snacking on a couple of slices of dried apple may give the same effect.
This option will also allow you some variety, as well.
A whole apple may fill you, whereas enjoying some sultanas and dried strawberries with a few slices of dehydrated apple will give you a variety for the same outcome.
One point worth remembering is that snacking on dried fruit can be detrimental to weight, especially when not exercising regularly.
Because of the increased sugar levels, weight gain is almost assured if not monitored.
Benefit #10: Removing one removes the many
By now, you will have gained some valuable lessons on the many benefits of dehydrating foods. But why does it work so well?
The answer lies not only in the water that’s removed but also with what else is taken out in the process.
When dehydrating your food, the main component that is removed is water. Water is the giver of life to every living thing on this planet.
This includes the many microorganisms and bacteria that live within the foods we consume.
When we remove the water from the food, we also not only kill the bacteria, microorganisms, and yeasts that live with our food but also their ability to regrow in it.
Benefit #11: Variety is the answer
The great thing about your food dehydrator is that there is no limit to what foods you can use it with. Whether it’s fruits, nuts, herbs, vegetables or meats.
You can produce fruit chips from some, or spices from others, the reward lies in the courage to experiment.
One of my personal favorites that I never considered when first starting my own journey through food dehydration is creating Paprika and its many variations.
I can alter the taste depending on the type of pepper used, enhancing it further with smoking and other methods.
So, I hope these 11 points have helped you to discover some of the amazing benefits of food dehydration.
Some best practices are worth knowing
Dehydrating food can have an art form-feel about it.
It may be a bit of a hit-and-miss project, to begin with, but with some good planning, advice and an open mind, you’ll soon be dehydrating food by the platter load.
Tip #1: Preparation is the key to success
As with everything else, ensuring you’ve prepared for the job ahead can mean the difference between scream-at-the-ceiling-success and slump-to-the-floor-failure.
Start by thoroughly washing the ingredients you plan to use. If possible, use an anti-bacterial vegetable cleaner.
To avoid contaminating your food with your skin oils, wear gloves. When preparing food, always ensure the food is sliced into relatively similar thickness to avoid over or under-cooking.
Tip #2: Understand the food
Low acid vegetables should be steamed for 10 minutes beforehand and dried thoroughly before placing them into the dehydrator.
Bananas and apples have a tendency to brown during the dehydration process and should be lightly coated in lemon juice.
Dissimilar types of food will require different heat and time settings to achieve optimal results. Always ensure you only cook foods needing the same temperature for dehydrating.
Tip #3: Know your Dehydrator
Always read the manual that came with your food dehydrator. They contain important information that will guide you in achieving the best possible results.
Cooking times vary for fruits, meats, vegetables, nuts, and herbs. Understanding these will help you in achieving top quality food, properly prepared and ready for storage.
Tip #4: Not too fast
Patience is the best practice when waiting for that first batch to finish. Don’t be tempted to increase the heat in the hope of speeding up the process.
You’ll only succeed in sealing the outside of the food, leaving the moisture on the inside and ending up with less than perfect results.
The food may even spoil completely if stored while still containing enough moisture to harbor microorganisms.
Tip #5: 95% Minimum
Food needs to be at least 95% moisture-free to be safely stored. If you inspect them after finishing their cycle and they feel soft, sticky or spongy, the safest bet is to return them to the dehydrator and simply extend the time.
If the pieces are crunchy and feel hard, they are ready for cooling.
Try to set up your dehydrator in a prime location, away from open windows, air vents and air-conditioners.
These can increase the humidity of the room, as well as the time needed for the best results.
Tip #6: Choose the best for you
With the variety and styles of dehydrators numbering in the hundreds, ensure the one you choose suits you and your expectations. Some models have fans above, others below the food while others have rear-mounted fans.
While the top and bottom fans still spread heat, they can lose efficiency when a full batch is put in, heat cooking the first couple of layers more than the middle layers.
A rear-mounted fan tends to distribute the heat far more efficiently around all tiers. If you plan to cook large batches, maybe consider a rear-mounted fan for your dehydrator.
The final say in the many benefits of food dehydration
Compared to the way a lot of people purchase and consume the products they buy, I’m amazed at the incredible benefits my food dehydrator can give me with the same amount of food.
From saving me money, reducing my waste and making the food taste better than ever before, a dehydrator changed my life.
It completely altered the way I shopped for food, whilst also changing the landscape of my own kitchen.
My refrigerator is no longer bursting with food with limited shelf-life. Instead, I am filling my pantry with much more variety and healthier choices.
If you haven’t tried dehydrating your own foods yet, why not give it a go today, using one of the many methods described near the start of this article.
Or, if you’re ready to take the plunge, why not check out some of the many food dehydrators available and begin your own journey today.
I promise that once you start, you’ll find it very difficult to stop, as you discover the many benefits of food dehydration!
Discover more tips to food dehydration for preservation here: 5 Tips to Food Dehydration for Preservation