A beginners guide to dehydrating food

Banana chips in the dehydrator. www.explorelivecreate.com

I’ve been dehydrating food for about a year now and have found so many more uses than what I first thought I would. If you are thinking about purchasing a dehydrator or just wondering what it is I’ve put together this quick beginners guide to dehydrating food.

What is dehydrating food?

Dehydrating food is basically drying out the food and removing its moisture. Dehydrating is a great food preservation method and has been used for centuries. By removing the water and moisture will make the food smaller and lighter. Making dehydrated food ideal for backpackers, hikers or canoeists, as it can be easily packed without adding too much weight. It also means that you don’t have to refrigerate as well as keeping seasonal food available all year round.

Why do I dehydrate my meals?

Having a dehydrator has been such a useful kitchen tool. Ant brought it me as a birthday present as I was putting Inca onto the raw food diet and thought it would be great for making my own treats for her.

Inca_boxer looking for rock

However, I think we’ve used it more for our own food preservation than for her which is even better. I really didn’t realise at the time how much we could use it for dehydrating our own food. Now we really couldn’t be without it, so it lives permanently out on the counter top.

Delicious, homemade taste

When we did our first big hike and camping trip last year I looked into how we could make our back packs lighter but still have healthy meals. The food obviously takes up a massive amount of weight so I looked into dehydrating them. I made a batch of chilli and used the oven on a low setting to dehydrate. It worked well but took such a long time, I didn’t think it was really worth it in the end. However, when we brought the canoe this year I had to think again about making as much space as possible as well as traveling light with our food choices.

Camp food preparations. www.explorelivecreate.com

I love cooking and from fresh and having the variety available. With instant supermarket packaged food being low on vegetable content and high on starchy foods having these everyday was not an option. Obviously the starch helps on energy but I wanted to include more variety and vegetables too. We do have supermarket brought dried food for lunches when we need a quick break but I used this as a time to experiment a bit. I have become quite creative with my cooking but having the dehydrator means I can have instant home-cooked meals when cooking from fresh ingredients isn’t an option.

Vegetables such as peppers, onions and tomatoes can be placed directly into the dehydrator. Whereas broccoli and carrots prefer to be slightly steamed for a few minutes before dehydrating. Make sure you pick the best foods which aren’t bruised for the best results after dehydrating. With this small amount of preparation, you can add a healthy portion of vitamin rich vegetables to your trips meals.

Keep out the unnecessary ingredients

Packaged meals can come loaded with loads of added extras that you may not realise. I cook fresh a lot at home and also like to bring that fresh taste away with us. Therefore, I don’t want to be adding in any extra additives while we are away when I wouldn’t do it at home.

As Ant has mentioned we do like to forage for food, with mushrooms being Ant’s new hobby. Obviously it’s not something to take likely but if you are careful there’s a lot extra food out there for you. We use the surplus mushrooms we find (and are 100% sure on their identification) in the dehydrator, placing them in jars to store.

Wild Mushrooms in the dehydrator. www.explorelivecreate.com

Berries are also a great food to dehydrate and add to your breakfasts, especially with any extras from foraging. I haven’t tried dehydrating potatoes yet but I like to try that at some point as they can be quite heavy to carry but would be a great addition to a stew.

beef jerky in the dehydrator. www.explorelivecreate.com

beef jerky. www.explorelivecreate.com

Save space and weight

With a little preparation before you leave you can package the right meal sizes. Dehydrating food not only saves on the weight but also on the space so you only carry what you need to use.

Why try it?

Still not convinced with everything above put simply dehydrating food saves money. You can dehydrate surplus foods you are not able to use up while it’s fresh and make the most of it by dehydrating and preserving it. The dehydrator I have runs for as little as 3p per hour, with the food lasting longer than fresh but still giving you the great benefits that fresh food does.

Equipment to use?

Andrew James dehydrator for dehydrating food. www.explorelivecreate.com

We brought the Andrew James for £41.99 And have found it very useful indeed. Inca gets her liver and kidney treats, while we get to enjoy mushrooms, beef jerky and banana chips as well as a lighter load while traveling. You can set the timer from 1 hour to 48 hours and the temperature 40°C to 70°C. So you can just leave it to do its magic. However, check on it occasionally, especially if you are unsure on how long to leave it for.

Most food I dehydrate goes straight onto the dehydrating trays, on the other hand, for smaller items (some smaller mushrooms for example) I do use some parchment/grease proof paper to stop it from falling through the holes.

Bananas in the dehydrator making banana chipsbeef in dehydrator for beef jerky. www.explorelivecreate.com

Do any of you have any other tips and tricks for dehydrating foods? What’s the best or most surprising thing you’ve dehydrated?

Keep your eyes out for our next post of some recipes I use the dehydrator for.


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