About Food Dehydration
There are a number of ways to preserve food naturally and food dehydration is one of the oldest forms of food preservation. The process of dehydrating is much healthier than modern preserving methods and during the process; water is removed from the food, therefore not allowing mold and bacteria to grow, making foods less likely to spoil.
Dehydration only minimally affects the nutritional value of foods, especially when you dehydrate foods yourself. And you can enjoy beautiful chemical and preservative free foods all year round. Dehydrating locks in the flavour and foods become richer and darker in color, more fragrant, and sweeter in taste.
The great thing about dehydrating food at home is that many commercial drying uses additives and preservatives and doing it yourself allows you to create natural and wholesome snacks. You can be as creative as you like and use herbs, nuts, fruits and vegetables and meats, buy them in bulk and dehydrate quantities for later usage. It’s a great way to cut down on packaging and storage space too. You’ll be able to fit a lot more in your cupboards and help the environment at the same time! Dehydrated foods are nutritious, delicious and available at the drop of a hat when you just want a crunchy, healthy snack.
You can use this method for tomatoes and herbs although you do need three consecutive sunny days to allow the process to work. Summer is the best time of the year when choosing to dehydrate by sun drying. If you don’t have access to a dehydrator start with sun or oven drying and once you get the hang of it you may like to invest in a dehydrator.
Oven drying is a great way to dehydrate foods if you do not own an electric dehydrator, finely sliced vegetables (chips) and nuts work well. The oven temperature should be 90 degrees Celsius or less. Leaving the oven door open slightly during the process helps to circulate air throughout the oven to help bring moisture out of the food. I always dehydrate my sea salt and apple cider vinegar almonds in the oven at 50 degrees Celsius for 4 hours or more depending on how crunchy I am having them.
Is an excellent way to dehydrate most foods. The new electric dehydrators are energy efficient. The great thing about electric dehydrators is that they work on extremely low temperatures and therefore food maintains its nutritive values. Electric dehydrators have automatic heat control and a fan which helps to maintain air circulation during the drying process. I have a five tray round dehydrator which I use weekly. They are easy to use and clean and a great addition to the kitchen. I usually brush a bit of extra virgin olive oil on the trays when making vegetable chips.
Tips on How to Dehydrate Food
- Always start with fresh, high quality food and buy in bulk which will work out cheaper in the long run
- Check the food for spoilage or bruising, if damaged do not purchase
- It’s a good idea to slice food uniformly and thinly for even dehydration as smaller foods take less dehydrating time and also remember to space food evenly apart on food trays
- Blanching certain vegetables before placing in the dehydrator can help fight bacteria, preserve color and maintain flavors
- You can also marinate, salt, spice or sweeten with stevia any foods before you dehydrate them
- When drying food in an oven don't keep temperatures too low or too high, a good temperature is 50-60 degrees Celsius. If the temperature of the oven is too low it could result in the growth of bacteria on the food and food will not dry out if the temperature is too high resulting in the food being cooked as opposed to dehydrated
- Turning food and rotating trays whilst the food is drying is a great way to ensure that food is evenly dehydrated
- Food will be ready when it has no pockets of moisture and feels leathery to touch Vegetables should be crispy and meat should be tough. Nuts should also be crispy
- Cool dehydrated food before storing and store in airtight containers or plastic freezer bags to keep moisture out as dried food will attract moisture from the air. For best results, store containers in a cool, dark, dry place.
Additional Equipment to Speed up the Process:
If you are planning to dehydrate foods a few other kitchen items can make the process easier, although they are not essential:
- One good sharp knife
- Medium saucepan for blanching
- Salad spinner for washing and drying herbs
- Chopping Board
- Food slice to remove food from trays
- Processor with slicing blade (optional)
- Paper towels to dry of excess moisture before dehydrating
Drying Guide- Vegetables
It’s a good idea to wash, slice and then blanch vegetables for three to five minutes in boiling water before dehydrating and then run them under cool water for a second before towel drying and placing in dehydrator. You don’t need to blanch onions, garlic, capsicum or peas in fact you don’t need to blanch foods at all if you prefer to skip this process, although blanching does enhance the colour and flavour of the finished product, but it’s entirely up to you.
Drying times vary depending upon the water and sugar content in the food along with the sizes of foods and the air temperature inside the dehydrator. Here is a list of approximate drying times which will come in handy but follow your dehydrators instructions.
Broccoli: cut into small florets and place in dehydrator for 4-8 hours until dried
Carrots: Peel and slice finely and place in dehydrator for 6-10 hours until brittle
Cauliflower: cut into small florets and place in dehydrator for 4-8 hours until dried
Green Beans: Cut into 1-inch pieces and place in dehydrator for 6-10 hours until brittle
Herbs: Approx. 2 hours in oven at 50 degrees Celsius or place in dehydrator for 2-4 hours until brittle
Kale: 1 hour in conventional oven at 50 degrees Celsius or place in dehydrator for 2-4 hours until brittle
Nuts: 4-6 hours in oven at 50 degrees Celsius or place in dehydrator for 4-6 hours until brittle
Onions: Slice into 1/4-inch thickness and place in dehydrator for 6-10 hours until crispy
Peas: Place in dehydrator for 5-10 hours until crunchy
Peppers: Remove seeds and slice place in dehydrator for 5-10 hours until leathery
Potatoes: Slice into 1/8-inch thickness and place in dehydrator for 6-12 hours until crispy
Tomatoes: Dip in boiling water to loosen skins, peel and slice and place in dehydrator for 6-12 hours until crispy.
Zucchini: Slice into 1/8-inch thickness place in dehydrator and dry for 5-10 hours until brittle
Fruit Drying Guide
Fruits can be dipped in orange or apple juice beforehand to retain the color of the fruit before, during and after the drying process. Ensure that you wash all fruit remove seeds if possible and slice thinly. Arrange fruit in single layers on trays. If you are drying fruit in the oven then the temperature should be 50 to 60 degrees Celsius.
Apples: Peel, core and slice thinly and evenly. Place in dehydrator for 6-8 hours until pliable
Apricots: Cut in half and turn inside out to dry. Place in dehydrator for 8-12 hours until dry
Bananas: Peel and then slice into 1/4-inch place in dehydrator for 6-12 hours until dry
Blueberries: wash and then place in dehydrator whole for 6-12 hours until crispy
Peaches: Peel and slice into quarters place in dehydrator for 6-12 hours until dried
Pears: Peel and place in dehydrator for 6-12 hours until pliable
Pineapple: Core and slice place in dehydrator for 6-12 hours until dried
Strawberries: Halve place in dehydrator for 6-12 hours until crispy
Meat Drying Guide
Choose ham, turkey, roast beef, or chicken slice to 1/8 of an inch or cut into one inch strips and place on the dehydrator trays. Dehydrating meat takes 6-8 hours.