10 Tips for Dehydrating Foods
We have put together these tips for dehydrating foods because it is the best way to preserve foods like fruits, vegetables and herbs while maintaining their nutrient value. Food that has been dehydrated correctly will retain most of the vitamins, minerals and nutrients that it has to begin with, ensuring that you are getting a healthy option whenever and wherever you decide to use it.
Tip #1: Dehydrate Top Quality Foods
The first of the 10 tips for dehydrating foods is to ensure that the food items that you pick are of the best quality and are really, really fresh. The fruits, vegetables or herbs should all be free from bruising, bright in color (if naturally so) and ripe.
The best way to approach this is to pick the foods to use as if you were going to use them that very same day (because you specifically look for quality and freshness when you are shopping on an ad-hoc basis!).
Tip #2: Buy A Dehydrator
The dehydration process is easy to master, but it can take a bit of trial and error to perfect, if it is something you are completely new to.
Dehydration can be done in an ordinary oven, a dehydrating machine or even in the sun. Choose the method that you want to use and the one that you think will suit your needs best.
Many people starting out on the dehydrating path use a dehydrator machine which comes with full instructions on how to perfect the process.
Tip #3: Preparation is Crucial
The next tip is to make sure that you prepare the foods appropriately for the dehydrating process.
This means that fruits and vegetables should all be cut into a uniform size. It is also best to make the pieces between ¼ and ⅛ thick as these will dry much more quickly than thicker cut foods.
Also, try and prepare the food in relation to how you intend to use it after it has been rehydrated. For example, if you are dehydrating apples, you should cut them into rings if they are to be used in an apple pie.
Tip #4: Wash Before You Dehydrate
It is essential that the foods being prepared for dehydration are washed thoroughly, especially the likes of berries, grapes and herbs to get rid of any dirt, insects or chemicals.
Tip #5: Blanch Or Steam To Kill Bacteria
It is also very important that the foods are blanched or steamed before being placed in a dehydrator. This helps to kill-off nasty bacteria and stops the food’s enzymes from being active, preventing them from becoming leathery or maturing during the drying process.
Tip #6: Air Temp & Humidity Matter
The air temperature and humidity play a huge part in whether dehydrating food is successful. The aim is to draw as much moisture as possible out of the food to prevent it from spoiling.
The higher the air temperature the better (somewhere between 130F and 140F with plenty of air circulation is best) as it allows moisture to be removed rapidly without losing the texture, color and goodness of the foods.
Be aware, though, that if the temperature is too high, the outside of the foods will harden faster than the inside, meaning that you have the potential for excess moisture to be present in the foods.
Tip #7: Test Your Dehydrated Foods
It is necessary to always test your batch of dehydrated foods once the process has finished. This will ensure that the foods are dried to a satisfactory level.
Make sure to test foods from different areas of the drying trays as it is usually the case that the food on the outer edge of the tray dries faster than those in the middle.
Tip #8: Condition Before Storing
In terms of fruit, it is best to give them what is known as a period of “condition” before you store them away.
In many cases, the fruit you dry will not have distributed the allowed remaining amount of moisture evenly between the pieces and so the period of “condition” allows the fruit that is driest to take on some of the moisture from those pieces that are more saturated.
The easiest way to “condition” your fruit is to put it in a tightly sealed glass jar for 7-10 days, ensuring that you give it a good shake every day to help things along.
Tip #9: Cool Before Storing
Before packing your dried foods, always allow them to cool completely beforehand. Choose a container that will help prevent the re-absorption of moisture, as well as rodent/other animal infestations, which will ruin your hard work. Many people favor glass jars because they can be tightly sealed and allow for visual inspection easily.
Tip #10: Enjoy Your Work!
The final point in the 10 tips for dehydrating foods is to enjoy your hard work in a variety of ways. The food that you dehydrate can be used in normal cooking, raw as a snack or even left dehydrated (many people love dried apricots, prunes etc. which is what you have made through this process!). When you do use dehydrated food, make sure that you use it up quickly as it can spoil very quickly.