Dehydrating food is one of the easiest and most useful methods for preserving and storing food long-term. It also gives you the opportunity to add some variety to your food stockpile. But before you start trying to dehydrate everything in your kitchen, there are a few things you need to know.
To get started today, avoid these foods you should not dehydrate and learn a bit more about the process of dehydrating below.
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Why Can’t You Dehydrate Every Food?
Although dehydrating food might seem like an all-encompassing solution for food storage, it has certain limitations. Specifically, any food with a lot of fat will be very difficult to properly dehydrate, and won’t last more than a few weeks in your pantry.
The fat will go rancid within weeks and make the food inedible. Always make sure whatever you want to dehydrate has a low enough fat content to make preserving it worthwhile. The higher the fat, the higher the chance it will go rancid quickly.
Another reason you shouldn’t dehydrate every food has to do with their nutrient loss during the dehydration process. The heat used in dehydrators kills Vitamins A & C in any food you put through the dehydrator. You can use blanching beforehand to help reduce the loss of vitamins, but your produce will still be affected to some degree.
So technically, you could dehydrate every food, but you shouldn’t. Some of it will go rancid. Some will taste bad and some aren’t worth the work. And some won’t hold their nutritional value. Here are a few of the different types of food you should not dehydrate and what to do instead.
Food You Should Not Dehydrate
Butter, milk, and cheese should all be avoided when it comes to dehydrating. The high-fat content of cheese and butter makes it a lot of work to dehydrate, only to go rancid very quickly.
Dehydrating milk might seem relatively straight forward, but it isn’t. You have a high probability of giving yourself food poisoning since residential dehydrators can’t reach the extreme temperatures of commercial-grade dryers needed. Without a high enough temperature, the bacteria will thrive and turn your product sour.
Instead, just buy powdered milk, cheese, or butter . Twenty years ago, these would have been pretty dismal options. But with a renewed interest in food preservation and canning and long-term storage, it seems better options just keep being invented.
When dehydrated, nuts lose a significant amount of their nutritional value and actually lowers their shelf life. It would be pointless to dehydrate nuts for long term storage. Just freeze them in an airtight container. If done properly, they’ll last for a few years in the freezer, depending on the nut.
If you really wanted to, you could dehydrate olives, but the taste isn’t worth it. You wouldn’t necessarily get food poisoning or anything, but the process removes a lot of nutrients and turns the olives into a bizarre-tasting mush. If you really want to preserve olives, try pickling them or just store a few gallons of olive oil to get your fix.
Avoid dehydrating store-bought condiments or sauces, even if you really want your favorite BBQ sauce added to your long-term food supply and food storage. These condiments have sugars, chemicals, and fats that create all kinds of issues when dehydrating. The sugars will caramelize, the fats will cause rancid tastes, and you’ll end up with a mess.
Instead, try making your own condiments from scratch at home. It’s not as much work as you might think, and it gives you a chance to make healthier condiments, with less sugar, for your family. Depending on what ingredients you use, homemade condiments would give you a better chance at successfully dehydrating them due to the natural ingredients. If you’ve tried this with success, let us know in the comments below.
Since people dehydrate almost every fruit and vegetable, you might think avocados work too. Unfortunately, they don’t. The high content of good fats that make avocados a superfood also makes them useless to dehydrate. If dehydrated, avocados will turn to a mush that won’t taste very good and will go rancid within a few weeks.
As an alternative, you can freeze fresh avocados to preserve them for a year or two. You can try freezing them for longer, but you will likely lose some quality and taste. Follow these steps to learn how to prepare avocados for freezing.
If you’ve ever made jerky before, you know that fatty meats should never be dehydrated. Cuts like rib-eye, strip steaks, skirt steaks, ribs, and others have such a high-fat content that even after dehydrating, the fat will quickly become rancid and inedible. Use common sense, and if a cut of meat looks like it has a lot of fat, avoid dehydrating it.
For dehydrating meats, use lean cuts like flank or round steaks. Keep in mind, the lower the fat content, the better your jerky will turn out. If you have some extra game meat this fall, try smoking and dehydrating it for long term storage. You could also try drying fish, or even smoking it.
If you want to try something a little different for your meat preservation, spend an afternoon making traditional Pemmican with your game meat, and add different local flavors of your choice.
Unfortunately, eggs have the same issue as dairy products. Home dehydrators don’t hit a high enough temperature to safely process the egg and eliminate the chance of food poisoning. Also, eggs can only really be dehydrated in a slurry, which once rehydrated, won’t work for baking or other common egg uses. You could make scrambled eggs out of it, but for all that work you might as well buy the much better and safer powdered egg mixtures.
If you have a chicken coop like us and have more eggs than you know what to do with, there are other alternatives for storing them long term. Pickling and canning them would be the most efficient and easiest way to keep them edible for long periods of time.
Even though this list has some pretty important everyday ingredients, there are numerous different ways to store them that don’t involve dehydration. You can try canning, pickling, salting, smoking, freezing, and any other practical options you might think of. If you do want to try dehydrating a few different things, just remember anything with a high-fat content is a food you should not dehydrate.
Have you tried dehydrating something that didn’t work out the way you’d expected? Let us know in the comments below!
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