Updated: Oct 12, 2022
No, this blog was not written by Mike Tyson. It was, in fact, written by myself on the incredible benefits of dehydrating your food. I will discuss the brief history of it, how you can do it at home, and ten reasons why you should start dehydrating today!
The practice of dehydrating food has been going on for centuries when people dried seeds under the sun for later consumption. There's evidence that even back in 12,000 B.C., people in the Middle East were sun-drying their food. Indian communities sun-dried sliced meat, the Japanese dried fish and rice, and people in China sun-dried eggs.
While sun-drying is still a popular technique commonly used to preserve tomatoes, we have the help of technology on our side. We can use ovens as a heat source to speed up the process or purpose-built dehydrators.
This process is only really possible with sunny conditions and a space where you can leave your food out in the sun covered with a cheesecloth to prevent it from being eaten. You want to slice your food into thin slices to ensure it dries evenly. You then want to leave it for 2-3 days or so or until it is dry, and you can snap it with your hands. Whole tomatoes may take upwards of 10 days to dry! Make sure to watch out for any mould or bacteria and store them in an air-tight container.
Place your oven on the 'keep warm' setting or at around 50 degrees Celcius. Again, you want to uniformly slice whatever you're drying to ensure everything dries evenly. Using an oven is much quicker than sun-drying but a relatively slow process compared to a purpose-built dehydrator. Drying food in the oven may take up to 8 hours, and I'd recommend leaving the door cracked open to prevent moisture buildup. This may be costly and cause your house to warm up, although a good source of warmth in winter months! Check every few hours and take our when you can snap your food. Store in an air-tight container.
Unlike the oven, a dehydrator won't destroy food enzymes. It also allows for even yet thorough drying. There's the advantage of being more energy efficient, which should translate to greater savings. And by the way, you won't have to check on a dehydrator frequently since it's much safer.
If you're wondering which type of food dehydration is most cost-effective, here's a comparison done in 2010. This estimate factors in the equipment used, an estimated amount for repair, electrical consumption, and packaging method.
Freezing food costs $81 for every 500 pounds or 16.2 cents per pound of food.
Dehydrating costs $24.29 for every 500 pounds or 4.8 cents per pound of food.
1. Dehydrated foods taste great
Removing the moisture from your food creates a more concentrated, rich, and delicious final product.
2. Reduce food waste and extend shelf life
Never waste food again with a food dehydrator. Using your leftover fruits and vegetables in a food dehydrator will extend their shelf life for up to 2 years!
Below are a few ways you can reduce food waste, keep your cupboards stocked year-round, and save money;
Manage a garden without worrying about food going to waste - use the dehydrator to dry your herbs or make veggie chips - Kale, beetroot, turnips, carrots, sweet potatoes and even green beans work well.
Buy bulk in season to save money. Buy a box of apples at the end of summer, dehydrate them and enjoy dried apples in the middle of winter.
Save foods that would otherwise spoil, like the forgotten fruit in the back of your refrigerator. Turn them into delicious snacks like fruit leathers.
You can also rehydrate dehydrated food simply with water or by adding it to soups, casseroles, stews or pasta sauces.
You can check out my blog post on food waste here.
3. Create healthier snacks
Dehydrating foods requires only one ingredient. It is 100% natural, and you still benefit from all the minerals and fibre that remain locked into whatever you're dehydrating. Unlike cooking and steaming, you don't lose any of the nutritional content of your food.
4. Save money
Processed, store-bought snacks and dehydrated foods are often highly overpriced. You can save a lot of money by dehydrating fresh food items in bulk when in season or using your own produce.
5. Easier to store
Dried foods take up much less space and don't require the ongoing electrical drain of a refrigerator or freezer. Pack the foods in clean, dry containers with tight-fitting lids
Whether you want to make fruit leathers or a batch of veggie chips, food dehydrators provide you with the flexibility to do it all - plus, you can run the machine for long periods.
While you are only limited by your imagination, below are just a few things you can make with a food dehydrator.
Dehydrated fruit roll-ups - simply blend fruit (and even some yoghurt), dehydrate, and roll up.
Dried fruits such as grapes, blueberries, strawberries, mangoes, bananas, pineapple and kiwi
Veg chips - make crispy chips from beetroot, carrot, parsnip and sweet potato with little to no oil.
Jerky - experiment with different varieties: beef, lamb, fish and chicken with fresh marinades and spices
Dried mushrooms - a great way to add rich, earth, umami flavours to your food
Seasoning mixes - dried onion powder works great, or you can use garlic, chillies etc
7. Easy to do
So simple and easy to use, food dehydrators are essentially fool-proof. You just need to prepare your food by slicing it into pieces, put onto the trays, set a timer and leave it.
Plus, you can set the temperature so low that it's almost impossible to overdry your foods, and if you do, you can always 'rehydrate' them with a bit of water.
Unlike other preservation methods, because food dehydrators remove the water content from foods during the drying process, the risk of bacteria growth or spoiling is very low. Campers and even astronauts use dehydrated food because of the safe nature of the preservation method!
Thank you for reading until the end. While you're here, I'd be extremely grateful if you could support me by sharing this article with anyone who might be interested in learning more about dehydration ❤️