Dehydration is one of the best food preservation methods for building food storage pantries. Not all foods dry well, so you have to learn the best foods to dehydrate for long-term storage.
Certain foods have aspects that make them have a longer shelf life. When you’re making plans for your food storage, everything needs a purpose, and you need to know that the foods will be good in a year or two as you hoped.
Fruits, vegetables, meats, nuts, and seeds all dehydrate wonderfully. Once dried, these foods store for up to five years in properly sealed containers. Using a food dehydrator is easy, even for beginners, making this a perfect task for new home preservers who want food with a long shelf life.
Let’s look at some of the best foods to dehydrate for long-term storage and a few tips that you need to know.
Benefits of Dehydration for Long-Term Food Storage
Dehydrating isn’t the most popular food storage method; canning takes the prize for the favorite choice amongst homesteaders and most preppers. That’s unfortunate because dehydration is a great way to preserve foods for long-term food storage.
As preppers, food storage is a main part of the plan. One of the common goals is to build a food pantry that will feed your family for an extended time, and you might already buy dehydrated food at the store.
Beef jerky, anyone?
There are a few reasons why you should consider dehydration for food storage.
1. Increases the Storage Life of Food
The first benefit of dehydrating food is that it extends to the storage life. This method of preservation removes the moisture from food; moisture encourages the growth of organisms and bacteria. Without moisture, food won’t mold, and bacteria stay away, so no worries about spoiling.
In general, home dehydrated food stores for up to five years. While some sources say dehydrated food might store up to 25 years, stick to five years and less for safety. However, five years is still a great time frame for anything you preserve at home rather than buy at the store!
2. Preserves the Flavor Well
Some say that dehydration alters the flavor of food, and while it does to an extent, once rehydrated, the food tastes close to what it was whenever it was harvested. That’s why it’s essential to select the best quality food to dry; you want the best possible flavor of the fruits and vegetables you dehydrate.
3. Lightweight and Easy to Pack
Can you imagine backpacking in the woods with home-canned foods in your backpack?
It wouldn’t work well. Canning is great if you want to keep your food at home; it’s for bugging in, but if you plan to bug out, dehydrated food is the way to go. When you pull out all of the moisture, most foods have little weight, so it’s easy to pack many goods into your backpack.
This isn’t just for preppers. If you enjoy camping or hiking, dehydrated foods are the perfect snacks. Dried fruits are a nutritious, energizing snack to enjoy, and everyone loves the protein boost from beef jerky.
4. Easy to Store
If you store canned or fermented foods, you need shelving or space in a cold part of your house. That’s not always possible. Storing dehydrated foods is a bit easier; all you need is a dark area and an air-tight container.
5. Little Nutrients Are Loss
This food preservation method leads to some nutrients loss, but it preserves up to 90% of them if you dehydrate at a low temperature for a longer period. If you spent time building a garden, then you want to save all of those nutrients you worked hard to grow!
6. Dehydrating is Cheap
Dehydrating food is cheaper than other ways to preserve food for long-term storage. An average food dehydrator ranges from $60-200, depending on what type of dehydrator you want. Some have displays that read the temperature and moisture content inside, while others rely on you to check everything.
Canning is more expensive; buying all of those cans costs money! It’s even more expensive to make freeze-dried foods at home; a home freezer dryer costs upwards of $2,000!
Best Foods to Dehydrate for Long-Term Storage
Let’s take a look at all of the best foods to dehydrate for long-term storage. These foods have the longest shelf life and dry the easiest compared to other ones. If you’re new to dehydrating food, these are the ones that you want to try.
Best Dehydrated Vegetables
Vegetables take longer than fruits to dehydrate because they contain less acid, but they’re still easy to dry. Veggies need to be washed and examined; toss out any blemished or bruised vegetables since they won’t preserve well.
One difference between veggies and fruits is that some vegetables need to be blanched, which is when you put veggies in boiling water before dipping them into icy water to stop the cooking process.
Boiling water slows down the enzyme breakdown to help preserve the flavor and texture. An example of one veggie that needs to be blanched is green beans.
Some of the best vegetables to dehydrate include:
- Green Beans
Adding dehydrated veggies to your pantry is a great idea. They’re versatile and have tons of different uses. The easiest way to use them is to add a cup or two to soup recipes; they rehydrate easily.
Best Dehydrated Fruits
Fruits are easy to dehydrate for snacks or long-term storage. Make sure you pick ripe fruit without any blemishes or bruises and wash the fruit thoroughly. Most fruits need to be sliced thinly because thinner slices dry faster, but some fruits dry whole but need more time.
Some fruits turn a brownish color when they dehydrate, like apples and pears, but browned fruits are still safe to eat. It’s caused by exposure to oxygen. If you don’t like the discoloration, treat the fruits with ascorbic acid or lemon juice to keep the color.
Chances are you’ve snacked on the store-bought dried fruits. They’re yummy, but they’re typically coated in extra sugar, making them less of a healthy option. Making your own at home is a healthier option that’s also super easy!
A few of the best fruits for dehydrating include:
Best Dehydrated Meats
Most people are familiar with dehydrated meats since jerky is a popular snack found in all stores and gas stations. Dehydrating is an old way to preserve meat, but not all meats are a good candidate.
It’s best to dry lean meats because fat doesn’t dehydrate well and leads to quick spoilage. This is particularly true when using wild game meat.
When you prepare meat for dehydrating, freeze it first because it makes slicing thin portions easier. The slices should be no more than 1/4-inch and always cut against the grain to create a tender texture.
The best meats to dehydrate include:
- Lean beef
Best Dehydrated Nuts & Seeds
Nuts and seeds are a healthy snack or addition to your meals as-is, but you can soak and dehydrate them to make nuts and seeds even better. Soaked nuts and seeds are easier for our digestive system to process, and our bodies absorb the nutrients easier.
Don’t worry; if you dehydrate after soaking, they still have the crunchy texture you want. You can use them in trail mixes, granola, baked goods, nut butter, and other delicious recipes.
Some of the best nuts and seeds to dehydrate for long term storage include:
- Pumpkin Seeds
- Pine Nuts
- Sunflower Seeds
How to Pick Food to Dehydrate for Long Term
Storage space is always at a premium, so the last thing you want to do is dry foods that you have no eating intentions. Start dehydrating food that your family eats the most; those should be in your long-term storage plans anyway! You’ll quickly see that dehydrating isn’t as hard as you think.
Here’s how to pick the food to dehydrate for long-term storage.
The first time you cook with dehydrated food, you’ll see a bit of a learning curve. Dehydrated foods have to be reconstituted to be enjoyed by those eating the recipes unless the food is a snack like jerk or fruit.
What type of recipes do you want to make with your dehydrated foods? How do you plan to use the foods that you dry? This is one thing to consider to help make your plans for home dehydrating.
Pick Foods You Really Like
Don’t like mushrooms? Then don’t dry them. Don’t enjoy eating carrots? Don’t dehydrate them.
While you need healthy foods in your pantry, there’s no use in preserving them if no one in your family likes them. Make sure you put time into saving foods that your family enjoys.
Think About Calories and Nutrients
Filling your pantry and food stockpile with nutritious, calorie-dense foods is essential. Your survival pantry should have the foods that your family needs to survive in an emergency. That emergency might be another pandemic wave or a job loss – who knows – but it should keep your family well-fed.
Calories matter, even when dehydrating.
How to Store Dehydrated Foods Properly
After spending all of this time dehydrating food, the last thing you want to do is store them improperly.
If you want to eat the foods quickly, storing them won’t be a big deal. Make sure you check that the meat or foods that you dehydrate are fully ready and cool before placing them in store. Put the dehydrated food in a glass jar and eat them whenever you’re ready.
The best way to store dehydrated foods for long-term storage is to vacuum seal the packages. Removing the oxygen keeps the food safe and ensures that everything retains the vitamins and nutrients for as long as possible.
Another option is to use mylar bags and oxygen absorbers. You need to make sure you have absorbers because they take out the oxygen and shrink the bags down. Most sets of mylar bags include the O2 absorbers that also help to control the moisture content of the foods.
Store your dehydrated food in a cool, dry, dark location that has a temperature no higher than 70 degrees F.
5 Tips for Properly Dehydrating Foods
Dehydrating food is easy once you get the hang of it. After a few trial runs, you’ll be an expert. Here are five tips to remember.
1. Not All Foods Are Good for Dehydrating
The first thing that you need to know is that not all foods are good candidates. You want foods that have a lower fat content and higher acidity levels.
Oil doesn’t dehydrate, so if you try to dry oily foods, they quickly go rancid. That’s why you must remove fat from the meat before turning it into jerky.
This is also why, if you’re dehydrating meals, you need to make the meal without any oil and rehydrate and cook with oil.
2. Dry at Peak Freshness
Like canning or fermenting, dehydrated food tastes the best when preserved at their peak freshness. It’s best to pick the fruits and veggies when they’re ripe and mature if you’re gardening. Preserve them as quickly as possible after harvesting to get the results that you want.
3. Clean The Foods
Even if you can’t see them, fruits and many veggies have insect eggs on them. Dehydrating foods won’t kill insect eggs, and they’ll eventually hatch in your dehydrated food and multiply.
It’s best to wash your fruits and vegetables first to eliminate any insects or eggs. Some suggest that you freeze the dried foods after to kill off the eggs; that’s up to you. Washing is a must-do task before dehydrating anything!
4. Don’t Dehydrate Different Foods Together
It’s tempting to dry different foods together to save time, but it’s not a good idea because they absorb each other’s tastes and smells. If they’re going into the same final products, like soups and casseroles, it might not be a big deal.
If they’re separate foods, dehydrate them separately. Also, some combinations sound gross. Do you want apples that taste like onions? Probably not!
5. Test Meals Before Packaging
If you want to make a soup recipe and package them into ready-to-make bags, test the meals out beforehand to make sure they work well. You don’t want to be in a situation that you spent all of this time packaging what you thought would be delicious recipes, only to find out they didn’t work correctly.
One of the first steps to successfully dry foods for your storage is to pick the best foods to dehydrate for long-term. Not all foods dry well, so look for the ones with low-fat content and high acidity levels; those will taste the best in the end. here!