DIY - Dehydrating Food

Nesco Dehydrator

My photo of our newdehydrator.
My photo of our newdehydrator.

Dehydrated Food

The world’s oldest from of food preservation is dehydrating food. This can be done in a number of ways, but this article will discuss the use of an electric food dehydrator. This is not your typical kitchen appliance, so many people are not familiar with its use. This really is a great appliance to add to your DIY skills.

My husband, and I decided we would purchase a NESCO Dehydrator & Jerky Maker, plus a Jerky Works Kit just before Christmas. We have begun to experiment with various foods in order to learn to properly dehydrate beef or venison jerky and other foods. We also plan to try more fruits, vegetables, herbs and pet treats.

Advantages of Preparing Dehydrated Food

Some of the advantages that we appreciate include:

  • Using organic food
  • The lack of preservatives
  • The process retains almost 100% of its nutritional value
  • The alkalinity of fresh produce is retained
  • Bacterial growth is inhibited
  • Flavors, nutrients and enzymes are preserved
  • Dehydrated food can last for months or sometimes years, depending on proper storage

Beef Jerky

My Photo
My Photo | Source

How to Dehydrate Food

The first thing we tried was a small, thinly sliced steak. My husband sliced the meat in long slices about the half the size of a slice of bacon. The size you choose is based on personal preference. The thickness and size of the meat, vegetables or fruit all determine the length of time it takes to compete the dehydrating process. Herbs, fruits and vegetables are dried at lower temperatures as compared to meats and fish.

Making Jerky with Ground Meat

My photo
My photo | Source

Homemade Jerky

Jerky is a favorite snack around the house, for school lunches or when camping. There are numerous recipes to flavor jerky to suite your taste. The meat should be at least 80% to 90% lean. Some of the typical ingredients for jerky are Worcestershire sauce, liquid smoke, garlic powder, soy sauce, salt, pepper, numerous spices, red pepper, such as cayenne or chipotle, and various teriyaki marinade recipes.

The meat is dried from 145° to 165° anywhere from four to 14 hours. Then, the meat is laid out to dry on paper towels that will absorb any leftover grease. When the meat is cool, it is packed tightly in mason jars or other well-sealed containers. It can be frozen or kept in the refrigerator.

Recipe Book for Dehydrating Food

Nesco FD-75A Snackmaster Pro Food Dehydrator, White
Nesco FD-75A Snackmaster Pro Food Dehydrator, White

Top-mounted fan; adjustable thermostat from 95-to-160 degrees F. It's a 600 watts unit.

Flavors don't mix; no need to rotate trays; opaque exterior blocks harmful lights. Includes recipe book, 2 solid sheets, 2 mesh sheets, and 3 jerky spice packets.

 

Try Some Dehydrated Vegetables

Zucchini chips can be made ready to dehydrate in approximately 10 minutes by evenly, but thinly sliced the washed zucchini. Lay the slices in a single layer on a dehydrator tray and sprinkle with sea salt. Use the 115° setting and dehydrate for approximately six hours.

Sweet Potato Chips:

Scrub the sweet potatoes and follow the same directions as the zucchini chips. These are also cooked at about 115°, but they take approximately 12 hours. The time will always depend on the thickness of the slices.

Apple Slices

My photo of dehydrated apple slices.
My photo of dehydrated apple slices.

Dehydrating Fruit

Fruit is very simple to dehydrate in most cases. Bananas, strawberries, apples and grapes are all popular choices. You can dehydrate apples with the skin on or peeled. We decided to peel three Granny Smith apples. We peeled and sliced them, and we sprinkled a little cinnamon on about one half of them. All of the apples were delicious.

When you dehydrate fruit many people pretreat them. We did pretreated our apples with ½ cup of lemon juice in two cups of water for 10 minutes. Another pretreatment method is to steam the fruit in a steamer basket for 3-4 minutes; then, rinse with cool weather and blot dry.

Bananas are also usually pretreated to keep them from turning dark, although some people enjoy the fruit with the darker color. Fruit roll sheets are also included in our dehydrator, which we haven’t tried yet. These are very popular with children or grandchildren.

Any fruit can be dehydrated and pineapples are popular, which we decided to try. The most time consuming task is peeling and coring the pineapple. Pretreatment is unnecessary. The pineapple must be sliced, which we did by hand. There are slicers that can be purchased that will help slice fruit and meat very evenly. It takes approximately 12 to 14 hours on the fruit setting. We put the slices in the freezer for two weeks to pasteurize them. Then, they can be put in a sealed container and kept in a cool dry place.

Pineapple in Dehydrator

My photo.
My photo.

Other Ways to Use Your Dehydrator

Dehydrating herbs and spices is simple to do, and while they are not quite as tasty as fresh, they are much better than the ones purchased at the store. Not as much water is removed, so the flavor is more concentrated. Dark colored containers that are airtight are perfect for herbs and spices.

Treats for dogs can also be made using chicken, liver, other meats and sweet potatoes. I have seen other recipes for dog treats, such as liver-pumpkin cookies. The recipes are healthy for your pet and easy to make.

Dried flowers are also a nice way to decorate your home. A dehydrator can be used for wreathes or potpourri.

Summary

There are certainly numerous ways to keep your dehydrator running most of the time. If you want to build up a stock of various types of foods to last, a dehydrator is a great thing to own.

© 2014 Pamela Oglesby

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Comments 36 comments

Jackie Lynnley profile image

Jackie Lynnley 2 years ago from The Beautiful South

Wow that would be a nice thing to have and such a great thing to do. I bet they last like forever don't they? I love dried fruits with unsalted nuts, a good nutritious snack. ^+


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 2 years ago from United States Author

Jackie, That was fast! I think they should last a long time as they are really simply made. We love ours and it is fn to decide what we are going to try next. Nuts can be done on low temperatures also. You would probably love one. Thanks for your comments.


Phyllis Doyle profile image

Phyllis Doyle 2 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

I have been saying it for a long time, now I must get myself a dehydrator. The one you have looks like a really good one. Thanks for sharing all these tips and instructions -- this is a very useful and interesting hub.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 2 years ago from United States Author

Phyllis, We think we made a wise purchase. We have really enjoyed it so far and it is so easy to use. I hope you purchase one as I believe you will enjoy it. Thanks for your comments.


breakfastpop profile image

breakfastpop 2 years ago

I love the idea of being preservative free. I am going to check out this appliance. It sounds like it could be fun and interesting. Up, useful and interesting!


DDE profile image

DDE 2 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

Great hub about dehydrated food dried food sounds a delicious snack. The many uses looks tasty and most useful.


easylearningweb profile image

easylearningweb 2 years ago

Very interesting, Pamela, I have a friend who purchased one of these appliances and she really liked it for her family. The only downside is she said it took so very long. And your appliance looks like it is pretty big and takes up a lot of counterspace. My friend said she normally would put hers down in the basement or rec room while it was dehydrating.

I tried a dehydrator for the microwave last year that was roughly around 40 or $50 but it didn't work very well and the chips we made from apples and potatoes were either burnt or too mushy. I may consider a tabletop dehydrator in the near future.

Thanks for the info. :-)


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 2 years ago from United States Author

Pop, Preservative free was one of the motivators for us, and I think you will have fun. Thanks for your commetns.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 2 years ago from United States Author

DDE, We have enjoyed the snacks so far. Thanks for your comments.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 2 years ago from United States Author

easylearningweb, It does take up space, but I only keep it out when I am using it. I start early in the day and place it out of the way when it is plugged in. So far we have been happy with the quality of the food we have dehydrated. I appreciate your comments.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

Very useful Pamela. Of course I've known about this for years but never really knew the process. This is something we really need to look into as we increase our self-sufficient lifestyle. Thank you!


marcoujor profile image

marcoujor 2 years ago from Jeffersonville PA

Dear Pam,

One of my students recently got me hooked on kale chips and now your hub has me thinking I can create my own for much more reasonable...

I also love the idea of making doggie treats and dried flowers...thank you for the excellent idea. Voted UP and UABI. Love, Maria


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 2 years ago from United States Author

Billy, I love the idea of being more self-sufficient also. I appreciate your comments.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 2 years ago from United States Author

Maria, You can create your own fairy easily with a dehydrator. I plan to try them in the near future also. I'm glad yo found this hub useful, and I appreciate your comments. It's always good to hear from you. Love, Pam


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 2 years ago from England

Hi Pamela, this isn't something I would have even thought of before, but what a good idea! I love dried fruit and would love to get one of these, thanks for bringing it to my attention, wonder if I can get one over here? lol! now you got me thinking!


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 2 years ago

My hubby has wanted one of these for years. Guess I'm going to have to get one now. I can see him making his own beef jerky. It would be much better home made.


Sue Bailey profile image

Sue Bailey 2 years ago from South Yorkshire, UK

In my quest for healthier snacking I think I could do with one of these. I find commercial dried fruit etc too leathery and stale tasting. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 2 years ago from United States Author

Nell Rose, I hope dehydrators are avaiable in England. It is funny that I am wondering where I can find the beet juice you described as I don't remember seeing it in stores here, but maybe in a health food store. Anyway, good luck in finding a dehydrator, and I appreciate your comments.


b. Malin profile image

b. Malin 2 years ago

What a Valuable as well as Educational read Pamela. Today with us all so well aware of preservatives, this is a Wonderful way to avoid having to use them.

Voted UP, Useful and Interesting.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 2 years ago from United States Author

Diana, It is better homemade, and there are no preservatives and other items that are not very healthy. I really like the dehydrated fruit also as it stops me from eating other fattening desserts. I appreciate your comments.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 2 years ago from United States Author

Sue, I think you will find the dehydrated food you make to taste much better. I have found numerous articles on the internet, so I'm sure there are several more things I will try. Thank you for your comments.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 2 years ago from United States Author

b. Malin, That is exactly what we thought when we purchased our dehydrator. I appreciate your comments.


Genna East profile image

Genna East 2 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

I've never tried dehydrating before, and have wanted to try this with fruit (especially apples), for some time. But I always thought this was an art I would somehow screw up if I tried. Thank you for this very helpful hub!


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 2 years ago from United States Author

Genna, I think you would be surprised at how easy it is to use a dehydrator, and apples are one of my favorite dehydrated fruits. I appreciate your comments.


Just Ask Susan profile image

Just Ask Susan 2 years ago from Ontario, Canada

I've never owned a food dehydrator but it is one item that has been on my wish list for quite some time now. I can see how useful it would be to have one and your hub may have just convinced me to get one sooner than later.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 2 years ago from United States Author

Susan, As you are a cooking wiz, I think this is one more item you would probably enjoy. I am still excited about some of the things we haven't had a chance to dehydrate yet. Thanks for your comments.


Alphadogg16 profile image

Alphadogg16 2 years ago from Texas

This was a very interesting hub Pamela99. I am always eating dehydrated/dried fruits but it never even occurred to me to get one of my own. I think I'm going to look into getting one. Thumbs up on your hub.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 2 years ago from United States Author

Alphadogg, I hope you enjoy your dehydrator, and I think you find the food tastes better than what you buy at the grocery store. Good luck and I appreciate your comments.


tobusiness profile image

tobusiness 2 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

Pamela, this is a great idea, we've lost many of the old methods of preserving food, this way we can reduce wastage, save money and eat healthy. I've never even thought about a dehydrator. Very useful, up and pinning.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 2 years ago from United States Author

Jo, We are really enjoying ours and I hope you give it a try. Thanks for your comments.


Blond Logic profile image

Blond Logic 2 years ago from Brazil

A friend of mine has one and I was intrigued by it. Here in Brazil, I have tried to dry things in the sun, but we have high humidity which makes it impossible.

There are so many things I could use this for.

My friend uses it to dry leaves from her curry tree as well. Her house is filled with the aroma when she does this.

Interesting hub, thanks.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 2 years ago from United States Author

Blond Logic, The aroma is one of the nice features, even though you are ususally dehydrating something that is edible. We really enjoy our dehydrator, and it was well worth the price. I appreciate your comments.


lyns profile image

lyns 2 years ago from USA

Very interesting I never considered making my own jerky let alone, fruit being dehydrated this is awesome and when you consider all the benefits doing it yourself does. I love beef jerky and the chicken jerky, wish they sold the fruit jerky, but we can do it ourselves with a machine. Thanks so much this is another wonderful informative hub. Love your writings, sooo much thanks again for sharing what you have with the community here. Have a great one. lyns 7/1/2014


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 2 years ago from United States Author

Lyns, We really love the dehydrated food. We have done a lot of pineapple lately and it is great to just take a couple of pieces as it stops the craving for sweets for me. Thanks again for all you kind comments.


lyns profile image

lyns 2 years ago from USA

You are welcome, this piece of addition to the kitchen I think is one to invest in, I really appreciate you sharing all your great information with us all. Have a good one. lyns 7/1/2014


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 2 years ago from United States Author

This is not a big expense and if you are willing to do a little prep work it is well worthwhile. Fortunately my husband likes it and does most of the work. I hope you will enjoy yours if you decide to get one.

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