Food Dehydration

Food Dehydration: How to dry your own fruits, vegetables and

other foods


Dehydrated foods have several advantages: it is a low-cost way to preserve foods, dried foods require less storage space than canned or bottled goods, and when the electricity is out you won’t lose all of your food.  Dehydration maximizes shelf life of foods, reduces waste, and allows you to make quick meals or soup just by adding water.  Dehydrated foods are also healthier choices and easy to take with you when camping.

When purchasing a Dehydrator and tools of the trade, make sure to look for a dehydrator with a fan in the back. This type of dehydrator is more effective and allows food to dry faster. There are dehydrators that have automatic shut off timers – it is personal preference if you want one. There are pros and cons to having one but is personal preference. They are not needed and can cost more. You cannot “dehydrate too long.”

I use and recommend Excalibur® brand dehydrators in fact I have two of them,

Lemon Juice, from lemons or purchased at any grocery store will be used frequently.  This is an important prepping agent for many dehydrated foods. It prevents browning and adds vitamin C.

Meat Slicer/Chopper- (Optional) Uniform slicing of foods prior to dehydrating is very important with some foods. This item will help to ensure your cuts are always consistent.




Before You Start

Make sure to wash all of your food thoroughly – Guarantee that the foods you wash are bacteria free.

I have found that natural oils can be on your skin and reintroduce oils and moisture, avoid this by  using vinyl gloves.

Turn your dehydrator on 15 minutes before adding food.  This allows the dehydrator to “Warm-up” before use.

Food Drying Principles

Dehydrating your own produce does require time and some knowledge of food drying principles. Several hints and ideas are listed below to help ensure the best dehydrated product.


  1. Select the best fruit and vegetables! As with canning and freezing, dehydrated foods are only as good as the fresh fruit or vegetables. When selecting fruits and vegetables for dehydration, choose ones that are ripe, un-bruised and at peak-eating quality. The only exception to this rule is when you are blending the fruits for leathers or similar.
  2. Prepare foods to be dehydrated as you want them to be served. Apples, for example, may be sliced, cut into rings, or pureed for fruit leather.
  3. Keep pieces uniform in size and thickness for even drying . Slices cut 1/8 to 1/4-inch in thickness will dry more quickly than thicker pieces.
  4. Some foods should be washed before drying. Foods such as herbs, berries and seedless grapes need only be washed before dehydrating.
  5. To prevent browning: try steaming, sulfuring or coating light-colored fruits and vegetables with acids such as lemon juice or ascorbic acid (FruitFresh) before drying. Steaming or blanching also is recommended for vegetables to inactivate enzymes that cause vegetables to mature, or toughen during drying.
  6. Select the drying method and equipment that is right for you. Foods can be dried in a conventional oven, a commercial dehydrator, or in the sun. Drying times vary with the method and foods chosen. Be sure to read the instructions with your dehydrator.
  7. Maintain 120F to 140F with circulating air: Remove enough moisture as quickly as possible to prevent spoilage. A drying temperature of 130 degrees F to 140 degrees F allows moisture to be removed quickly without adversely affecting food’s texture, color, flavor and nutritive value. If the initial temperature is lower, or air circulation is insufficient, foods may undergo undesirable microbiological changes before drying adequately. If the temperature is higher, or humidity too low, nutrients can be lost or moisture may be removed too quickly from the product’s outer surface. This causes the outer surface to harden and prevents moisture in the inner tissues from escaping. When testing for sufficient dryness, remember to cool foods before testing.
  8. Know when your food is dry: Some foods are more pliable when cool than warm. Foods should be pliable and leathery, or hard and brittle when sufficiently dried. Some vegetables actually shatter if hit with a hammer. At this stage, they should contain about 10 percent moisture. Because they are so dry, vegetables do not need conditioning like fruits.

During Drying

Is it Dehydrated?

The most important part is not so much the length of time in the dehydrator, but the percentage of remaining moisture left. For long-term storage you want to stay at 95% and above. How to Know? Your food should easily snap and should not be sticking together.

After Drying (for fruit only)

  1. Allow dried FRUIT (not vegetables) time to “condition”: When dry, allow fruit to “condition” for four to 10 days before packaging for storage. The moisture content of home dried fruit should be about 20 percent. When the fruit is taken from the dehydrator, the remaining moisture may not be distributed equally among the pieces because of their size or their location in the dehydrator. Conditioning is the process used to equalize the moisture. It reduces the risk of mold growth.
  2. To condition the fruit, take the dried fruit that has cooled and pack it loosely in plastic or glass jars.
  3. Seal the containers and let them stand for 7 to 10 days. The excess moisture in some pieces will be absorbed by the drier pieces.
  4. Shake the jars daily to separate the pieces and check the moisture condensation. If condensation develops in the jar, return the fruit to the dehydrator for more drying.


What Can’t Be Dehydrated?

Foods high in oil, such as avocados, cannot be dehydrated and stored for a long period of time. Lettuce is not recommended for dehydration, as it burns easily. Butter, milk, eggs, and cheese are not easily and safely dehydrated at home because they require special equipment.



Packaging the dried foods

  1. Seal the dried food: Dried foods are susceptible to insect contamination and re-absorption of moisture and must be properly packaged and stored immediately. First, cool completely. Warm food causes sweating which could provide enough moisture for mold to grow. Package dehydrated foods in tightly sealed containers, such as moisture-proof freezer containers or Ziploc type bags, or dark scalded (sanitized) glass jars.
  2. Choose the right containers: Glass jars, metal cans or boxes with tight fitted lids or moisture-vapor resistant freezer cartons make good containers for storing dried foods. Heavy-duty plastic bags are acceptable, but keep in mind that they are not insect and rodent proof. Plastic bags with a 3/8-inch seal are best to keep out moisture.
  3. Fruit that has been sulfured should not touch metal. Place the fruit in a plastic bag before storing it in a metal can. Sulfur fumes will react with the metal and cause color changes in the fruit.
  4. Pack as tightly as possible without crushing.
  5. Pack food in amounts that will be used in a recipe. Every time a package is re-opened, the food is exposed to air and moisture that will lower the quality of the food.
  6. Store in a cool, dark, dry place. Food quality is affected by heat. The storage temperature helps determine the length of storage; the higher the temperature, the shorter the storage time. Most dried fruits can be stored for 1 year at 60ºF, 6 months at 80ºF. Vegetables have about half the shelf-life of fruits.
  7. Use foods within six to 18 months for best quality.

Storing the dried foods

Check dried foods frequently during storage to see if they are still dry. Foods that are packaged seemingly “bone dry” can spoil if moisture is reabsorbed during storage. Glass containers are excellent for storage because any moisture that collects on the inside can be seen easily Foods affected by moisture, but not spoiled, should be used immediately or re-dried and re-packaged. Moldy foods should be discarded.


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