View Full Version : dehydrating food, Your Thought?

03-01-2003, 19:58
I was at Wal-Mart looking at a dehydrator for $40 and it sparked my curiousity. I am curious to find out how well they REALLY work, How much are they used, How much work does it take to dehydrate foods, and any suggestions on what to dehydrate, and your favorite recipies.

I am also curious to find out how long dehydrated food lasts before it is unfit to eat?


03-01-2003, 21:09

Dehydrating may not be for everyone, but I did most all of my food when I thru-hiked in 99, and still do when I am section hiking regardless if is a week or 6 weeks.. I bought my dehydrator at Walmart and have had great service with it. Mine is an American Harvestor with 4 trays, and I did purchase some extra plastic sheets for it. I have dried everything from fruits, to meats with it and it has been great. I like drying left over beef roast then while on the trail, I will rehydrate the meat, add some powdered gravy mix, and make so mashed potatoes with the powder type and have a great meal. I also dry ground chuck to be used in stews, chili, or spaghetti sauce. I also dry the left over chili my wife makes and it is great on the cool evenings or during the day at lunch. Spaghetti is also great when dried, either dry just the sauce and cook the spaghetti in camp and add the sauce to rehydrate in the same pot, or dry the entire left over spaghetti that is left over at home. Most foods can be dried and rehydrate very well, fruit is also very good either whole or blended and made into fruit leather. The list is almost endless with what you can dry and use. It is not much work at all, even to just dry spaghetti sauce, simply buy a can pour in on the dryer sheets and let it dry about 7 hours and you have it.

As for how long the food will last, that depends a lot on how well it is dried and stored. I dry mine and then put it in the freezer, and I have never had any to spoil. I still have food in the freezer from 99 and I used some of it this past summer. I am not saying to keep it that long, since I doubt that it is recommended but I did with no bad effects. I would say if frozen it will last for many months, and without being frozen if done correctly it would last many months if it is stored in a dry less humid area. When I thru hiked, my food was taken out of the freezer and mailed, and actually by the time I used it most was at least 1 month or maybe 2 months before I used it. Never had a problem with not one item.

Well, that is my 2 cents, I am sure most people would not take the time or effort to do it, but I enjoyed doing it, and really enjoyed eating it. I still dehydrate left overs so I have a lot of choices of food when I do hit the trail this spring and summer.

All I can say it worked for me, may not be for everyone. Hope this helps.....


03-01-2003, 21:35
Sparky.. as Walker said, dehydrating may not be for everyone. I've see people that dried and packaged every meal. That's a ton of work. I've seen all kinds of fruit dried and that seems to work well. I tried drying veggies and had limited luck. What I'm using mine for is for dehydrating hamburger. For this trip I've dehydrated about 10 pounds of hamburger. I seal it in bags that contain about 1/3 of a cup. That makes a big difference in an evening meal. I'm using about 2 - 3 bags a week. Good shot of protein, taste and texture. After I seal the bags, I store them in the freezer. My wife pulls them out and drops them in the box just before mailing them. I'm not sure how long it would stay good outside the freezer. One thing to keep in mind if drying meat is the fat or grease is what will go rancid and spoil. You want to get all of it off before drying. I use the leanest hamburger I can find, cook it well, drain it and rinse before I start to dry.

03-01-2003, 21:49
Moose, I was thinking of the meat idea as well. I think it adds a a lot more option along with the general BP meat food of chicken and tuna. Also when I go out I like to have some vegetables now and then but can not see draging a 1lb can through the woods. On another link they had some dehydrated sites that looked promising to meet that need.

03-01-2003, 23:07

I did a lot of hamburger on my thru hike, however I have since learned that along with the hamburger another good one is to buy the leanest beef roast, or the chunks of beef used for stews, and my wife cooks them in a pressure cooker until total done. Then I cut and tear the peices into small chunks and dry, when added to raman noodles or most anything it sure makes it much better. Also as I said before, make some brown gravy with water and the package of powder add the meat and it is also great. At times, if my wife makes beef stew, I will dry the left overs and it is good also, directly from the pot to the dehydrator. I suppose you could even dry the canned beef stew, if you mashed the potatoes and made the beef peices smaller.. that is the key I found is to make sure the peices are small and consistant. Also not to over dry to scorch the meat... I never had much luck with trying to dry veggies.. I was told to use the frozen veggies from the store, but even though they were better I still was not happy with them. Mine never did rehydrate fast or well enough to suit me. Now you can buy veggies already dried in some of the soup starters and stew mixes of the shelf not sure how they will be but may be worth a try.

Good luck, and experiment ... have fun..... I also dried chiken and turkey with mine, which was pretty good, but in truth the little cans off the shelf were better for me... also heavier but 1 was not too bad...

Happy Trails....


03-01-2003, 23:20
I spent more time cleaning my dehydrator than drying in it. We've got a small orchard with some blueberry bushes, bad idea for dehydrators, they stick tenaciuosly(does this thing have spell check? dictionaries all the way across the room...)

Bandana Man
03-02-2003, 01:25
I've always used the freeze-dried stuff because it was so convenient. Just add boiling water and wait 10 minutes. But it's expensive, so next section hike I'm trying store-bought foods like Liptons noodles, instant rice and potatoes, etc. In the future I'd like to get a dehydrator for my own chili and stews. Sparky mentioned dehydrated veggies. I tried freeze-dried veggies and only the corn is remotely tolerable. It's not cheap either.

Bianchi Veloce
03-02-2003, 01:52
For a lean meat option other than hamburger, try ground turkey. Dehydrated turkey chili with black beans makes a delicious trail dinner. For a sweet snack, try sliced pineapples and sliced bananas. Rock on!

Guy Holcomb
03-02-2003, 11:33
What is the step between dehydrator and freezer; regular Ziploc? freezer Ziploc? double Ziploc? fancy seal-a-bag machine? I seem to remember reading somewhere that you have to be careful and get most of the air out of the container or the food will spoil quickly, or much quicker.

Any thoughts?

Walkie Talkie
03-02-2003, 12:23
I have bought a dehydrater and a vacuum sealer to prepare my food drops. I am not sure if it was a waste of money yet since there are so many options that one can feed themselves today. I have dried spaghetti sauce and veggies very successfully. I really like the dried zuchini and can't make enough of it. One problem I am having is veggies are expensive this time of year and not all that fresh. I prefer store bought fruit to mine and I hate pealing apples. I haven't had much success with meat except jerky.
I also have bought a vacuum sealer, but when I try it on dried food the sharp edges puncture the bags ruining the seal. I have to put them in a regular baggy first.
I think in the long run I will reduce some weight because of dryiing and it does give me something constructive to do while I wait to hike. I wouldn't bother starting this late since you couldn't get enough to make it worth your while.

03-02-2003, 12:35
Home dehydrators are handy gadgets but like most new toys ...they get a lot of use up front and then often fade into the pantry after a while. They take time and effort and when all is said and done you're often suprised at the low "yield". What I like the most about using our dehydrator (NESCO American Harvest) is that I know exactly what I started with and what got added (or didn't) to the process. Jerky, for example, can be bought in the store in a variety of flavors however you have no real idea as to the conditions under which it was prepared, much less what ingredients were added and in what quantities. In order to extend the shelf life of commercially dried foods, certain ingredients are added that you would never think of adding at home. We've dried every type of fruit imaginable, beans, mushrooms, veggies, beef, turkey (I love "Turkey Jerky) but our intent was always to consume what we dehydrated in the next 3 - 4 months. Speaking of mushrooms ...you can get 2 pints of fresh mushrooms, slice them thin and dry them in about an hour. Then you can place them in a canning jar. We have a little vacuum pump with which we can remove all the air from the jar. I've kept dried mushrooms for a year or more and used them with angel hair pasta and Knorr pasta sauce (powder) for a killer meal on the trail.

03-02-2003, 16:10
Hmmmm This is sound more and more interesting... I do want to add thing to my meals and Moose mentioned meat and the veggies sound like they would hit the spot.

How long does it take to rehydrate them OR do you just throw the dehydrated item into the ole cook pot and away you go?

I am TOTALY ignorant about this... and my interest has certainly been peaked.


Walkie Talkie
03-02-2003, 16:21
Although you can rehydrate in your cookpot I plan on taking a small container to rehydrate. Just put in veggies and a little water at lunch and out comes an instant gormet meal or at least rubbery mushrooms. I also plan on using this same bottle for hot drinks in the morning.


All that wander are not lost.

03-02-2003, 19:45
Sparky...one reason I don't do veggies anymore is the ones I dehydrated NEVER would get soft. Maybe I dried them to long. The hamburger will rehydrate during normal cooking time. I throw everything into the pot at the same time and cook.

03-06-2003, 13:25
When BamBam and I planned our 2001 thru-hike, we did a LOT of experimenting with our two new dehydrators...if water could be sucked out of a food item, we probably tried it at least once...our best of list includes:

Hamburger -- we were very worried about protein on the trail with pasta/rice etc. abounding. By cooking the hamburger thoroughly and then boiling it in water and straining to remove extra fat, we were able to decrease the fat (fat goes rancid pretty quickly) before dehydrating. We also stored ours in the freezer before having it maildropped to us...it worked really well and adding it to Mac & Cheese, Ramen, and Hamburger Helper was quite the culinary adventure on the trail.

Onions - Although there is a fair amount of work involved in slicing up onions and then dehydrating them, the pay-off was phenomenal. Thinly sliced onions rehydrate quickly and then cam be sauteed in olive oil (another item I highly recommend taking with you) and then added to whatever prepared meal you're eating -- so good!

Beans -- either canned or cooked from the dry state completely and then dehydrated...good source of protein and fiber. Beans rehydrate very quickly on the trail and work really well. We dehydrated refried beans also (definitely freeze the dehydrated beans since they have LOTS of fat).

Tuna -- this will smell up your house, but it is a very lightweight source of protein. Much more so than those tuna packages with oil etc. and definitelly more so than cans...

Various vegetables -- we ended up appreciating broccoli over the long haul...that seemed to be the vegetable we got the least sick of...I tried various methods, but the easiest (and probably cheapest) was dehydrating frozen vegetables which are already prepped for you...we also liked some of the mixed vegetables...they end up making your Ramen/Lipton/Cous Cous more interesting and better for you.

Speaking of rehydrating -- we did the "rehydrate during the day while hiking" thing for a couple weeks...and then our water bottles stunk like broccoli and onions and we realized it was pretty nauseating drinking water out of those containers...it's easier just to bring your cooking water to a boil with whatever you're rehydrating and let it sit for 5-10 minutes with a cover on and then continue cooking from there (slightly more fuel used, but overall time saved and you're not carrying around all of the weight of rehydrating vegetables and water)

Some items that were not worth it (and there were a lot actually), but the common ones:

Spaghetti sauce/any commecially prepared sauce overall -- really, why bother? You can buy dehydrated tomato/pesto/many other types of sauces commercially dehydrated like McCormick or Knorr (in the dry soup section)....they do a better job than your little dehydrator will and the cost is about the same...and dehydrating liquid sauces takes a LONG time....it only makes sense to dehydrate amazing homemade sauces...the commercial sauces are good sometimes -- we used Taco seasoning with rice and beans and hamburger, pesto sauce with cous cous and vegetables etc.

Most fruit -- not worth it...except apples, they were great! We tried pears, various melons, mangoes -- they were fine, but we just didn't feel like eating them on the trail...hot chocolate and Little Debbie Snack cakes were much more popular....

Hope this helps a bit for those starting to dehydrate....


Check out www.trailregistry.com for hiking info and maps.

03-06-2003, 14:27
Dried hamburger works well and is pretty stable. Roughly chop onions, celery, carrots, and green peppers for drying. A mix tossed in with Liptons works well. Marinated, dried tofu really makes Ramen quite a bit better. Use any jerky marinade. Dried greens (collards, mustard, turnip) powder up, but give Liptons an interesting punch. I'm making up about 30 dried meals for the PCT, along with a couple of bags of dried veg and one of dried hamburger. A 4 rack dehydrator yields about 4 servings (with instant rice) of whatever dinner I make. Indian lentil dishes and chili work very well, as does pasta e fagoli.

03-06-2003, 15:09
Pippi, Those are some wonderful suggestions.. Thank you.. I am looking forward to making my own food. I love the tip on onion, hamburger and the frozen veggies..


03-06-2003, 15:13
I have another question... how do you know how much extra water to add to rehydrate your food?


03-06-2003, 15:56
Practice at home prior to your hike, and add water gradually as it rehydrates. If you are cooking it at the same time you will be able to tell if it does not have enough water in it as it cooks. If it is dehydrating prior to cooking just keep checking in to make sure there is still some water in the container you are using. It takes a little practice, not only with the water, but the amount of dried food you are using also. Since you may end up with a very large amount of food if you are not careful and practiced prior to hiking. Just how my 2 cents.... and how I did it..


03-06-2003, 17:10
For a home dried dinner, cover the dried stuff in water. That is usually enough. Sometimes you need more, sometimes less. Something else you might do is cover with water and set your pot aside while you do chores or have a cocktail. The stuff will absorb some water. Put a bit more on to cover and then cook. For veg or burg, unless you use a ton of them, you don't have to modify how much water you add. Note that potatoes really suckass when you dry them.

03-06-2003, 17:20
I always rehydrated by adding boiling water and waiting 30 minutes. But sometimes an hour was better for chunky vegetables and meats.

03-09-2003, 18:38
OK, I got me a dehydrator today. I am wondering if any of you have recepies for some fruit leather. I was reading up and in the books I read said I should add "Ascorbic Acid" to keep the fruit from browning and help preserve it. Do I need to get some and if so do I need to add that to fruit leathers?


03-09-2003, 19:06
I've never used ascorbic acid in my fruit leathers. Seems fine without.

03-15-2003, 16:18
Ok, Today is the day I fired up my dehydrator for the first time.

I ran into a problem... When I put the corn and peas over half of them fell through the cracks... What do I do to keep that from happening (besides buying bigger veggies)

Right now I am dehydrating tomatoes, green peppers onions and green beans. Tomorrow I might try a fruit leather, apples, bananas, and pineapples.

Thanks for any advice!


03-15-2003, 16:54
Originally posted by Sparky!
Ok, Today is the day I fired up my dehydrator for the first time.

I ran into a problem... When I put the corn and peas over half of them fell through the cracks... What do I do to keep that from happening (besides buying bigger veggies)


I use the solid plastic trays that are used for fruit leather. If you don't have those, then try plastic wrap over the trays.

03-15-2003, 17:03
Thanks Deb, I will have to give it a try. Another person on the AT-L suggested that I use parchment paper with holes in it to help circulation. What do you think.

I am dehydrating veggies right now and my kitchen smells just like my grandmothers did when we would be over for supper.. I miss her and her fabulous meals.. brings back a lot of good memories..


03-15-2003, 20:26
Sparky, they also make plastic "screens" the same size as the trays. The holes are much smaller. These work well as they let the air flow around the food. You can usually buy them at the same place you bought the dehydrator.

03-15-2003, 20:39

I looked at Wal-Mart where I bought it and they didn't have any and I went to another department store and they did not have any. UG! But I think I have a work around for it...

How is your hike planning going? Sorry about your transcriber but there is nothing like having friends on the trail and who can blame her.


03-15-2003, 21:04
goin good. Last weekend at home before I head to Springer!! I'd be very interested in how your veggies turn out. I could of shipped mine to Iraq and used them as ammo!!

03-15-2003, 21:09
Sparky, this is what I was talking about.


03-16-2003, 00:55
Well, The first try is done.. The tomatoes, peppers and onions turned out beautiful! The green beans, well, are solid! I have to rehydrate a few tomorrow to give it the taste test..

This was not even close to as hard as I thought it was. Tomorrow we are making dried fruits. My son and daughter want to dry some apples, nanners, pineapple, pears and make a fruit leather.

I checked them out at Nesco and was skidish about the 4-6 week shipping time. So I went with www.goodmans.net. I got them for the same price with shipping. Plus the shipping is 3 day priority mail.

I have been reading up on your journal.. I am VERY excited for you!!! I am looking forward to reading your journal and taking you out to eat at the only AYCE I know of around here ( the Golden Coral) see for myself how true this hiker hunger really is ;)

Take care Moose!!

08-22-2004, 13:18
Which dehydrator do you guys reccomend? I'm very intersted in buying one, but I want to make sure I get a good one. What features should I look for? Thanks guys.


08-22-2004, 13:29
I have a cheap American Harvester, plastic trays, purchased for less than $10 3 years ago at either Tuesday Morning or Big Lots (I can't remember which). It is your basic hair dryer and vented tray system.

You could do the same with old stove trays, a cardboard box and a 150 watt lightbulb. More expensive dehydrators have thermometers and such. They may be more convenient. but one can do very well assuming you keep things clean and don't "check" progress too often.


08-22-2004, 19:31
Which dehydrator do you guys reccomend? I'm very intersted in buying one, but I want to make sure I get a good one. What features should I look for? Thanks guys.

A model with a thermostat. Some items need low temps.

08-22-2004, 21:40
A model with a thermostat. Some items need low temps.I've used a dehyrator for years without a thermostat. Not even a switch. American Harvest. Plug it in and it runs.

Never had a problem dehyrating anything. I've done beef and turkey, veggies and fruit.

The only things I ever had trouble with was bananas (banana chips turned to slime when you put them in your mouth - taste was okay, texture was not) and grapes. Took over a week and a half to dehydrate grapes into raisins. They were damned good, but with all the electricity used, they probably cost ten bucks a pound. Plus, after a few days, I went and used a toothpick to make holes in EACH FRIGGIN' GRAPE because absolutely nothing was happening. Buy raisins, dehydrate other stuff.

08-22-2004, 21:49
My son and daughter want to dry some apples, nanners, pineapple, pears If you get bananas to dehydrate properly, please tell me how.

A good tip for pineapple and apples:

Buy six tall cans of pineapple slices in own juice. They just fit on a four tray American Harvester (1 1/2 cans per tray). Save the juice. Dehydrate slightly less than 24 hours. They'll be a bit chewy. Put in plastic bags. Great on the trail for a sugar boost. Especially good showshoeing.

Next day, core a whole crapload of apples. Courtlands work well, and Macintosh and crisp Galas/Fujis/Braeburns. Nothing sweet. Slice the cored apples (skin on) about a quarter inch thick or a little less. Soak apple slices in pineapple juice for a couple minutes immediately after cutting. This keeps them from turning brown in dehydrator and gives them a nice taste.

Pile the slices two deep on the dehydrator as within a copuple hours they will have shrunk a bunch. This way you get more per batch. Dehrate until kind of crisp. Makes sort-of-crunchy apple chips that end up being a little chewy once saliva rehydrates them.

08-22-2004, 22:52
If you get bananas to dehydrate properly, please tell me how.

Slice any fruit into thin slices. Toss into a bowl of lemon/lime water if you wish to keep the color less brown. Dry them in your plain vanilla American Harvester forever. Use over ripe bananas, the peel must be at least polky dotted brown. Peaches are best with culls. I suspect that only folks in Carolina and points north will find those at vegetable markets. (August 22, last weekend of peaches in GA).

When things are cripsy or as hard as you can get it, place in ziplocks and freeze.

As someone else noted, it is cheaper to buy raisins, and cheaper to buy bannana chips and apple chips. The only stuff worth drying are veggies that you grow or can obtain cheaply. The reason to dry is to enjoy something that you can't buy anywhere else.


08-23-2004, 07:17
I've used a dehyrator for years without a thermostat. Not even a switch. American Harvest. Plug it in and it runs.

YMMV. I have used one for years without a thermostat also, but I'd rather have one with a thermostat. It's only a couple of extra dollars and it is worth the versatility to be able to lower the temperature. Dehydrating takes time, sometimes it is not always possible to hover nearby to avoid overdrying. Delicate items need lower temps. Non-thermostat models will likely have different fixed temperatures.

The big front burner on my electric stove used to have two settings-off and full on. I could cook on that too, but one day I just decided to fix it:o .

08-23-2004, 09:01
YMMV. I have used one for years without a thermostat also, but I'd rather have one with a thermostat. It's only a couple of extra dollars and it is worth the versatility to be able to lower the temperature. Dehydrating takes time, sometimes it is not always possible to hover nearby to avoid overdrying. Delicate items need lower temps. Non-thermostat models will likely have different fixed temperatures.

The big front burner on my electric stove used to have two settings-off and full on. I could cook on that too, but one day I just decided to fix it:o .Sorry. Didn't mean to imply that you or anyone should only use a non-thermostat dryer, only that a thermostat was not necessary.

Out of curiousity, what requires a lower temp than is on standard dehydrators?

09-03-2004, 20:11
I picked up my dehydrator from walmart. I have done Jerky, fruit, ground beef, veggies, even leftover Hamburger Helper.

If you look up dehydrating in the internet you may even find articles which outline how to dehydrate in your own everyday oven. Generally speaking, a lower temp <200 degrees for a good long time.


08-12-2006, 01:44
http://www.dehydrators.co.uk/ very good graphics, online magazine. LOTS of info about drying fruit and veggies.

www.nesco.com (http://www.nesco.com) makes the American arvest brand. Good source for dehydrator accessories. Sells jerky seasonings.

08-12-2006, 07:04
My wonderful wife did most of the dehydrating for my thru hike. We started out with a cheap dehydrator but it was hard to regulate, cooked unevenly, and finally just took to long to do a batch . The problem was that it was not powerful enough. Later we switched to one that was rated at 1000 watts, It was almost $200, but it did an excellent job. We dehydrated many recipes out of the book "Backpack Gourmet". First used ziplocks but the jerky sometimes got moldy. This problem was solved by using the vacuum sealer bags, and machine. The dehydrated food kept this way in a freezer is still good from last year.. I especially liked to dehydrate fresh pinapple.

Farr Away
08-12-2006, 14:49
I had a dehydrator that did not have a heating element at all - just a blower. It was absolutely phenomenal at drying everything. You could also put something like 20 trays on it, remove the bottom tray when the stuff on it was dry, refill it and stick it back on the top of the stack. It could turn out an incredible quantity of dried whatever very quickly. Also the trays were a complete circle (i.e. no 'doughnut-hole' in the center), so fruit leathers were much easier.

It was made by the VitaMix corporation who apparently have discontinued making dehydrators.

My ex and I had two dehydrators when we split up, so I kept the one my parents had given us (which has a heating element, no blower & a doughnut-hole). Oh well. Maybe I'll looked for a used Harvest-1 on ebay or something. :)