Freeze-drying is a food drying technology that has been around for ages.
Militaries and space agencies across the world have been using this process to preserve food for soldiers and astronauts. This is because freeze-dried foods have a very long shelf life, are lighter and easier to transport, can be quickly prepared through warm water rehydration, and taste just as good as fresh foods.
Many big box stores are now selling a host of freeze-dried foods. Families across the country are also increasingly getting home freeze dryers to preserve their food.
This post is for everyone who is considering freeze-drying as a method of food preservation. It explains freeze-drying in simple terms and provides answers to the frequently asked questions about freeze drying.
Let’s get into it.
What is a Freeze Dryer and How Does Freeze-Drying Work?
A freeze dryer is a machine that is designed to dry foods in a special way for long term preservation. Freeze-dried foods can last for many years if stored correctly.
All freeze dryers have the same four-step process:
Step 1: Food is placed on stainless steel trays and loaded into the freeze dryer.
Step 2: The food is frozen to negative 30 or 40°F
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Step 3: The dryer creates a strong vacuum around the frozen food. The creation of a strong vacuum slowly warms the trays but does not defrost the food.
Step 4: The slow warming of the trays triggers sublimation. This is what removes moisture from the food transforming it from its frozen state to a dry state without passing through the liquid state. It is this process that makes sure that food completely dries without losing its shape, its taste, or its nutritional value.
The Key Things to Note About How Freeze Dryers Work
Before you jump into a purchase of a freeze dryer, I wanted to give you some important facts about freeze dryers before you make a purchase.
It Takes Time
First, powerful freeze dryers only take between 20 to 30 hours to completely dry most types of food, while ordinary dryers may take as long as 40 or 50 hours to do the job.
Freeze Dryers are Now Automated
Modern freeze dryers are completely automated. You only need to correctly load them with food and hit the start button to begin the process.
Food Must Be Stored Correctly
No matter how brilliant your food dryer is, you have to store your food correctly the moment you take it out. If your food is not stored correctly, the food will take back moisture and oxygen from the air making it go bad in a matter of days or weeks.
Food that has been dried using the freeze dryer process must be placed in an airtight container. Otherwise, your food will begin to reabsorb moisture and will spoil.
Another great option for storing your freeze dried food is using Mylar bags. Click here to check out the best price on Amazon.
We talk more about storing food after freeze-drying later in this post.
Freeze Drying vs Dehydrating
I already made note of this in the four steps above, but I wanted to touch on it again.
Freeze-drying is a better method of food preservation compared to food dehydration. The process does not involve drying food by direct heat as is the case with dehydration. For this reason, freeze-dried food usually does not lose its shape or nutrients.
According to recent research, freeze-dried foods retain 97 percent of their nutrients. In contrast, dehydrated foods only retain about 60 percent of their nutrients.
According to recent research, freeze-dried foods retain 97 percent of their nutrients. In contrast, dehydrated foods only retain about 60 percent of their nutrients. For this reason professionals recommend freeze drying compared to dehydration, freeze drying does no harm to a meal’s nutritional value, while dehydration reduces the value by a third.
The fact that freeze drying does not involve heat also means that the freeze dried foods retain their original scents, textures, and flavors.
So, if you want your preserved food to taste just like fresh food, freeze-dry instead of dehydrating.
If you are looking for a powerful dehydrator in stead of freeze dryer, then I suggest that you take a look at the Excalibur 2900ECB 9-Tray Food Dehydrator. I’ve added an Amazon link with the best price as well. You’ll be surprised at the price and while you’re in Amazon take a look at the reviews.
The Reasons Freeze Dryers are Becoming Increasingly Popular
There are several reasons why more and more people are going for freeze dryers. They include:
To Store Food for Survival and for Emergency Purposes
For quite a long time, freeze dryers were mostly associated with the military, campers, hunters, hikers, adventurers, and survivalists. The people listed above frequently used freeze dryers in the past to preserve food for survival in the wild.
However, nowadays freeze dryers are more widely accepted across the country. This is especially true in disaster-prone areas where disruptions to the food supply chains are frequent.
According to QuickandDirtyTips.com here are some good tips on how to stock an emergency food supply:
- Make sure to have a three-day supply of non-perishable food and water
- Figure about 2000 calories per person per day.
- You also want to have at least one liter of clean drinking water per person per day
- It’s good to avoid salty foods and other foods that may make you thirsty
- The ideal foods for an emergency kit do not require cooking
- If the power goes out, you will not be able to keep foods refrigerated or frozen for long.
- Before breaking into your dried and canned goods, eat your refrigerated first—but only as long as you can maintain them at food safe temperatures.
- Once your fridge or freezer climbs above 40 degrees fahrenheit, the clock is ticking, especially on highly perishable items like milk and meat.
- Please visit https://ready.gov for more information about putting together a comprehensive emergency plan.
Families with freeze dryers in such areas can preserve food for emergency events such as tornadoes, hurricanes, and flooding. Events that may prevent them from accessing food from where they normally get it from.
To Preserve Food for a Long Time
This is probably the number one reason behind the growing popularity of freeze dryers. Freeze-dried food has a shelf life of between 2 to 25 years depending on the type of food and packaging you’ve put it in. Some foods such as fruits can only last for as long as two years, and some packaging will let in air and moisture further reducing the preservation period.
It’s safe to say that the reason so many people are interested in freeze-dryers is because they preserve food for a very long time.
To Retain the Maximum Nutritional Value of Food
As mentioned earlier, freeze drying is one of the best methods of food preservation because it retains most of the nutrition. Recent research shows that the method retains approximately 97 percent of nutrients. In contrast, dehydration only retains 60 percent of nutrients while deep freezing retains even less nutrients.
Therefore, if you want your food to remain as nutritious as it is while fresh, freeze drying is the way to go especially if you are preserving it for long term storage.
To Store Dairy Products
Not many people would readily associate freeze drying with dairy products. However, the method of preservation is one of the best ones for the long term preservation of dairy products such as yogurt and cheese.
Freeze-dried yogurt can be rehydrated quickly when necessary or can be eaten as is without needing a spoon or cup. Freeze-dried cheese, on the other hand, can also be quickly rehydrated to return to its original state.
The best thing about preserving such dairy products by freeze drying is that the process preserves both nutrients and probiotics.
For Quick Meals
Frozen foods take a lot of time to thaw before they can be prepared. Dehydrated foods may also need some time to cook while freeze-dried foods are usually very easy to prepare. Some freeze-dried foods only need to be put in warm water for a couple of minutes and they will be ready to enjoy.
So if you want to store food in such a way that will allow you to prepare quick meals when the time comes, choose freeze drying.
To Use Real Food Products For a Variety of Applications
Freeze drying allows you to use real fruits, vegetables, meats, and cereals in a variety applications. For example, freeze-dried fruits can be used to make ready-to-eat cereals and snacks. They can also be used to make smoothies. Freeze-dried meats can be used to make soup dishes or to make delicious protein-rich meals.
To Save Pantry Space and to Prevent Waste
When you freeze dry food, you will not need big jars to store it. Vacuum-sealed Mylar bags will do the job. This means you can save your pantry space to store other types of food.
“It is estimated that families throw away as much as 40 percent of the food they buy every year as leftovers. With a freeze dryer, you can preserve at least 70 or 80 percent of that for future consumption.”
Another great reason to own a freeze dryer is that with a freeze dryer you will also prevent waste. It is estimated that families throw away as much as 40 percent of the food they buy every year as leftovers. With a freeze dryer, you can preserve at least 70 or 80 percent of that for future consumption.
To Save Money
Decent freeze dryers are pretty costly. However, they are worth it especially because they can considerably reduce your food expenses.
For example, when fruits and vegetables are in season, farmers and grocery stores will typically sell them at lower prices. Buying fruits and vegetables in bulk when they are cheap and freeze drying them for storage will mean you do not have to spend money on them when they are out of season and expensive.
It is kind of the same thing with meats. You can buy them in bulk when there are significant sales and freeze-dry them for later use; no need to spend a lot of money on smaller quantities.
What are the Major Differences Between Freeze Dryers and a Normal Dehydrator?
There are several differences between freeze dryers and normal dehydrators that are important for you to understand.
First, these two units have different processes. The freeze dryer typically freezes food fast and then dries it using a powerful vacuum. In contrast, a normal dehydrator dries food by directly blowing heat over it.
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Second, the two units are different in terms of energy use. Since freeze dryers have a more complex process of drying food, they normally require and consume more energy compared to food dehydrators.
Third, the two types of machines have different average food drying times. Freeze dryers usually take a lot of time (about 24 hours) to dry food while most food dehydrators take much less time (between 4 to 10 hours) to dry food.
Lastly, freeze dryers are typically much more expensive than food dehydrators. While most freeze dryers will set you back at least $2,000 bucks, you can get a pretty decent dehydrator for only $200.
The above differences may make you think that food dehydrators are a much better option than freeze dryers. However, nothing could be further from the truth.
Check how the freeze-dried food compares to dehydrated food using the metrics below:
While the best commercial dehydrators can remove only 95 percent of moisture from food, freeze dryers typically remove about 99 percent of water. The fact that freeze-dried foods have virtually no moisture left inside means they are less likely to go bad and have a longer shelf life.
Compared to dehydrated foods that can last for about 15 years, freeze-dried foods typically last for about 25 years.
Preparation for Consumption
Most freeze-dried foods are usually cooked before being preserved. Hence it usually takes very little time to prepare them when you are ready to consume them. Rehydration usually just requires putting them in warm water for a couple of minutes.
Unlike freeze-dried foods, dehydrated foods usually need to be cooked or soaked for longer to be ready to eat.
Flavor and Texture
Freeze-dried foods retain their original flavor and texture. This is because the freeze drying process is very gentle on food and doesn’t destroy its integrity. In contrast, dehydrated food may not taste exactly like its original version because the direct heat may change it a bit.
If you intend to carry your preserved food on your adventures, hiking trips, camping trips, and so on, you should freeze-dry it. This is because freeze-drying it will shrink its weight and enable you to carry more. Dehydration also shrinks food but not as much as freeze drying. The weight difference between the two is significant.
However, the weight difference may not be an issue if you simply want to preserve food and store it in the pantry.
In terms of nutritional value, freeze-dried foods are the best.
If you are looking for a real healthy way of preserving your food, you should choose freeze drying.
Freeze-drying usually does not affect the nutritional value of foods. Nearly all nutrients are retained when foods undergo the preservation process. In contrast, dehydration usually results in a loss of about 30 percent of nutrients.
If you are looking for a real healthy way of preserving your food, you should choose freeze drying.
As it is evident from the statements above, although freeze dryers are expensive, freeze drying is a far superior process of food preservation compared to food dehydration.
The Pros and Cons of Owning a Freeze Dryer
The pros of owning a freeze dryer outweigh the cons as you will find out below.
- Freeze-dried foods can be rehydrated quickly to their original state
- Freeze-dried foods have a very long shelf life
- Freeze-dried foods do not require continuous refrigeration
- Freeze-dried foods taste almost exactly the same as their pre-preserved versions
- Freeze-dried foods are lighter to carry for hiking, camping, and adventure trips
- Freeze-drying retains almost all nutrients in contrast to dehydration and freezing that significantly reduce the nutritional value of food
- Freeze drying can save you a lot of money in the long run by allowing you to bulk buy in-season or discounted food items for preservation
- Freeze drying ensures excess food does not go to waste even during prolonged power blackouts
- Decent freeze dryers are pretty expensive; they cost about $2,000
- Freeze dryers consume a lot of power
- Freeze dryers typically take quite long to preserve food (about 24 hours)
- Freeze drying will not kill all of the bacteria in food
Here is the takeaway from all these pros and cons. If you really want to preserve food the right way, get yourself a freeze dryer.
Home freeze drying can help you prepare for emergencies including tornadoes, hurricanes, flooding, and sudden unemployment.
It is great because it helps you to preserve food without changing its taste, texture, or shape significantly.
The Types of Foods That Can Be Freeze Dried
You can perfectly freeze dry almost every type of food. You can freeze dry desserts, entire meals, dairy products, meats, fish, seafood, eggs, nuts, potatoes, fruits, vegetables, herbs, grains, and coffee.
However, there are several foods that you should not freeze dry.
They include jam, syrup, honey, butter, pure chocolate, and peanut butter. These foods just won’t be the same when you freeze dry them. Some of these foods could also dirty or spoil your freeze dryer.
How Best to Store Food After Freeze Drying
You must, by this part of the post, be convinced that freeze drying is one of the most effective ways of preserving food. However, there is one thing you need to know – the process by itself won’t preserve your food for long. You need to store the food properly to ensure longevity. If you do not store it properly, all your preservation efforts will be for naught.
How do you properly store freeze-dried food? You do it in two steps:
First Step: Confirm that the food is actually dry
You need to make sure the food is dry when the freeze drying cycle comes to an end. You can do this by taking one or two random pieces of food and breaking them in half to inspect the center.
The center should be without any ice particles. If you do not trust your vision, you can touch the center of the food particle against the back of your hand. If it is still cold/ frozen, then the food is not yet ready for storage. Put it back for a little more dry time to ensure it is completely dry.
Many modern freeze dryers are made in such a way that makes it easy to extend dry time at the touch of a button. Do not be afraid to use such capabilities to eliminate moisture for it is the enemy of long term food preservation.
Second Step: Seal the food completely
Once you confirm the food is completely dry and ready for storage, you should put it in a sealed/ airtight bag or container. If you do not do this, the food will take back moisture from the surrounding environment and go bad.
Mylar bags are the best, cheapest, and most airtight bags for storage. They prevent air and moisture from getting in and can extend the shelf life of most foods to more than twenty years. In case you choose to use Mylar bags, make sure you also get oxygen absorbers (the link above is for Mylar bags with oxygen absorbers). You are supposed to put the absorbers in the bags with your food and then seal them using an impulse sealer. If you do not have the sealer simply use a flat iron.
A great impulse sealer available on Amazon is the Metronic Impulse Bag Sealer. I have linked it back to Amazon and it’s price cannot be beat. This is the impulse sealer that I use and others will agree it’s a great product.
Vacuum-sealed plastic bags can also be pretty good for long term storage of most foods. However, the longevity of meats in such storage bags is usually not good.
If you are looking to invest in a vacuum-sealer, I suggest the Vacuum Sealer By NutriChef. I have linked it back to Amazon so you can read its reviews for yourself. They are pretty great!
If you have a can sealer (I have linked it to the Happybuy can sealer on Amazon), you can store your food in cans. Cans are just as good as Mylar bags in terms of ensuring a long shelf life.
For short term storage (a few weeks), you can simply store your foods in re-sealable containers and jars. Just make sure you seal the jar tight to protect the contents from moisture and air.
Common Freeze Drying Mistakes you Need to Avoid
If you are now more than convinced that freeze drying is what you want to do then you need to read this part of the post. Below are the common freeze drying mistakes you need to avoid.
Freeze Drying Uncooked Meat With Other Foods
Uncooked meat has bacteria. Freeze drying it with fruits, vegetables, or any other foods you intend to eat without further cooking is wrong and dangerous. This is because the freeze-drying process involves the movement of water vapor in the chamber which could lead to the meat cross-contaminating your other foods.
So if you want to freeze dry meat with other foods, boil it or cook it first to make sure all the bacteria is gone.
Freeze Drying Strongly Flavored Foods Together
The best way to freeze dry foods is to freeze dry just the same type of food at a time. If you freeze dry different foods with strong but different flavors during the same cycle, you could end up with all your foods having different flavors. So for good results, it is best you only freeze dry the same type of food in one cycle.
Freeze Drying High-Fat Foods
Do not freeze dry high-fat foods such as butter or you will end up with a huge mess. The butter could end up covering every inch of the interior of your dryer. And it is almost guaranteed that it will take you a lot of time to clean it up and several cycles for the odor to completely disappear.
Freeze Drying Large Fish or Meat Pieces
Freeze drying large pieces of meat and fish will most likely result in difficult to rehydrate and tasteless meat and fish.
The best way to freeze dry fish and meat is to slice it to thin pieces so that the process totally dries them. You can also freeze dry diced, shredded, or ground meat as such meat usually dries completely and is easy to rehydrate.
Freeze Drying Fruits as a Whole
Tough skin fruits such as blueberries, cherry tomatoes, cranberries, and grapes should not be freeze-dried as a whole. This will prevent them from completely drying and could lead to spoilage. The best way to freeze dry them is to peel them and cut them in half. Some may not be practically peelable so slicing them in half may be the only thing you can do to ensure they dry completely.
Is It Worth the Investment to Purchase a Freeze Dryer?
A freeze dryer is a superior method of food preservation compared to other methods such as dehydration and deep freezing. This is because it ensures that food retains its taste, texture, scent, and nutrients.
However, Freeze Dryers are pretty expensive.
They also consume a lot of power when working. Nevertheless, if you live in a disaster-prone area, it is a worthy investment. Because it is will help you to stock up for the future and be prepared.
Those who love backpacking, camping, hiking, mountaineering, going on expeditions, and so on, will also find a freeze dryer to be a worthy investment.
Because it will help them to stock light but nutritious food that they can quickly prepare for survival out in the wild.
If you are looking for a freeze dryer for your home, then there is really only one solution. The Harvest Right Freeze Dryer is your best choice.
Below I want to walk review the Harvest Right Freeze Dryer and determine if you should make the plunge and purchase one for your home.