Dehydrating food is a great way to store food for long periods of time. So, it is a great option for survivalists and preppers to store a range of food long term.
However, there are shorter term reasons why you might want to dehydrate food, for example dehydrating fruit is a great snack if you are out on a day hike.
Dehydrating food works by exposing the food to low heat, over many hours. This removes the moisture from the food.
The temperature and time will be dependent on the food you are dehydrating, so you will need to experiment or follow a recipe.
Most foods can be dehydrated, but some are better to dehydrate than others.
The most common dehydrated foods are:
All meat can be dehydrated. Beef Jerky and Biltong are probably the most famous examples what you will have heard of.
Whatever meat you choose to dehydrate, generally the leaner cuts work better and always trim off excess fat.
Most vegetables can be dehydrated, and I see more and more people dehydrating vegetables instead of eating shop bought crisps.
Hard watery vegetables work best, like potatoes, turnips, and pumpkins. Just remember you need to try to keep the size and thickness as uniform as possible, so that cooking times are the same.
Pretty much all fruits are good for dehydrating because they usually have a high-water content, and they are naturally sweet.
With meat and vegetables, you may need to add flavourings and spices, but they are generally not needed with fruit.
The most common fruits that are dehydrated are bananas, apples, and strawberries.
There are many reasons why you should be dehydrating food:
It is an easy way to make a lot of homemade food. Homemade food normally works out cheaper than buying the same thing from supermarkets, and you can control the quantity and quality of the ingredients.
It is also a fun task to do with children.
By removing the water content, the finished product is smaller and weighs less than the original item. This means that you can store more in the same container.
For example, if you are away on a thru-hike, you are better off carrying dried bananas than fresh bananas as you will get a greater calorie load for the same weight whilst saving space in your backpack.
They are also a great thing to keep in a bug out bag.
Dehydrating cooks the food and removes the water; this kills the bacteria and then prevents more bacteria growing. This means you can keep dehydrated food a lot longer than normal food.
For instance, fresh fruit might be able to be kept for a week on the kitchen counter before it starts to rot. However, dehydrated bananas can be kept for years in an airtight container.
So, they are a great option or survivalists and preppers.
Dehydrating also makes the food less susceptible to the environment. If you are out all day and night on a wild camp in hot and humid conditions, then some fresh food will not handle that environment well and might go bad.
Dehydrated food is a lot easier to store and use in these circumstances.
Dehydrating is a way to preserve food and reduce food waste. We have seen how dehydrated food is a good option for survivalists and prepper but dehydrating is vital for homesteaders.
Homesteaders are attempting to grow as much of their own food as possible, this means at times of harvest they will have an abundance of food but at other times of the year they may not have anything ready.
So, they need to be able to store food for different lengths of time, to ensure they have food all year round.
If you have an apple tree, it will grow many apples, but they will all ripen in a short period of time. You will not be able to eat them all fresh, so you need to find ways to preserve them.
Dehydrating food does change the taste profile of the food in question, it also changes the texture.
Some people do not like dehydrated food, so before you invest in a dehydrator, I would recommend you buy some jerky, vegetable crisps, and fruit leather first to make sure you like them.
Generally dehydrating is a good preserving method and it will keep a lot of the nutrients that were originally in the food. However, dehydrating works by using heat to remove the water.
This is a low heat, which is why a lot of the nutrients are retained but there are some nutrients that are highly sensitive to heat.
For example, Vitamin C is easily destroyed by heat, and the heat needed to dehydrate food is enough to destroy the Vitamin C.
This is an important thing to consider when you are filling up your prepper panty for example, as you cannot rely on dried fruit for your daily Vitamin C allowance. If you did, it might lead to things like scurvy.
In my opinion there are more advantages than disadvantages when it comes to dehydrating food, it is an important preserving method in my opinion and is one I use regularly.
Bananas are one of my favourite things to dehydrate for taste and convenience.
There is nothing worse than when you buy a bunch of bananas from the supermarket and they are not ripe enough, then suddenly they are over ripe, and you don’t have time to eat them all.
I like my fresh bananas sof,t so this often happens to me. If I don’t have time to eat them all I will dehydrate them.
These are some of the methods I have used to dehydrate bananas:
Most people have an oven, so this is often the best way for people to start as you will already have most of things you need, and the method is easy for beginners.
Then if you find you enjoy dehydrating bananas and other foods then you might consider buying a specialist dehydrator.
Preheat the oven to 125 degrees Fahrenheit or 50 degrees Celsius. The lower the setting the better, but if the lowest setting is 200F or 90C then that is fine. Anything higher and you will have to use another method.
Slice the bananas to about half a cm.
If the banana is too mushy to cut properly you can leave the bananas in the fridge or freezer for a while to harden them up a bit, but it is nothing to worry about.
If it is too mushy just slice them the best you can and flatten them with the side of the knife, so they are a uniform thickness.
This is optional bit it is something I do myself… I dip the bananas in lemon or lime juice. This prevents the bananas from turning brown.
You can skip this step as they don’t always turn brown without the lemon juice, but it can happen.
I make a mixture of lemon juice to water at a 1:4 ratio respectively, and I leave the bananas in the mixture for 5 minutes or so. This does increase the cooking time because you have added additional moisture to the bananas.
You will need a baking tray to collect water that drips off the bananas, then you put a raised wire rack on top of the baking tray. This allows for airflow around the banana slices to ensure an even cook.
Place the bananas on the rack, spaced evenly apart and not touching.
Add any additional seasoning you want. I sprinkle with salt and cinnamon.
Then place in the centre of a preheated oven.
They will take between 1 and 3 hours too cook. You can flip them about halfway through but avoid constantly opening the oven door as you need a consistent temperature.
Softer banana slices taste better in my opinion, however crispier bananas will have a longer shelf life.
So how long your cook them depends on how and when you intend to eat them.
Allow them to air cool naturally, then store them in an airtight container.
This is very similar to the oven method so I don’t need to go through all the steps but there are some differences.
You slice the bananas as before, soak them in lemon juice and apply whatever seasoning you like.
However instead of a wire racks, you use the trays provided with the dehydrator which you can stack on top of each other. You should rotate the trays during the cooking time to ensure an even cook.
Dehydrators take longer than ovens, but I find they give more consistent results and cooking times than ovens.
Expect banana slices to take around 24 hours. The good thing about dehydrators is that they often come with a recipe book, which gives you a list of foods and how long they take to dehydrate… so just follow the instructions.
Once dehydrated, and cooled, just store them in an airtight container as usual.
Probably the first ever food preservation method, would have been to dry out meat in the sun.
The same process can used today with bananas.
Prepare the bananas as before.
Then you will need a rack to put them on, which needs to be elevated off the floor to allow airflow and even drying. It is also wise to cover them in some sort of bug net or cheese cloth to protect them from critters.
Then leave them out in direct sunlight during the day and bring them into the house at night. You will need to live in a hot and dry climate. Ideally around 100 degrees F for 2 to 7 days with no rain.
As you are leaving the food outside you do need to be careful with pollution, so don’t leave them next to a field that is getting sprayed with insecticide or next a busy road and all the exhaust fumes.
If you like the taste of dehydrated bananas but haven’t prepared any in advance, then this is a little hack you can use.
Prepare the bananas as usual and place them on a non-stick plate or use some baking paper on the plate.
Then cook for 1 minute on full power, turn them all over and cook for another 30 seconds. Then check them. Continue this process for 30 second intervals until they are cooked to your liking. Usually, it is 2 to 3 minutes.
Please note this is not a food preservation method, you will not be able to store these like properly dehydrated food. This is for when you just fancy some dried bananas to eat straight away but you don’t have anything prepared.
Dehydrated food is versatile, light, and conveniently stored. It can be useful for day hikes, backpackers, bushcrafters, survivalists, and preppers.
It is especially good for food like bananas that have a short shelf life. The more ways you can preserve food for the short, medium, and long-term the less food you will waste, and the less you will spend on growing or buying your food.
My favourite method is to use an electrical dehydrator which I bought, but I do not spend money running it off the national grid and I do not rely on the grid. Instead, I have it outside hooked up to a solar generator and solar panels.
So, if for some reason I was cut off from my normal food supply or cut off from electricity, then I would still have a way to preserve food as long as the appliance did not fail.