Preparation is Key


~Plan ahead before you dehydrate~


Before you dehydrate anything, make sure you:

  • Thoroughly wash all foods with an anti-bacterial vegetable cleaner.
  • Wear gloves when preparing foods to avoid getting skin oils on the food and to protect your skin from contact with oils that could burn or cause a rash.
  • Steam/blanch all low-acid vegetables prior to dehydrating. After they have been steamed, pat them dry before placing them in the food dehydrator.
  • Spritz bananas, apples, and other light-colored fruits with lemon juice to avoid browning.
  • For ease in understanding what foods need pretreatment, use these handy Dehydrator Charts.
  • Turn on the dehydrator prior to use to allow it to warm up to the required temperature before adding food. I usually turn mine on to pre-heat 30 minutes before adding foods.
  • Prepare items that require the same temperature, and dehydrate at the same time. Do not try to combine herbs, fruits and vegetables, and meats. They all have different dehydrating temperatures.

Cutting Produce

  • For best results, slice all items to equal thickness and size for even drying. Don’t slice food too thin. 1/4-1/2 inch thickness is perfect depending on the produce variety. The larger the cut area, the faster and better the food dehydrates since moisture escapes best from a cut or broken surface.
  • Thin stalked vegetables like green beans, asparagus or rhubarb should be cut in half the long way or with an extreme diagonal cut. Fruit should be sliced across the core. Place these cut side up on the tray.
  • Waxy, thick-skinned fruits (i.e. – cherries, grapes, plums and blueberries must have their skins poked or pitted and will take 1-2 days to dehydrate depending on their size. Cutting these fruits in half speeds drying time.
  • The peel of fruits and vegetables contain much of the nutritional value. It is better not to peel, if the dried food is to be eaten as a snack. If you are using apples in a pie or tomatoes for soup you will want to peel before dehydrating. It is up to your tastes, ultimately.
  • When deciding how to cut up your foods, think about how you will use them in your cooking. Example: Do your recipes call for chopped onions? Sliced bell peppers? Pineapple chunks or rings? Plan ahead now so you do not have to worry about this inconvenience at cook-time.
  • Arrange fruits or vegetables in a single layer on each tray so that no pieces are touching or overlapping.

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And one last tip….Don’t try to dry foods quicker. Do not worry about over-drying your foods. You can dry them longer if necessary, but it’s not wise to turn the temperature settings up in an attempt to dry the foods quicker. This will seal the outside, leaving moisture within (called case hardening), which will ultimately lead to food spoilage before you have a chance to eat it. You may also end up with singed or burnt food items.

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The distinction between pre-cooking your foods and raw processing:
1) If I am going to use my foods in normal cooking at home that contain a good amount of water (i.e., soups, stews, casseroles, etc), I use raw processing. Raw processing is just the preparation of fruits and vegetables in their raw state, minimally blanched or pretreated with an acid (if necessary) and then sliced.
2) If I am going to use a cooking process that does not allow for a lot of liquids in the base (stir fry, sauces, etc.), I first rehydrate my raw produce and then continue on with my cooking.
3) If I am making a just-add-water meal in a jar or pouch (see example recipes on the website), THEN I steam my vegetables first BEFORE dehydrating so that they only need to rehydrate in the water and do not need further cooking.
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A note about dehydrated meats/poultry/fish:
I always pre-cook or at least bring my meats up to temperature before I dehydrate to produce the safest and most tasty product possible. Don’t forget to preheat your dehydrator.

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