Food drying is a way to preserve fruit, vegetables, and animal proteins after harvest, that has been practiced since antiquity, and a food dehydrator refers to a device that removes moisture from food to aid in its preservation. A food dehydrator uses a heat source and air flow to reduce the water content of foods. The water content of food is usually very high, typically 80% to 95% for various fruits and vegetables and 50% to 75% for various meats. Removing moisture from food restrains various bacteria from growing and spoiling food. Further, removing moisture from food dramatically reduces the weight of the food. Thus, food dehydrators are used to preserve and extend the shelf life of various foods.
Devices require heat using energy sources such as solar or electric power or biofuel (i.e. oil), and vary in form from large-scale dehydration projects to DIY projects or commercially sold appliances for domestic use. A commercial food dehydrator's basic parts usually consist of a heating element, a fan, air vents allowing for air circulation and food trays to lay food upon. A dehydrator's heating element, fans and vents simultaneously work to remove moisture from food. A dehydrator's heating element warms the food causing its moisture to be released from its interior. The appliance's fan then blows the warm, moist air out of the appliance via the air vents. This process continues for hours until the food is dried to a substantially lower water content, usually fifteen to twenty percent or less.
Most foods are dehydrated at temperatures of 130 °F, or 54 °C, although meats being made into jerky should be dehydrated at a higher temperature of 155 °F, or 68 °C, or preheated to those temperature levels, to guard against pathogens that may be in the meat. The key to successful food dehydration is the application of a constant temperature and adequate air flow. Too high a temperature can cause hardened foods: food that is hard and dry on the outside but moist, and therefore vulnerable to spoiling, on the inside.
Dehidrate/ Frozen Food
Dice vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, and onions and put them directly into the food dehydrator. Vegetables such as broccoli and green beans benefit from a few minutes of steaming before dehydrating. With a small amount of home preparation, include healthy portions of colorful, vitamin-rich vegetables in all of your backpacking meals.
Freeze-dried backpacking meals are always light on veggies and heavy on starches. Flavored rice and noodle products from the grocery store often contain MSG, excessive salt, partially hydrogenated oils, and ingredients that would be easier to pronounce if you had paid attention during chemistry class. Free yourself from chemically engineered food by dehydrating food from Mother Nature and you'll feel well nourished and healthy on the trail.