Any pro-prepper will tell you that dehydrating food for storage is one of the smartest survival tactics in their repertoire. Dehydrating food gives you the ability to store otherwise perishable rations for years on end. This will not only increase the volume of your food supply but can also add some nutritional variation to what you’ve stockpiled.
Now, before you go crazy dehydrating everything you can get your hands on, you need to understand that not every edible item is a candidate for dehydration. Some foods lose their nutritional value, some become inedible once dehydrated, some can make you sick, and some just take too damn long without providing a bountiful payoff. When it comes to figuring out which is which, have no fear, we will spell it all out clearly here.
We’ll get into the foods that you shouldn’t try to dehydrate and why, plus provide a few alternatives to point you in the right direction!
Foods You Should NOT Dehydrate
1. Fatty Meats
Skip the cuts of meat with high-fat content or lots of marbling. Not only does the fat take a long time to dehydrate, but it can also cause the product to go rancid.
Instead: Dehydrate lean meats. Cuts such as turkey, chicken breast, buffalo, and elk dehydrate the easiest and last longer than their counterparts.
Shelf life: Dehydrated meats can reach a shelf life up to 3 weeks.
How to Use: Throw those meats in a stew, in a stroganoff, or eat them like jerky!
It is said that dehydrated butter creates Botulism, an illness that goes beyond food poisoning and can lead to paralysis. Also, dehydrated butter tastes gross.
Instead: Buy powdered butter!
It’s such a quick fix that hits the spot and serves as the perfect substitute for cooking and baking.
How to Use: You can substitute butter when a recipe calls for flour! Toss it in soups, sauces, breads, or use as a basting serum for meats and veggies.
Shelf life: Up to 5 years in an unopened jar.
The high-fat content and high dairy content make cheese a nightmare to dehydrate at home. Not only will it take a long time, but also the dairy element makes cheese an easy candidate to turn rancid.
Instead: Buy gourmet powdered cheese. This gluten-free cheese substitute will give you that cheddar flavor you’re craving, but be aware that it won’t provide the same protein element as natural cheese.
How to Use: You can mix cheese powder with fresh milk or cream, if you have it available, in order to make cheese sauce. Alternatively, add this cheese powder into your baking or sprinkle it in soups for added flavor.
Shelf Life: Up to 5 years in an unopened jar.
What’s the point? Dehydrating milk removes the majority of fat and nutrition while increasing the chance for bacterial growth. You’ll end up with a headache from the process and a tummy ache from the end result.
Instead: Buy powdered whole milk. This full cream milk comes to life by simply adding water. Powdered milk adds so much flavor and richness to every meal!
How to Use: Add this milk to your coffee, make instant oats, use in your baking, or add to creams and sauces!
Shelf Life: Up to 5 years in an unopened container.
When you dehydrate nuts, they lose their yummy and nutritional fat content. They also have quite a short shelf life, which makes the whole process pointless.
Instead: Freeze them! Freezing your nuts in an airtight container will ensure that bugs, pests, and larva don’t come in contact with these little packs of protein. It’s ideal to use mason jars or plastic Tupperware in the freezing process.
How to Use: Nuts make a great snack, they spice up salads, and some nuts can be used to mash into a paste for spreads and sauces.
Shelf Life: 3 months to 2 years, depending on the nut. Check out this chart.
6 & 7. Olives or Avocados
Listen, some foods can be dehydrated if you really want to go through the process… but they won’t taste the same at all. Sucking all of the fat from olives or avocados will turn them into a strange mush that no one wants to eat. It won’t kill you–but ick.
Instead: Pickle your olives and freeze your avocados as guacamole. This will help maintain the flavor and consistencies you love.
How to Use: Add the olives to salads or make tapenades as per usual; spread the guac on some toast or use as a dip.
Shelf Life: Unopened jars of olives can last up to 2 years and frozen guac is best eaten in the first few months for flavor.
Foods That Are BEST To Dehydrate
Here’s a quick list…
- Cabbage and lettuce.
- Citrus Fruit in Slices.
- Berries such as cranberry, blueberry, strawberry, and raspberry.
- Fruits such as peaches, apples, cherries, rhubarb, grapes, plums, and pears.
- Vegetables such as zucchini, squash, tomatoes, and onions.
- Legumes of all kinds.
The dehydration process varies depending on the product. Some foods require a prepping process that involves soaking, blanching, and drying, while other foods are ready to dehydrate as is. Be sure to do proper research beforehand in order to avoid contamination or breeding bacteria.
Most importantly, get yourself a reliable food dehydrator like this one which will make your job easy, efficient, and enjoyable.
Like all things when it comes to stockpiling food, dehydrating takes a little bit of time and effort but yields heaps of benefits. Save space in your pantry, ensure a balance of vitamins and minerals when times get tough, add some flavor to your meals by having tasty treats on hand, and our favorite: save money by turning perishable goods into long-term products.
If you want to learn more, here are 13 Things To Know Before You Dehydrate Food.