Dehydrated food can save your life in an emergency situation. Whether you’re waiting to be rescued or have eaten all of your fresh rations and supplies, dehydrated food can provide essential calories and fuel to keep you going.
Learning as much as possible about storing and consuming dehydrated foods is essential for survivalists and preppers. We want to help make sure that you don’t get ill by consuming dehydrated food that has passed its expiration date, or end up wasting valuable resources by not storing your dehydrated foods properly.
Let us help you ensure that your dehydrated food supplies last as long as possible to give you peace of mind that you can safely consume them when the time comes.
Everything you need to know about dehydrated food:
The process of dehydrating food dates back as one of the oldest methods of preserving food. Fruits, vegetables and pulses were traditionally dehydrated by the sun.
It was only in the mid 1800s that mechanized dehydration was invented. It was used extensively in World War II to provide lightweight ration packs to soldiers fighting in conditions where they had no access to perishable foods.
Dehydrated foods are popular with a wide range of people -from survivalists, preppers, campers and hikers to fans of healthy eating and those wanting to minimize their food waste and carbon footprint.
We’ve gathered together some of the most commonly asked questions about dehydrated food so that you can find out how to store it, how long it lasts and which products can help you prevent wasting valuable resources of dehydrated foods.
How Long Will Dehydrated Foods Last?
Dehydrated foods are ideal for keeping as backup or emergency rations as they can last for up to 25 years if stored properly.
The lifespan of dehydrated food does depend on the process of dehydration, as well as the type of food that has been dehydrated. Overall you can expect a shelf life of over 5 years for almost all dehydrated food.
As dehydrated fruits and vegetables have a high moisture content, they tend to have a shorter shelf life. However if they are properly prepared and stored, they can easily last for 5 years.
Dehydrating fruits like apples, strawberries and bananas condenses their size and weight dramatically whilst still ensuring that they are a high sugar, energy providing snack. This makes them perfect for packing in a bug out bag or going out hiking.
Meats such as jerky, or fish that has been dehydrated properly and vacuum sealed can last up to 20 years.
Commercially produced ration packs that contain dehydrated foods can even be consumed up to 30 years after their manufacturing date. Although the quality of the taste may start to decline, you shouldn’t become unwell if you consume an emergency dehydrated food pack.
In comparison to this level of shelf life, canned foods such as fish, vegetables or pulses generally only last for 5 years. They are also much heavier to carry if you are prepping a survival kit, bug out bag or emergency get home bag.
How can you properly store dehydrated foods for a long shelf life?
The shelf life you can expect from your dehydrated food depends almost entirely on how you prepare it and how you store it.
For long term dehydrated food storage, vacuum sealing is an ideal option. This not only reduces the oxidation rate, it also helps to maintain the level of nutrients in the food.
You should also invest in some oxygen absorbers which you can use in a variety of food storage options. These help to absorb any free oxygen making your dehydrated food last as long as possible.
If you’re looking to take dehydrated food out on expeditions or hiking you could consider the more practical option of carrying it in vacuum pack bags or (for shorter periods of time) in plastic containers.
However the best way to store dehydrated food is actually in sealed glass jars or containers as they are best for eliminating moisture or odor absorption. If you’re keeping your dehydrated food at home in preparation for a natural disaster or emergency power outage, glass containers are an ideal option.
How Do I Know If Dehydrated Food Has Gone Bad?
There are a number of ways that you can quickly assess whether your dehydrated food has gone bad. Try to use all of your available senses to make a judgment on whether it is safe to consume.
Here are a few key signs to look out for:
- Mold (on the food itself)
Mold usually develops when dehydrated food has been exposed to moisture. It appears as black, fuzzy spots on the surface of food such as dried fruit. Do not consume dehydrated food if it has mold on it.
- Moisture (within the food container)
You can usually spot moisture or condensation in the container of your dehydrated food. Check immediately to see whether the dehydrated food has gone bad and if so you’ll need to throw it away.
- Smell (both food and container)
You’ll be able to tell very quickly whether your dehydrated food smells bad. Any smell that is rancid, rotten or unpleasant probably means that your food has gone bad.
If the container that your dehydrated food is kept in starts to smell, you’ll need to ensure it’s washed out at a high temperature (ideally with boiling water or sterilized with sterilizing solution). Do not use it to store food in again until you are completely sure that it is clean and won’t damage any more food.
If you’re still unsure whether your dehydrated food has gone bad or not, you can try tasting it. Only taste a small amount and always wait for 12-24 hours after tasting to ensure that you don’t become ill from it. If you have no side effects it should be OK to consume the remainder of the dehydrated food.
Successful food dehydration and preservation not only means you’ll have safe food to consume whenever you need it, it also prevents wastage. Make sure you invest time and energy into dehydrating and storing food properly with these top tips:
- Always wash fruit and vegetables well. Remove wax and pesticides by ensuring they sit for at least 10 minutes in water before you start the dehydration process.
- Spray fruit and vegetables with lemon juice to counteract the effects of oxidation. Lemon juice can also kill bacteria.
- Try to only dehydrate fruit and vegetables that are ripe and ready to eat- this will ensure maximum flavor as well as nutrients are stored.
- Use good quality products – from vacuum zipper bags to the dehydrator itself.
How Do I Choose A Dehydrator?
If you decide that a food dehydrator could be a good purchase for you, there are lots of great options you can choose from.
Before you start your search, think about the types of food you want to use your dehydrator for, how much space you have available and your budget for spending on a food dehydrator.
Knowing a little bit about the types of dehydrators on the market will be useful in helping you make the right choice.
Design of Food Dehydrators
There are two different designs for food dehydrators:
1. Vertical Flow Food Dehydrator
These dehydrators have trays or stackable units to place the food upon to dehydrate. They have a heat source either at the top of the bottom of the unit, with a fan to help spread the heat. They are compact and don’t take up too much space.
Generally vertical flow food dehydrators are cheaper than other models however they may not be as effective for dehydrating meat and fish. If you’re looking to dehydrate fruits, vegetables and starchy produce such as potatoes, these vertical flow food dehydrators will satisfy your needs.
2. Horizontal Flow Food Dehydrator
This model of food dehydrator is more like a conventional oven with a heat source at the back. These are often easier to use and spread heat more evenly throughout the dehydrator – meaning you don’t need to be switching trays around to ensure everything is dehydrated equally.
Horizontal Flow food dehydrators are larger in size but they are an excellent option if you’re wanting to dehydrate foods other than simply fruits and vegetables with minimal effort.
Size of Food Dehydrators
The space that you have available in your kitchen is key when it comes to deciding on a good food dehydrator for you. Food dehydrators tend to take up a fair amount of worktop space so factor this in when you’re considering which option to buy.
There are some great compact options such as this foldable food dehydrator which offers 1 sq meter of drying area yet folds away to one third of its size. You can also buy models which offer expansion options by adding trays to increase their capacity for dehydrating foods.
If you have lots of space in your kitchen you might want to think about getting a larger model food dehydrator. These larger models give you a clear view through to your dehydrated food without having to open the door or disturb the dehydration process. They also offer adjustable temperature ranges and can accommodate multiple trays of food. This makes them ideal if you’re preparing dehydrated food for large numbers of people or if you want to dehydrate food in bulk.
Other factors you might want to consider when choosing your food dehydrator are:
- Whether the dehydrator has a timer function to allow you to set it to switch off after a certain period of time
- How much electricity the dehydrator consumes (this will be dependent on its size and power)
- The noise that the dehydrator generates
When food has been prepared properly, dehydrated and then stored in the correct conditions it can last for decades. This makes dehydrated food an excellent option when it comes to your emergency rations or for prepping for unexpected situations when you may lose all access to fresh food supplies.
Learning to dehydrate food and store it in your home not only helps to prevent food waste, it also ensures that you can always have a good stockpile of high energy snacks and meals to consume as and when you need them.
Having a sufficient supply of dehydrated food can give you the peace of mind that you and your family will survive any disaster or emergency situation.