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What’s The Right Way To Dehydrate Foods To Preserve Them Better?

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The amalgamation of low humidity, warm temperature and air circulation helps in drying effectively. Consider blanching as it can shorten drying time and kill most spoilage microorganisms. You could sun dry or oven dry fruits and vegetables. Ensure the temp doesn't go beyond 140 deg F. Cook meat to 160 deg F before drying to destroy bacteria. Also, try solar dying.

We’ve all experienced the unfortunate rotting of food due to food microorganisms or through enzymatic reactions within the food. When there’s ample amount of moisture in the food, there are more chances of bacteria, yeast or mold cultivation, that may lead to spoilage. That’s where we turn to food preservation.

Drying or dehydration of foods is one of the oldest methods of food preservation. It is the process of eliminating moisture, making them lightweight and more convenient for storage. This can be an exemplary method of preserving food for your hiking or backpacking trips, since they do not require refrigeration. So, if you want to add blueberries to your granola cereal in December, you could just dry them and enjoy them when you need it. This method slows enzyme activity resulting in concentration of flavours, textures and colour. This is the probable reason behind why your little one loves sun dried tomatoes as compared to the fresh ones!1

What’s The Right Way To Dehydrate Foods?

The amalgamation of low humidity, warm temperature and air circulation helps in drying foods effectively.

While drying foods, it is extremely crucial to use good sanitary practices to reduce contamination of foods with pathogens and microorganisms. Make sure you place foods in uncontaminated containers or locations. Keep your utensils clean by sanitizing and air drying them. Wash hands before handling food and always wear disposable gloves when dehydrating them.

Drying Fruits And Vegetables

Sun drying is usually recommended just for fruits and vegetables. However, all foods that are dried outdoors must be pasteurized. You must consider blanching before dehydration since it shortens drying time and kills many spoilage microorganisms.

Blanching

Use a steamer or a dry pot that contains a wire basket or a colander so the steam circulates around the fruits or vegetables.

  • Add sufficient water and bring to a rolling boil.
  • Add fruits and vegetables to the basket and place into the pot.
  • Cover and steam.
  • Remove the lid and place in cold water to stop cooking.
  • Place on the drying tray for the dehydration process.

Sun Drying

  • Place slices of fruit or vegetable on a clean slab or a rock covered with a cheesecloth or a fine netting.
  • You could also place a small fan near the tray to promote air circulation.
  • Turn over the food once and ensure you bring it back in during the night to prevent any moisture.

Oven Drying

  • Dry food in an oven at 140 degree Fahrenheit. Ensure the door is slightly open by 2 to 3 inches and place a fan in front of the oven to blow air.
  • Arrange your fruit and vegetables on the tray in a such a way that they don’t overlap.
  • Check often and turn pieces every few hours.

You can follow the same oven drying process with a food dehydrator. Avoid drying food at temperatures greater than 140 F as this may lead to case hardening and moldy food. However, drying times may vary depending on the food. For example, beets and carrots may take 3-5 hours for drying while apples and bananas may take 6-10 hours.

Pateurize foods to destroy any insects or eggs. You could do this either by heating them at temperatures 160 F for 30 minutes or freezing the foods at 0º F for 48 hours. Store in a closed container in a cool, dry and dark place.

Drying Meat

It is advisable to only use lean mean during dehydration since the deterioration of the adhering fatty tissue cannot be stopped.

Bacteria like Salmonella and E. coli O157:H7 thrive in meat jerky which gives rise to various illnesses. This is because most dehydrators rarely reach temperatures beyond 140 F, which may not be sufficient to kill harmful bacteria or microorganisms present on meat.  One recommended method may be to cook meat and poultry to 160 F before dehydration. This will ensure that any bacteria present is destroyed by wet heat. However, ensure that follow safe meat handling procedures.

  • Wash your hands with soap and water before handling raw meat.
  • Make sure you use clean utensils.
  • Keep meat refrigerated at temperatures 40 F prior to use.
  • Dehydrate at 140 F consistently, till dry.
  • Store in glass jars or heavy plastic storage bags and seal. You can store it for about 2 weeks at room temperature.
  • For longer shelf life, refrigerate.

Solar Drying

For larger scale drying operations, solar drying is used. This method includes indirect solar radiation as opposed to direct exposure from the sun. This process is considered more hygienic to dry meat since there’s no secondary contamination and direct solar radiation.

Determining Dryness Of Foods

Do not dehydrate fruits to the point of brittleness. They should retain about 20 percent moisture. To test for dryness of fruits, cut several pieces in half. There should be no visible moisture and you should not be able to squeeze any moisture from the fruit. Some fruits may remain pliable, but shouldn’t remain sticky. On the other hand, vegetables should be dried until they are brittle or crisp.

References   [ + ]

1.Boyer, Renee Raiden, and Karleigh Huff. “Using Dehydration to Preserve Fruits, Vegetables, and Meats.” (2009).
CureJoy Editorial

The CureJoy Editorial team digs up credible information from multiple sources, both academic and experiential, to stitch a holistic health perspective on topics that pique our readers' interest.

CureJoy Editorial

The CureJoy Editorial team digs up credible information from multiple sources, both academic and experiential, to stitch a holistic health perspective on topics that pique our readers' interest.

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