Get better meals and save money by home dehydrating.
Anyone who’s camped more than a mile from the parking lot has probably eaten dehydrated food. It’s a great way to keep and transport real food, and a major advance from pilot bread.
After that the reviews get more mixed. Some dishes preserve great. Beef stroganoff and other pastas—a freeze dried staple when I was a Boy Scout—typically don’t do well.
The good news is that you aren’t limited to what you can find at a camping store. Dehydrating at home is simple and more affordable than you’d have guessed. This quick run-down should give you the why and how of dehydrating your own food for hunting and camping trips.
Dehydrating Is Easier Than You Think
The initial investment for a food drier is manageable. A good one will run you around $200 dollars. Most models look like a scaled-down mechanic’s tool chest: a box with a lot of thin drawers. Those drawers hold racks where the food sits while warm air is passed over it to dry it out. The process is pretty simple and works with most foods, though some are more challenging. Meat especially takes some finesse.
You will start to see saved money right away. The dehydrated foods you see in outdoor stores run around $4 a pack, and if you spend a lot of time in the backcountry, you could be saving money in a matter of months.
You can save more space and keep food longer if you vacuum pack after dehydrating. Unfortunately, that equipment is usually sold separately.
Momofuku chef David Chang is a huge proponent of dehydrating food. His love affair began with ramen noodles, probably the most recognizable freeze dried product in the world. For Chang it’s about flavor. If you’ve ever sampled the flavor-powder that comes with a pack of instant ramen, you’ll know what he means—it’s almost unbearably intense.
Other methods of storing food tend to break down flavor-compounds, or else cover them up with preservatives. Dehydration preserves the flavor of fruit and meat, and avoids the loss through spoilage that’s all too common in today’s refrigerators.
Customize Your Meals
A lot of store-bought meals are kind of formulaic. Rice or pasta, some kind of sauce, and dinky cubes of meat and vegetables. Home dehydrating lets you get creative.
Most sauces dehydrate well, especially if they don’t have much fat. Fatty things like dairy can be dehydrated, but they tend not to last as long and the texture suffers from the process.
You also get the advantage of the personal touch. Home-prepared meat and vegetables will almost certainly be superior to their processed equivalents, even if you aren’t a great cook. Honestly, it doesn’t take much.
This blogger found that their home-prepped spaghetti compared very favorably to the store-bought equivalent. It had more calories and less sodium. Slightly less protein, but that can be made up with chicken or other meats.
If this is something you’re interested in, look at some of these links:
- Tips for Dehydrating Meat
- Basic Guide to Food Dehydrating
- Beginner’s Guide With Tips for Buying a Dehydrator
- Comprehensive Guide to Dehydrating
There’s a lot to explore here, but it’s worth checking out if you spend a lot of time in the deep wilderness.