How to Dehydrate Food Without a Dehydrator
With the help of modern technology, it has become very easy to preserve any kind of food for days on end. Packaged foods are preserved using preservatives and such. And even though refrigerators and freezers have been invented to help keep food intact, dehydrators have become the ultimate saviors.
Dehydrating food has become a common practice that helps to keep food preserved for prolonged periods. It is a process that involves the removal of moisture from food which in turn prevents bacterial growth in the food, keeping it edible. And drying the food does not make it lose its nutrients, rather it turns them into fun snacks!
And while investing in a dehydrator may seem enticing, it will make you spend quite an amount to buy the machine. The good news, however, is that it is possible to dehydrate or dry foods like fruits, veggies, and even meat without this spectacular machine, using simple components that already exist in every household.
How to dehydrate food without a dehydrator? We are here to show you how!
How to Dehydrate Food in an Oven
The best way to get the same results delivered by a dehydrator is using this ordinary household appliance – a simple oven. While the purpose of an oven is to heat food or cook it, who says it cannot be used otherwise? So, save your dollars and use your oven to multifunction as a dehydrator!
If you are yet to find out what dehydrated food tastes like, using an oven may be a great idea before you go ahead and jump in to purchase a dehydrator! It will certainly let you know whether the purchase will be worth it.
Keep in mind that this method is suitable for dehydrating vegetables, fruits and also jerky. The apparatus you will require:
- Cookie sheets (or any flat pan)
- Wax paper
- Mandolin knife
- Lemon juice (intended for use when drying fruits)
First, you will need to prepare the food for the drying process. Start by cutting the fruit, veggie or meat into pieces no more than ¼ of an inch. This will ensure an easier and faster removal of moisture.
Next, line the cookie sheet or flat pan with the wax paper. Place all the cuts and pieces of the food on the lined sheet evenly. Try to avoid overlapping since that may lead the food to dry unevenly.
Head to your oven and set it on the lowest temperature possible. We would recommend it to be 180°F. Some ovens may not display the particular temperature. In such a case, set the oven to temperatures below 200°F. This will dry the food efficiently enough.
Then put the sheet inside the oven and let the drying begin which should take about 6-10 hours to produce the best results. The time may vary, depending on how juicy or moisture-filled the food is.
It is necessary for the food to be rotated every once in a while when inside the oven. This and flipping the food after every hour would make sure it has dried properly and evenly on all sides. Also, when using more than one sheet, keep enough space for air circulation between them.
Note that if you use an electric oven, that will be costlier.
Microwave: an alternative
Even this simple appliance can get the job done even though it has been designed to lock in moisture inside the food. We agree it sounds contradicting but is still an excellent method to dry foods especially fruits or herbs. Avoid dehydrating meat using a microwave because that will take an unbelievably long time.
How to Dry Fruit Using Microwave
Fruits such as apples will be suited to such techniques. In this case, all you will need is a mandolin knife.
- Like before, the fruit needs to be sliced to a thickness of about ¼ of an inch. Try and be as precise as possible because if the slices are too thin, they will get glued to the rotating plate. On the other hand, if they are thick, they will not dry properly or take too much time to dry.
- You may do this step before or after the fruits have been cut – cleaning the rotating plate of the microwave. The fruit cuts will be set on this very plate so, it cannot be dirty or unhygienic. Also, do not forget to dry the rotating plate once you have washed it.
- Place the sliced fruits on top of the clean, dry plate and place it back inside the machine. Change the setting of the microwave to defrost. This should take about 30 to 35 minutes in total. Like before, the fruits on the plate will need to be flipped with 10-minute intervals.
- A note of caution – the regular setting will not only dry the fruit but also burn it. Hence, the defrost setting is used to keep the fruit from getting burnt.
This is a method to be used when you are out camping or do not have electrical facility and your chosen food happens to be meat. Fruits and vegetables could also be dried using this method but meat is more suitable compared to them.
To make your jerky, slice whatever meat you are using to pieces thin enough to be dehydrated.
- Light a fire using hardwood. As an alternative, you may make use of charcoal grills or fire pits.
- Next, you will need to create something that can be used to hang the meat slices above the fire. The most efficient idea will be to set up a pole that runs across the fire. Hang the meat or food on this pole using strings or otherwise.
Keep a safe distance between the hanging food and the fire. There are chances the food gets cooked instead of dried and if it is too close, then it will burn inevitably. You will know the distance is enough when you can put your hand above the fire and feel the heat but not get burnt. It should be comfortable enough to keep your hand in place for quite some time.
- Then all you have to do is wait for the jerky to get dried to your liking. This may take a full day or a considerable amount of time. Till then, keep the fire going.
- The meat should be done when you bend the meat and the meat fibers are visible to your eye.
This will definitely be the most daunting of all the methods. The technique is like making something from scratch by using the simplest of elements. The principle involved is that a heat source is created around an enclosed food using a box of some kind. A fan is set up that helps the heat circulate around the food which ultimately takes the moisture away from the food. It works just like an actual dehydrator would – a simpler version to be exact.
We consider this method to be an absolute last resolve because it will be time-consuming while the other appliances are much easier to maneuver.
Those were some of the methods and techniques that can be used to dehydrate food. Hopefully, now you can enjoy some dried food without spending on an actual dehydrator!