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What is Food Dehydration?

Food drying or food dehydration is the process of reducing moisture in food. Food dehydration is one of the oldest methods of preserving food. This method is an alternative to other food preserving techniques like canning and freezing. With that said, it is important to remember dehydrating does not improve the quality of food. Therefore, when choosing produce to dry, make sure the food is high in quality and at the appropriate ripeness. However, do not let this process stress you out; food drying is simple, safe, and easy to learn. And with modern-day food dehydration technology, food can be dried and ready to eat in your home all year-round.

Electric Dehydration

There are many types of dehydration: sun drying, air drying, oven drying, and so on. However, a more modern way to dry your food is electric dehydrating. Of course, to do this you need a food dehydrator. Food dehydrators are compact powerhouses used to dry your food quickly and effectively. They are designed to dry food at 140 °F (60 °C). Most electric dehydrators come with a temperature gauge and adjustment dials to help speed up or slow down drying time. Food dehydrators are equipped with a fan and vents to circulate air making food drying so much easier.

Food Dehydration Tips

  • To prevent your fruits from turning brown, add lemon juice to them. Squeeze lemon juice over the fruit slices and let your fruits sit in a solution of lemon juice and water for five (5) minutes before dehydrating.
  • To make jerky, cut the fat off the meat or use lean meat for dehydration.
  • To properly dehydrate vegetables, be sure to blanch them for at least one (1) minute so vegetables keep their color and flavor.
  • To ensure your food finishes dehydrating at the same time, cut your food into evenly sized pieces.
  • Avoid trying to dry food faster by increasing the temperature. Doing so can cause over-drying or uneven drying.
  • If food feels soft and spongy, place the food back in the dehydrator for additional drying time in order to get the ideal result.

Drying Time

Keep in mind that drying time is not a consistent factor during the process of dehydration. Constantly changing variables such as the food type, the amount of food, humidity, air temperature, altitude, and so on can change the drying time for each use. The drying time can even change from day to day due to the climate or the location where the dehydrator is being used. In order to properly understand and calculate the drying time for food, keep a log of past drying results.

Testing for Dryness

The drying process can be a tricky operation at first but becomes easier to perform with practice. To prevent over-drying, food must be monitored during dehydration. When food is over-dried it can lose quality in texture, nutrition, and taste. Remove a food sample from the dehydrator and let it cool. Once it is cool, feel the food to test its dryness. View the texture that perfectly dried food types should have below:

  • Fruits - pliable and leathery, no wet spots
  • Fruit rolls – leathery, no sticky spots
  • Jerky - tough, not brittle
  • Dried fish - tough, not brittle
  • Vegetables - tough or crisp

NOTE: If foods are insufficiently dried and/or are exposed to moisture from faulty packaging, then they can lose quality, nutritional value, and produce mold during storage.

Pretreatment Methods

Pretreatment helps to maintain the color, flavor, and texture of different foods. When getting ready to dehydrate, different food requires different preparations. Methods of pretreatment include sulfuring, sulfite dipping, and blanching.


Sulfuring is an old process for pretreating. This process is primarily used for prepping fruits. Fruit is placed in an enclosed box.

Then, sublimed sulfur is ignited and burned within the box. Sulfuring fruits is a process that is best done outside where air is circulated effectively.

Sulfuring will help to prevent fruits from darkening.

Sulfite Dipping

Sulfite dipping is used to prevent fruits and vegetables from oxidizing. This process, unlike sulfuring, can be done indoors as well as outdoors. Sulfite dipping will also stop fruits from darkening and is much quicker than sulfuring. Sodium bisulfite or sodium sulfite can be used for this method. For this process, dissolve ¾ – 1½ teaspoons of sodium bisulfite (or if using sodium sulfite, use 1½ – 3 teaspoons) per quart of water. Place sliced fruits in the mixture and soak slices for five (5) minutes. Afterward, remove the slices, rinse off lightly with cold water and place them on food drying trays.


Blanching is a pretreatment done by boiling or steaming food. Blanching can be done on fruits, vegetables, or meats. This process helps to preserve nutrients and prevent flavor loss. To blanch by boiling water, fill a saucepot halfway with water. Bring water to a boil then place and stir food into the boiling water. Cover the saucepot and let sit for three (3) minutes. Then, remove the food and place it into ice cold water to cool. Then, dry food with a towel before dehydrating. To blanch by steaming, fill a saucepot with two (2) inches of water. Then, cover the saucepot until it boils. Remove the cover then place a steamer or wire basket over the boiling water. Place food into steamer, cover tightly with a lid, and let food steam for two to five (2 – 5) minutes until food is heated in the center.


  • Store your dehydrated foods in airtight containers, mason jars, or freezer/heat-sealable bags. Containers should be stored somewhere safe from moisture and insects.
  • Dried foods should be kept in a cool, dark, and dry place. The ideal temperature for dried food storage is 50 °F – 60 °F (10 °C – 16 °C).
  • After dehydrating, make sure to let your food cool for 30 minutes to one (1) hour before storing.
  • Dried fruit, vegetables, herbs, and nuts can be stored up to one (1) year in the refrigerator or freezer.
  • Dried meats, poultry, and fish should only be stored for three (3) months when kept in the refrigerator, or up to one (1) year when kept in the freezer.
  • If any condensation forms in your containers, that means that your food was not dehydrated properly and will need to dry for additional time.

Year-Round Food
For Dehydration


Bananas, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Mushrooms, Pears, Potatoes, Turnips, Winter Squash


Bananas, Broccoli, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Kumquats, Mushrooms, Pears, Tangerines, Winter Squash


Asparagus, Bananas, Broccoli, Grapefruit, Kumquats, Lettuce, Mushrooms, Spinach


Asparagus, Bananas, Cabbage, Onions, Pineapple, Spinach, Strawberries


Asparagus, Bananas, Celery, Peas, Pineapple, Potatoes, Strawberries, Tomatoes


Apricots, Bananas, Cherries, Corn, Cucumber, Figs, Green Beans, Limes, Nectarines, Onions, Peaches, Peas, Peppers, Pineapple, Plums, Summer Squash


Apples, Apricots, Bananas, Blueberries, Cabbage, Cantaloupe, Cherries, Corn, Dill, Eggplant, Figs, Green Beans, Nectarines, Okra, Peaches, Peppers


Apples, Bananas, Beets, Berries, Cabbage, Carrots, Corn, Dill, Eggplant, Figs, Nectarines, Peaches, Pears, Peppers, Plums, Potatoes, Summer Squash, Tomatoes


Apples, Bananas, Broccoli, Carrots, Cauliflower, Corn, Dill, Figs, Grapes, Greens, Okra, Onions, Pears, Peppers, Potatoes, Summer Squash, Tomatoes


Apples, Bananas, Broccoli, Grapes, Peppers


Apples, Bananas, Broccoli, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Eggplant, Mushrooms


Apples, Bananas, Grapefruit, Lemon, Limes, Mushrooms, Oranges, Pears, Pineapple, Tangerines