Methods for drying food at home
Introduction to drying food at home
Drying or “dehydrating” food is a method of food preservation that removes enough moisture from the food so bacteria, yeast and molds cannot grow.
To dry foods successfully you need:
- Low humidity
- A source of low heat--120 degrees F to 150 degrees F
- Air circulation
- Produce the best quality product as compared to other methods of drying
- Most food dehydrators have an electric element for heat and a fan and vents for air circulation.
- Efficient dehydrators are designed to dry foods uniformly and to retain food quality.
- Takes two to three times longer to dry food in an oven than in a dehydrator; the oven is not as efficient and uses a great deal more energy than a dehydrator.
- Drying in an oven is slower than in a dehydrator because ovens do not have built-in fans for the air movement.
- To use your oven, check the oven dial to see if it has a reading as low as 140 degrees F. If the thermostat does not go this low, your food will cook instead of dry.
- Leave the oven door propped open 2 to 4 inches and place a fan near the outside of the oven door to improve air circulation.
- An oven thermometer placed near the food gives an accurate reading of the drying temperature.
- Sun-drying requires constant exposure to direct sunlight during the day and a relative humidity of less than 20%. These conditions are found only in areas like the Sacramento Valley of California or in Arizona.
- Foods dried in the sun can take 3-4 days to dry; if the humidity is high, as is generally the case in Minnesota, the food will mold before it dries.
- Sun-drying is not recommended in Minnesota due to our high humidity and cool night temperatures.
- Air drying differs from sun drying, since it takes place indoors in a well ventilated attic, room, or screened-in porch.
- Herbs, hot peppers, and mushrooms are the most common air-dried items.
- Herbs and peppers are not pretreated, but simply strung on a string or tied in bundles and suspended until dry.
- Enclose them in paper bags to protect them from dust or other pollutants.
- Is a quick way to dry small quantities of herbs and some leaf vegetables, but it is not successful for most other foods.
- Food which has been microwave dried often tastes overcooked rather than dried.
- To dry small quantities of herbs.
- Place no more than 4 or 5 herb branches between two paper towels and microwave for 2 to 3 minutes.
- Remove the herbs, when cool, check to see if they are dry and brittle. If not, repeat drying for 30-second intervals until dry.
- Ideas for Using Dried, Dehydrated Foods
- Mini Module: Dry It You'll Like It
- Drying Vegetables Video — National Center for Home Food Preservation
Reviewed by Suzanne Driessen 2016