Do you find that so many of the fresh fruits and vegetables you buy simply end up in the trash can? Rather than throwing them away, you have the opportunity to keep them fresh for longer.
Investing in a good food dehydrator will help you keep your fruits and vegetables fresh for longer. By dehydrating food, you will be saving yourself both time and money.
For anyone new to using the dehydration method to preserve food, there are certain questions they may need answering. The main one of these being how long does dehydrated food last?
Read our helpful guide to find out everything you need to know about dehydrating food, and how long it will last once it’s been dehydrated.
How Long Does Dehydrated Food Last?
It may surprise you to learn, and according to several sources, that the amount of time dehydrated food lasts varies.
Dehydrated fruit has an extended storage time and can last for up to five years. When it comes to dehydrated vegetables, they last even longer – in some cases, they can still be edible for up to 10 years after they were initially dehydrated.
When you compare this to how long food stored in a can lasts, it may not surprise you to learn that food has a much longer shelf life if kept in an airtight container.
However, for food to last for such a long time, the food must be adequately prepared for long-term storage – and dehydrating is the perfect technique for this.
Below we’ll examine the four main factors to be considered when dehydrating food and look at what makes a difference concerning the question of how long does dehydrated food last.
Factors to Consider when Dehydrating Food
The four main factors to ensuring that your dried food lasts longer are as follows:
- Food preparation
- Drying temperature
- Control of moisture content
- Correct packing and storage
Now, let’s take a look at these four factors in more detail.
If you do not prepare the food that you want to dehydrate correctly, then the chances of you being able to store it away for any length of time are significantly reduced.
Below we offer a few tips to help you prepare the food you want to dehydrate correctly.
Step 1: Clean Your Prep Station
Ensure that the area where you prepare the food is clean and dry. Give any surfaces or equipment you are going to use a good wash to help reduce the risk of contamination to all types of food.
When handling any kind of fresh food for dehydration, always wash your hands before and after.
Step 2: Cut Food Into Uniform Pieces
Slice or chop the fruit or vegetables into even size pieces.
The best way to ensure that say, slices of apple, pineapple, or pears are the same thickness is to use a mandoline. This tool will provide you with pieces that are of equal thickness. But be very careful as the blades on these devices can be very sharp.
If you don’t have a mandoline and are looking to buy one, choose one of the models that come with a finger-safe plunger.
Step 3: Pretreat the Food
There are different processes you can use to pretreat food for storage before you start to dehydrate it. Using these methods will help to ensure that more of the freeze-dried food flavor and color is retained.
Some foods should be soaked in an ascorbic acid solution before the drying process begins. Other foods will need to be blanched or steamed before you place them in the dehydrator.
It’s also important to note that not all fruits or vegetables have to be pretreated before you start the dehydration process.
Most fruits and vegetables can be dehydrated at a temperature of between 51-57 degrees Centigrade (123-135 degrees Fahrenheit).
Do not increase the temperature thinking that this will dehydrate the food faster. If you do this, the outer skin of your fruits or vegetables will be a lot harder, and the interior of the food will only have partially dried out.
Increasing the temperature also can cause the food to lose some of its nutritional value because it will have killed off vital enzymes within the food.
Before you start the dehydration process, read through the manual provided with your dehydrator. Here you’ll find a list of the ideal temperatures and times to use for dehydrating certain types of fruits and vegetables.
Control Moisture Content
Dehydrated foods with a low moisture content can last longer. Fruits like plums, for example, will be slightly sticky as they contain more moisture. At the same time, vegetables with much lower moisture content will completely dry out.
The best way to tell when any food is dried out enough is if when you touch it, it has a leathery feel to it. Also, if you try to bend the food, it isn’t possible, but it still has sufficient enough moisture in it that it won’t break into pieces.
Before you can store the dried food for later use, there is something else you need to do first. After removing the dehydrator you will need to condition the food. You do this by placing the dried food into zip-loc bags and putting them on the kitchen counter overnight.
Doing this will help ensure that any moisture is distributed evenly among the dried food and helps to eliminate any moisture pockets.
Correct Packaging and Storing
If any oxidation occurs, the food’s nutritional value and flavor deteriorate quickly. So to help retain such in dried food, it is a good idea to store it in packaging that can be vacuum sealed.
To further help reduce the risk of oxidizing the food after it has been dehydrated, use oxygen absorber packets. This type of packaging is safe for food to be stored in.
After placing food in these packages, add some activated charcoal and iron filings which will absorb any remaining oxygen, which will further help to ensure that the food lasts longer.
You use this type of preservation method for foods with low moisture content, but when it comes to those foods with excess moisture, such as plums or zucchini, these need to be stored in an airtight container, such as glass jars, for long-term storage. Do not store these types of foods in any kind of plastic container, as over time moisture and smells from the food will be absorbed by the plastic.
Buy containers that have been specifically designed for storing dehydrated food. It’s worth investing money in some mason jars, mylar bags, or any other containers recommended by others who dehydrate food.
Once you have put your dried food into an appropriate storage container, you need to keep it in a cool, dry place. Make sure that where you store the food isn’t likely to be affected by fluctuations in temperature.
If you have a pantry, store your dried foods in there. If you need such a space, choose a cupboard in the kitchen located far from your cooker.
Also, make sure that you don’t place any dried food on the floor in the dark space – instead place it on shelves.
Finally, when it comes to storing dried foods such as fruit leather, fruit slices, or dehydrated meats, ensure that it isn’t located somewhere that is in direct sunlight.
If you keep all of the above factors in mind, then you’re on your way to ensuring that the food you’ve dehydrated has an extended storage time.
So, how long does dehydrated food last? Certain factors will determine just how long your dry food will last, but in many cases, dehydrating food has a shelf life of between 5 to 10 years.
By using the proper preparation and storage methods, you can store dehydrated foods safely, allowing you to enjoy them for a lot longer.
The shelf life of dehydrated food can be affected by its type, how it was prepared, and the kind of storage used. When storing your dehydrated food, choosing the right type of storage container is crucial to ensure longevity.
We hope that you have found this article informative and that we provided you with some answers to the question, “how long does dehydrated food last?”
Please let us know what you think of what we’ve discussed above and whether you have any additional advice that would be helpful to others who want to start dehydrating their food.