Dehydrating food is an age-old method of food preservation. Before the days when everyone had a refrigerator and freezer or even a local grocery store where you could go and buy just about anything you want at any time, finding ways to preserve food meant that you could save a precious resource for a time when certain things were harder to come by.
Preserving food helps people avoid feast or famine situations and really has a huge impact on people’s quality of life. In addition to preserving foods, dehydration can also be used to make healthy and delicious snacks which is one reason why food dehydration has become so popular. But how does food dehydration work exactly?
In the old days, dehydrating food was accomplished by slicing your food items into very thin pieces and leaving them out in the sun to dry. This worked but of course it is very inconsistent and modern food dehydrators are a lot more reliable and predictable that just leaving something out in the sun. A food dehydrator works by slowly removing moisture from food items. By removing the moisture you take away an environment that would breed bacteria, molds and yeasts. With dehydration you are basically retaining all of the food’s vital nutrients but greatly reducing the chance of food spoilage or getting sick from ingesting a foodborne pathogen.
To dehydrate food you should aim for a temperature that is right around 140°F. If the temperature is too hot the food will be cooked rather than dried and of course if the temperature is not warm enough the food simply will not dry. If you can dehydrate your food in a low humidity environment this will also aid the drying process.
Foods that have a very high water content, like certain fruit for example, will take a lot longer to dehydrate. Increasing the heat will reduce the drying time but as mentioned above you cannot increase heat too much without cooking the food. In addition to adding heat and removing humidity, another way to speed up the drying time is to increase the airflow around the items that you will be drying. Modern food dehydrators let you control a lot of these conditions. You will be able to control the heat with a thermostat and you will be able to control the airflow with built in fans.
Food dehydration really is exactly what it sounds like, removing moisture from food. Whether you are dehydrating food to stock up on certain items or just to create a healthy and tasty snack, being able to dehydrate your own food at home has a lot of benefits. Modern dehydrators have a lot of features that make preserving food and making tasty treats a lot easier and you can also find a lot of recipes and instructions so that even a beginner can be successful drying their own food.