Are you wondering how to dehydrate food without a dehydrator? It might seem like a complex process, but it’s a lot easier than it appears.
Dehydrated food is convenient to have when you’re travelling or need extra snacks in the pantry. It lasts for much longer than fresh produce so you can store them for an extended period. Plus, the drying process makes a lot of dehydrated foods extra durable for life on the road. If you tend to do a lot of hiking and camping, you might already be a fan of dehydrating food.
So, how do you go about dehydrating foods if you don’t have a dedicated dehydrating machine?
Here’s what you need to know.
Find the Right Foods to Dehydrate
Well-washed and prepared types of food are a good pick for dehydration. For instance, if you’re dehydrating fruit, it’s often good to go for halved strawberries, thin slices of banana, stone fruits like apricots, and sliced apples. Fruit slices are great for granola and crunch snacks. You can also look into making your fruit leather by using a fruit processor to turn various fruits into a thin paste.
Fresh produce from the vegetable section is excellent for creating vegetable crisps, and you can also transform meat strips into beef jerky if you’re looking for a dose of protein.
Once you’ve found the foods you want to use in the drying process, remember that how you prep your ingredients can greatly impact how well you dehydrate meals. Fat can scorch during drying, so it’s best to remove this where possible.
To prevent fruits from turning brown, you can soak them in lemon juice and water. Another option for vegetables is to blanch your favourite food by placing them in boiling water and then cold water to help them dehydrate. Remember, if you’re dehydrating foods without a dehydrator, putting a sheet of wax paper on your cooking sheet can help to reduce stickiness.
Ways to Dehydrate Food Without a Dehydrator: The Oven
Once you’ve chosen the right ingredients for dehydrating food, the next step is finding your source of heat. To dehydrate food, you need the right amount of heat. Too much and the food will burn, whereas too little will fail to remove all the moisture from your food.
The best option for most people will be to use their standard oven. A regular oven with a baking sheet (lined with parchment paper) is excellent for dehydrating foods. All you need to start the dehydration process is to line your flat pan with parchment paper and cut your food into strips. Place your produce into the oven at the lowest temperature and leave it to cook for several hours.
If you’re using more than one pan to create your dried food, make sure you leave space between the pans for the air to circulate correctly. Cut your veggies, fruits, and meats into even slices to help them dehydrate evenly. Remember to:
• Rotate your food during the dehydration process. This will help to expose all parts of the dry food to the heating element for the best drying.
• Give it plenty of time. A regular oven will usually take up to 10 hours to dehydrate your food completely. Juicier foods, like apple slices and meat, might take longer than dry food.
• Know the cost. Keeping an electric oven running for a long period for drying purposes can be an expensive process.
Drying Food With a Toaster Oven
If you’re not planning on dehydrating a lot of food at the same time, your toaster oven should work perfectly. The biggest benefit of using a toaster oven is you won’t be interrupting the use of your primary oven. It’s also a little more reliable to use toaster ovens to dehydrate foods. Most toaster ovens can cook at lower temperatures than regular ovens.
To dehydrate food with your toaster oven, turn your device onto the lowest possible temperature setting. When drying food with your oven, you’ll need to cut the food into very thin slices to see the right results. You should generally place products on parchment paper to prevent them from sticking to your flat pan or baking sheet.
After around three to four hours, you’ll need to flip your dried food to avoid burning and provide even dehydration. Remember, the temperature inside these ovens can spike over time. You’ll need to keep an eye on the process to stop the food from burning.
Using a thermometer can help you achieve the perfect temperature options for dehydrating at home with a low-heat toaster oven.
Dehydrating Food in the Microwave
Learning how to dehydrate food without a dehydrator doesn’t have to be a nightmare.
Some foods are more effective for dehydration than others when it comes to using your microwave. While you can use oven drying for creating things like jerky, you might not be able to dry your meats in the standard microwave. Fortunately, you can use your microwave to start dehydrating fruits and some veggies. This is also a good option for products you want to dehydrate quickly, like herbs.
When using your microwave to dehydrate the perfect snack, spread a paper towel on the rotating plate in your microwave, and arrange your herbs on it. If you’re dehydrating fruits and vegetables, you can use a standard plate rather than paper towels.
After a few seconds, check your herbs to make sure they’re not burning. If you’re dehydrating fruits in your microwave, you can check every ten minutes or so and dehydrate for up to 35 minutes.
How to Dehydrate Without Electricity
If you’re looking for alternate methods for dehydrating your foods and increasing shelf life without electricity, there are a few options. For instance, one of the most traditional methods for dehydrating foods and making jerky is to fire dry your products simply. Fire drying works best for meat when you cut the meat into thin slices.
Use wood to create a fire or build a fire pit or charcoal grill. Come up with a way of hanging your food over the fire, using poles to make a kind of bed. This will help you focus the right amount of heat on the food at low temperatures to reduce moisture content. Keep the fire smoking or smouldering all day to get the best results.
Other ways to dehydrate without electricity include:
• Hang food to dry. If you live in a dry area, then you don’t need to worry about using a custom dehydrator for dehydrating food. Look for a spot that’s free from pests and bugs, and leave your foods to dry in the natural heat. This method works best for things you can put in a plastic bag, like small fruits, leafy items, and herbs.
• Use a homemade dehydrator: You could even look into using a homemade dehydrator to create dried fruit and other products with lower temperature settings. Other dehydrating methods that don’t rely on electricity need access to a consistent low heat source.
This means you could potentially make your dehydrator with a heating system and a fan at home. Just make sure you’re ready to be patient with the dehydration process. Using unique dehydrating methods can lead to varying results.
• Use a slow cooker: you may be able to use a slow cooker to create some kinds of dehydrated foods, like ground beef crumbles, for instance. However, it’s best to do your research in advance. Cooking without a dehydrator can be more complex with some ingredients than others. Make sure you know what’s safe to dehydrate without a dedicated machine
Making Dehydrated Food
Learning how to dehydrate food without a dehydrator might seem complicated at first, but plenty of products are out there to help with the dehydrating process. Whether you’re looking for a way to create the best jerky recipe, or you want to make some tasty dehydrated vegetable chips, there’s an option for everyone. Remember, it might take a while for you to get used to dehydrating foods.
Your veggies and some fruits should snap easily when bent when dehydrated fully. It’s also worth remembering that creating your sauce blends with a large bowl and wooden spoon can change the dehydrating time for certain fruits and veggies, as well as various types of meat.
After you’ve got the hang of dehydrating fruit and other items without a machine, remember that storing your food will help it last longer. Keeping food vacuum-sealed and out of the way of direct heat and sunlight will ensure it stays safe. The tighter the seal on your jars and cans, the better off you’ll be.
You can also look into freezing some vacuum-sealed bags of your dried foods to make them last even longer. This is often a good option for dried fruits.
Food for Your Thoughts
Remember to do your research before throwing food into your oven or microwave for extended periods. You may find many trial and error involved in the process, so don’t be disheartened if you don’t get the right results the first time.
Do you know how to dehydrate food without a dehydrator? What’s your preferred method?