What is Food Dehydration?

Preserving food by drying has been around as long as man has been hunting and catching his prey. The hunters would lie out pieces of meat and let the sun and wind dry them out naturally in order to have food for the future. This process would dry out the food, preventing the growth of microorganisms and decay. Everything needs air and water, and bacteria are no different. By drying, bacteria and microorganisms cannot survive in the food. In addition, a hard exterior forms to help new microorganisms from entering the source.

Evaporation is the key to dehydration as all water is drawn out. The simple scientific principal behind the reasoning is that there is no way for a biological action to take place without water or air. Enzymes can present themselves in the form of bacteria, fungus, or naturally occurring autolytic enzymes within the food itself but without a source of food, they quickly die.

Throughout the centuries, people have kept the practice of food dehydration but have added several methods to obtain the same results. In addition to sun drying, there are now bed dryers, shelf dryers, spray drying, freeze drying and commercial food dehydrators. Your household oven can even be used as a tool to draw out moisture from a variety of foods.

Every culture in the world uses dehydration. Dried cod was a form of protein for many generations in Europe and the West Indies plantation owners would provide their slaves with the dried, salted fish. Jerky is well known today, made from beef and deer meat. Dried and salted reindeer meat is a traditional Sami food. Saltwater is used to pickle the meat for a few days then it is laid in the sun when the temperature is below freezing. Fruits are good candidates for drying, turning grapes into raisins. Mushrooms are great for storing to use in meals and are much more flavorful than canned. Vegetable bulbs, like chilies and onions also work well but most vegetables, however, are not dried due to the removal of crucial vitamins.

The most popular method of drying today by far, is using a food dehydrator. A food dehydrator is simple to use, dries the contents evenly, quickly and takes the guesswork out of how long and what temperature is recommended. It provides the heat source high enough to guarantee that microorganisms are unable to grow; airflow to circulate the dry air and even provides trays for holding the food while drying. The ease in preparation makes cooking so much easier and also more economical. Using dried fruits in recipes are wonderful when fresh is not readily available and kids love dried fruits and jerky for treats. No preservatives make dried food a healthier way of eating.

Food dehydration is the perfect solution to keeping food from spoiling and enjoying the taste in the days or months to come. It is not unusual to see dried foods with a shelf life of a year and is quick and easy to grab as a special treat on camping trips, the beach or just on the way out the door for the day.

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