Freeze dried food is one of the best things to add to your long-term food storage. It’s one of the best food preservation options. In this article I answer several questions about adding freeze dried food to your prepper pantry.
By the end of this article, you’ll have a better understanding of what freeze drying is, the benefits of freeze drying food, and whether or not it’s worth it to freeze dry food at home.
What is Freeze-Drying?
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According to Wikipedia, Freeze drying, also known as lyophilization or cryodesiccation, is a low temperature dehydration process that involves freezing the product, lowering pressure, then removing the ice by sublimation.
How Does Freeze Drying Work?
Both freeze drying and dehydration preserve food through the process of removing moisture.
The difference between freeze drying and dehydration is that dehydration uses heat to remove moisture through evaporation, rather than removing ice through the process of sublimation.
Sublimation is the process of changing something from a solid state to a gas state. What this essentially means in freeze drying, is that frozen food dries without first melting. The keeps the cell structure intact and prevents mushy food.
To understand how this helps preserve the quality of the food, consider what happens with frozen vegetables. Whether you buy frozen vegetables at the grocery store or freeze fresh vegetables yourself, when you thaw them, they are mushy.
Since freeze drying uses the sublimation process, the cell structure of the food is preserved, and thus freeze-dried food doesn’t become mushy.
What is the Purpose of Freeze Drying?
The primary purpose of freeze-drying food is to preserve it in a way that makes it shelf stable.
In addition to being shelf stable, since it can be stored in any type of air tight container, freeze dried food can be used in many different ways. For instance, you can store it in your prepper pantry, take it hiking, or use it when traveling.
Some freeze dried food such as fruit makes a nice snack without rehydrating it. You can pack it in your child’s lunch, keep some in your purse or desk drawer for a snack, or use it in meals in a jar.
Does Freeze Drying Use Chemicals?
One of the benefits of adding freeze-dried food to your prepper pantry is that it doesn’t include chemicals. Please note that I’m referring to home-freeze dried food.
Before buying commercially freeze-dried food, be sure to check the label. Even though the actual freeze-drying process is chemical free, some commercial manufacturers may add chemicals for various reasons.
Is Bacteria Killed in the Freeze-Drying Process?
Killing bacteria is one of the primary ways that preserving food makes food shelf stable. There are different ways to kill bacteria when preserving food. For instance, the high temperatures used in canning kills most bacteria.
But what about freeze drying? The good news is, freeze drying also kills most bacteria. Notice that most, not all, bacteria is killed with freeze drying. The good news is, freeze drying kills enough bacteria in most foods to make it safe to store long term.
However, there are exceptions to this. The biggest exception is in raw eggs, meat, and fish. Since it can be hard to tell whether freeze dried food has been cooked prior to drying, be sure to label raw meat and eggs so you’ll know to cook it when using it.
Can You Freeze Dry Food at Home?
There is a wide variety of prepper-type food that is freeze dried. Purchasing freeze dried food from companies such as Augason Farms, Thrive, and Mountain House is the easiest way to add freeze dried food to your prepper pantry.
The great news is, with the help of a home freeze dryer, you can dry a wide variety of food at home.
Using a Home Freeze Dryer
Freeze drying food at home isn’t complicated, but there are a few steps you need to take before putting food into your freeze dryer.
Preparing Food for Freeze Drying
Thankfully, preparing food to be freeze dried is a pretty simple process. Follow these easy steps to improve the final outcome of your home freeze-dried foods.
Start with quality products
Regardless of what you decide to freeze dry, it’s best to start with top quality products. For instance, if you’re freeze-drying fruit or vegetables, make sure they are fresh. You don’t want to freeze dry produce that is already going bad!
Freshness also matters with other foods such as milk or meat.
In addition to that, going with organic and hormone free food is optimal, but not required.
Wash food before drying
Even if you’re starting with organic produce, it’s important to wash it thoroughly before freeze drying. You want to remove any pesticides, dirt, little critters or rocks before drying the food.
I also like to wash meat before freeze drying it.
Remove Undesirable Parts
If desired, peel produce and remove cores or other bits you don’t want to include in the freeze- dried product.
You can also cut off extra fat or gristle before drying meat.
Slice or cut into cubes
Next, slice the food or cut it into cubes. This isn’t necessary for all foods. For example, you may want to freeze dry food such as a serving of lasagna whole.
But many freeze dried food such as freeze dried fruit work better when cut into pieces.
Freeze dried fruit that is small, such as raspberries and blueberries don’t need slicing or cutting.
Place fruit that is cut in half, cut side down.
You can also place food that you plan to freeze dry into the freezer and let it freeze all the way before putting it in the freeze dryer. This isn’t 100% necessary, but speeds up the freeze drying process.
Since freeze drying takes quite a while anyway, anything you can do to help speed up the process is a good idea.
What Foods Can You Freeze Dry?
The great news is, you can freeze dry just about everything. Here are some popular foods to freeze dry, along with a few foods to avoid.
- Fruit and vegetables
- Meat and dairy
- Entire meals, such as lasagna, chili and stew
You should avoid attempting to freeze dry food that has a high fat content such as peanut butter, butter, and chocolate. You should also avoid attempting to freeze dry food such as jam, honey.
How Long Does it Take to Freeze Dry Food?
As a general rule of thumb, it takes about 24 hours to freeze dry food. However, there are many factors that impact the length of time it takes for food to be completely freeze dried, so never go by time alone.
This video provides excellent instructions on how to tell if something has freeze dried completely:
Freeze Dried Fruit Vs. Dehydrated Fruit
Freeze dried fruit is one of the most popular options when it comes to freeze dried food. Here are some benefits that freeze dried fruit has over dehydrated fruit:
- Freeze dried fruit preserves more nutrients than dehydrated fruit.
- Freeze dried fruit tastes more like fresh fruit than dehydrated fruit
- Freeze dried fruit has a longer shelf life than dehydrated fruit
- Freeze dried fruit is easier to powder than dehydrated fruit. This makes it easy to include in food such as baked goods.
- Freeze dried fruit rehydrates faster than dehydrated fruit
As you can see, freeze drying fruit and other food has many benefits.
To read more about the benefits of freeze dried food in general compared to dehydrated food, check out my article, Dehydrating Vs. Freeze Drying.
How to Use Freeze Dried Foods
One of the best things about stocking freeze dried foods in your prepper pantry is that they are easy to use.
You can eat freeze dried fruit right out of the jar without any prep work. Some freeze dried fruit tastes a bit chalky, so it’s a matter of preference. But freeze dried fruit makes a good substitute for candy or other sweet treats. The main thing to keep in mind with eating freeze dried fruit is that it has high sugar content, so don’t overdo it.
How to Cook with Dried Foods
Rehydrating is the first step in cooking with dried foods. If you’re cooking something saucy such as soup, stew, or sauces, simply add the dried item when cooking. It will rehydrate without any problem.
I like to put freeze dried fruit such as apples into oatmeal as I cook it. I add just a bit of extra water to my oatmeal when adding freeze dried fruit.
If I’m going to sauté dried food such as peppers or onions, I first rehydrate the food in hot water. Discard the water, and pat the food dry before sauteeing it.
Advantages of Adding Freeze Dried Food to Your Prepper Pantry
There are several advantages to adding freeze dried fruit, vegetables and other items to your prepper pantry. Here are some of my favorite reasons:
- Long shelf life. If you want to build a prepper pantry with food that will last decades, this is the way to go!
- It’s lightweight, which makes it easier to move it when needed.
- You can store it in mylar bags. While I really like storing food in glass mason jars, mylar bags are lightweight and non-breakable.
- It’s the only way to make food such as lasagna shelf stable.
Disadvantages of Adding Freeze Dried Foods to Your Prepper Pantry
As is true with all things, there are both pros and cons to adding freeze dried items to your prepper pantry.
The biggest disadvantage to adding this type of food to your long term storage is that it takes up more space than dehydrated food.
If you’re short on space, dehydrated food is a better option. The reason for this is that food that you freeze dry doesn’t shrink. It maintains the original shape and size of fresh food.
Also, commercially dried items may include preservatives or other chemicals that you may want to avoid. They may also be high in salt. This problem is eliminated when you do it yourself.
Disadvantages to Choosing to Freeze Dry Food at Home
If you’re going to add this type of food to your long-term food storage, you’ll have more control over the food if you dry it at home. However, there are a few disadvantages. Here are the biggest things to watch out for when it comes to drying food at home.
- Buying a freeze drying machine requires large initial investment. (If you’re going to buy one, Harvest Right is the way to go. While expensive, they have a good reputation and are worth the money.)
- Freeze dryers take up a lot of space and make a fair amount of noise.
- Freeze drying machines use electricity. The cost you save by freeze drying fruit and other food yourself more than makes up for the cost of electricity. But if you live in an area where electricity is limited or expensive, this may not be the best option for you.
Is Freeze Drying Worth It?
Deciding to freeze dry food at home is a worthwhile venture, and one that many preppers should consider. Afterall, there’s nothing like being about to preserve multiple types of food at home, for your long-term food storage.
But when it comes to determining whether or not it’s worth it for you, it’s important to keep the pros and cons of freeze drying food at home before making a final decision.
The key factors to keep in mind when making this decision are the following:
- Can you afford to purchase a freeze dryer?
- Do you have a place to keep a freeze dryer set up and running on at least a somewhat regular basis?
- Do you have room to store freeze dried items? (Remember, it takes more room than dehydrated food.)
- Do you have a large amount of freezer space to freeze food before you freeze dry it? Typically, you need more freezer space than a typical home freezer.
If you answered yes to the above questions, then buying a freezer dryer is a good option for you. You can purchase a Harvest Right freeze dryer here.
If you’re not quite ready for a freeze dryer, I highly recommend adding dehydrated food to your long term food storage. Thankfully, dehydrating food is inexpensive and easy to do at home. Here are some articles to get you started: