Dehydrating food is one of my go-to methods for food preservation. In fact, I love it so much that if I had to choose only one way to preserve food, dehydrating would be my first choice. However, even though using a food dehydrator is a fantastic way to add food to your prepper pantry, there are some disadvantages of dehydrating food.
Some disadvantages of dehydrating food include high energy costs, limited food capacity in most food dehydrators, and the potential for flavor mixing. Additionally, dehydrating food is a time-consuming process that results in vitamin loss and lower quality food texture.
Disadvantages of Dehydrating Food
In this article, I’ll highlight several disadvantages of dehydrating food, and why food dehydration may not be for you, despite how much I love it. However, I’ll also explain some ways to deal with these drawbacks, including how you can improve the quality of your dehydrated food once you’re ready to consume it. Read on to learn more.
Food Dehydration Has Higher Energy Costs
Dehydration is the oldest form of food preservation, dating back to 1700 B.C. People used the sun, wind, and even salt to draw moisture from food and aid in its longevity.
Today, we usually dehydrate food using appliances, including:
- Conventional ovens
- Electric dehydrators
People still utilize air and sun drying today, but unless you’re exclusively using nature to dry your meats, fruits, and veggies, you’re going to pay for the energy costs.
Compared to canning, when it comes to electricity cost, food dehydration is slightly more expensive as it uses more electricity, no matter what appliance you use. While conventional ovens work, they’re not as energy efficient as most food dehydrators, and microwaves are only suitable for drying herbs.
Additionally, if a dehydrator is your preferred method for food preservation, you’ll need to make that initial investment. Depending on the type of food dehydrator you purchase, you can expect to pay $50 up to $400 or more.
Pro Tip: When it comes to a good overall food dehydrator at a reasonable cost, I personally use and recommend this Nesco dehydrator, that you can get here, on Amazon. If you prefer to purchase from a smaller company, with better customer service, you can buy the Nesco dehydrator I use from Pleasant Hill Grain.
As I’ve mentioned, I love dehydrating foods, as it’s my favorite of all preservation methods. However, one of the most significant drawbacks that I’ve found is that most dehydrators have limited food capacity.
Because of this and the time it takes to dry foods, it’s challenging to dehydrate large amounts of food in a single sitting.
To put this into perspective, you can dry approximately a half-bushel of fruits or vegetables — roughly 21 lbs (9.52 kg) of apples — using 12 sq ft (1.11 sq m) of drying space. That’s quite a bit of space, especially considering you must spread everything out in a single layer.
With that said, there are vertical food dehydrators available that offer up decent amounts of drying space.
For example, the Nesco American Harvest Food Dehydrator (available on Amazon.com), features eight stackable trays, expandable to 30 trays! Each tray provides one square foot of drying space, totaling a maximum of 30 square feet in one compact unit!
However, a unit like that can cost between $100 and $200, but it’s worth it if you want to dehydrate a lot of food at a time in a small amount of space.
Vertical Food Dehydrators May Cause Flavor Mixing
While vertical dehydrators provide ample drying room without taking up too much countertop space, they’re notorious for flavor mixing.
Heating elements in vertical food dehydrators sit at either the top or bottom and a fan pushes warm air through the center of the unit, circulating it throughout each tray. Because of this, drying different foods in this unit may lead to flavor contamination. In other words, if you dry spinach with apples, your dried apple slices may taste like spinach, or vice versa.
To avoid this, stick with drying similar foods together. For example:
- Apples and pears
- Broccoli and celery
- Spinach and kale
- Carrots and parsnips
I personally recommend getting produce or other items you want to dehydrate on sale, and buying it and dehydrating it in bulk. That way you don’t have to worry about flavor mixing, and also save a ton of money at the same time.
Drying food sounds easy, but you can’t just toss fruits and vegetables in the sun or a dehydrator and expect magic to happen. There’s quite a bit of preparation and treatment involved before moving on to the actual drying process.
Of course, most food preservation methods are time-consuming, including canning. The processing time for pressure canning takes anywhere from 20 to 100 minutes, with cooling times up to twelve hours. Dehydrating food is similar, with the drying process lasting up to twelve hours or more, depending on the food, but that doesn’t include preparation time.
To understand the time involved in food dehydration, I’ve created a table showing the preparation involved along with the drying process and time:
|Drying Process & Time
|Wash. Cut into halves.
|Water blanch for 4-5 minutes.
|Dry asparagus for 6 to 10 hours, or until leathery or brittle to the touch.
|Wash. Remove roots and greens. Peel and cut into ⅛” (3.17 mm) thick slices.
|Water blanch for 4-5 minutes.
|Dry carrots for 6-10 hours, until rigid or brittle to the touch.
|Remove outer shell and skin. Wash. Remove the top and roots. Cut into ⅛” to ¼” (3.17 to 6.35 mm) rings.
|Water blanch for 4 minutes.
|Dry onions for 8-10 hours until very brittle to the touch.
|Use firm, ripe apples. Wash, pare, and core. Cut into ⅛” to ¼” (3.17 to 6.35 mm) slices.
|Dip in an ascorbic acid solution for 10 minutes or steam blanch for 3 to 5 minutes.
|Dry apples for about 12 hours, until they’re soft, pliable, and leathery with no moisture in the center when sliced open.
|Use firm, ripe bananas. Peel and cut into ⅛” (3.17 mm) slices.
|Dip in lemon juice.
|Dry bananas for 6-8 hours until they’re tough and leathery with no moisture in the center when sliced open.
|Use ripe, firm peaches. Wash, peel, and halve. Remove the pit.
|Dip in an ascorbic acid solution for 10 minutes or steam blanch for 8-10 minutes.
|Dry peaches pit-side up for about 3-4 hours until leathery and pliable with no moisture in the center when sliced open.
When dehydrating foods, it’s important to complete the drying process in as little time as possible without uneven drying, burning, or cooking it.
That doesn’t mean, however, that you should dry foods at a higher temperature for a shorter duration, as it’ll still take up to twelve hours to thoroughly dehydrate certain foods. Attempting to dry foods too quickly results in hard, unevenly dried goods.
Dehydrating foods may lead to nutrient loss depending on the drying process, amount of heat used, and other techniques involved.
Compared to food dehydration, canned foods retain higher ascorbic acid and carotene levels than dehydrated foods. In fact, because ascorbic acid is water-soluble and heat-labile, it’s commonly lost in its entirety during food dehydration.
Because dehydration prep often calls for the peeling of fruits and vegetables, this, too, results in the loss of valuable nutrients and fiber. But the loss of vitamins isn’t strictly due to using an electric dehydrator, because even drying in the sun causes a loss of vitamin C.
With that said, you can retain some nutrient levels such as vitamin A and vitamin B by blanching certain foods before dehydration.
In addition to that, you can dehydrate food at a lower temperature, for less nutrient loss.
Pro tip: I’ve found that adding sprout and microgreen seeds to my prepper pantry is a fantastic way to make up for any nutrient loss from canned or dehydrated foods. This option virtually eliminates one of the biggest disadvantages of dehydrating food.
Sprouts and microgreens are quick and easy to grow, and pack a nutritional punch that more than makes up for nutrient loss that occurs when preserving food.
For more information on the benefits of growing sprouts and microgreens, be sure to check out my article, Why Every Prepper Should Add Sprouts and Microgreens to Their Prepper Pantry.
Another great way to preserve nutrients is to freeze dry rather than dehydrate food. For more information, check out my article, Adding Freeze Dried Food to Your Prepper Pantry.
Most people love a good stick of beef jerky, myself included. I’ve never witnessed a person chew on jerky and complain about the water content, as the leathery texture is expected. After all, it’s dried meat.
However, dried, tough fruits and vegetables aren’t nearly as appealing, and dehydration greatly affects a food’s texture. Some foods, especially fibrous vegetables, and fruits become tough after dehydration.
These fruits and vegetables include:
Therefore, if you expect your asparagus, broccoli, parsnips, and beets to remain crisp or your berries to stay juicy after dehydrating, you’re in for a rude awakening. Freeze drying these foods might make them crispy, however.
Fortunately, you can remedy the issue of tough dehydrated fruits and veggies by rehydrating them using water. Mixing them into sauces, soups, stews, or casseroles may be all it takes to improve the overall texture.
The liquid plumps them up again, although not completely back to their original texture. Dried raspberries, in particular, taste excellent in a bowl of oatmeal cooked with warm milk.
Also, you may find that you like the difference in texture and flavor. As an example, raisins are dehydrated grapes. While they don’t taste at all the same, and there’s nothing like popping a nice juicy grape into your mouth, there’s nothing like raisins in a bowl of oatmeal or in baked goods. They also make a nice on-the-go snack.
There’s a reason dehydrating food has been around for so long. It’s relatively simple and effective, and the food may last indefinitely.
Dehydrated fruits, vegetables, and meats make ideal ingredients for camping, hiking, or whipping up a quick soup or stew. However, with every food preservation method, food dehydration has its drawbacks, including high energy costs, limited capacity, a time-consuming process, the loss of vitamins, and a loss in texture quality. It’s up to you to determine if the disadvantages of dehydrating food outweigh the benefits.
If you enjoyed this article, you may also enjoy these articles on the topic of dehydrating food.
- New Mexico State University: Drying Foods
- Research Gate: Energy Use, Cost, and Product Quality in Preserving Vegetables at Home by Canning, Freezing, and Dehydration
- University of Missouri: Introduction to Food Dehydration
- Penn State University: Terms When Drying Foods
- United States National Library of Medicine: Retention of Nutrients in Green Leafy Vegetables on Dehydration
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: Food Processing and Health
- The University of Arizona: Backyard Gardener – Preserving Your Summer Harvest
Here are some of my favorite dehydrating tools
Thank you for reading this article. I hope you found it helpful as you strive to stock your pantry with delicious home-dehydrated food! Here are some tools that I use that I’m hoping you’ll also find helpful. These are affiliate links, so if you do decide to use any of them, I’ll earn a commission. Please know that these are the tools that I recommend and believe in 100%!
The Nesco FD-75A Snackmaster Pro Food Dehydrator was my first dehydrator, and still one of my favorites. I actually have two of them! If I was only going to buy one dehydrator and was on a strict budget, this would be it. I love it because it’s very reasonably priced, and is expandable up to 12 trays. I recommend starting with the basic system that comes with 5 trays. Then expand by buying additional trays, fruit leather sheets, and mesh screens.
The Cosori Premium Dehydrator is my most recent dehydrator purchase. In many respects, it’s superior to the Nesco since it is constructed with stainless steel, which is always a winner. I love the ease of use, and how precise it is when it comes to setting the temperature. It’s also versatile in that you can remove some of the racks. This makes it possible to use it for more than just dehydrating. As an example, you can use the Cosori dehydrator to make yogurt, something you definitely can’t do with any of the stackable dehydrators.
Nesco FD-1018A Gardenmaster Pro Food Dehydrator – I’ve had my eye on this dehydrator for a LONG time. I don’t have space for another dehydrator, so I’m just waiting for one of my dehydrators to die so I can buy this one! What I really love about this dehydrator is that it expands to up to 30 (yes, 30!) trays. At 1,000 watts, it’s more powerful than the two dehydrators listed above. If you only have the means to buy one dehydrator, and have limited space to dehydrate, I recommend this one since you can dehydrate a huge amount of food at a time.
The FoodSaver Vacuum Sealing Machine is a great way to preserve the food you’ve dehydrated. The machine I use is no longer available. I chose this one because it’s a great price and includes a port that makes it possible to use the accessory kit linked to below. Since I store all my dehydrated food in mason jars, the jar sealer attachments are a must. But with this device, you can also use food storage bags if you’re short on mason jars, or prefer to seal you dehydrated food in bags.
The FoodSaver Handheld Cordless Food Vacuum Sealer is a great option for those with limited space. I keep mine charged up in my kitchen, so I can easily reseal jars every time I use some of my dehydrated food. While I still love my larger FoodSaver, from a convenience perspective, this one can’t be beat.
The FoodSaver Accessory Kit is a must if, like me, you store dehydrated food in mason jars. You can use this kit with either of the vacuum sealers linked to above. If you can’t get the one I linked to on Amazon, check out this selection of options available on Walmart.