When you begin to investigate food storage, one of the first things you’ll see is the separation of freeze-dried and dehydrated foods. Growing up I remember my mother picking large amounts of apples from our orchard and using our dehydrator to preserve them but the process of freeze-drying was unfamiliar to me. When I got older and started looking more into emergency preparedness, I was able to see a distinction between both freeze-drying and dehydration.
Freeze drying is the process of freezing water out of a food product then rapidly turning it into a gas, omitting the liquid stage. Most fruit and vegetables are made out of 80% to 90% water, making freeze drying the ultimate light weight option. Once the freeze drying process is completed, the water, (up to 90% of a product like strawberries), is effectively removed to preserve the product.
- Extremely light products
- Maintains shape, color, flavor, and nutrients
- Rehydrates quickly (approximately 5 minutes)
Dehydration is when water is removed using heat and a low air current. Dehydration is great method to use when wanting to create a product to have a powdered form. Dehydration is effective for fruits and vegetables, however, the dehydration time can be much longer.
- Makes products compact and great for storage and travel
- Most cost effective
- Best option for powdered or finer products
In some cases freeze-dried is ideal, and for other items dehydration is most appropriate. For example, a freeze-dried strawberry is convenient since rehydration is unnecessary and it can be consumed easily in cereal or as a snack. Another example would be freeze-dried lasagna with meat where it is frozen, dried and packaged for easy rehydration. In soups and other mixes where the ingredients will be rehydrated in warm or boiling water, dehydrated ingredients are best. When space is a concern dehydrated ingredients can take up less than a 1/3 of the space that freeze-dried ingredients do. You can't go wrong with freeze-drying or dehydration because they are great for food storage and emergency preparedness.