Campers love dehydrating foods because it is one of the best ways to store foods for days. But you need to know a few important factors that have a huge effect on the dehydrating process. For example, you need to know the certain temperature, duration, thickness of the foods, etc.
However, we have cracked the nut for you. Here, you will get a crystal clear idea about how to dehydrate camping meals along with the proper duration, temperature, and everything that’s needed.
Also, there are a few frequently asked questions plus answers, in case you have any of the questions in your mind.
Read More: Camping Meal Ideas For Families
Why Dehydrating Meals?
The one-sentenced answer is, there’s a few or no easier way of preserving foods than dehydrating. Since you’re going to camp, you’ll find an alternative to store your food in the refrigerator.
And, dehydration is that alternative. It’s even the least expensive and the fastest way to save your harvest. Also, dehydration reduces the weight of meals that you make for camping and backpacking.
Basically, dehydration reduces your food’s moisture and lets it last longer without damaging the delicious taste. Once you dehydrate your food, the moisture content of your meal downs between 5% and 20%.
This range of moisture is not good for the bacteria that lead your food to decay. Moreover, you remove moisture from the foods meaning you extend their lifespan as well.
6 Common Ways of Food Dehydration
There are 6 most common methods of dehydrate camping meals
1. Sun Drying
Sun drying is most probably the easiest and oldest way to preserve food. People have been following this method for years- they sliced several fruits and put them on lines in the sunlight.
The long period of the hot sun works great dehydrate foods. If there’s at least 86℉ temperature and 60% humidity, the sun drying process will work. But make sure that you give the foods at least some days to dry thoroughly.
This process requires a mesh screen (try to avoid anything galvanized) as well as a cover having a second screen for preventing insects or flies.
2. Air Drying
Here’s another ancient way to dry food named air drying. The key difference is, air drying requires shade to take place. For this, anything in your food that needs to be protected from the sun’s rays will get the protection.
This process is considered the best for delicate herbs and greens, more specifically, those you set aside for herbal teas or culinary mixes.
3. Solar Drying
One step ahead of sun drying, this process uses a dehydrator that is powered by the sun. It allows you to passively dehydrate your food. A solar dryer generally works outdoors and is designed as a mini greenhouse.
However, since a solar dryer doesn’t come with anything to provide fans or heat for circulating the air, this process doesn’t require electricity.
4. Oven Drying
Oven drying lets dehydrate your food slowly at a temperature around 140℉. You may not find it the most suitable option since ovens are so large and it’s always not a perfect option. However, you don’t need to buy any extra appliances in case you’re totally up for quick drying.
5. Electric Dehydrating
Combine modern technology with the old-school drying methods and voila: you are dealing with electric dehydrators. This little powerhouse comes with elements like fans for efficiently and quickly dehydrating your food.
6. Microwave-oven Dehydrating
If you have only a small batch to dehydrate, this option should be your choice. All you need to do is, setting on your microwave ‘defrost’ and dry herbs and fruits. It will take almost 20-40 minutes for completely dehydrating fruits.
And, herbs will take only 2 to 3 minutes to dry. However, you should check them continuously to make sure that you are not overdoing it.
Foods that You Can Dehydrate
Almost any kind of fresh food is okay to dehydrate, but some foods are a better choice for dehydration than others. However, these are the most common foods people want to dehydrate before going to camp.
- Vegetables: Vegetables like carrots, onions, beans, mushrooms, and tomatoes are suitable for dehydrating. You can add them to backpacking meals, soup, and stews.
- Fruits: To eat as snacks, consider apples, peaches, apricots, bananas, blueberries, pears, and cherries to dehydrate.
- Herbs: Herbs like parsley, oregano, dill, mint, basil, hyssop, lemon balm can be taken for dehydrating. Add them to your cooking, baking, and teas.
- Nuts, seeds: To make nuts and seeds more digestible, dry them after sprouting or soaking. Take walnuts, almonds, macadamia, hazelnuts, and pecans in this case.
- Sprouted grains: Preserving grains like rice, barley, buckwheat, amaranth, and quinoa means preserving nutrients.
- Fish and Meat: Dry fish and meat to add to backpacking meals or store them for stew and soup ingredients. Chicken, ground beef, turkey, fresh fish, sliced meats, beef jerky, and cured meats will work great.
How to Prepare Your Foods for Dehydrating
Even thickness should be the biggest concern when you dehydrate foods for camping. Because pieces that you leave unnecessarily thicker will not dry completely. As a result, you may face spoilage while storing the foods.
So, our recommendation is to trim vegetables and fruits to a ¼-½ inch thick, it will provide the best result. And, keep the meats thinner.
About peeling, it’s not mandatory to get rid of the skins of your vegetables and fruits that you are going to dehydrate. But it’s better to peel non-organic produce for eliminating exposures to pesticides.
And, if you decide to peel fruits such as tomatoes, apricots, and peaches, then boil water and dip the fruits in it for up to 60 seconds. After that, put them in cold water, wait for 60 seconds again. Now, you can easily remove the skins by hand.
While dehydrating, you may face light-colored fruits turning into the dark. If you want to stop it, there are ways.
- Ascorbic acid: Add 1 tablespoon of ascorbic acid to 1 quart of water. Then, put chopped or sliced food into the solution and wait for an hour. After that, remove the food, drain, and lightly rinse before you add them to dehydrator trays.
- Citric acid: Firstly, take crystalline form and add 1 tablespoon of citric acid to it. Then treat it as the previous one.
- Fruit juice: Take 1 quart of water and add 1 cup lemon juice. Stir well and then, dip fruits for around 10 minutes. When the time is over, drain well and treat as above.
- Sodium bisulfite: Add 1 tablespoon of sodium bisulfate to 1 quart of water. Take the cut fruits and soak them for 2 minutes. Then, do the same as the ascorbic acid part.
How to Dehydrate Camping Meals
Here’s your answer to how to dehydrate camping meals. Let’s check it out.
To get the best possible dried fruits, you should harvest high-quality fruits when they’re ripe. So, why ripe? Because fruits are their peak sugar content when they are ripe meaning you’ll get sweeter snacks.
However, avoid overripe or bruised ones since they tend to turn black during the drying process.
Wash skins properly and then slice the fruits maintaining an even thickness. Next, put them on a dehydrating tray and dry at 135℉-145℉ until they’re pliable.
The duration will be 6-16 hours for fruits like bananas, apples, nectarines, and peaches. On the other hand, pears, grapes, apricots, and figs take around 20-36 hours. However, you must check every 2-3 hours. Also, rotate the trays if needed.
Most of the vegetables require blanching before dehydrating them. The simplest way to blanch is- put vegetables in your seamer’s basket and then heat water beneath. The duration differs from vegetables.
These vegetables most commonly need to blanch:
- Broccoli (3-5 minutes)
- Asparagus (3-5 minutes)
- Carrots (2-3 minutes)
- Cabbage (2-3 minutes)
- Green beans (4-5 minutes)
- Corn (1-3 minutes)
- Peas (3 minutes)
Once you blanch them, place them on your dehydrator trays. Make sure they do not overlap and dry at 125℉. Onions and tomatoes will require 145℉ to dry best. The duration range will be between 4 and 10 hours.
Try to avoid drying milder-smelling vegetables and strong-smelling vegetables at the same time. Because onions, garlic, sprouts, and peppers will leave their drastic scent in other foods.
Dehydrating Meat and Fish
While talking about meats, choosing only fresh and lean meat is the best. And, fish that contains low fat are the best for dehydrating because fat can spoil fast. Worth mentioning here, avoid dehydrating pork unless you use cured, sliced ham.
If you are dehydrating cooked meat, make sure you remove fat from the meat. After that, cut the meat into cubes, ½ inch would be perfect. Lay them on trays and then dry at 145℉. Maximum cooked meat takes around 6 to 12 hours for drying completely.
It’s best to cut meat into uniform and thin strips when you are going to make jerkies for camping trips. Then, use brine to marinate them or simply dry cure with salty ‘rub’. It should take around 6 to 12 hours in the refrigerator.
When they are cured, carefully brush the strips off as well as dehydrate at 160℉. Another step you need to take is, reduce the temperature to 145℉ until the strips crack (not break) while bent.
Dehydrating Nuts and Seeds
Although nuts and seeds are tasty enough when they are raw, people having digestive problems find that dehydrating and soaking both nuts and seeds are easier to deal with.
If you ask the reason, well, it’s because raw nuts have enzyme inhibitors. And, soaking aids to break down those inhibitors as well as make seeds and nuts more digestive-friendly.
For preparing nuts and seeds to dehydrate them, firstly, make a solution- take 1 tablespoon sea salt and 4 cups of nuts. Make sure the nuts here are covered in water. Then, soak the nuts overnight in the solution.
Drain the water and lay the nuts in a single layer on your dehydrator trays. Next, dry for 12-24 hours at 145℉. This recipe is applicable for almonds, cashews, pumpkin seeds, pecans, and walnuts.
Herbs are the fastest and easiest foods to dry. You’ll need to take a little preparation and guess what? They will last for an extended period without even losing their flavor.
Morning is a preferable time to harvest herbs. Also, try to pick them before flowers bloom, earlier in the year. However, for celery and coriander, gather them on a dry day while the sun is out.
Assemble them in a bundle, make sure to snip them into a single stem. After that, hang the bundles in the shade. Or perhaps, you’ll want to arrange a dehydrator tray maintaining a single layer. Finally, leave them to dry for 2-4 hours at 95℉-105℉.
How to recognize dried herbs? Well, they should be brittle and crumble so easily when you touch them.
FAQs of Dehydrate Camping Meals
There you have it! Now, you can call yourself a master at dehydrating foods. We hope that the article on how to dehydrate meals for camping helped you to get the right information you wanted.
Dehydrating foods for camping is a genius way to store foods. People often ask whether dehydration removes nutrients from food or not. The answer is a tiny, little yes. Because it does remove some nutrients, but less than other methods of preservation.
So, don’t be late, start working now, there’s a whole lot more to do. Good luck!