Learning freeze-drying food at home is one of the best things that any prepper can do. As we have said in many articles, food should be a last resort of anyone who is in danger. However, if you have already thought about it beforehand, you will not need to think about it at all. Dehydrating your food is one way to keep food in long term storage, but in this article, we are going to look at how and why you should be freeze-drying food at home.
Freeze-drying food will remove a lot of the water from the food with a process called vaporization. Vaporization turns all of the water in food, well most of it, into vapor and allows it to escape from the food. As we have said in the dehydrating article, the majority of food goes off through a process called oxidization. Water contains a lot of oxygen, therefore, removing it, slows the process of degradation considerably.
Freeze-drying food will affect the texture and look of food a lot more than other, commercial preservations, such as canning and freezing, but there are many more benefits:
- Weight. – The weight of freeze-dried food is a lot lower than conventional freezing or canning. That will make transportation a lot easier.
- Storage. – Canned food takes up quite a lot of room, as they often still require water to be included. Freezing food requires a freezer. However, freeze-dried food doesn’t need either of them, and you can usually store it in a pantry without any issues.
- Use. – One of the best benefits to freeze-drying food at home is that you can use it easily when you need to. You do not have to open cans, nor do you have to thaw it.
- Nutrient Retention. – The retention of nutrients is a lot better when freeze-drying in comparison to other long term storage methods.
Preparation For Freeze-Drying Food At Home
As you well know, being a prepper, preparation is key to getting things right when it is needed. Freeze-drying food is no different. Follow the next steps to get the best results with foods that you choose:
Pick The Types Of Foods
Foods with a high water content works the best for freeze-drying. That is because they return to a more normal state after being reconstituted. Here is a list of some things that you can freeze-dry without many implications:
- Fruit. – Apples, bananas, strawberries, pears, and any other fruit or berry except maybe oranges. Although you can try them and see how they turn out.
- Vegetables. – Most vegetables can be freeze-dried.
- Meat. – Meat is a little bit more tricky to freeze dry, but once you have got the hang of it, you can try doing it.
- Processed meals. – Once you have got the nack and technique sorted, you can even freeze-dry full processed meals.
- Grains. – We have an entire article about freeze-drying grains here.
Choice of Food
Of course, the selection of the food that you use is going to have a significant impact on the quality of the final result. Ensure that you get the best possible outcome by picking the best possible food to start.
Fruit and Vegetables
Using the freshest food that you can get usually works best. Not because it won’t work, but because it will taste better. If you are stuck and need to store the food that you have quickly, then you may have to use what you have available. However, unless you have a vacuum chamber and dry ice, you will not be able to do it quickly anyway. Therefore, you should pick food at the peak of freshness.
Meat and Meals
Meat and meals should both be cooked thoroughly and cooled before you freeze-dry them. However, ensure that you do not leave them any longer than you need to for them to cool. Otherwise, they are going to taste bad when you reconstitute them. No one wants to be in a situation where this food is a necessity, but you will want it even less if it tasted awful too.
Foods To Avoid
There are some foods that you will need to avoid while planning your freeze-drying food at home. Anything that is yeast-based baked goods will probably not work very well. That is because the freshness of things like bread, cakes, cookies, etc. require to be a certain consistency. By all means, try it out and let us know how you get on with it.
Getting the food ready to freeze-dry is pretty straightforward, but you need to make sure that you do it.
- Wash and Dry The Food. – Only do this if it usually requires it to eat. For example, fruit and vegetables.
- Cook Food. – If it needs to be cooked to eat, then it is a good idea to cook it before you freeze-dry it. If you do not cook it first, you will have to cook it after you reconstitute it, and that could take precious time out of your day if you are bugging out.
- Cut The Food. – Do not try to freeze-dry food that is too big. That is a little bit of an art. The size of the pieces will depend on the type of food. However, a good rule of thumb is about 1-inch square should work well.
What you do with the food now all depends on which method you are going to use. Therefore, we will go through the three ways of freeze-drying at home in more detail.
Freeze Drying At Home: Methods
There are three main ways for freeze-drying food at home:
- Freezer Method. – This method is the one that most people will use as it requires no special equipment.
- Dry Ice Method. – Quicker than the freezer, but you have to be able to purchase dry ice.
- Vacuum Chamber Method. Quickest, most straightforward, but most expensive.
In this section, we go through each of the methods in as much detail as I can.
Using your typical household freezer is the easiest method of freeze-drying food at home. However, as I pointed out earlier, it is also the one that takes the longest. Here are the simple steps that you need to follow after you have picked and prepared your food as the steps above:
- Place the food onto a tray. – Ensure that you spread the food out on the plate so that there is only one layer. They can be touching a little bit, but the more that they do, the more difficulty you will have separating them after.
- Put the tray in the freezer. – If you can do it, having a dedicated freezer will be the best for this. That is because you have to use the freezer quite often in normal circumstances, and that will do two things:
- Slow the process.
- Cause ice crystals to form.
- Wait. – All you need to do now is wait. It usually takes about a week to freeze-dry food properly in the freezer.
- Test. – Remove a piece of the food and allow it to thaw out. If it returns to a standard color, then you are done. Move onto the next step. If it discolors and goes dark brown or black, then you need to wait. For this reason, it is a good idea to do slightly more food than you anticipate using.
- Store. – As with the dehydrated food in the article mentioned above, you need to store the food in airtight containers. That can be Ziploc bags or Tupperware containers. Do not forget to add oxygen absorbers to keep it fresh.
As you can see, this is the easiest but slowest method. One point to note, however, is that the colder the freezer, the better for this method. If you ave a deep freezer, take advantage of it.
Dry Ice Method
Dry ice is a brilliant tool in freeze-drying food at home. If you can get hold of it, then use it. Dry ice will let all of the water in the food evaporate much quicker than in a freezer. Therefore, it will take a lot less time to complete. Follow these steps:
- Pick A Day. – Preferably one that the humidity is low. Moisture and rain will make the dry ice melt faster, and thus make the whole job more difficult.
- Get A Coolbox. – Any container will do for this, but we find a coolbox is best as it keeps the dry ice insulated. It should be about twice the size of the food that you want to freeze-dry.
- Layer. – Using a pair of insulated gloves, place the food into the box in a flat sheet. Then add dry ice on top, then food, and so on. Keep doing this until all of your food is covered, or the box is full. You should be aiming for a ratio of 1:1 food to dry ice in weight. Place the lid on the top. Do not seal it, as the dry ice will turn back into carbon dioxide at a much higher volume than the ice. Therefore, the lid may explode off.
- Wait. – Now all you do is wait for all the dry ice to melt. You may need to keep an eye on it, as you do not want to leave the food out in the open any longer than it has to be. It usually takes approximately twenty-four hours to turn to gas completely.
- Store. – Carbon dioxide is a little bit heavier than air in general, so it will stay in the box for a while. Therefore, when you are going to store it, try to bag it in the box, thus not allowing much oxygen into the bag.
That is it. As I said earlier, it is still a good idea to keep oxygen absorbers in the bag with the food. Even so, try to take out as much air as possible.
By far the easiest and quickest method for freeze-drying food at home. The machines are expensive, but if you are going to be doing a lot of freeze-drying, it will pay for itself pretty quickly.
The freeze dryer here is one of the most simple machines that we have ever used. Here is a basic breakdown of the instructions:
- Prepare The Food. – Do this in the same way as the other two methods, as described at the beginning of the article.
- Place On The Tray. – Place the food on the supplied trays evenly.
- Place Into Freeze Dryer. – Slide the trays into place.
- Press Go. – No set up required.
- Done. – It is all automated and turns off when finished.
That is it. Then all you need to do is store it in the same way as you have seen in the other two methods.
Freeze-drying food at home is the best way to preserve food. Although dehydrating is good, freeze-drying has been seen to slow some types of cancer. Therefore, freeze-drying is also extremely healthy for you. As you have seen, there are three main ways to do this, but if you are planning on doing this a lot, then you may want to consider buying one of the freeze-drying machines seriously.
Not only will it allow you to stockpile a massive amount of food in a short period, you will also be able to make healthy snacks for the family. Also, you may even be able to convince some of your prepper friends to freeze-dry their food for a small fee, of course. I hope that this has helped you, and remember to let us know what you freeze-dry and how it turns out.