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If you’re looking into freeze drying food at home, you probably have questions about what foods turn out well using this method. While many items can be successfully freeze dried, some are better candidates than others.
In this ultimate guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about the best and worst foods to freeze dry at home.
Table of Contents
What is Freeze Drying?
First, let’s start with a quick refresher on what exactly freeze drying is and why it’s beneficial for preserving foods long-term. Freeze drying removes moisture from food by freezing it first and then reducing the surrounding pressure to allow the frozen water to sublimate directly from solid phase to gas. The lack of liquid water prevents food spoilage and biochemical reactions. For more details, check out this article.
Compared to other preservation methods like canning or dehydrating, freeze drying better retains the original texture, taste, and nutritional value of foods. The low temperatures used prevent cooking or damaging food. When stored correctly in airtight containers at cool temperatures, freeze dried foods can last 20-30 years!
The extremely low moisture also makes freeze dried foods very lightweight, perfect for hiking and camping trips. When you’re ready to eat, just add hot or cold water to rehydrate in minutes.
Let’s dive into the best and worst foods for DIY freeze drying success.
What Foods Can You Freeze Dry?
Many foods turn out well when freeze dried at home. Here are some of the best options:
Beef, venison, chicken, turkey, pork, fish, and other meats can be frozen, diced or shredded if needed, and then successfully freeze dried. The extremely low moisture content prevents bacteria growth, though you should still store rehydrated meats in the refrigerator and eat within a few days.
Small fruits like blueberries, raspberries, and strawberry slices freeze dry nicely and rehydrate well for a tasty snack or addition to cereals and yogurt. Banana slices, peach slices, mango, pineapple, apple slices, and citrus fruits also do well. The high sugar content helps maintain texture.
Most non-leafy vegetables freeze dry well, including favorites like peas, corn, broccoli, carrots, peppers, and shelled, cooked beans. Blanching vegetables by immersing in boiling water for 1-2 minutes before freeze drying can help retain color and texture.
Herbs and Spices
Freeze dried herbs and spices retain more flavor and aroma compound compared to dehydrating. Oregano, basil, thyme, parsley, cilantro, cinnamon, chili powder, and ginger all retain excellent quality when freeze dried.
Freeze drying fully prepared meals, soups, sauces, and entrees is possible, though the texture of some ingredients may change slightly. Most retain excellent flavor. Things like these crockpot oatmeal cookies work great!
The proteins in dairy products like milk, yogurt, sour cream, and cottage cheese break down during freezing and thawing after rehydration, creating a curdled texture. Hard cheeses may become crumbly. This however doesn’t exclude them from being freeze dried, just a warning to be familiar with the product before wasting a lot of it in case things go bad.
Many people think this is a waste to use the freeze dryer, but many other people are turning it into a lucrative business. I say, why can’t you freeze dry your cake and eat it, too? If it works for you, then do it.
What Foods Should You Not Freeze Dry?
While many foods do well, some are not recommended for freeze drying:
High Oil Foods
Foods like avocados, coconuts, nuts, and seeds contains oils that can turn rancid during freeze drying. The low temperatures also solidify the oils into a waxy texture.
Oil-based products like mayo can deteriorate and become unpalatable, if they even successfully freeze dry.
Lettuce and Watery Fruits/Veggies
Lettuce leaves and water-rich produce like watermelon, cucumber, and tomatoes have too high water content. Freeze drying removes so much moisture that the texture suffers upon rehydrating.
Tips to Successfully Freeze Dry
Follow these tips to get the best results from your home freeze drying efforts:
– Pretreat foods before freeze drying by blanching, steaming, or freezing to retain color and texture.
– Cut or slice foods into small, uniform pieces to ensure thorough, even drying.
– Use a quality freeze dryer capable of extremely cold temperatures and low pressure.
– Freeze dry foods in small batches of 2-4 lbs for optimal results. (Not necessary, if you’re familiar with the load your machine can handle)
– Make sure foods are completely frozen before loading into the freeze dryer chamber (if doing liquids).
– After freeze drying cycle is complete, check that all items are warm (signals that the process is complete) before removing food.
– Store properly in moisture-proof airtight containers like mason jars or mylar bags.
Storage and Rehydration of Freeze Dried Foods
To get the longest shelf life from your freeze dried creations:
– Store containers in a cool, dark place like a pantry or basement. Refrigeration is not needed.
– If rehydrating fruit, add just enough cold water to cover. For vegetables, cover with hot water.
– Let food sit for 5-10 minutes to fully rehydrate before eating. Add more water if needed.
– Eat rehydrated veggies within a few days and fruits within one week for best quality.
Freeze Drying FAQs
What are the advantages of freeze drying foods?
Compared to other methods, freeze drying better retains the original taste, texture, appearance, and nutritional content of foods. It also enables long shelf life and extremely lightweight storage.
How long do freeze dried foods last?
Most freeze dried fruits, vegetables, prepared foods, and cooked meats can last 20-30 years if properly stored in airtight containers at cool temperatures. Once rehydrated, they should be eaten within a few days.
Does freeze drying change the taste of foods?
Most foods retain their original delicious taste when freeze dried. Some foods like eggs may have a slightly different texture after rehydrating. But overall the effects are minimal compared to canning or heat drying methods.
Ready to start freeze drying? Now that you know the do’s and don’ts for getting the best results, you can start experimenting with this amazing preservation method. Follow proper handling and storage and your homemade freeze dried creations will last for decades to come. Let us know your favorite foods to freeze dry! We’d love to hear your tips.
HOW DO I FREEZE DRY THE FOODS ABOVE?
Many people think it’s next to impossible to do the freeze drying for themselves. This is far from factual. Freeze drying at home is made easy by Harvest Right. They sell three different sizes of freeze-drying machines that do everything in the machine – except prep and package.
That’s up to you.
For all intents and purposes, here at Freeze Drying Mama we use the medium sized freeze dryer. You can check out the sizes offered at Harvest Right here.
What this machine does is first freeze the items on stainless steel trays to -41 degrees or lower. This takes about 10 hours or so.
Then a vacuum pump turns on and creates a vacuum inside the drum. This is the drying stage and will vacillate the heat of the tray up and down to a pretty warm temperature. This makes the frozen items release any water in them in vapor form. The vacuum sucks the moisture to the drum. This collects in ice form on the inner circle of the drum.
Then there’s the final dry which is essentially the same thing, but with a time associated with it and an end in sight!