Freeze-dried vs. dehydrated food. Which is best?
When making backpacking meals or preparing a survival food kit, should you go for dehydrated ingredients or freeze-dried? We’ll be answering this question and more in this article.
Dried food: Freeze-dried and dehydrated
Dried foods are prepared by significantly reducing the moisture content of the food. The lower the moisture content, the longer the shelf life. Dried food can last for over a year.
When referring to dried food, people wrongly use “dehydrated” and “freeze-dried” interchangeably. Although freeze-drying and dehydrating processes give a similar result (shelf-stable dried food), the methods are quite different, and the end products vary significantly.
Dehydrated food has about 70 to 95 percent of its moisture removed. While freeze-dried has about 97 to 99 percent of its moisture removed.
Who needs dried food?
Because of their incredible shelf life and lightweight, dried foods are lifesavers when camping, backpacking, or hiking. For survivalists, dehydrated foods are perfect for the emergency stockpile.
If you’re simply looking to cut food wastage in your home, go for dried food.
What is dehydrated food?
Dehydrated food can be made traditionally by air- and sun-drying food. The food is put outside in the sun during high temperatures, especially when humidity is low.
Dehydrated food can also be made with a dehydrator—an electrical appliance with trays and a fan that forces air through the feed. Heat and airflow are essential requirements for dehydration.
Depending on the food group to be dehydrated, the air temperature in a dehydrator can be adjusted from temperatures ranging from 95 ° F to 165 ° F.
For the best shelf life, about 95 percent of moisture or more should be removed. However, this value can only be achieved with heavy-duty, commercial dehydrating equipment. For dehydrators designed for home use, only 70 percent of the moisture is removed.
- Long shelf life: can last years without refrigeration
- Light and portable
- Takes less space than original food form
- Slightly cheaper than freeze-dried food
- Can be done traditionally without any appliance: sun-drying and air-drying
- May lose most of its taste and nutritional content
- Requires cooking to rehydrate
- Rehydration is slower than freeze-dried food.
What is freeze-dried food?
Unlike the age-old method of dehydration, freeze-drying is relatively modern. It was developed during the beginning of World War II to preserve blood serum for the injured.
The process is also a little more complicated and needs specialized equipment like a freeze dryer.
You can buy quality freeze dryers designed for home use here.
To freeze-dry, food is frozen at very low temperatures (-40 ° F or colder) in the freeze dryer. A vacuum forms around the frozen food, then as the temperature is slowly increased, sublimation occurs. Sublimation is a term that describes the process the chilled water in the food is converted to vapor, skipping the liquid phase. In this scenario, water is removed from the diet.
- Long shelf life: can last years without refrigeration.
- Light and portable.
- Retains most of its shape, size, quality, and taste
- Rehydrates quickly without needing to cook
- A little more expensive than dehydrated food.
- Takes more space than dehydrated food
More differences between freeze-dried and dehydrated food
Aside from water content, there are other ways to tell freeze-dried foods from dehydrated ones.
Dehydrated food is often harder and more brittle. Dehydrated veggies, like carrots, are quite hard.
Freeze-dried foods, on the other hand, are more airy and porous. They are softer to handle and crunchier. Freeze-dried berries tend to melt quickly in the mouth, while dehydrated seeds may need some chewing. While freeze-dried food seems more voluminous, they weigh less.
The good thing about both dried food is that the taste is hardly affected. But the variances in the preparation process often give freeze-dried food better flavor than dehydrated ones.
The taste and natural smell of freeze-dried food are largely preserved due to the low heat requirement of the freeze-drying process. Compared to dehydrated food that needs a lot of heat to remove moisture, flavor, texture, and smell may be lost.
Even after five to ten years, a rehydrated freeze-dried food would keep its original taste.
Freeze-dried foods have a higher nutritional content than dehydrated ones.
Freeze-dried foods retain most of the vitamins and minerals in the original form. A freeze dryer can help the food keep 97% of its nutritional profile. However, the nutritional value of dehydrated food is about 60% of its corresponding fresh form. This loss is mostly due to the heat applied during the dehydration process, which destroys some minerals and vitamins.
- Shelf life
Because freeze-drying removes more moisture than dehydrating, freeze-dried foods have a longer shelf life. But when oxygen absorbers and high barrier pouches are used in packing both meals, both dried foods can have a shelf life of over a year.
If properly stored, freeze-dried food can last for up to 25 years, while dehydrated food can go up to five years.
- Speed of rehydration
While going outdoors with your dried food, it’s essential to carry water along for rehydration.
Freeze-dried food rehydrates faster than dehydrated ones because of the more acceptable form of freeze-dried food. Freeze-dried foods rehydrate more quickly in five minutes or less in cold or hot water. Freeze-dried veggies, eggs, dairy, meat, and meals often rehydrate almost instantly. Because some freeze-dried food is pre-cooked, you don’t have to cook them again.
Dehydrated food, however, take ten to twenty minutes to rehydrate. To rehydrate dehydrated food, you need to boil them in water. This is time-consuming, especially for backpackers.
Still, dehydrated food needs to be cooked to ensure proper rehydration—and to keep the food edible for consumption.
- Ease of storage
Because freeze-dried foods have a longer shelf life and can be reconstituted better when water is added, they are easier to store and better for backpacking than dehydrated food. And because freeze-dried foods weigh less, they are easier to carry around. This makes them better for hiking and camping.
You can purchase tasty freeze-dried food here.
Both freeze-dried and dehydrated foods are shelf-stable products. Choosing one should be as a result of your personal preference. However, freeze-drying wins with variety. You can purchase freeze-dried food from almost all the food groups. From full meals and desserts to meats and veggies, freeze-drying has practically limitless capabilities. Dairy and eggs can even be freeze-dried.
You can also get delicious freeze-dried food with amazing shelf life here.