When you are new to dehydrating, there seems to be a lot of rules. These three dehydrating tips for beginners will set you on the path to success.
Congratulations, you’ve joined the world of dehydrating! There is much to learn, but the rewards are fantastic. Before you jump in and dehydrate your first batch, keep these three dehydrating tips in mind. They will save you hours of time and effort as you are experimenting with turning fresh food into shelf-stable food your family can enjoy.
Only dehydrate what you will use
When you get your new dehydrator, you may be so excited that you want to dehydrate ‘all the food’ you can find. This can be good because it helps you get confidence with your dehydrating skills, and it may even give you a chance to fail (we learn quite a bit from our mistakes).
Just be sure that in your enthusiasm you are only drying the food that you will use.
Case in point. I joined a CSA last year and each week, for 14 weeks, I received two large bundles of beets in the box. Now, I’m not a beet fan (not even a little) but I read such wonderful things about using it online that I thought, why not – I should give it try and turn it into beet powder for our morning smoothies.
The outcome of the experiment taught me a lesson. I did indeed learn how to dehydrate beets and turn it into beet powder. The color is the most gorgeous red you have ever seen. Do we use it? Not even a little bit. Those powdered beets still taste and smell like dirt to me, so I have a container of beet powder (and countless hours invested) sitting on the shelf not being used.
Only dehydrate the food that you know your family will eat. Anything else is a waste of your time.
Keep accurate Records
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve forgotten what I know about dehydrating specific items. Even though I do this regularly, I still need to reference a “how to” to be sure I get it right when dehydrating a fruit or vegetable that I haven’t done in a while.
You will find that there are two kinds of dehydrating batches.
- On the spot dehydrating – Imagine standing in front of the refrigerator with the door open saying “that spinach is going to go bad if I don’t do something with it!”
- Bulk purchases – where you spend the day canning and dehydrating boxes of fruit or vegetables. This is a long process that is often only done once a year. Think of it as the opportunity to store all you need until the next harvest.
The thing about those big bulk purchase batches is that it’s hard to remember what you did from year to year. How many pounds of asparagus did it take to make 2 cups of powder? How long did the apple chips take to dry last year and what time of year were they dried?
I learned long ago that it was easier to keep records of the individual dehydrating processes so that the next time I dry something I don’t have to recreate the whole thing from scratch.
The Dehydrator Diary is an ebook I created to help keep track of what I’m doing. I’ve seen simpler versions of this, but I prefer the comprehensive version because I like to have a place to put all my notes about drying something. Using this process I’ve created my own individual dehydrating ‘cookbook’ to use year after year.
You can find out more about The Dehydrator Diary at our sister site Rockin W Homestead. Whether you go for a simple or detailed method, keeping accurate records of your successes – and failures – is the best way to get better at this preservation method.
Know how to use dehydrator trays to your advantage
For fast drying, dehydrator trays need airflow to work efficiently. As a general rule, fruit should not touch or overlap because they will stick together. Even though the food will shrink down as it dried, having them touch means less airflow around the trays and the batch will take longer to dry.
Related Content: A Quick Guide to Getting Started Dehydrating
On the other hand, vegetables can touch each other. They have such a low sugar content that they will not stick together. Follow the same general rule as drying fruit – do not overlap the food and don’t overload trays. Airflow is your friend.
Be sure to group like items together. Dense foods will dry at different rates, so if you are dehydrating asparagus tips and spears put each of those types on separate trays. Then when the tips are dry, you can remove the whole tray without having to pick them out from the spears.
Also, don’t add more to a dehydrator batch once it has started to dry. Introducing additional moisture into the dehydrator will make the batch take longer to dry overall.
There is one exception to overlapping food on the trays. Leafy greens and herbs can be piled up to ¼ of an inch thick on the trays. They will dry quickly if you cut large leaves of spinach or kale into thin strips and remove the thick stems. Herbs and greens have little water content, so the air can is still free to circulate.
Follow these dehydrating tips for beginners and keep learning as you go. The wonderful world of dehydrating is within your reach!