Did you know that Americans throw away up to 40 percent of food each year?
Much of that waste is because fresh produce doesn’t last long enough. But if you dehydrate and store your food correctly it can last up to 30 years. Dehydrating food could save you a lot of money on your shopping.
But not everyone has a dehydrator handy or doesn’t want to invest in one until they know for sure they’ll like dehydrated food. Luckily, you don’t need a dehydrator to give it a test.
Read on to learn more about how to dehydrate food without a dehydrator. The variety of options and how easy it can be will surprise you.
How to Dehydrate Food Without a Dehydrator
From beef to bananas to apples and many different veggies, there are many wonderful foods you can dehydrate. You can even dry corn! Best of all, you can use one of the following items. Chances are, you’ll already have at least one of them in your kitchen or back yard.
A standard oven is the most common appliance in the kitchen and the easiest one to use for dehydrating food. It’s great for vegetables, fruit, and meat.
Cut your produce into 1/4 inch slices, lay them on an oven sheet, and bake for 6 to 10 hours. You’ll need to set the oven to 180 degrees F (or as close as your oven allows). Turn the food every hour or so. The juicier the food the longer it will take to dehydrate.
A little experimentation with temperature and time and your oven will produce great dehydrated foods. The only negative is that your oven will be on for a long time, which can get expensive.
A toaster oven is a great alternative to an oven for hot to dehydrate food without a dehydrator.
You will have a little more flexibility with the temperature. Most toaster ovens have lower temperature settings than ovens. They’re great for doing smaller batches of produce. And using the toaster oven means your oven is still free to cook dinner.
The same techniques apply as the oven. Cut the food into thin (1/4 inch) strips. Lay them out on parchment paper. Turn them over regularly. Dry the strips for 6-10 hours depending on how juicy they were at the start.
There are a couple of drawbacks to using a toaster oven. You have to pay more careful attention and you have to turn the food over more often to stop it burning.
Mother nature is a great food dehydrator. You just need to set things up correctly and dehydrate the right kinds of produce. You also need to have time and patience. There’s no turning the sun or wind up or down to get the perfect temperature or conditions!
Outdoors dehydrating works best on tomatoes, herbs, and small fruit such as cranberries or blueberries. Find a spot that gets hot during the day and has good airflow. The area needs to reach a temperature of 90+ degrees F. Cut the tomatoes nice and thin, place on a tray, and cover with mesh so that flies can’t get to the food. You’ll need to leave them outside for at least a couple of days.
For herbs, tie them into a bunch, wrap in cheesecloth, and hang in a similar place.
It might be surprising, but a microwave is a good option for dehydrating quick-drying produce such as apples and herbs.
For herbs, lay the leaves out on a paper towel, and microwave them on high power for 2-4 minutes. Turn them every 30 seconds or so to avoid burning them. If they don’t seem quite dry enough after 4 minutes give them bursts of 30 seconds more until they are dry.
For apples, cut them nice and thin. You’ll want the slices even in thickness and no more than 1/4 inch. Lay them out on the rotating plate. Choose the defrost option on your microwave. Dry them for 30 minutes or and turn them every 10 minutes so that they don’t burn.
A smoker uses heat and smoke from a fire to dry your food. It’s great for meat and will produce some of the best jerky from any of these methods.
It’s the trickiest method of any for how to dehydrate food without a dehydrator. You’ll either need a smoker or you’ll have to construct some apparatus from which to hang your meat above a charcoal grill or firepit.
You need the time to watch your fire/smoker all day and regulate the temperature as best you can. Dehydrating meat using this method is best when you have the temperature consistently around 150 degrees F.
This method is trickier than the others discussed so far. Keep experimenting, though, because you’ll eventually get some great jerky.
Storing Your Dehydrated Food
Once you’ve how to dehydrate food without a dehydrator you’ll also need to store it. For the longest storage time use vacuum packing. Good alternatives are metal or glass air-tight containers. Plastic gradually lets air through over time so your dehydrated food won’t last quite so long.
Whatever method you use to package it, make sure it’s kept in a cool, dry place.
Dehydrated Food is the Best
These cheaper and easy-to-do alternatives to a bought food dehydrator will allow you to experiment with dehydrated food. Once you’ve learned if you like home-made jerky, crispy dried fruit, or veggie crisps you can always decide to invest in a purpose-built dehydrator.
So, get slicing and drying. We think you’ll enjoy the results.
For tips, recipes, and reviews of dehydrators check out our website. We’ve got everything you need to know about how to dehydrate food without a dehydrator.