While many people think of dehydrated foods as a fad, they can have several health benefits. And one of the best parts of the experience is being able to bite into a perfectly crispy bite full of flavour. If you’re looking to dehydrate and store food, however, it can be challenging to figure out how to ensure that food retains its crispness.
To keep dehydrated food crispy, store it in an airtight and moisture-tight container. Moisture affects the crispiness of dried foods and can cause them to expand. Additionally, it should be stored in a cool area so that heat doesn’t affect the food quality.
The rest of this article will look at how each of the factors mentioned above impacts the crispiness of your dehydrated foods and what storage methods you can use to ensure your food stays crispy.
Factors That Impact Crispiness
As mentioned above, there are three significant factors that impact the crispiness of your dehydrated foods – moisture, air, and temperature. Let’s look at each of these factors in detail.
Moisture Gets Into the Container
Moisture is the biggest culprit that impacts the shelf-stability of your dehydrated foods. In fact, exposing dried foods to moisture essentially reverses much of the dehydration process.
This is because, at its most basic, food dehydration is the process of removing moisture from the food items, reducing it to as low as possible to increase the shelf-life of the product. By removing water, you inhibit the activity of microorganisms that cause your food to go bad.
Generally, most dehydrated foods have a low moisture content. Meats have about 20%, fruits have 10%, and vegetables have as low as 5% moisture content.
So, when you expose food that has been dehydrated to moisture, you affect the quality of the dehydration and reduce the shelf-life of the food – essentially negating the benefits of dehydration.
If your dehydrated foods have been exposed to moisture, you’ll easily be able to tell because they will no longer be crispy and will instead start to soften and expand as they take in liquid. If you do not take preventative measures immediately, you risk insect contamination and the growth of bacteria and mold.
If you cannot confidently declare that your dehydrated food is free of any contaminant and can be consumed safely, it’s best to throw it away than risk ingesting a bacterium that will make you become sick.
The Container Lets Air Come In
Exposure to air in general and oxygen, in particular, can also have a significant impact on the integrity and crispiness of your dehydrated foods. The reason behind this is heavily linked to the effect of moisture on these foods, and each time you expose dried foods to air, you increase the risk of water getting into the food.
One way to reduce the likelihood of exposing your foods to air is to pack them in recipe-required quantities or snack packs that you can consume all at once. This method ensures that you don’t have to worry about resealing the package after it is opened, and you use all the stored food at once.
Storing Dehydrated Food at High Temperatures
It’s essential to store your dehydrated foods at room temperature, away from excessive heat, which may mean storing it outside your kitchen if your shelves and cabinets are located close to your stove.
Heat can compromise the nutritional value of dehydrated food.
It can also compromise the shelf-life of the food – the higher the temperature, the lower the shelf-life. So, while dried fruits can last for up to a year when stored at 60° F (15.6° C), they will only be stable for six months if stored in a room where the temperature is 80° F (26.7° C).
Keep in mind that different foods require different storage temperatures and have varying shelf lives. For example, fruits have twice the shelf-life of vegetables, and dehydrated foods, in general, have a longer shelf life than dried foods that are made into powders.
Storing Your Dehydrated Foods
Now that you know what factors to avoid during storage to keep dehydrated food crispy, the next question is where you should store these foods. As demonstrated above, they cannot simply be placed alongside grains and spices in your kitchen – storage must be done carefully and considerately.
Some tips to keep in mind when storing dehydrated foods include:
Use Mylar Bags
Mylar bags are a great, inexpensive way to store dehydrated foods.
They’re thin and lightweight, which means you can toss a pack into your backpack to serve as a snack. Additionally, mylar is a durable material, so you don’t have to worry about holes and tears letting in moisture.
One of the best parts of mylar bags is that they’re opaque, so you don’t need to worry about direct sunlight affecting the integrity of the food inside. Furthermore, they are airtight, again protecting the food inside from humidity and air.
I recommend using the Wallaby Mylar Bags.
These are highly budget-friendly and available in a pack of 75, so you won’t run out quickly. Additionally, each package includes 80 packets of oxygen absorbers to further protect the food inside from spoiling and losing its crispness.
One of the biggest mistakes people make when dehydrating food is that they forget to condition fruits once the dehydrator has finished working.
When fruits leave the dehydrator, the leftover moisture content tends to hover between 10-20%. However, this moisture is not evenly distributed among the pieces and needs to be equalized to reduce the risk of mold growth.
In order to condition fruits, you should:
- Wait until the pieces cool after leaving the dehydrator.
- Dry the pieces thoroughly and place them inside an airtight container. Make sure that there is enough space in the container to allow you to shake the pieces about a little.
- Shake the container once a day to ensure that pieces are not sticking to the sides or to each other. Do this for seven to ten days. While doing so, check to see if there are any signs of moisture on the fruit pieces or the sides of the container. If there are, this is a sign that they need to be put into the dehydrator once more.
- After the conditioning period is over, transfer the fruit to airtight containers like you would other dehydrated foods.
Remember, if you see mold spores at any point during the process, you will need to discard everything and start over with a new batch of fruit.
Fruits must be conditioned each time you dehydrate them, while other foods are a little more complex. Here’s how to tell when foods are conditioned properly:
- It’s easy to determine if vegetables are completely dry, as the pieces should break apart easily when you tear them. However, some moisture-rich vegetables, including certain lettuce varieties, have to be conditioned due to the high liquid content. To be safe, condition all vegetable batches until you can clearly identify when they are fully dry.
- Herbs usually do not need to be dehydrated unless you’re using herbs with the stalks still attached.
- Meat jerkies should never be conditioned and should be stored in refrigerators.
Use Oxygen Absorbers or Desiccants
Desiccant packs are essentially small packets filled with moisture absorbers like silica beads and bentonite clay.
They work by pulling moisture that gets into the packet or container in which you store your dehydrated foods, significantly reducing the risk of it losing its crispness and attracting mold.
It is important to ensure that you’re using desiccants that are food-safe. While you can find non-food safe variants in places like shoeboxes and vitamin bottles, those packs should never be used alongside food.
These are available on Amazon.com and in packs of 100 packets each, though you can find them in larger or smaller packs depending on your needs. Each packet is large enough for a 240 cubic inch (3.9 liters) container, and you can use more than one for larger jars.
While they look similar to desiccant packets, oxygen absorbers are actually used to remove any existing oxygen from a container.
They’re an affordable alternative for people who cannot store dehydrated foods in vacuum-sealed containers, and they help increase the shelf-life of your food and reduce pest and mold activity.
From Amazon.com, these are available in sets of 100 packets and can be used in various types of containers, including mylar and vacuum bags, and mason jars. If you need more, they are also available in sets of 200 (as well as sets of 10 and 50, if you need fewer packets).
It’s important to remember that these packets should not be used alongside moisture absorbers. Oxygen absorbers need a small amount of moisture in the atmosphere to work, which a desiccant packet would absorb.