Skip to content

Drying – Preservation without Preservatives

Dörren: Getrocknete Früchte

Dried fruits, jerky, and even homemade spices! Drying allows various foods to be preserved. Some of them even gain a uniquely new flavor or a crispy shell, all without preservatives or added sugar.

Preservation Method: Drying

In drying, food is dehydrated by circulating warm air. The moisture gradually evaporates, and the water content decreases. This prevents microorganisms responsible for spoilage from multiplying effectively. Sometimes, their growth is completely halted.

The lower the water content, the longer the food lasts. Due to the water loss, the nutrients become particularly concentrated. Therefore, the energy content is significantly higher, and the flavor is much more intense. These small snacks are perfect as finger food for any party!

This technique allows for preserving excess harvest for the winter. This way, you can enjoy fruits and vegetables out of season. For us, however, the preservation never works as planned. It tastes so good that the dried treats quickly disappear into our stomachs.

Which Foods Can Be Dried?

Your imagination knows no bounds! There are only a few foods that cannot be dried properly. The food to be dried should only be free of bruises, mold, and pests. We have listed some examples of foods that can be dried, but it’s best to just give it a try.

  • Fruits
    • Apples, kiwis, bananas, mangoes, nectarines, cherries, lemon peels …
  • Vegetables
    • Tomatoes, broccoli, peas, carrots, cabbage, zucchini, …
  • Nuts, Grains & Seeds
    • Walnuts, peanuts, hazelnuts, chili seeds, …
  • Herbs
    • Rosemary, parsley, rose petals, sage, chives, mint, …
  • Mushrooms
    • Button mushrooms, porcini, chanterelles, …
  • Meat & Fish
    • Haddock, beef, turkey breast, turkey, stockfish, …

Note: Raw meat and fish can pose health risks due to diseases or improper preparation. Therefore, inform yourself thoroughly about the proper handling of meat and fish! An example is raw poultry: the meat can contain salmonella.

How to Dry Properly

There are various ways to dry food. However, with all methods, you must follow these basic rules:

The food to be dried should be cut into thin slices, cubes, or rings of 1 – 2 millimeters thick. Then, you must spread the food well on a grid or rack to create the largest possible surface area for the circulating air.

For the air to absorb the moisture from the food, the humidity must be as low as possible. Warm air can hold more moisture than cold air, speeding up the process.

Drying: Cutting and Spreading
– Cutting and Spreading –

Duration & Temperature

The duration depends on several factors, so it cannot be precisely determined how long drying takes. On the one hand, the duration depends on personal taste and the desired consistency. On the other hand, it also depends on the thickness of the slices, the drying method, and the chosen products.

Herbs & mushrooms should be dried at a maximum of 40°C to avoid losing their aroma. Mushrooms & herbs usually do not take long and are ready after three to four hours. Fruits and vegetables, on the other hand, take longer and should be dried at 60°C – 70°C.

The higher the temperature, the greater the nutrient loss. The lower the temperature, the longer the drying process. So, you need to find a good balance. Some like it crispy and dry, while others prefer it flexible and still a bit juicy. Generally, drying is done between 30°C – 80°C.

It’s best to check every hour the first few times and taste a piece. This way, you will find the perfect drying times for you.

Further Processing

Drying the food is just the beginning. You can grind nearly all plants and mushrooms in a mortar and use them as spices. Some vegetable products can be soaked in water until they rehydrate and then added to dishes during cooking.

Common Methods

1. Air Drying

Air drying doesn’t require a new device or increase your electricity costs. It’s the oldest preservation method and also the most challenging. Herbs and mushrooms dry excellently in the air. With fruits, vegetables, and meat, it gets much more difficult.

For air drying, you need a dark, dust-free room. You also need good air circulation, high temperature, and low humidity. In the past, special drying rooms were built to meet these requirements and speed up the process.

The process takes much longer than the following methods, and there’s always the risk of mold. Therefore, you should keep a close eye on your food.

2. Oven

If you only want to dry occasionally, the oven is a good alternative. You don’t need to buy a new device, and it’s easier to achieve a good result than with air drying.

However, this method has some drawbacks depending on the oven. The energy consumption is very high, moisture can’t escape, and many ovens can’t be set to a low enough temperature.

To dry in the oven, you need to leave the door slightly open to let the moisture escape and ensure adequate air circulation. You can use a wooden spoon to keep the door ajar.

3. Dehydrator

The dehydrator is the easiest method for drying. It is specifically designed for this purpose and has all the necessary features. The air circulates perfectly, the temperature remains constant, and the device turns off automatically after the set time. The evaporated moisture is expelled, and the device keeps the humidity low.

Compared to the oven, the energy consumption is also much lower. Therefore, you don’t have to worry much about it. If you want to make things easy, you can rely on a dehydrator. All you need to do is cut the food, turn on the device, and wait.

Dörren: Unser Dörrautomat
– The Dehydrator in Action –

Storage & Shelf Life

Due to the water loss, the food becomes smaller and lighter, making it easy to store. The dried food should not be exposed to moisture, so mason jars are best for storage. Once properly packed, you can store them in a cool, dark place.

Depending on the drying time, temperature, and product, dried food can last several weeks, months, or even years. The nutrients also remain preserved for a long time. Compared to other preservation methods, drying retains the most nutrients!