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9 Strange Foods You Never Thought of Dehydrating

So you took my advice and picked up a new food dehydrator. Congratulations! Now, you have the fever. You have dehydrated everything in the garden bought the local Walmart out of bananas and made enough fruit roll ups to provide snacks to the entire Kindergarten class for the rest of the school year. Now, you glance around your kitchen with that fevered look in your eye and that question that burns in your head like a white hot ember: What else can I dehydrate?

Ground Beef

Ground Beef is perfect for dehydrating. It is versatile, meaning that it can be used in a bunch of recipes. It is easy to do, and once dehydrated, ground beef can be stored in an air tight container or placed in the freezer. Right now, ground beef is also pretty expensive. I just Checked out the price for 96% lean over on the HEB website and it is selling for $5.38/lb! It won’t be getting any cheaper in the future either. Buy now and preserve it for later. When stored properly, your dehydrated ground beef can last over a year in most cases.

How to Dehydrate Ground Beef.

Dehydrating ground beef is a pretty simple process. First of all, you want to make sure you buy good quality meat. Try to choose ground beef with a low fat to meat ratio. 93/7 would be perfect. You want the lower fat content, because fat won’t dehydrate. If you use say 70/30, there is a chance of the fat staying on the meat and turning rancid.

Once you have your meat, you need to prepare it for the dehydrator. Brown all of the meat completely. Makes sure to stir it thoroughly in the pan. You don’t want any little bits of pink left anywhere.

Drain the grease from the meat and place it in a colander. Run hot water over the ground beef to rinse any excess fat from the meat. Again, you want as much fat gone as possible.

TIP:

To avoid a grease blockage in your drains, run hot water down the sink for a couple of minutes after rinsing your beef. The hot water will help to move an grease build-up along. If you have a garbage disposal, run cold water to help solidify the grease so the disposal unit can do it’s job. After running the disposal, then run the Hot water down the pipes. If you are processing a lot of meat, you will probably want to do this when you are done:

  1. Place a large pot of water on the stove to boil.
  2. Squeeze a generous amount of dish soap in the drain you used to rinse the ground beef
  3. Carefully pour the boiling water into the drain in small amounts. The detergent and the hot water will help break up any lingering grease and flush it from your pipes.

How to Dehydrate Ground BeefNow that your meat is drained and free of grease, Spread it out in a single layer on a dehydrator tray. You may want to place a sheet of parchment in the bottom of your machine to catch any of the small crumbs that slip through during the process. Set your Dehydrator for 145ºF and let it run for 5-6 hours. If you let it go longer it really isn’t an issue with beef. The dryer the better.

When the beef is thoroughly dry, it will be like small pebbles of gravel. To store place in an air tight jar or vacuum seal it. A vacuum sealer with the mason jar attachment would be perfect here. You can also bag it up and place it in the freezer. You may want to add in some oxygen absorbers just to keep it fresh and add an extra layer of protection from deterioration.

Re-Hydrating Dried Ground Beef

Dehydrated Ground Beef is easy to re-hydrate. Just place it in a bowl or pan. Place enough water just to cover it and bring it to a boil either on the stove top or in the microwave. In a couple of minutes you will have moist fluffy Bits of ground beef ready for your favorite recipe.

Frozen Fruit

Yes, you can dehydrate frozen fruit. If you had extra fruit from your bushes or garden that you froze and it has been in the freezer for a while and you are afraid that it might go bad, or if you got a really great deal at the supermarket on bags or cans of frozen fruit and you don’t want to risk freezer-burn, you can dehydrate them to make them last even longer. In fact, fruits like berries that split open when frozen dehydrate even better.

How to Dehydrate Frozen Fruit

First, you will probably want to separate the fruit from the syrup if there is is any. This will make the drying process faster and a lot less messy. Place the fruit in a colander over a large saucepan to defrost. Save the juice/syrup.You can make jelly out of it later.

Once the fruit is defrosted, lay it out on your trays as you normally would and place in the dehydrator. If your dehydrator has presets, choose fruits and let it go. If it doesn’t have presets, set the machine to 135 degrees F and check the progress after 8-10 hours. You don’t want to go any higher than 135º. Drying the fruit too fast could cause the outer layer to dry and leave moisture inside. If you store them that way, you risk spoilage.

After your fruit is thoroughly dry, store it like you would any other dried fruit. Place it in air tight mason jars, vacuum pack it for later use, or if you are like me, Eat it before you have a chance to put it away. You can also put the dried fruits into a blender like a Magic Bullet or a coffee grinder and use the powder for flavoring other foods like pancakes, muffins or cakes.

Re-hydrating Dried Fruit

To re-hydrate your dehydrated fruit, just place it in a small bowl of warm water. After 20-30 minutes the fruit should be plump. Strain the water off and use the fruit. Save the water, too. It will have a wonderful fruit flavor and can be used to make tea or give a light flavor to a larger bottle of water. Want to spice things up, re-hydrate with Vodka, rum, or other alcoholic beverage of your choosing. You may not be able to use the fruit in pancakes, but blueberry vodka for breakfast is a decent trade-off 🙂

Eggs

Dehydrating EggsThere has been an explosion in the popularity or backyard chickens over the past 10 years or so. I got caught up in it myself a few years back. We went to our local Tractor Supply store and picked up some peeps and all the accoutrements that go with them, you know, feeders and such. We kept them in the garage for the first couple of weeks under a lamp and watched them grow. Then one day it happened. An Egg. And (if you have backyard chickens you know this already) the eggs didn’t stop. It started with the one and then 3hree a day and then 6 a day. 6 eggs a day is 3 ½ dozen eggs per week. We are a family of four. One of the boys didn’t like eggs. That meant to stay on top of the egg production, we would have had to eat more than a dozen eggs per person per week. I really wish I had my dehydrator back then. Yes, my dehydrator. You can dehydrate eggs. It is fairly straight forward, too.

How to dehydrate Eggs

There are actually two methods for dehydrating eggs. The wet method and the dry method. The wet method tends to be a bit more straight forward. Using the dry method is more labor intensive and can fill the house with a foul odor while the eggs are being dehydrated.

The Wet Method of Dehydrating Eggs
  1. Crack a dozen eggs into your blender or food processor. Hit the button and mix them really good. You want the mixture to be frothy and smooth.
  2. Prepare your dehydrator trays. The trays for fruit leather are probably the ones you want unless you line a regular tray with parchment or something. I wouldn’t want to take the risk of egg getting all over the inside of my dehydrator, though.
  3. Fill your trays. Pour the eggs into the trays. You want about 6 eggs on each tray, so about half of the mixture from the blender.
  4. Place the trays in the dehydrator and set the temp at 135 degrees. If you don’t have an exact thermostat, you can set it on the fruits and vegetable setting. It will take about 7 hours for the eggs to dry out.
  5. When the eggs are dry, you will want to powder them in a blender or food processor. If the egg didn’t get mixed enough, you may notice greasy or “burned” areas on top of your eggs. Just dab the spots with a paper towel and continue to dry.
The Dry Method of Dehydrating Eggs
  1. Scramble your eggs in a bowl with a whisk. Make sure they are mixed well just like making scrambled eggs. Do not add any additional milk or water to the eggs. You just want the pure egg here.
  2. Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat. You need a non-stick skillet here. You do not want to introduce any additional oil or butter to the egg.
  3. pour your eggs into the hot pan and stir until the eggs are cooked and firm. Break the eggs up into the small pieces as you cook. The smaller the pieces the faster and more evenly they will dry.
  4. Place the eggs on your prepared dehydrator sheets and pop them in the dehydrator for 7 to 10 hours or until completely dry.
  5. When drying has completed powder the eggs in a blender or food processor.
Storing Dehydrated Eggs

You can store your dehydrated egg powder in sealed mason jars in a cool dry place. Properly done, the eggs should be good anywhere between 2 and 5 years or more.

Re-hydrating Dried Eggs

When it comes time to use your eggs,  you will mix 1 tablespoon of warm water with two tablespoons of your dried egg powder, stir, and let them sit for about 5 minutes to absorb the moisture. Then use as normal by themselves for breakfast or in any recipe that calls for eggs.

Yogurt

Yogurt is a great healthy food choked full of nutrients and probiotics. Wouldn’t it be nice to have yogurt that could go with you everywhere. You could use it while out backpacking or camping, or as a healthy snack at the office. The good news is you can dehydrate yogurt and take the tangy, tasty, nutritious and delicious snack with you anywhere, and it’s easy to do.

Spread your yogurt out into a thin, uniform layer on your fruit leather trays. You can use unbleached parchment to make the cleanup a little easier. Keep the thickness at about 1/8 inch. This will keep the drying time down and make sure it is dried completely through. Run the dehydrator at 135 degrees for 6-8 hours. If the humidity is low in your area, it could be done in as little as 4 hours.

Yogurt is great dried as is, but you can get fancy with it if you would like by adding in fruits and honey. There is a great recipe for yogurt roll-ups over at thankyourbody.com.

Milk

Yes, you can actually dehydrate milk. It may not keep as long as some of the other foods on the list due  to the high fat content, but having a supply on hand is great for those times when you need it. It isn’t always convenient to run out an get a gallon if you just need a cup for a recipe. If you like to do a lot of camping, taking powdered milk takes up a lot less space and there isn’t the need to keep it cold while on the trail.

How to dehydrate milkBecause you are dealing with liquid, you will want to prep your trays either in the dehydrator or as close to the dehydrator as possible to avoid any nasty messes. You will use your fruit leather trays again. This time measure out 1 cup of milk for each tray. Try to keep the trays and the dehydrator level to avoid any pockets that take longer. You want a consistent and uniform layer of milk on the trays so it is all done at the same time. Pop it in the dehydrator again at 135 or your fruit and vegetable setting.  If your house is like mine and no matter where you put your dehydrator it isn’t level. you will have to rotate your trays throughout the process to keep everything drying at the same rate. The whole process should take about 12 hours.

When the milk is dried, you will have crackled flakes that look like thin egg shells. Some may be pure white and others could have a light brown or yellow tinge to them.No worries. Gather up all of your flakes and put them in a blender or a coffee grinder and pulverize the flakes into a powder. If you want to make sure it is completely dry, put the powder back on the dehydrator trays and pop them back in the machine for another 4 hours or so.

Storing Dried Milk

You can put your dried milk in to mason jars and vacuum seal them for storage. Like I said before, Dehydrated milk can go bad after a couple of months. Make sure you label the jars with the dates and use the oldest first. You will want to check on it to make sure it is still okay before using it. Dehydrated milk is different than the powdered milk you buy in the box or bag at the store It will smell different right from the get-go. It will have a slightly sweet smell to it when it is dried. You will know if it is bad.

How to Reconstitute Dehydrated Milk

To re-hydrate or reconstitute your milk, you want to use hot water. The hot water will better be able to dissolve the milk fats and make your milk powder taste like milk again. There may be some solids that do not actually dissolve all the way. If this bothers you, you can run it through a fine strainer. If you are using it for cooking, it will have no bearing.

To make:

QtyAmount of PowderAmount of Hot Water
1 Cup1/4 Cup1 Cup
1 Pint1/2 Cup2 Cups
1 Quart1 Cup4 Cups
1 Gallon4 Cups16 Cups
The amounts of water shown are approximate. You may need to add more or less depending on your desired consistency

Pasta Sauce

Back when I was a younger man, I joined a multi-level marketing program. Wait! before you go running into the night, I promise I won’t draw you any circles on a white board or try to sell you soap. (If you are of a certain age, You can guess what company it was) Before I decided that that wasn’t going to be my route, I had the opportunity to sample a lot of their products and I only had to pay premium prices to do it. Anyway, one of my favorite products the company sold was dried spaghetti sauce. I was a bachelor and the simplicity of adding water to a packet was just what I needed. The fact that I had to buy it in 50 pack cases meant I didn’t have to go the store as often.

The one thing those packets didn’t have was a lot of flavor. I usually had to doctor it up with my own spices a little bit to get the flavor to my liking, but I do that with everything anyway. Fast forward 20 years. I haven’t had a packet of that sauce in a LONG time. But I remember the simplicity in preparation and I have a dehydrator. Why not? Plus, making my own sauce first means I won’t have to “doctor” the end product like I did with the MLM packets. Time saver. Bonus

How to Dehydrate Pasta Sauce

Big surprise here, we are going to use our fruit leather sheets. Pour your sauce into your dehydrator trays and level it out. Your sauce is probably thick enough to spread with a rubber spatula or the back of a spoon like you would if you were making a pizza. Level it out and throw it into your dehydrator. Set the temperature for the fruit and vegetable setting or 135 degrees. During the drying process, make sure the sauce stays level. rotate the trays if it seems that the sauce is pooling more to one side of the tray than the other.

You have two options here for the finished product. You can stop the drying when it reaches a leather consistency, or you can go for a completely dry powder. Either way is fine. Tomato sauce leather will be done faster, probably after 5 hours or so. The powder will take longer. If you are going for the leather, peel it off the trays, roll it and pack it in either sealed mason jars or vacuum seal it. If you want the powder, allow the sauce to dry completely until it cracks at the touch. Put all the flakes in a food processor, blender or coffee grinder and mix into a powder. You can use a mortar and pestle here, too if you have one laying around.

Reconstituting Dehydrated Tomato Sauce

To use your sauce, add equal amounts of tomato sauce powder or leather and hot water. allow to sit for five minutes or so or stir lightly over a low flame until it re-hydrates completely into sauce.

Some Things to Consider

Try to avoid cheeses like a three cheese sauce. The fats in the cheese may not dehydrate at the same rate as the rest of the sauce which could shorten the shelf life of your powder if it turned bad and spoiled.

The same goes for meat sauce. Try to stay as basic as possible with the sauce. Spices and other vegetables like finely diced onion or carrot should be fine. If need be, dehydrate your meat and cheese separately and add it into the packets after everything is dry.

Bread

So, I just did a quick search on the price of croutons. A 5oz. bag ranges anywhere from $1.49 to $3.43. For 5 ounces! Bread Crumbs run from $1.74 to $3.00 for a 15oz container. That’s a little bit better, but still, freaking expensive. Especially when I can go to my local Aldi on a Wednesday afternoon and buy an entire loaf of bread for $.59. Who cares if it isn’t quite as fresh as it was on Sunday. I am going to dry it out anyway.

That is usually the case with prepared foods like croutons and breadcrumbs. Honestly, I don’t think you can call them prepared foods. More like convenience foods. You will pay sometimes twice as much as if you bought the “raw material” and prepared it in your own home. Don’t believe me? The next time you are in the supermarket, check out the price per pound on pre-cooked bacon. Seriously. They ought to have a guy with a gun standing at the display.

How to Dehydrate Bread

Anyway, drying bread is probably the easiest thing to dehydrate on this list. If you are making croutons, cut the loaf of bread into squares just slightly larger than the size of your croutons. They will shrink a little, but not a lot. If you are making bread crumbs, your cuts don’t have to be so precise because you will be grinding them in the food processor when it is dry. Place the bread in the dehydrator in a single layer with space between each piece to allow the air to pass freely around the bread. You will run the dehydrator on a lower setting than we used for the foods previously. 125 degrees for about 4 hours should do it. When it is done, there should be no sponginess left to the bread.

TIP:

Use this same method to make bagel and pumpernickel chips for your next snack mix or just to have around for munching on in the evenings.

Cheese

How to dehydrate CheeseThe inspiration for this one comes from the same place as the dried pasta sauce. When I was in high school, boxed macaroni and cheese and onion rings were my go to meal. We had a deep fryer at home and I put that thing through it’s paces with the amount of onion rings I ate.

My appetite for onion rings was rivaled only by my appetite for macaroni and cheese. It was easy to make, delicious and cheep. Back then it ran about 10 cents per box if you bought the black & white generic brand. Add a can of tuna and some peas and it was a complete meal. The thing I loved (and still do) is the cheese powder. The atrocious and obnoxious fake orange color (it’s eerily unnatural, don’t you think?) did nothing to diminish the taste of the final product. I started stealing the cheese powder packets for other uses like popcorn. And before too long, I had a bunch of open boxes of pasta and no cheese sauce to go with it. I was young and had no idea how to make real mac and cheese at the time. If I could only make my own cheese powder.

What Can You Do with Dried Cheese?

Cheese powder is easy to make in your home dehydrator. You can also dehydrate small cubes of cheese for use in snacking and recipes. Here are some great uses for dehydrated cheese:

  1. Powdered cheese to flavor popcorn
  2. Make your own Mac ‘n Cheese pouches for camping or a bug out bag
  3. Dried cheese crumbles are a great addition to snack mix
  4. Use dried cheese in place of croutons on a salad
  5. Use it to flavor dinner rolls or pizza crusts
  6. Dried cheese is a great mix-in in soups like Chili
  7. Use powdered cheese in place of ranch dressing for a cheesy party mix
  8. Dried cheese is a great high energy protein snack.
How to Dehydrate Cheese

To make cheese powder, grate the cheese with a box grater or your food processor. If you are making chunks or cubes, cut them small, 1/4 inch cubes would probably work best to avoid case hardening. You want the cheese dried all the way through. Choose a cheese with a low moisture content to start like a nice sharp or extra sharp cheddar.

You will probably want to use your fruit leather trays for this or cover your racks with parchment to cut down on any kind of sticking. Spread the cheese in a thin layer over your racks and set the temperature to about 125 to start. There will be some melting because of the heat. No worries.

After about 4 hours check on the progress. Turn the heat up to 135 degrees and continue until completely dry and brittle. If making powder, process your dried cheese through your food processor or blender. If you want exceptional results, and you have a grain mill, run the dried cheese through that. You will get a powder that rivals any cheese packet out there, and better yet, you will know what’s in it.

Bacon

9 Strange Foods You Never Thought of DehydratingI saved the best for last. Ah, bacon. Was there ever a more lovely food? But who would have thought of dehydrating it? Well, a lot of people, actually. Hikers are always looking for a source of lightweight high calorie food to take with them on trails. Same goes for campers. Let’s not forget about the growing prepper community out there as well. Bacon is a great source of protein and best of all, bacon is made from 100% pure bacon!

I have seen a lot of stuff out there about dehydrating bacon and the consensus is that it can be a pain in the ass. A very rewarding pain in the ass, but a pain in the ass nonetheless. Personally, I see the biggest challenge of dehydrating bacon is not eating the bacon before it’s done. I have put together a little guide here that hopefully will take some of the pain out of drying your bacon.

How to Dehydrate Bacon
  1. The first step in successfully dehydrating bacon is your choice of meat. Don’t buy the thick cut stuff. You want to stay with thinner slices. The thinner the slice, the less fat each piece will have in it over all and the faster it will dry  in the dehydrator. Try to hit a BOGO on decent quality bacon and stock up. Bacon is expensive. Try to avoid the cheep packets and the mis-cuts you sometimes find at the supermarket. This stuff is fine for your breakfast today, but because of the fat content not so much dried for tomorrow. The more fat, the more chance that your meat will go bad.
  2. Cook your bacon. I recommend cooking your bacon in the oven as opposed to cooking it in a pan on the stove top. If you have some metal drying racks, you can set them on a cookie sheet and place the bacon on top. The grease will drip down onto the pan and away from the bacon. Both sides get nice and crisp doing it this way as well. If you don’t have drying racks. just line your cookie sheets with foil and place the bacon directly on the sheets. 400 degrees for about 25 minutes should cook the bacon up nicely. You want it crisp but not burnt.
  3. Dry your cooked bacon on paper towels. Try to remove as much of the grease from the meat as possible.
  4. Place the bacon on your racks and pop them into your dehydrator. You will want to line the bottom of the dehydrator with parchment before you set the temperature. The bacon will still be dripping grease. The parchment will help with cleanup.
  5. Set your dehydrator for 145 degrees and set the timer for 12 hours. You will want to check the bacon about every four hours and try to soak up as much of the grease that will continue to seep out. If the bacon isn’t dry after 12 hours continue the process until it is completely dry.
  6. Store in sealed mason jars or vacuum pack individual portions for use as you see fit.
Uses for Dehydrated Bacon

Oh, come on. Do you really need a list of things to use dried bacon for? Okay. For the imaginatively challenged, here it goes:

  • Use dehydrated bacon on your salad
  • Use it as topping on your pizza
  • Dried bacon crumbles make a great topping for cheese fries
  • Put it on your baked potato
  • Add a tablespoon to flavor soups
  • Use it in dips
  • Mix it in with your popcorn
  • Sprinkle dehydrated bacon over your ice cream sundae
  • Add some dried bacon into your next batch of peanut brittle
  • Sprinkle it on top of a batch of sticky buns
  • Mix it in with ground beef for an awesome burger
  • Eat it like it is.

The possibilities are endless. Don’t be afraid to experiment.

Thoughts on Dehydrated Bacon

I can see why some people would think this process is rough. The checking and soaking up the grease every couple of hours defeats the set-it-and-forget-it convenience of a dehydrator. Bacon loses a LOT of weight when it is dehydrated. You will get less than a half pound for each pound you make. That’s why I recommend buying on BOGO and making a full dehydrator full at one time. You are basically doing the same amount of work and more for our effort if you pack the machine full. It’s bacon. During the apocalypse or while you are sitting out there on the top of some mountain or watching a movie on the couch and you get a crispy bit with your popcorn, you will be glad you took the time.

Wrapping up

What are your thoughts on dehydrating these foods. Have you done an yourself? Do you have any tips for other readers? Are there other strange foods you have dehydrated? I would love to hear from you in the comments below. Thanks for stopping by.

Eric C

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