You might wonder about the process if you plan on experimenting with freeze-drying foods for long-term storage. How long do freeze-dried foods last?
Perhaps you sense that a stockpile of freeze-dried food might help your family as grocery bills continue to climb. In addition, many families are attempting to safeguard their futures by ensuring that they have a reliable food source should another pandemic or an extreme emergency occur. While you know supplementing your pantry is essential, you’re not sure where to begin. What is freeze-drying? Is it safe? How long do freeze-dried foods last? What are the best types of food to freeze dry? Are there items you shouldn’t store with this method at all? There are lots of questions and not enough answers. The last thing you want is to try and store foods only to discover that you cannot use most of what you put away when a crisis comes.
The technique of freeze-drying foods removes about 98% of the moisture content from the food item. In most cases, freeze-dried foods can store up to 25 - 30 years. While some items have shorter shelf lives, this particular method of food storage has become quite popular.
Many families are jumping onto the food storage bandwagon. Pantries are expanding with basic supplies and foodstuffs as more people sense the threat of extreme weather events, global emergencies, and migrations of entire peoples looming over them. In the last two years, the worldwide pandemic brought home the need for preparedness, and while no one wishes for that kind of thing to happen again, it is always better to be prepared.
This article will explore the freeze-drying technique so that if you consider using it to supplement your pantry, you can enjoy the items you stock away for years to come.
What Is Freeze Drying Exactly?
Freeze drying is a technique for preserving food by subjecting the item to colder temperatures below zero and placing the item into a high-pressure vacuum. The item is frozen to sub-zero temperatures and then subjected to a drying process through a vacuum. The solid ice crystals are turned into a gas through sublimation.
Dehydration is a different process because it uses heat rather than cold to dehydrate items. This process does not remove as much moisture from foods as freeze-drying. Due to the difference in moisture content, most experts suggest that dehydrated foods not be stored for longer than 12 months.
What Kind of Foods Can Be Freeze-Dried?
Here is a partial list of some of the foods that are suitable for freeze drying. Many of the basic staples that your family might need during an emergency can and should be freeze-dried for extended storage.
- Ground Coffee
- Fruit and juice
- Fish and Seafood
- Dairy (usually a shorter shelf life - 7 years).
- Spices and various herbs
If you plan to freeze dry larger fruits, vegetables, and meat, it is best to remember that smaller pieces of food respond to this method best. So, the rule of thumb is to cut up larger fruits and veggies or meats into smaller pieces before subjecting them to the freeze-drying process.
What Kinds of Foods Should not be Freeze Dried?
There are some items that you should not attempt to freeze-dry. Anything that contains oils and high-fat content is not a suitable item for this method of storage.
- Peanut Butter
- Pancake Syrup
- Maple Syrup
- Jams or Jellies
What Do I Need to Begin Freeze Drying Foods?
While you can freeze-dry items without a bonafide unit, the process is long and tedious. Most preppers (who freeze-dry items) have invested in a dedicated unit, which can range in price from $2,000 to over $10,000 for a commercial unit. In addition, food-storage fans have to invest in storage containers, either mylar bags or other types of containers, along with oxidizers designed to aid storage. As this excellent article from Utah State University indicates, a freeze-drying unit is not something you can set on your kitchen counter. Anyone who commits to this form of prepping homemade fruits or vegetables should be prepared to make a sizable financial commitment for both the machine and the storage containers.
Can I Just Buy Freeze Dried Items?
Many families are forgoing freeze-drying their food and just buying it online. Many companies prepackage their freeze-dried items and would be happy to have your business.
For a list of the best purveyors of freeze-dried items, see taskandpurpose.com.
Is Freeze-Drying Safe?
Yes, freeze-drying is a perfectly safe method of extending food life on many staples as long as a couple of conditions are met.
First, the freezing process must be followed either by the home use of a machine or by the company selling products to the general public.
Second, the area you choose to store items is also crucial. The location of your pantry will need to be free of debris and dirt, have no moisture (in other words, dry), and be dark (sunlight can break down freeze-dried items). The area should be free of insect and rodent infestation. Many families have food pantries stored in the basement of their homes, which is not always the best location, especially if they live in an older home with foundation issues (mold and moisture) or a flood-prone area.
Can You Freeze-Dry Meat for Use Later?
Most meats and seafood can be freeze-dried for long-term storage. Since almost every bit of moisture has been removed dyring the process, meats simply need to be submerged in water for a few minutes, then patted dry and grilled to perfection. These kinds of meats will often last 10-15 years and retain their original taste and quality.
Do You Need to Freeze Food before Placing it in the Freeze-drying unit?
Freezing whatever food you are trying to store is always helpful because it minimizes the time a regular unit will have to prepare your food. The faster an item can reach sub-zero temperatures, the easier and more efficiently the unit will be able to process your items.
About THE AUTHOR
I have over a decade of experience in food and beverage management, including a ServSafe food safety qualification. As part of this qualification, I have been professionally trained in safe food storage.Read More About Mark Walker