We have been having an email conversation with Julie about a few of the finer details of dehydrating full meals. She had a couple of excellent questions that we decided were well worth sharing here.
Over to Julie’s email:
I’ve recently bought your ebook “Food to Go”, which I’ve found a huge help for information about dehydrating meals. My partner and I are setting off on a 3-month outback trip and want to utilize dehydrating meals to save space and refrigeration hastles. I’d like your advice, if you can, on drying time for meals.
Last week I bought a Sunbeam brand dehydrator and tried 2 meals on the weekend – a Sweet and Sour Pork dish and a Honey Mustard Chicken with vegetables – just using the Masterfoods packet sauce. I tried dehydrating both at the same time, so all 5 levels of the dehydrator were used, and I tried copying the pictures in your book as a guide to how small to cut the meat and veges and how full to make the trays.
The Sweet & Sour dish I dried for 12 hours before taking it out, but the other dish still didn’t look even nearly ready. After 15 hours I was worried it was getting too long so took it out, but I’m worried now that it still may not be dry enough. The meat is hard and when packaged in zip-lock bags, no moisture has seemed to accumulate in the bag, but it just doesn’t look quite as dry and crispy as the pictures in your book. I don’t know if you can really tell from photos, but I have attached one of each dish.
Should these dishes be ready after 12-15 hours, or do you think I need to put it back in the machine for more drying? If I do, dry it further after leaving it for 2-3 days, will this disturb the freshness and hygiene of the food?
Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
We think Julie got her dehydrating spot on.
As Deb wrote in the book, if they don’t accumulate moisture in the bag they are properly dehydrated . It is a good rule to follow. You will also get a “feel” for different meats as you go along so don’t stress!
Different meats and sauces tend to behave differently. For example the chicken curry we use in the guide feels soft and oily but is actually dehydrated. Maybe it is the oil in the sauce (?butter) that that gives it that feel. Mince meat on the other hand, can feel like gravel!
As to the question, should the dishes be ready after 12-15 hours, it depends on the amount you have put in the tray , the density of the meal and the amount of moisture. Spaghetti Bolognaise sauce with meat will take longer than Spaghetti Bolognaise stirred through cooked spaghetti. There is more space for air and less density for the air to circulate.
You can add the meal to the dehydrator a couple of days later if you notice moisture in the bag. It will be fine.
And the finished products?
Two great looking dehydrated meals, all done at home.