We would like to share with you our experience dehydrating foods using a normal electric oven. Dehydrating your foods is a great way to prolong the shelf life, lighten pack weight, and overall increase storage space. By dehydrating foods, Nicky and I have noticed we are 1.5 times more efficient with packing by using dehydrated foods, not to mention the lighter weight and exquisite flavor!
So.. What will you need?
- An oven (obviously!)
- Something to jam the oven open to allow air movement, we use a mixer beater to keep it propped open, but just use any metal object to prop it open.
- Parchment paper
- Cooking sheet(s)
- Pot with a lid and metal colander/steam basket (only certain foods require blanching)
- And lastly, whatever you want to dehydrate!
For this example, we will show you how we dehydrate corn, ground beef, chicken, spinach, peppers, and black beans.
So.. For step one, we will want to assemble these items. We will be blanching the corn and peppers. If you are dehydrating other items, you can refer to this sheet here in order to see what you need to do.
In order to blanch, you need to have a pot with a lid and fill it with a bit of water. Bring the water to a boil, and place the vegetables in the colander/basket. The vegetables shouldn’t be touching the water, and covering the pot will allow you to have high heat for the water to boil quickly.
Here you can see us blanching our corn on the cob.
After blanching the corner, use a knife and to cut the corn from the cob. Spread it out on parchment paper on a cooking sheet. See the before and after of the dehydrated corn:
So! Our corn is done. Now onto the beef and chicken. We had frozen leftover beef cooked and seasoned with taco seasoning, so we decided to just dehydrate that. The chicken we cooked in a pan and shredded it. You can see both of these below!
The beans and peppers are VERY easy to dehydrate. Just wash and rinse, and spread them on the sheet. The spinach required blanching. You can see all of these items on the cooking sheet below!
Now comes that part you are probably wondering how to do! What you’ll want to do is set your oven to the LOWEST temperature. Typically, this will be around 160 degrees. It might not list the temperature, it might instead just say “WARM” or something like that.
Place the trays inside the oven, prop the door open a few inches by using the metal mixer beater or whatever metal item you can find to prop it open. Now it’s the waiting game. After twelve-ish hours you can remove the items! Since we do this pretty often in preparation for backpacking trips, we often set it up in the evening and take it out in the morning. It also helps our oven automatically shuts off after 12 hours… Yours may do the same, but I would consult the manual first.
Now you may noticed that some of the corn is a little brown. This, unfortunately, is a slight downfall to dehydrating in an oven – it does cook the food slightly. However, we have used these dehydrated foods in recipes out on the trail (stay tuned for those posts!) and can vouch myself that you won’t be able to tell the difference.
Dehydrated meals are without a doubt the best meal we feel you can take out on the trail – You just can’t beat lightweight, compact, nutritious, and extremely tasty food!
Let us know if you have any questions about this process, we’d be happy to help! And stay tuned in for more on dehydrating foods and backpacking recipes!