Freeze drying food at home is simple and easy, with or without a machine. Learn how to freeze dry all kinds of foods with no special equipment.
Learning how to freeze dry food is something that’s gaining popularity.
It doesn’t come as a surprise to us, because many preppers are now simply discovering the “long forgotten” art of freeze drying their foods at home.
In truth, freeze drying has been in constant commercial use for generations. Applying it in your home is quit easy, with or without a special machine.
When you freeze dry food, the water content and moisture are eliminated. It’s a lot like drying food on drying racks, but you’re also adding the freezing process.
Freeze drying food is useful in situations like long camping trips, or long term food storage for an emergency or disaster.
What You Should Know
First, you should know the difference between air drying and freeze drying. This video shows a good comparison between the two.
Freeze drying food is the process of sucking the moisture out of food while making it very cold, below the freezing point of water. Without doing BOTH of these processes, your efforts will be wasted and the food will spoil.
Freeze drying is essentially like using an air drying rack inside of a deep freezer, in fact that’s exactly what you can do if you want.
High water content foods are easier to work with. These include vegetables and fruits such as peppers, carrots, potatoes, apples, berries, pears, etc. The shape of the food remains the same; just its water content is discarded. Leafy greens are more finicky and prone to wilting and a lot of other problems.
People freeze dry meat, grains, and pasta as well. But it’s better to begin with simple and easy to freeze dry foods like vegetables and fruits. Once you learn how to do that comfortably, you can try more complicated or difficult to freeze dry foods.
Once most foods are freeze dried they can be kept at or below room temps, you don’t have to keep them frozen.
How To Freeze Dry Food Without A Machine – 2 Methods
Freeze drying food is not a complicated process, it’s quite simple actually. Some people choose to do this with the help of vacuum sealers, and if you can get one I highly recommend it. They draw out most of the moisture, which is very important.
But many people freeze dry food without a machine, and there are two ways to do that.
1. The simple freezer method
The easiest way to freeze dry food is the one that also takes the longest. All you need to do is place your food in small pieces on a tray such as a cookie sheet, or a cooling rack or air drying rack and simply put it in your freezer. A deep freezer works best.
The food starts to freeze in the first few hours itself, but the drying process takes weeks. This process is known as sublimation. This is what separates freeze drying from simply freezing food inside of sealed bags or containers like we’re all used to doing.
And it’s this procedure that takes several weeks to complete….
The best way to check when the food is done drying is to remove a frozen piece and let it come to room temp. If the food turns dark or black, it means the drying process is still not over. Frozen food that doesn’t change color has been freeze dried thoroughly. It’s more an art than a science.
Once that has been achieved, you can go ahead and store the freeze dried food in ziplock bags. Freeze-dried food should be kept in storage that stays under 75 degrees.
2. The dry ice method
You can also freeze dry food with dry ice. Dry ice lets all the moisture from your food evaporate quickly, so the whole process is much faster. Find a day when the humidity level is zero too, don’t try this method when it’s rainy out as the humidity will make it much harder.
You will need a pair of insulated gloves and a large container, about twice the size of the food that you want to freeze dry. Completely cover the food with dry ice and fill the container, use a 1:1 weight ratio (meaning 1lb of food should get at least 1lb of dry ice). DO NOT SEAL THE CONTAINER…it will explode.
Dry ice gives off a large volume of gas as it evaporates and it has to be able to escape. You can loosely put the lid on, or drill holes in the lid, but do not seal it. I just leave the lid up.
Once you can see no more dry ice left in the container, you know that the process is finished. This usually takes about 24 hours, or less. Once the dry ice is gone the process is complete.
Your container is now full of carbon dioxide and free of humidity. Do not take the food out until it is ready to be bagged. Use ziplock plastic bags to store the now freeze dried food, but make sure suck the air out as best you can to prevent moisture formation. Many people opt for vacuum packing devices or machines for better results, and I highly recommend you use them.
The goal is to ensure that no moisture is left or enters inside the plastic bag after the process is finished. You should seal it properly if you don’t want your efforts and your food to go to waste.
How To Freeze Dry Food With A Machine
Your average home use freeze drying machine costs between $2,500 – $4,000, so it’s fair to assume most people will not have one simply lying around. However if you’re lucky enough to have one the whole process couldn’t be easier.
Read your instruction manual for the best results, obviously, but for most machines it works something like this:
- Place the food that you want to freeze dry on trays.
- Place the trays in your machine and turn it on. Yep, they literally make it that easy.
Here’s a video showing the process from start to finish.
You should weight your options when it comes to freeze drying. If you’re serious about prepping, food will obviously be high on your list, but the time or costs involved in freeze drying at home may not be worth it for you.
Sometimes it’s easier to buy it by the bucket ready to go than to tie up a freezer for a month or spend $4,000 on a machine that can only do one thing.
If you’re prepping for a group or a large family I suggest considering a freeze dryer. If it’s just you or your significant other, try it at home without a machine and see what you think. in the end it may not be worth it.
What about you? Have you ever used any of the methods mentioned above to freeze dry food at home?
Please feel free to share your experiences with us here. We would like to know what works best and what doesn’t. You can drop in your comments in the section below.