Have you ever wondered if there are foods that are not safe to dehydrate? Here is the ultimate do not dehydrate list ... and ways that you may be able to do it anyway!
There are so many wonderful foods that are made shelf-stable with dehydrating. There are even some unique dehydrating projects you may not have ever thought of before.
There are foods that are best to be preserved through canning, freezing, and freeze-drying for a variety of reasons.
Why are some foods not safe to dehydrate?
- Fat & Oil - not only can fat and oil inhibit efficient drying, they also create a problem with rancidity on the shelf, especially after they've been heated.
- No safe testing available - some items have had no testing to prove the safe dehydrating and/or storage of the foods. It's not that these foods are unsafe, but there is no proof that they are safe.
- Salmonella issues - sitting in temperatures that may or may not get to the required safe heat will be problematic. Dehydrators cycle heat, they are not a constant, so your food does not stay at a safe 165F for things like eggs, chicken, beef, etc.
While you may hear stories of people who dehydrate these things and are fine, start your dehydrating journey with safe procedures, learn about the basics of safe dehydrating and storage before moving to branch out.
The Do Not Dehydrate List
Some of the most often questions I am asked are:
- "Can I dehydrate eggs?"
- "Can I dehydrate milk?"
- "Can I dehydrate cheese and make my own cheese powder?"
So I'm answering all of those questions in one place! Yes you can ... BUT!
The fat content on avocadoes is high. Dehydrating is fine, but will take a while. The issue is with storage. Rancidity will ruin your avocadoes unless you store them in the freezer.
HOWEVER -- avocado crisps are a thing - and you can try them at home! Just remember they are a snack, not a storage item.
Instead, freeze avocadoes for use later!
Not only is fat an issue, but the mess that comes with dehydrating butter should make you run. Even the best silicone lipped trays can't contain the mess of melted butter.
Like other dairy, cheese's fat content makes it hard to store safely for long-term unless you put it in the freezer (and then what's the real point of going through all that work?)
Plus you have to run into issues of bacterial issues with the way cheese is produced. The NCHFP has not tested the safety of dehydrating cheese, and because there are so many factors in the way cheese is made, do not recommend for dehydrating and long-term storage.
- Mid-range cheeses: While you can do softer cheese like cheddars, they require a lot of maintenance to blot away the fat that forms on the surface, both during the process, and after. And the powder that you make from it is not shelf-stable, either.
- Soft Cheeses should never be dehydrated. Cottage, ricotta, and brie all fall into this category.
- Hard Cheeses: You can dehydrate hard cheeses like parmesan for some great snacking chips, to put aside for storage. However, if you live in warm climates or have food storage that cannot be cooled sufficiently, I do recommend storing in the freezer.
Many condiments are full of sugar, which becomes tacky and gummy in humidity. While moisture absorbers can help with humidity, sugar actually has an issue with compression more than moisture.
You also need to be careful of hidden oils and fats in many recipes that will make them go rancid more quickly than you think.
- Hollandaise and other dairy sauces
- Oil-based sauces
HOWEVER -- Dehydrating condiments for short-term use helps with pack weight for hikers, and ease of use on the trail. Some condiments like hot sauces and salsas and even mustards do great for long-term storage and are useful as powders on their own.
- Picante sauce/salsa
- Siracha and other hot sauces (if they have oil, be wary of rancidity in long-term storage)
- BBQ sauce
Like eggs and cheese, dairy is not recommended for dehydrating.
The National Center for Home Food Preservation says:
"Dairy and eggs are not recommended for home drying because of the high risk of food poisoning. Commercially dried milk and egg products are processed rapidly at temperatures high enough to prevent bacterial contamination. Home dryers cannot duplicate this process, and the safety of home-dried milk and egg products cannot be guaranteed."National Center for Home Food Preservation
If you want to experiment, use 1% or nonfat milk for storage. Though there is little nutrition left from the pasteurization process, especially in the low and nonfat varieties, these will be the safer milks to try on your own. but realize that the shelf life is much lower than other dehydrated products.
We've all heard the stories of powdered eggs in institutional cooking. They don't have a great reputation. But more than the taste and texture is the safety aspect.
Eggs (as well as dairy products) are items that the NCHFP has not tested, so there is no proven safe method for dehydrating at home.
►Raw eggs really should never be done.
However, using pasteurized eggs or fully cooked eggs (to 165F), may be a safer alternative for you if you want to try to make your own powdered eggs.
Alternatives to shelf-stable eggs:
- For binding: chia seeds
- For baking: applesauce, chia seeds, freeze-dried eggs
- For eating: freeze-dried eggs
Before you all scream, "BUT WHAT ABOUT JERKY!", hear me out.
Meats that are high in fat are not suitable for long-term storage unless placed back into a freezer. Fat turns rancid and becomes unsafe to eat.
- Chicken and poultry should only be dehydrated for humans if precooked to 165F degrees, not raw (though raw chicken is safe to dehydrate for dog treats). Their texture can be iffy once rehydrated. Canned chicken (or pressure cook your own) may be a better dehydrating option because the texture comes out better.
- Hamburger can be dehydrated, but I suggest boiling hamburger instead of browning, and using the leanest hamburger meat you can find (and again, storing in the freezer for safest storage).
- Jerky - Use safe jerky techniques, recipes, temperatures, and storage.
Properly dried jerky will keep at room temperature two weeks in a sealed container. For best results, to increase shelf life and maintain best flavor and quality, refrigerate or freeze jerky.https://nchfp.uga.edu/how/dry/jerky.html
There are curing techniques to help with longer storage, but as you begin on your dehydrating journey, work within these guidelines until you've grown in your ability.
Nuts don't need to be dehydrated for storage. The natural oils make them not suitable for long-term storage anyway. They are best stored in a freezer if you have the space.
However, you CAN use your dehydrator to dry out raw nuts that have been soaked to help make them more digestible for your system. They will not have the roasted flavor, but it's a great use of your machine.
Use one of these alternatives for long-term storage of nuts.
Olives are so great, and you'd think they would be like pickles -- salty, savory, chewy. And they are. The only problem is that the oils in olives make them unsuitable for shelf storage.
HOWEVER ... Hikers often do olives for short-term storage. Olives make great salty snacks for the trail. However, the shelf-stable life is short because of the fat content, so if you are preparing ahead of time, store them in the freezer.
Generally, there are enough preservatives in processed foods that there is no reason to dehydrate them to extend their storage life. That's best done with proper storage techniques:
- Remove from original packaging
- Store in airtight containers (vacuum sealing is best)
HOWEVER -- you can use your dehydrator to refresh some of those processed foods that may have gone stale. It doesn't work if it has gone rancid, but for things like crackers or cereals that have gone a bit stale.
So here's the deal. Everything CAN be dehydrated, but it's not always best to dehydrate it - especially in light of long-term food storage.
- Educate yourself.
- Learn from others.
- Be safe.