You can use an oven to dehydrate! Even if you don't own a dehydrator, oven drying is a way to preserve food for your pantry and extend your food storage.
Even if you don't own a dehydrator, or you just don't have room for one in your living circumstances, oven drying (do not confuse this for the unapproved method of putting goods in jars, with lids, in the oven to 'vacuum seal them) can be a great way to preserve excess grocery deals or garden excess.
Benefits of Oven Dehydrating
- Doesn't require extra equipment. You likely already have cookie sheets and cooling racks in your kitchen tools.
- Allows you to create healthy snacks for your family without preservative additions in commercially dried foods.
- Can often be faster than drying with a dehydrator
- Can be an extra tool for those who do dehydrate by using the oven to do the last stage of drying while you start a new batch in your dehydrator
Drawbacks of Oven Dehydrating
- Cooks, doesn't dry. Unless your oven has a true dehydrating feature, it likely can't get low enough for recommended drying temperatures for try moisture removal as opposed to cooking.
- Takes up your oven when dinner might be necessary.
- Does not remove moisture - along with the first drawback, most ovens don't have the means of remove moisture from the chamber without a fan.
- It is expensive - in the true cost of running an oven vs a dehydrator, the oven is much more expensive.
Oven dehydrating is great when you want to make snacks. It can make things ‘crisp’ when a dehydrator can’t because you’re cooking more than you are drying.
LEARN MORE: How to pick an inexpensive dehydrator
Oven Drying Tips
- Test first. Test your oven's real temp (not what the dial says) with an oven thermometer. Then test again using the open door method described below, so that you know exactly where the temperature stands in your oven. This will help make better decisions on how you proceed.
- Use a wooden spoon, wooden block, oven-safe silicone glove or spoon to prop the door open to allow moisture to escape.
- Use a fan placed outside of the oven to help create airflow and release moisture and bring down the temperature.
Safety Tip: PLEASE be mindful of small children or mobility-impaired individuals as this can be of great risk to them.
How to Dehydrate in Your Oven
- Preheat oven to the appropriate temperature (as low as you can possibly go)
- Prepare your foods as you would any dehydrating process for the food you are using (including blanching, breaking the skin for berries, etc.)
- Place foods on a cookie sheet with a cooling rack to allow airflow, directly on the oven racks, or on parchment paper/silicone mats.
- Place in oven to begin drying
- Check once an hour and flip as necessary until done.
- Cool and check samples for appropriate dryness
- Store in airtight containment. Read more on how to store dehydrated foods.
Electric: Turn on your oven light and leave them on a tray with a cooling rack and allow them to sit overnight.
Gas: Pilot light will serve as a mild heat source
Fruits and vegetables
Place on parchment paper or oven-safe silicone sheets, turn often for complete drying.
Watch for case hardening (when outside gets hard quickly - not allowing the moisture to escape). This is particularly problematic in dense skinned berries, grapes, small tomatoes, etc.
Most jerky can be done easily in the oven - just get them fully up to 160°F and thoroughly dried. These are not storable for long-term under modern safety guidelines and should be sealed and stored in the freezer to extend their life.
Dehydrating with Convection Ovens
If you have a convection oven, chances are it dehydrates - read your manual (or get it off the internet) to find out how.