The best temperature to dehydrate food is 125°F (52°C) for most fruits and vegetables However, there are nuances to what temperature you should use, and you’ll learn those here!
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Dehydrating food is an incredible way to create shelf-stable storage with fruits and vegetables that typically need refrigeration and only last a few weeks.
By removing most of the moisture content of fruits (85%+) and vegetables (90%+), you can create shelf-stable storage for things like broccoli, tomatoes, mushrooms, oranges, and more!
But how do you know the best temperatures to create dehydrated food for short- and long-term storage?
What are the Best Temperatures to Dehydrate Food?
The National Center for Home Food Preservation creates the standards for what food drying temperatures should be. It balances the need to dry the most efficiently to prevent mold or case hardening versus what saves the most nutrients while drying.
However, you may find that there are temperature suggestions that differ from other parts of the world, other extension services, dehydrator manufacturers, and regular people who do this kind of food drying every day.
So let’s look at common temperatures and how they might change for you.
- Raw or living foods: 95°F (35°C) to 115°F (46°C)
- Herbs: 95°F (35°C)
- Vegetables 125°F (52°C)
- Fruits: 135°C (57°C)
- Meats 145°F (62°C) for red meats
- Mini marshmallows 150°F (60°C)
- Chicken and other poultry 160°F (70°C)
What are living and raw foods?
Living Foods are those foods like ferments and sourdough starters that you want to keep the beneficial bacteria alive during the drying process.
Raw foods are any food (other than proteins) that you want to keep all of the nutrients available during the drying process.
Do Temperatures Matter in Food Dehydration?
Ultimately, except in cases of dehydrating proteins such as jerky and meats, temperatures don’t matter.
The recommendations are generally for the fastest outcome while retaining the most nutrition.
Using lower temperatures can
- Promote better color.
- Retain more nutrients.
- Extend drying time.
- Retain more flavor (especially with herbs).
Using higher temperatures can
- Decrease drying time.
- Create a ‘burned’ appearance of foods which may only be the natural sugars caramelizing during the drying process.
- Reduce nutrients.
- Create crisper chips such as zucchini chips or other vegetable chips for snacking.
What if my food dehydrator only has one temperature?
While most food dehydrators have adjustable temperature settings, some budget-friendly models do not. Generally, the temperature for these machines was set to create beef jerky, so the minimum would be between 145-160°F (57-70°C).
So be aware of that, and know that you’ll lose Vitamin A & C during the process; some foods that may brown quickly may turn dark during the process, such as
- Herbs – and I recommend not doing herbs at these higher temperatures as they will lose much of their flavor and color
Also, know that your drying time may be affected by higher temperatures, so check more often, and rotate your trays more often for the best results.
What if My Dehydrator has a Low Medium and High
You’ll need to check the dehydrating manual for your machine to see if the manufacturer gives a suggestion of what each of the settings are recommended for.
These are generalized, but your machine may vary
- Low – Herbs/Vegetables
- Medium – Fruit
- High – Meats (again, making the assumption that it gets high enough to do jerky safely)
If you don’t have a manual for your machine, I’ve created a database of dehydrator manuals you can pick yours up from. Or you can google ‘(model of dehydrator) manual pdf’.
Testing Dehydrator Temperatures
Do you know if your dehydrator is drying at the temperatures you set it to? Or maybe you have a 3-stage food dehydrator or one that dehydrates at only one temperature?
Knowing the personality of your dehydrator will give you a better outcome for your dried foods. Learn more about testing your dehydrator’s temperature.
Is There Nutritional Loss in Food Dehydrating?
Nutritional value is important in food preservation. While most nutrients are kept during the food dehydration process with recommended (or below recommended) temperatures, some nutrients are lost.
Those nutrients affected by drying are:
- Vitamin A – is heat sensitive, and you lose more the higher the temperature used and the longer the food is exposed to that temperature.
- Vitamin C – is also heat-sensitive and water-soluble. You lose more with a higher temperature setting and increased drying times. While we don’t typically blanch fruit such as oranges, blanching is one of the pre-treatment options used for fruits like blueberries.
- Vitamin B – this loss is generally from the blanching process that helps stop the enzymes that cause your food to degrade on the shelf. Learn more about blanching food for dehydrating.
All other vitamins, minerals, and fiber are intact.
If you want to ensure that all vitamins and minerals are kept in the process, dry your food at 115°F (46°C) or lower.
This shouldn’t be done with proteins so that you aren’t keeping them at an unsafe temperature for too long.
What are the best dehydrators?
The dehydrator you use to create dried food for your pantry is the best dehydrator! But some machines are more efficient than others, and some are better built.
My recommendations are:
- Cosori (also known as Ivation or Magic Mill in Canada and the UK)
- Excalibur Dehydrator
- Sahara Folding Dehdyrator – for those who have real space issues and want to be able to tuck their dehydrator under the bed or behind the couch when not in use. It’s not inexpensive, but it’s a wonderful machine, and its folding capability of it makes it unique! It also has an air-only feature which makes drying herbs a dream!
- Nesco – a smaller compact unit that is less expensive and works well.
There are so many other brands to choose from, and I’ll teach you how to choose the best dehydrator for you, no matter where you are in the world.
So dehydrating is a valuable food preservation technique to add to your food storage pantry.
If you’d love to have your chart in a magnet or sticker to have as quick reminders right on your machine, I have these available in my shop!
Need to remember what temperatures to use without having to pull out your phone or get on your computer? Get the Dehydrating Temperature Magnet or Sticker, and never fumble for what temperature to use again!
Best Times for Dehydrating
Generally, I never give concrete information on times for dehydrating. There are so many factors that affect drying time
- Your machine’s build & wattage;
- Your home’s humidity;
- Moisture level of food;
- How you prepared your food;
- How you pack your trays;
And while you may find lists of times out on the interwebs or in books, remember that they are simply rough estimates of their tested times, not something that will happen in your home.
Food is dry when it’s dry. Don’t rely on the time.–Darcy Baldwin @ The Purposeful Pantry
General Times to Dry
- Herbs – 4-24+ hours (small herbs vs. basil)
- Fruit – 6-24+ hours (thin apple slices vs. lemon slices or berries)
- Vegetables – 6-15+ hours (zucchini chips vs. tomatoes)
- Jerky – 6-10 hours
These times take into consideration the easy projects through the hard ones.