Throughout history, drying has been used to preserve food for several reasons. First, it keeps food from spoiling. Drying removes the foods’ moisture, which causes bacterial growth that eventually results in spoilage.
Second, drying affects the nutritional value of foods minimally. For example, drying retains vitamin A. But given that it’s light-sensitive, it should be stored in dark places after drying. Additionally, dried foods are found to be healthy because they’re rich in fiber yet low in fat.
Third, dried foods are simple to prepare, store and use at home. You can dry ingredients naturally or use cooking appliances that can dehydrate food. The process of drying is a no-brainer as well! If you want to try it, here are a few know-how you need to keep in mind.
Kitchen Equipments for Drying
Drying is a piece of cake, but it becomes so much easier with technological advancements in cooking. While several kitchen equipment for drying foods are available online, it’s always advised to go local.
For example, if you’re from Brisbane, then opt for an Australian supplier of commercial cookware. It doesn’t only offer future access to the product you’ll buy and the service that comes along with them. It’s also a good way to support your local economy.
Moreover, there are three common pieces of kitchen equipment you can use to dry foods: dehydrators, ovens, microwave ovens, and air fryers.
Dehydrators are known to produce the best quality dried foods. Compared to other methods, it offers more precise drying and is faster since it’s equipped with heat, a fan, and vents for air circulation. However, it’s often associated with high energy costs and limited food capacity. In other words, if you want to dry foods in large quantities, you’ll likely face higher electricity bills.
If you don’t own a dehydrator, your can oven can be an alternative. However, ovens don’t usually have built-in fans for air movement. That means it’ll be much slower to dry than a dehydrator. When drying takes time, it’ll also use a great deal more energy.
Microwave drying is typically the go-to appliance for small quantities of food. However, it’ll only work well with herbs and some leaf vegetables. For most other foods, it’ll often taste overcooked rather than dried.
Most air fryers have a dehydrator setting built in nowadays. Both circulate air for even heat distribution. However, air fryers dry foods a little faster, around 5-30 minutes. They use hot air at a high temperature, so foods can turn brown and get crispy quickly.
On the contrary, dehydrators avoid a color change, so they often work at a milder temperature, usually at 40–42℃ (104-107.6°F). This way allows foods to dry without being cooked, but it’ll take a couple of hours or days for the drying process to complete.
One of the most affordable ways to dry foods is sun drying. As the name implies, this method uses the heat of the sun and relative humidity to dry foods. It doesn’t require electricity, except for the foods and containers you’ll use for drying.
The best season to dry foods is during the summer season. Ideally, the temperature should be steadily 29°C (85°F), and the weather isn’t overly humid, less than 20%. Apart from these, here are other things you have to keep in mind:
- Make sure that air can flow under the food;
- Put aluminum foil under the food to help the heat get back to it; and
- Cover the food with breathable cloth, like cheesecloth, to keep insects away.
The main downside of sun-drying is that it’ll take some time, usually three to four days. Additionally, the food can be lost to birds, insects, and other animals, damaged by rain or other weather, and ruined by dirt, dust, and insects.
If you don’t want to leave your food outdoors, you can use the sun’s heat that gets trapped inside your car. Put the food you want to dry on your car’s dashboard and close the windows. It might take a few days, but they’ll eventually dry. Check on them every day, so they don’t get too hard.
Another inexpensive option for drying foods outside is air drying. Unlike sun drying, it takes place indoors, typically in a well-ventilated space like an attic, a room, or a screened-in porch. However, this method doesn’t work for all kinds of foods.
Air drying works well with mushrooms, herbs, and hot peppers. They’re typically not pretreated and simply tied in bundles or strung on a string and suspended until dry, making the process isn’t rocket science. However, air-drying is a very slow process compared to microwave ovens, usually taking several days.
While dried foods are nutritious and easy to prepare, they can be harmful to you if dried carelessly. To safely dry foods, ensure the right combination of low humidity, enough heat, and proper air circulation.