They're great for short-term survival, and they're the perfect food for bushcrafters to supplement what they hunt or gather, but they don't make a high-quality meal on their own.
That's where freeze-drying comes in. It allows you to store real meals for an indefinite amount of time.
Freeze drying food can be done easily with your home freezer. Slice the food you want to freeze dry in the smallest slices (bigger slices take longer to freeze dry) you can manage and place them in a single layer on a rack. Place the rack in your freezer and wait at least week before you take it out. Check by taking out a single piece and let it thaw. If it turns black you need to see it in the freezer a bit longer. Read on for 2 more ways to freeze dry food.
Freeze drying food in 3 ways
You'll have to acquire a few things before you start freeze-drying your own food.
I'm going to cover the three most efficient methods in this post.
I'll include what you need for each method in separate sections after which I'll explain how to freeze dry your food with each of the different methods.
1: Using a Freezer to dry freeze food
The freezer method is the cheapest method, and you probably have everything you need to do it sitting around your house.
It does take a long time, though.
Before we start talking about steps, I need to warn you about meat products.
It doesn't matter which method you use.
If you decide to dry meat, you must cook it right before you start drying it.
Freeze-drying raw meat can be dangerous, and you can't let cooked meat sit around before drying it, either.
below is a video for those who rather watch than read.
What you'll need
1) A Freezer: This one should be obvious, but you'll need a freezer. The one attached to your refrigerator is good enough.
2) A Rack: A simple cookie sheet will work for this, but it'll take longer for the process to finish. I recommend that you get a perforated drying rack as bakers use. The increased airflow will dramatically reduce how long it takes to freeze-dry something.
3) Some Food: You can freeze dry just about anything. Meat, fruits, vegetables, and even ice cream can be freeze-dried. However, it can be difficult to dry most of those when you're just starting out. I recommend that you try to dry something simple. Start with an apple or other small fruit.
4) A knife: This method works best if you cut the food into small pieces first. This is the slowest drying method of the three, and drying whole apples or steaks make the wait even worse.
5) Storage Bags: You won't need these until the drying process is complete, but they're essential. You'll be able to take your dried food, seal it in a Ziplock, and throw it in your survival pack with ease.
Prepare The Food
To begin, you'll want to slice up whatever you're going to dry.
Try to slice the food into the smallest pieces that you can manage.
Bigger pieces will take a lot longer to dry with this method, and you're likely to end up thawing them way before they're actually finished.
That effectively ruins all of your hard work.
Place Them On A Rack
This step is straightforward.
All you have to do is throw your food slices onto a rack.
Make sure that you lay the food out in a single layer, and don't try to fill the tray too much.
Now, you have to perform the actual drying process.
Put the tray of food slices into your freezer, and wait for at least a week.
Try not to open your fridge too much during this step.
You want the temperature in the fridge to stay as cold as possible.
After a week or two, you can start checking your food.
Take a single piece out of the freezer, and allow it to thaw.
If it turns black, then it's not dried, and you need to let it sit in the freezer for a bit longer.
Make sure that you throw out the test sample.
If you can pull your food out without it turning black, you're ready to store it.
You don't need a vacuum sealer for this step, but it will help you out a bit if you do have one.
All you have to do is throw the food into storage bags, remove the air, and seal them up.
After that, you can throw the food into a survival pack or cabinet for later use.
2: using dry ice to dry freeze food
The dry ice method is a lot faster than just using your freezer, but the steps are entirely different.
You'll want to remove all of the food in your freezer before you attempt this method.
What you'll need
1) A Freezer: If you want to freeze-dry something, you need a freezer. That's just common sense, folks. It is worth noting that you need to remove all of the food from your fridge before you use this method. It'll get destroyed if you don't.
2) A Large Container: You need a container that can hold twice the amount of food that you're going to freeze-dry. This can be a foam cooler, Tupperware container, or anything else that will protect the food inside of it.
3) Dry Ice: You can pick this up at your local Walmart and most other major stores. It shouldn't be too expensive. You want to wait to buy it, though. It's not traditional ice, but it will evaporate over time. You really don't want to buy it a week before you start freeze-drying.
4) Storage Bags: Unlike the freezer method, you'll need these during the drying process for this method. They prevent the dry ice from getting on your food.
5) Food: You'll need something to freeze. You don't have to slice it into little bits with this method, though. The dry ice method is a lot faster than just using a freezer, and it won't take much longer to freeze-dry larger pieces of food.
Prep The Food
You don't technically have to slice up your food for this method, but it'll help a lot.
If you use a whole apple for this method, it can end up taking as long as the freezer method, and that is entirely against the point of using the dry ice in the first place.
All you have to do is throw your food into some Ziplocks, and throw the Ziplocks into a large container.
You'll have an easier time with this method if you poke a few ventilation holes in the bowl.
It'll allow the gas to escape correctly, and it'll speed up the drying process.
Add The Dry Ice
Now, it's time to start the drying process.
Put your container of food into your freezer, and cover it in dry ice.
After you've done that, you just need to wait.
Your food should be adequately dried after all of the dry ice disappears.
That typically only takes between twenty-four hours and a week.
To test your food, do the same thing that you would do with the freezer method.
Remove one piece of food, allow it to thaw, and see if it turns black.
Since your dried food is already bagged, all you have to do is remove the air.
Do this by hand, or use a vacuum sealer.
A vacuum isn't necessary, but it is a great convenience.
Once you've done that, you can store the food for years.
3: using a machine to dry freeze food
This is the method that is the simplest to do.
It doesn't require much preparation, and you don't have to constantly worry about your food during the drying process.
However, it's very expensive.
A typical freeze-dryer costs more than $1500.
here's a video detailing the steps.
I've included written instructions below the video as well.
What you'll need
1) Freeze-Dryer: This is the most expensive method you can use, and that's because of this requirement. A freeze-dryer is faster than using dry ice, but a typical unit costs more than $1500, and it can take quite a bit of time to earn back your investment in the form of freeze-dried food. If you're going to invest in one of these, make sure you buy a good one.
2) Storage Bags: After your food is frozen, you'll need to have some freezer bags or Ziplocks around to store the food in.
3) Food: This is the same as the other methods. If you haven't freeze-dried anything before, start off with fruit. The high water content will make the process a lot easier.
Prep The Food
There isn't much prep to do with this method.
Cutting your food into small pieces will make it dry out faster, but it's not necessary.
If you're drying meat, you need to cook it right before you put it in the freeze-dryer. That's about it.
Due to the simple nature of freeze-dryers, this step is a lot easier too.
All you have to do is sit the food on one of the shelves inside of your dryer, close the door, and wait.
You store your dried food just like you did for the other two methods.
Throw it in a bag, remove the air, and put it in a safe place.
How To Use Freeze-Dried Food
Using freeze-dried food is a little different than throwing together a typical meal, but it isn't difficult.
Open It Up
This sounds self-explanatory, but the steps are different depending on what type of storage bag you used.
A regular freezer bag will be effortless to open.
You just unzip it like you would any other time.
Vacuum-sealed bags can be a bit more difficult.
They're usually too thick to rip open with ease, and they're mechanically sealed most of the time.
However, you're a prepper.
Whip your knife out, and cut it open.
Give It A Little Water
Freeze-drying turns your food into hard chunks, and those chunks are barely edible.
Some foods will stay soft enough to eat while dry, but eating them that way can actually dehydrate you.
It's not a huge concern, but it's best not to take chances in a survival situation.
To reconstitute your dried foods, you have to add boiling water.
If you have access to a microwave, you can use cold water, and boil it all together in the microwave.
If shouldn't take long to reconstitute your food.
All you really need to do is allow it to sit in the boiling water long enough to make it plump and juicy.
If you're preparing something like soup, you'll want to wait until it's at a normal eating temperature before you stop boiling it.
Do you know how to eat regular food?
Then you know how to eat freeze-dried food.
It should taste almost precisely as it would freshly prepared, and it'll have all of its natural nutrients intact.
With most foods, you can wait up to 25 years before you have to eat it or throw it out.
If you have freeze-dried fruits, you'll want to eat them within 2 years.
They don't tend to last as long as more durable foods.
Freeze-drying your food is a great way to stay nourished during a survival situation.
It preserves the natural nutrients in the food, and it tends to preserve the flavor as if you had just eaten it usually.
In short, it's one of the best ways to keep yourself from having to soak hardtack and pemmican all of the time, and it's a lot healthier.
If you've made it this far, I'd like to thank you, and I'd love to hear anything that you have to say in the comments.
Freeze-drying food is growing in popularity, but there are still people out there that don't know what it does.
If you know anyone like that, you might want to share this with them.