Humans have always found a way to make life easier for themselves when it comes to everything around them, and this is especially true when it comes to food.
Dehydrated foods have a lot of great benefits, including shelf life and health benefits, to name a few.
It’s important to know exactly how to store these foods and how long they last for you to get the best results out of them. In this article, we’ll discuss questions like how long does dehydrated food last for, what goes into storing dehydrated foods properly, and how to make sure that your food lasts longer.
The Benefits of Dehydrating Food
Before we get into the specifics of how long dehydrated food lasts for, it’s important to know why people choose to dehydrate food in the first place.
While a slice of fresh meat can last less than a day if left unrefrigerated, dehydrated meat (jerky) can last anytime from 10 days to a more than a month at room temperature if prepared and stored properly. It’s one of the best possible forms of preservation for edible items.
The longer shelf life means that less food goes to waste. Developed nations have a major problem when it comes to food wastage, and food with a higher shelf life would mean reduced production requirements, as well.
Dehydrated food can be a great option for camping and road trips because it's not messy, easy to store, and tastes great.
Dehydrated food has most of the moisture removed from it. This lets the amount of space taken up by it go down by several multiples, which means that you can store more food in the same space.
Dehydrated foods only have water removed from them. All the essential vitamins and nutrients that are present in the original food are preserved properly, making them a very healthy option for everyday consumption.
Dehydrated foods, over a certain period of time, are very economical when it comes to storage, saving flavor, and safety.
Once an item of food has gone through a food dehydrator, the nutritional content present in it, along with the increased shelf life, means that this food can be shipped easily to any part of the world without spoilage.
This is an important aspect both for needs (military purposes or people affected by natural disasters), and for choice (exotic jerkies).
If you dehydrate your own food and use your own ingredients, you can be assured that dehydrated foods are safer to consume than processed or canned food. There’s a lower chance of unwanted materials like chemicals or pesticides to be present in it.
Foods That Can Be Dehydrated
This method of food preservation is extremely popular and is applicable to a lot of different foods because of the efficiency and benefits of the dehydration process. The sheer number of options within these foods make them separate categories of their own.
You can learn more about this by checking out this guide to the best foods to dehydrate.
How to Know if Your Dehydrated Food is Spoiled
How long does dehydrated food last? Well, it can depend on a variety of factors.
Despite your best efforts, sometimes moisture and oxygen can play its part and cause your food to have a shorter shelf life than expected. This also depends on the location and the weather around you, and you need to know what signs to look for to see if your dehydrated food has gone bad.
The first and most obvious signs you should look for is damage that you can easily see. If there is a layer of mold on the food, this means that your dehydrated food has definitely gone bad.
Other things you can look for are extra layers on the food, change in the color of the dehydrated food, spores, or moisture buildup in the bag.
While food dehydration causes food to lose most of its obvious smell, depending on the type of food, you should be able to get a whiff of how it's supposed to smell. If there’s a strange smell coming from your food, it’s not a good idea to consume it.
You will have to eat the food to check it this way. If your food doesn’t feel the same in your mouth as it originally had after being dehydrated, it has probably gone bad.
Keep in mind that we’re not talking about the occasional crispy piece of jerky. You should be able to tell from the texture of the food if there’s something wrong with it.
This would be the final and most obvious way to understand that the food has gone bad. If the food tastes bad and different from its original taste, it’s probably gone bad. You shouldn’t take your chances if the taste is awkward, as it might lead to food poisoning.
How to Prevent Spoiling
The shelf life of food can be improved greatly by keeping a few things in mind as you prepare and store your dehydrated food. There are different ways to ensure that your food has the longest shelf life.
There are two broad categories on how to achieve this. The first option is to take some steps while preparing, while the other is things you can do while storing your dehydrated foods.
If you prepare your food properly, you should have an evenly dehydrated product with no moisture levels.
However, no process is perfect, and some moisture might be left over even if you take all the right precautions. These are some tips and tricks you can follow to ensure better preservation of your food.
While fruits are one of the most commonly dehydrated items, these are only dehydrated until they're chewable. This means that there’s a higher moisture content in them compared to other options like powdered soups or vegetable chips.
For this reason, there’s a higher chance of them going bad quicker. To make sure that your fruit slices are evenly dehydrated, you need to take them after the dehydration process and pack them loosely in airtight jars or bags.
For about a week, shake the containers once or twice a day to ensure that the moisture is distributed evenly among the slices.
This can also be used to check if your fruits are dehydrated properly. If the airtight container shows signs of water droplets forming on the inside, your fruits might have to go back in the dehydrator for another round to reduce the water content.
Meats can develop germs, bacteria, or mold easily. If you put meat at a very high or very low temperature, it will kill off the germs and give you a safer experience.
One option is to pasteurize the meat by setting it in an oven at 80 degrees Celsius for a quarter of an hour. Once they're out of the oven and cooled down, they should be safer to pack.
Another option is to freeze the meat. The storage time for this process will be much longer, as you will have to keep it in the freezer for a week for it to be completely safe before storing it at room temperature.
The preparation part for vegetables is easy, as these are usually turned into chips. The point is that the moisture content in dehydrated vegetables is very low, which makes it more difficult for them to go bad.
Just ensure that you don’t take them out too early during the dehydration process and let them dry out properly before they’re cooled and stored.
While taking the necessary precautions during preparation can help your food last longer, it will all be pointless if you don’t know how to store your dehydrated products properly. Keep these things in mind while storing:
Keep Out of Direct Sunlight
Even though the food is dried out, there is a tiny amount of water likely still present in your dehydrated foods.
Direct exposure to heat and light can cause your food to get spoiled. Make sure you store in a cool, dark place. It doesn’t have to be refrigerated, but make sure that the place is dry and around or below room temperature.
Know that every time you open up a container to take out dried food, you’re making it susceptible to some damage.
For this reason, try to not have containers that are too large and contain a lot of items, as you will be prone to opening it more and exposing the contents to the air. If you have a lot of food, consider splitting it between two or more containers.
A general rule of thumb when it comes to storing any kind of food is that the lower the temperature, the longer the food can last. This is why foods stored in cooler temperatures (for example, in a deep freezer) can last for much longer than foods left outside.
Make sure that the storage space is cool for a longer shelf life.
The two biggest enemies of stored dehydrated foods are moisture and oxygen. For this reason, make sure that the container you're using for storing your food is airtight (for example, a mason jar) and is stored in a dry place.
You don’t need to have a daily routine to check up on your airtight jars, but every once in a while, even if you haven’t yet opened that container, check out the inner side of the containers of dehydrated foods.
Glass jars are excellent for this purpose, as you can easily see drops of condensation on the inner surface.
How Long Does Dehydrated Food Last?
If you've followed all the steps mentioned in this article, there can still be a wide range of differences on how long your food lasts based on temperature ranges and the drying process. Besides this, the large variety of food that can be dried also has a different shelf life for each category.
So, how long does dehydrated food last? If you look at the extreme end of the spectrum, long term storage of dehydrated foods when paired with vacuum sealed bags, as well as oxygen regulators, can last for as long as 30 years!
However, since we are talking about home dehydration methods, let's be more realistic. Vegetables have very low moisture content and can last for up to 10 years. On the other hand, fruits, which have a slightly higher moisture content when dehydrated, will still be good for up to 5 years if stored at the correct temperature.
Dehydrated meat has the lowest shelf life of all edible products. If the container is constantly being opened and in use, you are suggested to eat dehydrated meat within a month or two. However, in a properly sealed package, you can leave dehydrated meat in storage for up to a year.
Dehydrated food is a healthy alternative to store bought snacks that have zero nutritional value and will only lead to unhealthy weight gain. For this reason, a lot of people are not only choosing dehydrated foods but are also investing in their own dehydrators for a complete at-home experience.
If you're one of these people and are interested in getting one yourself, check out this handy guide on what to look for when buying a dehydrator.
In this article, we addressed questions like how long does dehydrated food last for, how to check if it's spoiled, and what you can do to increase its shelf life. If you're interested in similar topics about healthy, dehydrated foods, feel free to check out our other articles, as well!