Freeze-Dried vs Dehydrated Food: What’s Best for Storage?

When it comes to food storage, there are many options available. Two popular methods are freeze-drying and dehydrating. While the terms are often used interchangeably, there are significant differences between the two processes.

The main differences between freeze-drying and dehydrating are the moisture content, shelf life, and nutritional value of the finished product.

Dehydration removes about 90-95% of the moisture content, while freeze-drying removes about 98-99%. This makes freeze-dried products last longer on the shelf, with some products having a shelf life of up to 20-25 years. Dehydrated foods typically have a shelf life of around 5-15 years.

Freeze-dried foods retain all of their original taste, smell, texture, and nutritional value. Dehydrated foods lose about 50% of their nutritional value because they are subject to heating during the drying process and can become somewhat chewy, since the heating process “cooks” them over a long period of time as they dry.

Freeze-Drying Process

Natural dehydrated kiwi slices without sweeteners or preservatives in bowl. Healthy vitamin snack

As previously mentioned, freeze-drying is a relatively modern preservation process that requires high-tech machinery.

The process was originally developed to preserve blood plasma, medicine, and later, food for military troops during World War II.

The freeze-drying process involves placing food on large racks inside of a vacuum chamber. The temperature is lowered to below freezing and then slowly raised.

The water in the food moves from a solid state to a gaseous state, maintaining the structure of the food and keeping the nutritional value intact.

Freeze-drying removes 98% of the water in foods, giving freeze-dried products a much longer shelf-life than dehydrated ones.

Freeze-dried food is flash frozen and then exposed to a vacuum, which causes all the water in it to vaporize.

Benefits of freeze-dried foods

One of the biggest benefits of freeze-dried food is the retention of nutritional value.

Freeze-dried foods retain the vast majority of the vitamins and minerals found in the original food.

However, when compared to fresh fruits and vegetables, freeze-dried foods did lack in some vitamins – like Vitamin C – which breaks down very rapidly.

Another benefit of freeze-dried foods is their convenience. They are lightweight, easy to store, and often require only the addition of hot water to prepare. This makes them ideal for camping, hiking, or emergency situations where cooking facilities may be limited.

Finally, freeze-dried foods are known for their long shelf-life. Since most of the moisture has been removed from the food, there is little chance of spoilage. This makes them an excellent option for long-term food storage.

Comparison of freeze-drying to dehydrating

When it comes to choosing between freeze-dried and dehydrated foods, there are a few things to consider. Freeze-dried foods tend to be more expensive than dehydrated foods, but they also have a longer shelf-life and retain more nutritional value.

Dehydrated foods, on the other hand, are less expensive and can be done at home with a dehydrator. They also retain some of their nutritional value and are a great option for short-term food storage.

Ultimately, the decision between freeze-dried and dehydrated foods will come down to your personal needs and budget.

Dehydrating Process

Red peppers dehydrating to make paprika

Unlike freeze-drying, dehydrating can be done at home with a dehydrator. The process involves removing the moisture from food using heat and air circulation. Dehydrated foods can be stored in airtight containers for up to 5-15 years.

Benefits of dehydrated foods

One of the biggest benefits of dehydrated foods is their affordability. They are typically less expensive than freeze-dried foods and can be done at home with a dehydrator.

Another benefit of dehydrated foods is that they retain some of their nutritional value. While they do lose some vitamins and minerals during the dehydration process, they still retain fiber and iron content.

Strawberries sliced and placed onto trays to be dehydrated for long-term storage.

Finally, dehydrated foods are a great option for short-term food storage. Since they can be done at home, they are an easy way to preserve your harvest or stock up for a camping trip.

Comparison of dehydrating to freeze-drying

Dehydrated foods are less expensive than freeze-dried foods and can be done at home with a dehydrator. However, they do lose some nutritional value during the dehydration process and have a shorter shelf life than freeze-dried foods.

Mountain House Chicken & Dumplings | Freeze Dried Backpacking & Camping Food |6-Pack

Freeze-dried foods, on the other hand, are more expensive but have a longer shelf life and retain more nutritional value. They are also lightweight and easy to store, making them ideal for emergency situations or outdoor adventures.

When choosing between dehydrated and freeze-dried foods, it is essential to weigh your personal needs, budget, and storage space to determine which option is best for you.

Is freeze-dried or dehydrated better?

Freeze-dried foods are generally considered better due to their longer shelf life, lower moisture content, and better preservation of flavor, color, and nutrition. However, dehydrating methods are more affordable and accessible for home use.

Is freeze-drying the same as dehydrating?

No, freeze-drying and dehydrating are different processes. Freeze-drying uses extremely cold temperatures and a vacuum to remove moisture, while dehydrating uses heat and airflow to evaporate water from the food.

Can you use a dehydrator as a freeze dryer?

Unfortunately, you cannot use a dehydrator as a freeze dryer. Dehydrating and freeze-drying are distinct processes that produce different results in terms of texture, moisture content, and shelf life.

Why is freeze-drying bad?

Freeze-drying is not inherently bad, but it has some drawbacks, such as being more expensive, energy-intensive, and requiring specialized equipment compared to other food preservation methods like dehydration.

By Anita Brown

Anita Brown is our go-to contributor to our emergency preparedness website. Anita brings a wealth of personal experience and professional expertise to the table, having weathered several awful natural disasters. Anita is currently working towards obtaining her Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) certification.