Are you considering purchasing a Freeze dryer for home food preservation? Let’s investigate freeze drying and learn some things about these incredible machines. If you don’t have a freeze dryer yet and have questions…What’s involved and how does it work? We are here to give you that answer and get you started on deciding if this is a good investment of your time and money.
When you make your own Homemade food, a recipe often begins with home preserved food you pull out of your pantry. If you can food at home or do some food dehydrating, make your own spice blends, teas or home smoke your own meats you know what I’m saying here. For Home gardeners, hunters, and people wgo enjoy preserving creative, unusual or hard to source foods…freeze drying is worth a look.
For the home preserver, Freeze drying is a whole new universe of food preservation. It’s a truly amazing process. And it’s very simple to complete. In my opinion, WAY easier than home pressure canning with much better nutrient preservation and a LOOOONG shelf life when done properly.
When you consider a freezer dryer for home food preservation you need to know a bit about it. It’s a big commitment and requires a dedicated space in your life. We’re doing a series of posts on this amazing preservation process to help you learn all about it. Our first post discussed how does freeze drying work? This post will focus on the freeze dryer for home machine itself, how to use it and give you some starting points on deciding if it’s right for you.
First let’s answer the question. Is there a way to freeze dry at home? There is actually more than one way. The most convenient, practical way to freeze dry at home is to purchase a freeze dryer for home preservation and let the machine do the work for you.
Can You Freeze Dry Food at Home Without a Freeze Drying Machine?
Yes you can. I’m sticking with a freeze dryer for home use since it does the work and I can trust the product it makes. However, if your budget won’t stretch that far and you want to give freeze drying food a try, Here’s a good article that includes two different methods for freeze drying foods at home without a machine.
Freeze drying works best with a specially designed freeze dryer for home food preservation. These machines give the best, most efficient and consistent results. And it is definitely the simplest method of freeze drying since the whole process is automated.
Which is the Best Freeze Dryer For Home Use?
l have the new Pro Harvest Right home freeze dryers which I love. Harest Right was the first company to create a freeze dryer for home use. Recently other excellent freeze dryers are coming onto the market. these are also good freeze drying machines and worth a look. I suggest you research the Blue Apline and Stay fresh brands to see which one best meets your needs and how they stack up with each other.
I’m not doing an indepth review of freeze dryers in this post. Be assured all of these companies offer you an excellent freeze dryer for home freeze drying. They are the best freeze dryers currently on the market. But be sure to read reviews and do your own research. For an investment of this size you want to be satisfied with your choice. They all have pros and cons.
How much does a freeze dryer cost? At this time a small freeze dryer will run around $2000, for a medium sized Harvest Right expect to pay $3,000 out the door including tax (this company does send basic accedssories to get your started. The large freeze dryers are around $5,000. Remember, Other brands may be less and you may find a sale. So keep your eye out.
Since there are new updates and improvement happening in this market due to competition; I advise you to buy the best one for your pocket book. I’m so happy I had the option to get the Harvest Right Pro. It has a stronger pump, Dries more tray of food/batch and is quieter than the previous models. If you get an older model used, you may want to contact the company and get a software update to keep the system current.
Do home freeze dryers use a lot of electricity? I have heard it can cost 2 to 3$ /day to run a freeze dryer. That is my experience. This number will depend on your local cost of electricity. So you do need to add that expense into the price of your finished products.
So is a Freeze Dryer For home use a good investment for you? Purchasing a freeze dryer for home use is a great investment if you use it and consistently maintain your machine (also not difficult) as it requires. This is a wonderful way to preserve food.
- Freeze drying can reduce food waste in your kitchen and save on the food bill, since you can freeze dry your left overs.
- Freeze drying will Provide you some back up food if the electricity goes out.
- You can also replace pantry items you purchase with freeze dried alternatives. For example tomato paste, pizza sauce, salsas and canned tomato sauce are all easy to freeze dry and delcious rehydrated. You can do so much more with a freeze dryer. This investment, in the long run, may actually save you money.
- It’s great for gardeners, home food preservers, hikers, campers and people that love to recreate off grid. Freeze dried food is light weight and easy to eat right out of the pouch you store it in. Just add water if desired for a yummy complete meal.
- The long term room temperature storage benefits is a big plus. Food safe at room temperature for Up to 25 years! That will NOT be the case with foods with a lot of oil in them, but you can still get several years out of them if they will freeze dry. This passive and extremely long term shelf life is a big seller for me. No further electricity required nce the process is completed.Per year of storage this really bring s the cost down.
- But the thing that really moved me to buy a freeze dryer for home use is the nutrient retention. Every preservation method loses nutrients during processing. For home canning its up to 60% nutrients lost. Freeze drying will retain 97% of the nutrients in your food. That’s worth a lot to me.
Getting Set up with a Freeze Dryer for Home Food Preservation:
Here is a simple walk through of what you need and the steps to freeze-drying food with a freeze dryer for home. It’s really quite easy. But these machines are a bit intimidating at first.
Things to know about Setting up your Freeze dryer for home :
You will need to dedicate a place for the freeze dryer and it’s pump. It needs to be off the ground so the machine can defrost into a bucket under it. We put ours downstairs by our freezer on a table my husband made out wood scraps he had around. Works great!
The place your freeze dryer goes needs to stay between 45 degrees F and 75 degrees for optimal use. They can run outside these temperatures from 30 to 90 degrees safely so unheated shops and garages will work but may not give you ideal performance.
The medium and small freeze dryers can plug into a regular 110 outlet. for a larger freezer you may have to install a 20 amp plug in.
Equipment and Supplies:
This is a list of the MINIMUM equipment you need for home freeze drying.
My harvest right freeze dryer for home came with all of this:
- Home freeze dryer machine
- Trays that fit the machine
- Food to be freeze-dried
- Mylar bags or airtight containers like mason jars or #10 tins
- Oxygen absorbers
- Vacuum sealer or chamber sealer for the bags. I also have a jar sealer to seal mason jars without heat.
There are other accessories available for purchase on the manufactorers sites, Amazon and other sites that carry freeze drying food accessories you may enjoy. Some of them are: mylar bags, O2 absorber packets, extra trays, silicone tray liners and lids for the trays (which make the trays easy to stack). Other cheaper stacking corners are also available through third party sellers, or purchase tray dividers so you can make various sizes and portions of your products.
You will also need a year round storage system for the food filled mylar bags, or air tight containers. Keep them in a dry, cool dark place. I bought a large tough stackable storage bin to get me started. It’s full now so I’m going to be designing a storage system soon. I’ll let you know what I come up with.
Step-by-Step Process of Using A Freeze Dryer:
- Prepare the Food: Start with fresh or cooked food that you want to freeze dry. Cut it into evenly sized pieces for even drying.
- Load the Freeze Dryer: Arrange the food on the trays of the freeze dryer in a single layer. Evenly spaced foods allow for efficient drying.
- Freeze: Follow your machine’s instructions to begin the freezing phase. The freeze dryer will lower the temperature of the food and create the conditions necessary for sublimation (ice changing directly to vapor).
- Primary Drying: Once frozen, the freeze dryer will begin the primary drying phase. My machine refers to this stage as vacuum freezing. It reduces the pressure in the chamber and gently warms the food. This allows the ice to sublimate into vapor. (read this post for more on how freeze drying works)
- Cooling: After the primary drying phase, the machine cools down the food. This step is crucial to prevent moisture reabsorption. The duration can vary.
- Secondary Drying: The freeze dryer will then start the secondary drying phase. In this step, any remaining moisture is removed. This step is where my machine takes the most time.
- Check for Dryness: BE PATIENT. Before removing the food, ensure it is completely dry and has a crisp, dry texture. If it’s not dry, it can be prone to spoilage. So you’ll return it to the machine for further drying as needed.
- Packaging: Once the food is freeze-dried and cooled, you can transfer it to mylar bags, mason jars, #10 cans or other airtight containers. Oxygen absorbers should be added to extend shelf life by removing residual oxygen. Use a vacuum sealer to ensure a tight seal and long shelf life.
- Labeling: Label each container with the contents and the date of freeze drying. This helps you keep track of freshness. You can also include the weight of the food or number of servings.
- Storage: Store the freeze-dried food in a cool, dry, and dark place. Properly stored, freeze-dried food can have a long shelf life, retaining its flavor and nutritional value.
Thats all there is to it. The freeze dryer handles steps 3 through 6. You load the trays into the machine, turn it on, and when it chirps go see if your food is dry. Then remove your trays, pack it up and store. Really not a lot.
The clean up is pretty easy too. Just rinse off the trays and your ready for the next load.
Foods That Can Be Freeze Dried:
The range of foods that a freeze dryer for home preservation can do is pretty amazing really. This is one of the big selling points for me. As a gardener I’m always overloaded with produce at harvest. Freeze drying is a game changer for me. And since it does much more than fruits and vegetables, this machine can work all through the year, preserving food from my kitchen. Love that.
Here’s a short list of foods that can be freeze dried. It is not exhaustive.
|Food Category||Freeze Dry Results|
|Fruits & Vegetables||Excellent for preserving the natural flavors and nutrients. Make snacks and add into your meals. Retains original texture, color, and nutritional value.|
|Dessert||freeze dry candies of all sorts, breads and bakery items (with limitations). Cheesecake, ice cream and other things are wonderful freeze dried.|
|Cooked Meals||Ideal for creating ready-to-eat freeze-dried dinners.|
|Soups and Stews||Perfect for homemade instant soup mixes.|
|Dairy Products||Dairy Products like yogurt, sour cream, cheeses, milk and ice cream can all be freeze-dried as powders, shreds or cubes.|
|Meats and Seafood||Maintains meat’s texture and flavor effectively.|
|Herbs and Spices||Retains aroma and flavor, enhancing culinary creations.|
|Dog and other Pet Food||Make raw or cooked foods for your pets and freeze dry them to retain maximum nutrients. Be sure to use good nutritious recipes for freeze dried pet food. Ask your vet.|
Is It Better To Freeze Dry Raw or Cooked Meat?
A Freeze Dryer for home use does a great job on meats. you can freeze dry meat either raw or cooked.The choice between freeze-dry raw or cooked meat depends on your intended use, storage length, and personal preferences.
If you want to maintain the natural flavors and textures of the meat, freeze-drying raw meat may be a better choice. On the other hand, if you prioritize safety, convenience, and reduced rehydration time, pre-cooked meat may be preferable. Both options have their merits.
Choose the method that works best for you. This principal can apply to other foods as well. It’s all about how you want to use and store the finished product.
Freeze-Drying Raw Meat:
- Nutritional Preservation: Freeze-dry raw meat helps preserve its original nutritional content because it undergoes minimal processing.
- Texture and Flavor: Freeze-dry raw meat can better retain its natural texture and flavor compared to cooked meat, as the cooking process can alter these characteristics.
- Versatility: Freeze-dried raw meat can be rehydrated and used in various recipes and dishes, including soups, stews, and casseroles.
- Longer Shelf Life: Raw meat may have a longer shelf life when freeze-dried compared to cooked meat.
Freeze-Drying Cooked Meat:
- Safety: Cooking meat before you freeze-dry reduces the risk of microbial contamination and makes it safer to store.
- Reduced Rehydration Time: Cooked meat generally rehydrates more quickly compared to raw meat, which can be an advantage for quick meal preparation.
- Convenience: Pre-cooked meat is convenient for immediate use in recipes or as a standalone ingredient.
- Texture and Flavor: The flavors and textures of some cooked meats, such as grilled or roasted meats, are better preserved when freeze-dried.
What Foods Do NOT Freeze Dry Well?
Oily Foods: Your freeze dryer for home preservation won’t process very oily food like peanut butter, butter, coffee beans and chocolate unless they are mixed into a recipe and freeze dried that way. If you put globs of peanut butter or butter on a tray and try to freeze dry it, you will have a mess in your freeze dryer rather than a product you prefer to store and eat.
Sugary Foods: Honey, frostings, syrups and jams can’t be reconstituted from freeze dried and are wasted with this process.
Foods With Strong Flavors: These food will actually freeze dry quite well. However, strongly flavored or aromatic foods like onions and garlic will produce a smell in your machine that can transfer to other food products in different trays AND can remain in the freeze dryer for the next batch or two. This is a problem if you run sweets right after these products, or don’t like your house smelling for days on end.
Most other foods will freeze dry just fine with the new machines now on the market.
Unlocking the full potential of a freeze dryer for home preservation requires understanding the process’s nuances. You’ll learn with experience. Just start. Some research will open your mind to LOTS of possibilities for what you can do with your machine. I’ll be writing more on this subject as I continue on with my own freeze drying journey.
What I can say at this point is freeze drying is an initial commitment of money you should take seriously. Don’t buy one on a whim. A freeze dryer for home will better your quality of nutrition as you make those lovely food products you enjoy in your kitchen and preserve them with this method.
Before you buy a freeze dryer for home use, try out some freeze dried food and be sure you’ll enjoy the products you can make. There is a unique texture to a freeze dried food. Rehydrating removes that texure and returns the food to its original form. but many people enjoy freeze dried food straight out of the dryer without hydrating it.
Freeze drying is wonderful at retaining the flavor and nutrients in food. And the shelf life is amazing. No other food preservation method can give you 97% nutrient retention AND a 25 year long shelf life.
The nutrient gain and extended shelf life make this a good choice for preserving IF you enjoy the texture of the food you make, and you enjoy the useability and process.
Cooks are only beginning to think about how creative you can be with freeze drying. As more cooks learn how to use this amazing food preservation method it will become even more interesting, assessable and popular. Watch for more posts on freeze drying. Ask me your questions and I’ll answer.
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