Dehydrated foods for food allergies

Planning on going on a family trip or need a quick and easy-to-carry meal for your child when out and about? Food dehydration may offer a convenient and easy solution for you.

What is a food dehydrator?

A food dehydrator is a machine that removes moisture content from food. Removing moisture from food helps to prevent bacterial growth and means food can be kept for a longer time before spoiling, if dehydration and packaging instructions are followed. Removing moisture from food reduces the weight of it too, so it’s easy to carry (a regular size dehydrated meal weighs about 170 grams). The process of removing moisture from food dries and preserves it, meaning it will have a longer shelf life. A new food dehydrator costs between about $50 and $150.

How does it work?

A dehydrator has trays, heating elements, vents, and a fan for circulation. The heating element raises the temperature inside the machine, the fan evenly circulates the heat and removes the moisture, while the trays hold the food you wish to dehydrate.

How to cook a meal using a food dehydrator

Instructions vary from recipe to recipe. Some popular websites for finding recipes include www.trail.recipes and www.backpackingchef.com. Generally:

  1. Prepare the food as outlined in the recipe instructions.
  2. Place the food in the dehydrator tray. Most foods are dehydrated at temperatures of approximately 54 °C for 4–12 hours, but meats are dehydrated at a higher temperature of approximately 68 °C for 6–12 hours.
  3. Store the meal in a vacuum sealer. Most home dehydrated food, when prepared and stored correctly, can last for months and up to a year. However, it depends on the storage method and storage environment.
  4. Rehydrate the meal by adding boiling water to the meal in a pot (using a fuel stove), stir and let stand for 10–15 minutes.

Note: You can also reheat using a vacuum insulated food flask, for example, Thermos® jars. Preheat the food flask with hot tap water for 5 to 10 minutes; empty the water out; put the dehydrated meal in; add boiling water; stir, put the lid on and let sit for 30 minutes.

How do I store the dehydrated food?

You will need a vacuum sealer to store the food you have dehydrated. You can purchase a vacuum sealer from approximately $60.

If you are wanting to take foods that you have dehydrated at home when travelling internationally, you will need to familiarise yourself with the specific rules for bringing dehydrated food into the country you are visiting. Different countries will have different rules.

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