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Freeze Dried vs Dehydrated Food: Is Freeze Dried and Dehydrated the Same?

Freeze Dried vs Dehydrated Food

Food preservation is the art of retaining the longevity of food products until consumed. Two popular methods of food preservation are “dehydration” and “freeze drying”. One often makes the mistake of implying both the food preservation methods synonymously. However, freeze drying and dehydration are two unique and different food preservation methods used to extend the shelf life of food spanning decades.

This article explores the brief history of the two methods, their differences, their pros and cons, and presents a little FAQ section to help you understand better.

A Brief History

One of the oldest methods of food preservation is dehydration. Our prehistoric ancestors, dating back to 10,000 BC, used the natural sunlight to dry seeds and meat for years around consumption. Dehydration reduced moisture from the food and inhibited the growth of microorganisms. Food items like eggs, rice, fish, and meat were sun-dried and preserved through the process of dehydration as evident from evidence found in Japan, China, Italy and many other countries across continents.

Modern dehydration techniques were developed in France around 1795. Presently, there exists various dehydration equipment like vacuum dryers, kiln dryers, tunnel dryers, and cabinet dryers that allow foods to be dehydrated and preserved at home. Dehydrating can happen electronically through the use of above referred equipment or it can be natural such as drying seeds or meats under the sun.

Jacques-Arsene d’Arsonval invented the freeze-drying technique, technically known as lyophilization, in 1906 in Paris, France. It became immensely popular during World War II when a solution was needed to transport preserved blood serums which were otherwise getting spoiled by the time it reached the soldiers at the frontline. The technique was later applied to foods in the 1950s.

Freeze drying technique is widely used in the pharmaceuticals and the food industry. According to Mordor Intelligence, the freeze dried food industry is expected to reach $66.5 billion by 2021. The Asia Pacific and South America are the largest growing markets while North America has a 35% global share.

Freeze Dried vs Dehydrated Food: 5 Major Differences

There are five major differences between freeze dried and dehydrated foods:

1. Food Taste

The taste of the food is a strong determinant of our food choices. Some people prefer spicy foods while others enjoy a rather bland diet. Neither the freeze dried nor the dehydration process impacts the taste of the much significantly. However, given the nature of preservation techniques used, there might be a difference in the flavor of the food: one might seem richer than the other.

Food industry experts believe that since the freeze dried method uses minimal heat, the food retains its original taste to a large extent. The natural texture of the food is retained and the nutritional value remains intact. In comparison, the dehydration process uses a high heat percentage to remove moisture from the food which compromises the flavor, texture, and the original smell of the food. This is the reason why freeze dried foods are found to have better flavor as compared to the dehydrated foods.

2. Shelf Life

The shelf life of a food depends on its moisture content. Vegetables with higher water content such as spinach, cucumber, or gourds spoil easily whereas ginger and garlic does not. An increase in moisture reduces the shelf life of the fruit or vegetable. The primary governing principle involved in both the freeze drying and dehydration process is the controlled reduction of the moisture levels.

Home dehydration removes around 70% of the moisture which will increase the shelf life to around one year while the industrial dehydration process removes around 95% of the moisture content and increases the shelf life to around 15 years. In the freeze drying process, up to 99% of the moisture is eliminated which is why such foods can last for 25 years! The freeze drying method has been created for long term food storage. It successfully retains various vitamins and minerals, as per the American Institute of Cancer Research.

Both the freeze dried and dehydrated food should be stored in cool temperatures. A temperature of 70 degrees Fahrenheit is recommended by experts.

3. Cooking & Nutrition

The cooking or preparation time of freeze dried food is less than the dehydrated food. All you need to do is add the recommended level of water, heat it, and eat. All freeze dried foods are pre-cooked. Once heated, the natural flavor, taste, and nutrition of the food is back. In comparison, dehydrated food needs to be cooked after rehydration. The cooking time depends on the nature of the dehydrated food and it can have a significant impact on your work schedule.

As per experts, around 97% of the nutritional value is retained in freeze dried food while the dehydrated food retains around 60% of the original nutrients (source).

4. Weight & Storage

Food weight and storage are two critical factors when deciding between freeze dried food and dehydrated food. While either of the processes reduces the overall weight of the food due to the reduction in moisture content, however, compared to food dehydration, the freeze dried food is lighter, easier to store and carry anywhere.

For example, if you are trekking, hiking, or camping, you will need to carry food that does not take up too much space and is lighter in weight. All you need is enough water to rehydrate the food and consume. Freeze dried foods like fruits and vegetables require minimal water to become fit for consumption. In contrast, dehydrated foods are heavy and require a bigger storage space. Your preference between the two is dependent on your overall purpose.

5. Equipment

Freeze drying of food happens on an industrial scale. It requires advanced equipment and a complex process that cannot happen in home kitchens – the situation might change in the future though. Until then, you cannot freeze dry food at home and can only buy readied products from the market. The food is exposed to a low temperature of -40 degree Fahrenheit or lower, which creates a vacuum around the food as the temperature gets regulated, leading to the sublimation of the frozen water. Dehydration also happens on an industrial scale but there is equipment available for home use, as explained in the later part of the article.

Pros and Cons of Freeze Dried Food

The major pros and cons of freeze dried food are explained below.

Pros

Affordability

Freeze dried foods or freeze dried desserts are affordable. It is produced in bulk and transportation costs less than transporting other fresh available foods like fish or meat. They are packaged neatly and can be bought off-the-shelf from any departmental store.

Lightweight and Portable

The freeze drying process is such that it reduces the weight of the food, which makes it light and portable. It can be stored anywhere within airtight containers. Storing large amounts of freeze dried food would not make the storage bulky.

Nutritional

The freeze dried food retains its nutritional value – its quality, shape, size, and taste never gets reduced after going through the freeze drying process. Warming or directly eating freeze dried food will have the same taste and quality as the freshly made food.

Long Shelf Life

Freeze dried foods are extremely helpful in emergency situations as it has a longer shelf life. It can last months and years without refrigeration. For example, freeze dried foods are sent for astronauts living at the International Space Station (ISS).

Consuming freeze dried food requires rehydration of the food and it is not always necessary to cook it before consumption.

Cons

Some freeze dried foods are costly particularly because of the method and equipment used in producing it. However, if you want to depend on freeze dried foods for the long-term, chalk up a manageable budget and buy in bulk as it proves to be cheaper. Since freeze dried foods are edible for years to come, they can be stored easily without any fear of long-term spoilage.

Pros and Cons of Dehydrated Food

The major pros and cons of dehydrated food are explained below.

Pros

One-Time Expense

There are various kinds of dehydration equipment that can be purchased and installed in your home kitchen. With proper handling and management, these equipment can last for years and thus, it is a one-time expense. All you need to do is purchase fresh food and then dehydrate it at home. It saves a lot of money in the long-run. Buying dehydrated foods directly from the grocery store regularly will prove to be a costly activity.

Waste Reduction

The food dehydration process helps to reduce kitchen waste. It has been seen that around 40% of foods purchased by families are wasted. For example, overripe fruits are often thrown in the dustbin. Instead, you can put it in the dehydrator to control spoilage and store it for later consumption. The same works for leftover foods that can be dehydrated and consumed at a later date.

Retains Taste

Dehydrated foods retain the exact taste and texture of the food. For example, dehydrated corn tastes amazing when roasted, right? It assumes its fresh nature again when cooked and tastes delicious. It retains its nutritional value as well. Dehydration techniques are akin to natural preservation of foods as our ancestors did. Air drying or sun drying foods retain their natural element.

Cons

Preservatives

While the dehydrated foods bought from the grocery have a higher shelf life, remember that the reason is the addition of preservatives that might be harmful to the health. Preservatives, which are often chemicals, successfully prolong the life of the food but it can also change the composition of food.

For example, dehydrated bananas or berries may not be good for your health because a high amount of sugar is added as a preservative. High sugar consumption is often harmful for your health. This is the reason why home dehydration and preservation of food is recommended as you can control the process.

High Calorie Intake

Dehydrated food sees an increase in calorie count as compared to fresh food. The reduction in water content during the dehydration process increases the calorie content in the food, which can often trigger gain in body weight. To state an example for better understanding, a cup of fresh apples has 57 calories and a cup of dehydrated apples has 208 calories. If you are dieting, rethink before opting for consumption of any kind of dehydrated food purchased from grocery stores.

A Short FAQ

Is freeze dried and dehydrated food safe for consumption?

Yes, both the freeze dried and dehydrated food is safe for consumption. Both the methods reduce the moisture content from the food to prevent the growth of microorganisms.

Is freeze dried and dehydrated food nutritious?

Yes, they are. Freeze dried food retains higher nutritional value due to the method used in storing the food.

How are freeze dried and dehydrated food stored?

Both the freeze dried and dehydrated food should be stored in airtight containers to prevent the growth of moisture from the air. The airtight containers can be purchased from retail stores at an affordable price.

Are freeze dried and dehydrated foods recommended for kids?

Kids should consume freeze dried and dehydrated food in moderation; freshly made food is recommended and preferred. However, such preserved vegan freeze dried foods retain their nutritional value; therefore, even kids can consume them.

From where can freeze dried and dehydrated food be purchased?

Since freeze drying is a complex process that requires high-end machines, they are best purchased from retail outlets, grocery stores or online freeze dried food stores where they are preserved at the right cooling temperature. The dehydration process can happen at home too if the proper method is followed.

Conclusion Both freeze dried and dehydration are preferred methods of food preservation. They have their own pros and cons. Choose either one based on your food preferences and requirements. If you want to start exploring food preservation, try dehydrating foods in your home kitchen. Taste few freeze dried food products to understand the differences between the two.

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10 Benefits Of Freeze Dried Foods While Traveling

Pull up a chair. Take a taste. Come join us. Life is so endlessly delicious.” – Ruth Reichl

When it comes to food, most people may not always hesitate to try something new, something different. It is one of the qualities of food lovers; they’re always up for new stuff. But more than the taste, one must also consider eating healthy. Especially when you are on a journey or a backpacking trip. After all, you can’t always depend on junk food. There has to be a healthy alternative. This is where easy travel prep meals come into the picture. This is a food that is not only dehydrated but freeze dried while retaining all its essential nutrients and can be taken for months.

While traveling, access to healthy food is a big challenge. We usually have to depend on whatever food is available, which most of the time is junk, containing unwanted calories, fats, and may lead to several health issues on the trip and later as well. This is where freeze dried foods prove to be your best companions. When on a trip, you need to stay healthy, which means you need to consume appropriate nutrients, which is exactly what freeze dried foods offer.

These foods become all the more important while traveling as you get a sufficient intake of all kinds of vitamins and minerals. While the food at airports, stations, or any other spot may not provide you with the required essentials as they are mostly fast foods.  

Freeze dried fruits and vegetables are specifically different than other regular foods as they undergo a process where the water content in them is removed while being in a frozen state and they are completely dried using low pressure.

Here’s how freeze drying of food takes place?

The freeze drying process is more about producing clean, dry, and nutritionally rich products that help you have a safe and healthy journey. So before we can turn to the health benefits of freeze drying, we shall delve into the process of freeze drying to understand the exact procedure. Also known as lyophilization, freeze drying revolves around the removal of moisture, which is the major reason behind the food contamination, from raw and frozen products through vacuum and sublimation. The frozen raw product is then cut down to the required piece size and spread evenly onto trays which are stored in freezers. What happens now is that the sized product freezes at an even colder temperature, reaching an optimal state at which the original shape of the product can be retained. The trays, in the next stage, are filled into a freeze-drying chamber, which is refrigerated and is tightly shut. The chamber’s vacuum system removes ice from the product converting it directly into a vapor without moving through the liquid state, in a process called sublimation.

We also need to know the types of food that can be packed, stored, and consumed during a journey. Here are a few freeze dried food options that you can take along on your backpacking trip or a journey of more than a few weeks and months:

For full-fledged meals

  • MRE beef meal is the perfect pick for your trip to colder areas. This product is ready to eat meal that is rich in high nutritional content. With zero refrigeration required, it has a shelf life of up to 5 years when stored at 70 degrees or cooler.
  • Chiang Mai Coconut Curry with Beef: This combination of rice noodles with beef is just the perfect blend of taste and nutrients that you would love on the way. A meal that is gluten and dairy-free.

Apart from this, there’s chicken & rice, chicken lasagna, cooked chicken and much more for your go-to pantry

For Breakfast

  • Summit breakfast scramble New 2020: The product contains red beans, scrambled eggs, cheddar cheese, and pepper, perfect for a morning on a backpacking trip in the mountains.
  • Risotto with chicken: This blend of creamy Parmesan cheese, rice broccoli corn, onion, bell pepper, and tomatoes is an ideal breakfast on a long journey.

Well, there are infinite options to choose from right from Peanut butter & raisin oatmeal to Granola with bananas, almonds & milk, that make for a perfectly healthy breakfast, which is both easy to make and lightweight.

Here are some major benefits of freeze dried foods:

  • Travel-friendly

What makes freeze dried food popular is their travel friendliness. These products are perfectly suited for travel. A journey where you need to travel for days, even months, where food stores are scarce and junk food in abundance, freeze dried products are perfect for such kind of a travel. Not only does it requires minimum space, but is also lightweight, which makes it an ideal item for even backpacking trips.

  • Easy to prepare

Dehydrated foods require cooking, even seasoning sometimes. So one needs to boil the food and let it cook for some time. This usually takes at least 15 minutes to four hours.  One most beneficial aspect of freeze dried foods is that they can be easily prepared. So you just need to add hot or cold water to the freeze dried food and you’re good to go. In other words, they make for a quick meal option, wherever you are.

So be it a hotel room or a primitive area with the least available facilities, you can prepare a meal for yourself easily. Like if you have freeze dried sweet potatoes with you, all you need to do is rehydrate them by adding water and let them soak the heat and you’re good to go. Freeze dried fruits on the contrary can also be consumed directly from the pack as they do not require rehydration.

  • Highly convenient

There is a reason why freeze dried food is so popularly used on backpacking trips. The products are extremely easy to carry. Because of the freeze drying process, the food becomes lightweight as the water content is removed and obviously becomes smaller than the actual size. This is why freeze dried food can fit into your suitcase or bags comfortably. Freeze dried fruits and vegetables can be directly consumed without hydrating them. These work as an instant energy booster while hiking or trekking.

  • Great durability

Freeze dried foods can be stored for a long time. If you happen to travel to a place with no refrigeration facility or a place where you cannot adjust to the menus, you could always depend on freeze dried foods. Since they do not require refrigeration, they can be well-stored and consumed as they won’t go bad. So if you are traveling for more than one day, freeze dried foods will always have your back. Fresh produce cannot be stored as it poses the threat of food poisoning. Therefore, the high durability of freeze dried food is the main reason why it is preferred by trekkers and hikers and even during emergencies.

  • Highly nutritional
  • One of the best things about freeze dried foods is that they are rich in nutrients. This is very important because the body needs all kinds of vitamins and minerals, especially when you’re out on a tour where most of the food you will find is junk. Even though the fresh produce may have slightly more nutrients than freeze dried foods, the latter is rich in fiber and antioxidants, making the nutritional difference negligible.
  • Dehydrating and canning involve the heating of food which usually hampers the nutritional value of the food by breaking down its vitamin and mineral contents like vitamins A and C, thiamine, riboflavin, and niacin. Further, the taste is also affected as the food fibers are broken down, which even changes the texture of the food.
  • According to the process mentioned above, the actual color and shape of the raw materials are also retained and maintained due to freeze drying. Since the raw materials remain intact and unspoiled, the body can efficiently consume the food while maintaining its required level of nutritional intake. All this makes Freeze dried food highly nutritious and beneficial for the body. Several health issues can be avoided and tackled if it is carried along on long journeys.
  • Emergency food

Freeze dried food is a lifesaver during emergencies too, where you do not have access to food. In situations where you are stuck in an isolated place or if your car breaks down in the middle of the journey with nowhere to go, having freeze fried foods packed with you is a blessing in disguise. This is the reason freeze dried food is sent to places with emergencies such as floods or other natural disasters.

  • Making the food scrumptious

Not only does freeze drying increases the nutritional value of the food, it also makes it more appetizing. When you dehydrate the food, it becomes hard and crunchy, and if the same food is freeze dried, it tends to become soft again as soon as you put it in the mouth. It thus is nutritious as well as succulent. Apart from dried fruits and vegetables, even dairy products can be freeze dried. On first thought, cheese or yogurt or any dairy product for that matter, may not be your first choice for freeze drying. But surprisingly, probiotics and nutrients in a dairy can be best preserved through freeze drying. Rehydration of cheese is quite easy and once rehydrated; this cheese melts just as good in the mouth as regular cheese.

  • Lightening the food

If you are traveling for days, you are going to need food that will not just last for days but will fit properly in your bags without making them heavy. And, freeze dried food is definitely light and easy to carry. It can be carried along for months without worrying about food poisoning.

  • Longevity

What freeze dried food is popular for is its surprising durability. Dried fruits, soy powder, and dried vegetables have a shelf life of about 20 years and items like honey, salt, and sugar have shelf value of almost 30 years. These foods have the highest and longest durability with the food remaining edible for at least 25 to 30 years. Furthermore, this food can be stored at extreme temperatures. It can survive extremely hot and cold climatic conditions without getting affected. So the longevity of these products is one of the major reasons why they are carried along during long journeys.

  • Low in calories

In contemporary times, where one needs to take the utmost care of their health, freeze dried foods offer the best solution. The junk food which is commonly found around us is hazardous for health. It is rich in calories, which ultimately leads to obesity and other severe health issues. So in order to avoid such a mess while on a trip, depending on freeze dried foods is the best option as it not just keeps you energetic but also fulfills your body’s nutritional needs. These foods take care of your health by keeping the calorie intake in check.

So Freeze dried food is the perfect solution for an emergency or a backpacking trip. As compared to the conventionally dried fruits and vegetables, freeze dried foods offer much lesser calories and are healthier. Lesser the calories, lower the chances of unwanted health issues. As these foods undergo a vigorous process of vacuum and sublimation, which dehydrates them while freezing, they make for a healthy food option for longer journeys. Apart from being lightweight, freeze dried foods are easy to digest too. And, digestion becomes important when one is traveling for months. Therefore, when on a backpacking trip, or a year-long tour, don’t forget to pack freeze dried meals for traveling as these ensure a balanced and healthy diet on the way.