How to Dehydrate Food With an Oven for Backpacking

How to Dehydrate Food With an Oven for Backpacking
People have dehydrated food as long as there's been a need to preserve it. Before electricity and modern appliances, food was salted and dried in the sun. An oven works better because the temperature and environment can be controlled to yield the best results. When you remove moisture from fruits, vegetables and meats, bacteria lack the conditions needed to survive. Unfortunately, dried foods lose some of their vitamins and flavor but they also weigh less, take a lot less space and have a longer shelf life, making them ideal trail foods.


Difficulty: Moderate

Things You’ll Need:
  • Freezer
  • Oven/stove with a "warm" setting
  • Muslin or cheesecloth
  • Toothpicks
  • Colander
  • Potato peeler
  • Cutting board
  • Paring knife
  • Large kitchen knife
  • Large mixing bowl
  • Bottle of marinade
  • Tablespoon measure
  • Lemon juice
  • Kettle
  • Wire basket or mesh bag
  • Scale
  • Oven thermometer
  • Potholder
  • Tupperware containers
  • Freezer bags
Step 1
Make drying racks. Stretch muslin or cheesecloth fabric across each of your oven racks. Hold the fabric in place by pushing toothpicks through it at either end so that your toothpicks press against the outer wires of your racks.
Step 2
Prep the food. Wash your fruits and vegetables and put them in a colander. Use a peeler to peel any hard skinned produce and a paring knife to remove stems, cores and bad parts. Slice and dice the fruits and vegetables into uniform pieces with your kitchen knife.

If you'll be drying meats along with your fruits and vegetables, leave them in the freezer until they're partially frozen, then trim off the fat and slice the remainder into uniform sections.
Step 3
Pretreat the food. Pour water into your mixing bowl and add three tablespoons of lemon juice. Put the prepped fruit into your bowl and leave it there for five minutes.

Reuse the bowl to pretreat your meat by rinsing it out and pouring a bottle of marinade into it. Add the meat that you sliced and set the bowl aside.
Step 4
Blanch the vegetables. Bring a gallon of water to a rolling boil in your kettle and put a pound of prepped vegetables, except mushrooms, onions and sweet peppers, into your wire basket or mesh bag (mushrooms, onions and sweet peppers will come apart in boiling water and lose their shape, making drying difficult). Suspend your basket or bag in the boiling water of a covered kettle for five minutes, then remove it.
Step 5
Dry the food. Set the oven to warm and check the temperature with your oven thermometer to make sure it's between 140 and 150 degrees. Arrange the fruit, vegetables and meat on separate oven racks and wedge your potholder in the door to leave a one inch opening where moisture can escape (this isn't necessary with a gas oven). Leave the meat and produce in your oven for about 12 hours, checking it periodically to see if it's done. Your fruit and meat will be pliable and have a leather-like texture when they're ready and your vegetables will be brittle.
Step 6
Condition the food. Put each rack of dried food into a separate plastic storage container and keep it there until all beads of moisture disappear.
Step 7
Store the food. Transfer the fruit, vegetables and meat to separate freezer bags and squeeze out the air. Put the bags into your plastic storage containers until you're ready to use them.

Tips & Warnings

You can rehydrate vegetables by soaking a cup of them in two cups of water for five minutes. Fruit can be rehydrated by pouring boiling water over it and leaving it in the water for five minutes. To rehydrate meat, cook it in soups or other dishes.
Dried food should be consumed within a month if you store it at room temperature. You can extend its life for three months if you refrigerate it and up to a year if you freeze it.

Article Written By Dan Eash

Dan Eash began writing professionally in 1989, with articles in LaHabra's "Daily Star Progress" and the "Fullerton College Magazine." Since then, he's created scripts for doctor and dentist offices and published manuals, help files and a training video. His freelance efforts also include a book. Eash has a Fullerton College Associate of Arts in music/recording production and a Nova Institute multimedia production certificate.

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