How To Dehydrate Food Using a Microwave Oven

How to dehydrate food without a dehydrator

You may be wondering how to dehydrate food, especially if you don’t have a dehydrator. It’s not a complicated process, and you can master the art of dehydration without any extra equipment. Before you dehydrate fruit, you’ll want to give it a bath in lemon juice and water to preserve the flavor and color of your fruit. You may want to blanch certain vegetables – usually any vegetable you wouldn’t normally eat raw – in boiling water to preserve their color and kill any bacteria. If your fruit or veggies are large, cut them all into the same shape so they can be evenly dehydrated. You’ll want them cut in 1/4 inch strips.

How to dehydrate food in an oven

To dehydrate food in your oven, line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone mate. Arrange your fruits or veggies on the sheet. You can group them close together, but they shouldn’t touch or overlap. Set your oven to the lowest temperature – about 180°F – and put your sheet on the middle rack. Leave the oven door open slightly and let the food bake for at least an hour. When fruit is properly dehydrated, it will be slightly bendable but not sticky. Vegetables will be crisp like chips.

How to dehydrate food in a microwave

You can also dehydrate fruit, vegetables, and herbs in the microwave. Arrange your fruits or vegetables on the glass tray in your microwave, making sure you don’t overlap your food. Pat the slices gently with a paper towel to absorb any moisture. Then, microwave your food. This article from The Food Network gives you microwave times for several fruits and other foods.

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Dehydration temperatures

It’s important to dry food at the correct temperature. Too low of a temperature, and you could be leaving the food in the “danger zone” for too long and risk bacterial growth. Too high of a temperature, and you risk case hardening.

Case hardening occurs when the exterior of the food dries too quickly and forms a tough case around the outside, which will prevent the interior from properly dehydrating, trapping moisture inside which can cause mold and spoilage during storage.

Food that has case-hardened can look properly dehydrated since the exterior has dried, so it’s important to avoid it altogether by using the right temperature. It is always a good idea to check a few pieces by slicing them in half, squeezing them, and seeing if any moisture presses out.

Here are the dehydration temperature guidelines for different types of food:

95°F Herbs125°F Vegetables125°F Beans and Lentils135°F Fruit145°F Grains145°F Pre-cooked Meats160°F Meat, Seafood165°F Poultry

As you can see, there is quite a variation in temperatures, which is why it’s important to make sure you’re grouping foods together appropriately if you’re dehydrating more than one type of ingredient at the same time (like when dehydrating full meals).

If you need to speed up the dehydration process, just turning up the heat is NOT an option. Instead, you can either cut your food into thinner/smaller pieces or load less into your dehydrator.

Primary Differences Between a Dehydrator and a Microwave How They Work

There are several differences between a microwave and dehydrator. Mostly in how these two kitchen appliances work. Let’s have a look at some features of these kitchen appliances where they vary from each other.

1) Cooking Capacity

A microwave has a limited cooking capacity. If you try to cook a big piece of food in a microwave, you might not get optimum results as the microwaves can’t penetrate deep into a piece of food.

A dehydrator, on the other hand, has an extensive cooking capacity as many dehydrator models come with expandable trays that can be added on top of the trays that dehydrator comes with. What’s more, many dehydrator models allow you to remove the trays and dry large pieces of food or cook dishes that are in large containers.

2) Cooking method

A dehydrator uses a heating element that circulates hot air in the dehydrator trays and a fan that blows hot air all through the trays. Dehydrator models also contain vents that allow for removal of moisture from the food so that the food can dry quickly.

Advanced dehydrator models have variable temperature so that food can be dried quickly and efficiently. Most drying cycles run from a few to several hours depending on the kind of food that is being cooked and the moisture level in the food.

Microwaves use electromagnetic waves to heat the food molecules that further heat up the surrounding food by convection. The food in the microwaves gets cooked quickly as the electromagnetic waves operate at high temperatures.

3) Appliance Controls

A dehydrator has simple controls. Even the most advanced models will have controls for a thermostat and a timer. But a microwave, on the other hand, has a plethora of control options that include everything from heating food to grilling, boiling liquids, microwaving, baking, and much more.

It can often be confusing to operate a microwave, but using a dehydrator is often as simple as putting in the food and switching it on. You can also buy dehydrators that have a fixed temperature setting and you just need to plug them in and they start heating up and drying food. A microwave often needs to be pre-heated to start baking.

4) A Fan

Dehydrators work by removing moisture from the food and then venting the moisture filled air through the vents in the dehydrator. Advanced dehydrators also vary the temperature from high to low to bring out the inner moisture in the food to its surface. A powerful fan is crucial in circulating hot air through the trays of the foods and also in removing the moisture from the foods.

A microwave can’t offer such a powerful combination of features as it only uses electromagnetic waves for heating up the food from the inside. It might remove the moisture from the surface of the food, but removing it from inside is something that only a dehydrator can do.

How to Dehydrate Without Electricity

If you’re looking for alternate methods for dehydrating your foods and increasing shelf life without electricity, there are a few options. For instance, one of the most traditional methods for dehydrating foods and making jerky is to fire dry your products simply. Fire drying works best for meat when you cut the meat into thin slices.

Use wood to create a fire or build a fire pit or charcoal grill. Come up with a way of hanging your food over the fire, using poles to make a kind of bed. This will help you focus the right amount of heat on the food at low temperatures to reduce moisture content. Keep the fire smoking or smouldering all day to get the best results.

Other ways to dehydrate without electricity include:

Hang food to dry. If you live in a dry area, then you don’t need to worry about using a custom dehydrator for dehydrating food. Look for a spot that’s free from pests and bugs, and leave your foods to dry in the natural heat. This method works best for things you can put in a plastic bag, like small fruits, leafy items, and herbs.

Use a homemade dehydrator: You could even look into using a homemade dehydrator to create dried fruit and other products with lower temperature settings. Other dehydrating methods that don’t rely on electricity need access to a consistent low heat source.

This means you could potentially make your dehydrator with a heating system and a fan at home. Just make sure you’re ready to be patient with the dehydration process. Using unique dehydrating methods can lead to varying results.

Use a slow cooker: you may be able to use a slow cooker to create some kinds of dehydrated foods, like ground beef crumbles, for instance. However, it’s best to do your research in advance. Cooking without a dehydrator can be more complex with some ingredients than others. Make sure you know what’s safe to dehydrate without a dedicated machine

Dehydrating In an Air Fryer

More people have air fryers compared to dehydrators and it honestly makes sense that you would want to use it to dry food. Air fryers are extremely versatile pieces of cooking equipment whereas dehydrators only have one function.

  1. Set your air fryer on the lowest possible setting. Any temperature higher than 123°F and the food will start to cook instead of dry.
  2. Place the food in a single layer on the food rack or shelf. This will help the air circulate right around each item.
  3. Put the dehydrator on and allow it to run for a couple of hours. The exact amount of time will depend on the item you want to dehydrate and the size and thickness of it.

Air fryers are very effective when it comes to dehydrating. The biggest problem area you will find is that you cannot make large batches of dehydrated food and you also have to possibly cut the pieces smaller to fit inside the air fryer.

Other than that, the air fryer produces beautifully and evenly crispy well-dried food products. We would highly recommend drying fruits inside the air fryer as it helps intensify their natural flavors while preserving their texture.

Mushrooms, apples, stone fruits, tomatoes, and berries are some of the hardest ingredients to dry for this exact reason. Well, we can safely say that we have tried dehydrating all of them in our air fryer and it worked perfectly!

Tips For Dehydrating In An Air Fryer

Dehydrating in an air fryer can be tricky to get at first, so here’s a few tips for when you start you dry out your own food.

  • Do not stack food! As with any other dehydrating method, you absolutely have to place the food in a single layer. This is the only way the ingredients will dry at the same pace and also dry evenly.
  • If you have a drying recipe that uses a dehydrator, you can use the same time and temperature settings for your air fryer (if possible). Otherwise, just set the air fryer to the lowest setting and leave it for a couple of hours. You have to check in every hour to see the progress.
  • A good indication that your food has been properly dehydrated (and for long enough) is to check its consistency. If the item is soft or sticky you need to continue the dehydrating time. The food should be hard and crunchy before being removed. Make sure to keep your dehydrated food away from any humidity, moisture, or breezes.
  • Before you start dehydrating, make sure that all your food has been prepped. We highly recommend washing your ingredients before dehydrating them (if possible. Then, before placing them in a dehydrator, make sure to pat them dry with a paper towel.
  • Allow the dehydrated food to cool completely before storing it. Also, it is extremely important to store the food inside an airtight container away from any moisture, air, or direct sunlight. A pantry or food cupboard works best.

Recipes for Dehydrated Foods

If you’re new to dehydrating foods, we have a fun challenge for you — try one of the recipes below! We think you’re going to fall in love with this way of preserving food and creating amazing cuisine. If you’re already a dehydrating enthusiast, we hope you find some new inspiration below!

The Mushroom Bacon is tasty and satisfying on salads, in grain bowls, or as a topping on a plant-based burger. The “Cheesy” Chickpea Croutons are irresistible as a snack and also add delicious flavor and crunch to soups and salads. Swap out fried potato chips with the Lemon Garlic Dill Squash Chips. And create countless combinations of fruit leather using Mixed Berry and Banana Fruit Leather as your guide. You can even get the kids or grandkids involved in granola bar making by dehydrating Pumpkin Pecan Granola Bars into a crunchy and healthy snack-on-the-go. Once you’re done, make sure to share your dehydrating experience with us!

1. Mushroom Bacon

The beauty of mushroom bacon (besides being health

The beauty of mushroom bacon (besides being healthier than traditional bacon since it’s dried and not cured — and is from a plant and not an animal) is that you can use just about any mushroom you like. We chose button mushrooms, but you could try this recipe with shiitake, portobello, or cremini instead. They’ll all be savory and scrumptious!

2. Cheesy Chickpea Croutons

Dehydrating chickpeas simply changes the texture f

Dehydrating chickpeas simply changes the texture from soft to crunchy, creating a unique experience and new use for chickpeas! Cheesy chickpeas can serve as a fun and crunchy snack, as a topper for your kale caesar salad, or on top of vegan broccoli cheddar soup.

3. Lemon Garlic Dill Squash Chips

Are you a crunchy snack lover? Make thinly sliced

Are you a crunchy snack lover? Make thinly sliced squash your best friend by combining it with any spice blend you love, and then dehydrate it for a healthy crispy treat. Try the lemon garlic dill chip if you’re looking for something bright and refreshing that’s packed with nutrition like fiber, carotenes, and vitamin C!

4. Mixed Berry and Banana Fruit Leather

Store-bought fruit snacks can include processed sugar — sometimes more sugar than fruit! Making your own fruit leather at home is not only healthier, but it’s also lots of fun! Plus, it gives you an opportunity to use and preserve any fruit you think might go bad before it’s eaten. Options for creating fun fruit snacks are endless, from pineapple mango to apple kiwi to berry banana. Use this recipe as a guide for all of your fruit leather creations to come!

5. Pumpkin Pecan Granola Bars

Need a snack on the run or something healthy and energizing the kids can bring to school? Unlike store-bought bars, our dehydrated Pumpkin Pecan Granola Bars are made with 100% whole food ingredients using dates as a sweetener, healing spices (not flavoring!), and whole pumpkin and pecan. Customize them by adding your favorite flavors, like vegan chocolate chips, dried apricot, or apples.

Heres how to dehydrate your own beef (or any meat):

  1. Cook it well (steam, paise, simmer in a small amount of water, or cook in a pressure cooker for 35 minutes)
  2. Slice it thin, or cut in 1/2 inch cubes, or grind it if you like (it will dehydrate faster when ground up).
  3. Dehydrator: Spread the cubes sparingly over trays and dry at 140 degrees F (60 degrees C) for about 6 hours (or follow the directions that came with your dehydrator).
  4. Oven: Spread over trays and dry at 140 degrees F for about 6 hours, then stir cubes/slices and lower temperature to 130 degrees F (55 degrees C) and continue drying until hard. Keep door of oven ajar.
  5. Sun: Spread cooked cubes in a thin layer over trays and place in a well-ventilated place in full sun. Dry until hard, stiring occasionally. Drying time will depend on the weather and the moisture in the meat, but should be from 2-3 days. Take trays inside at night.

How to rehydrate:

Pour 1 cup of boiling water over 1 cup meat cubes. Soak for 3 to 4 hours, or until water is absorbed. Use in any recipe calling for cooked meat. Or pour boiling water over meat and simmer over low heat for 45-50 minutes.

How can you tell if dried fruit is bad?

Dried fruits are a popular go-to snack around the world as they are tasty and nutritious. Dehydrated and dried fruits stay fresh for up to a year and are easy to store. While most dried fruits stay fresh and edible for a long time some go bad. It is important to check whether the dry fruits are good or bad before using them. Dried fruits that have been in storage for more than six months should be checked before use. A few signs that help to identify bad dried fruit are

  1. Moisture The presence of moisture in the dried fruit container is a clear indicator that it has gone bad. Moisture promotes bacterial growth which makes the dried fruit unsafe for consumption. If there is any moisture in the container or bag of dried fruit then it must be disposed of.
  2. Mold The appearance of black or fuzzy spots on the dried fruits is a sign of mold. Mold is usually caused due to the presence of moisture. Temperature fluctuations are also a factor that promotes the growth of mold. Dried fruit should be checked for mold or any other visible change before being used.
  3. Smell Bad dried fruits can give off a distinct and strong smell. This smell is different from the expected fruity smell that is expected from them. Dried fruits that have gone bad due to poor storage or incorrect dehydration often give out a bad smell.
  4. TasteBad dried fruits will taste different than usual as they lose their flavor. A clear sign would be that these dried fruits will taste bland when compared to good dried fruits.
  5. Texture A change in the texture or shape of the dried fruits is also an indication that they have gone bad. Some dried fruits can become hard and chewy as they go bad. A change in texture does not necessarily mean that the dried fruit is unfit for use. It is still considered to be a sign of spoilage and they should be avoided.

How long does vacuum sealed dehydrated food last?

Vacuum sealed dehydrated food can last for up to 30 years if it is stored in the right conditions. Vacuum storing is a process in which the air is taken out of the storage bag and a vacuum is created.

This air-less environment helps to keep the dehydrated food safe for a longer period of time. Vacuum sealed dehydrated food can be stored in a refrigerator, freezer or pantry. Depending on where the food is stored its shelf life will increase or decrease.

The shelf life of the dehydrated food in vacuum-sealed bags also depends upon their type. Dehydrated fruits and meats have a shorter shelf life when compared to vegetables.

  1. Refrigerator Refrigerated vacuum sealed dehydrated food can last for more than 6 months. The steady temperature in the refrigerator keeps the dehydrated food from going bad. The shelf life of dehydrated food increases when they are refrigerated. Dried fruit in the refrigerator can be stored for 5 years in a vacuum-sealed container. Dried vegetables can be stored for more than 10 years in a vacuum-sealed bag in the freezer.
  2. Freezer Storing food in the freezer is a common household practice. Many people freezer cooked and uncooked food in the freezer for future use. Storing vacuum-sealed dehydrated food in the freezer is a great way to prolong its shelf life. Sensitive and delicate foods like jerky, dehydrated meats and fruits should be frozen. Frozen dried food can be stored for more than 10 years in vacuum-sealed bags.
  3. PantryMost dehydrated food can be stored in the pantry away from direct heat and sunlight. These foods can last for up to 3 months if proper storage conditions are met. Vacuum sealed dehydrated foods can be stored in the pantry for a longer time. The shelf life of these foods is slightly more than the dehydrated food in other containers. This is because there is an absence of air in a vacuum-sealed pack which prevents bacteria growth. This, in turn, helps to keep the dehydrated food fresher for a longer period of time. Jerky can be stored for 1 month in a vacuum-sealed pack and placed in a cool place. Dried fruit can be stored for up to 5 years and dried vegetables can be stored for over 8 years.

Is Air fryer good at dehydrating foods?

Not all air fryers have the dehydrating function. I bet you want to know which ones do come with this feature. If you are looking for a device that serves as an oven, microwave, and dehydrator altogether, then look out for some famous brand and research well before purchasing.

The air fryer with multipurpose functions will help you to save money on buying a food dehydrator. Besides, the space to keep the air fryer is enormous, which is perfect for dehydrating foods. In Particular, they will be less expensive than the standard dehydrator.

Thousands of air fryers in the market make it hard for you to find the best one. However, if you spend time researching, there is nothing impossible.

You should check the air fryer with high quality and an excellent function of dehydration. Most air fryers will have the control settings for temperature and time.

It is very much helpful to dehydrate food as you desire. The air fryers can cook many types of food without using oil. It will make people live healthier.

The hot air circulation in air fryers will remove all moisture of food and make it perfect compared to the food dehydrators. Primarily, it is straightforward to run and maintain. You don’t need any training when you start to use it because it is straightforward to use.

New Ways To Dehydrate Food

So, we have just discussed the many traditional ways in which food is dehydrated, but let’s take a look at some more modern methods.

While the traditional methods have their pros and cons, the main reason newer methods were developed is for safety reasons.

Most of the traditional methods expose the food to a ton of foreign objects, making it sometimes very difficult to dehydrate food safely and without risk. The food is exposed to pests, air pollution, dust, and other hazardous items.

These modern methods all take place indoors and in enclosed controlled environments. Some of these methods used and even pieces of equipment are much more advanced compared to others, but nevertheless, they all work great!

Microwave

In our opinion, microwaves (in terms of dehydrating food) are only good for herbs. Because it uses an intense amount of heat, it usually just leaves food tasting overcooked rather than dried.

With herbs though, it is a great way to remove virtually all of the moisture in almost no time. We would recommend working in small batches to ensure all the herbs dry evenly and effectively.

To dry food in the microwave, simply place about 4-5 branches between two pieces of paper towel, set the microwave to its highest setting, and heat them for roughly 2-3 minutes.

Once the time has elapsed, allow the herbs to cool completely before checking them.

They should be dry and brittle after they have cooled. If not, place them back into the microwave for about 30 seconds at a time. Repeat until they are completely dry.

Oven-Drying

Oven drying is arguably the most popular household drying method, especially when you don’t have or want to buy any special equipment.

Ovens take quite a while to dehydrate food, but work well for large batches and can dry virtually anything. This incredibly long drying period is because ovens do not have fans to help circulate hot air.

To dehydrate food in the oven, set the oven to roughly 140°F or the lowest temperature that it can go. If your oven has a “keep warm” setting, use that one. If your temperature is too high, the food will cook instead of slowly dehydrating.

To dry food in an oven, simply place the ingredients in a single layer and place the tray inside. Make sure the oven door is propped open about 2-4 inches. Place a fan near the door so that it helps circulate the air inside.

Dehydrators

Dehydrators are technologically advanced pieces of cookware that are specifically designed to dehydrate food.

They work using electricity and are so efficient that they can dehydrate your food in much less time compared to virtually any other method we have covered already. 

They basically work like ovens, but they have a built-in fan to help circulate the air. They run at very low temperatures and have multiple levels of mesh screens so that you can dry bulk quantities evenly.

How to Dehydrate Fruits

The best dehydrator recipes produce healthy, pleasant-tasting foods that make a great snack. To improve the taste of your dehydrated food and make the process user-friendly, focus on the preparation before dehydrating.

First, rinse your fruit with cold water – not boiling water. Once cleaned, blot the food dry using parchment paper before adding to trays. Ensure the fruit is thoroughly dry before placing it in a dehydrator.

Alternatively, soak the fruit in ¼ cup lime juice and 1 cup water. As a general rule of thumb remember that the thinner you cut your fruit, the less liquid you’ll need, and the less time the fruit will take to dehydrate. Cut the fruit into thin slices. Place parchment paper onto the trays and add the fruit on top. In an average food dehydrator, fruit takes around six hours to dehydrate completely.

How Do You Know It’s Ready?

To confirm that it’s dehydrated correctly, pinch the fruit to see if any moisture squeezes out. If moisture comes out, the fruit isn’t properly dehydrated. It’s essential that you cut your fruit evenly so that the entire batch finishes at the same time.

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