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Dehydration Concerns
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Dan Durston
(dandydan) - M

Locale: Cascadia
Dehydration Concerns on 09/04/2010 20:03:10 MDT Print View

The past few days have been my first foray into dehydrating foods. I did some reading online and used my oven to dehydrate several foods. Here's what I have dehydrated:

1) Homemade Chili w medium ground beef
2) Baked chicken breast, then cut into small pieces and dehydrated for adding to pasta.
3) Chicken fried in chili seasoning for fajita's.
4) Medium Ground Beef for adding to spaghetti

Since I dehydrated that stuff I've done some more reading on here and discovered that using medium/regular ground beef isn't ideal and it's best to use lean or extra lean. Do you guys think my medium ground beef will be a problem? My hike is 9 days. I could eat the beef earlier on in the trip if needed. Also, is there something I should add (ie. salt?) to improve the situation? I've put these dehydrated foods into freezer bags and frozen it until the trip which starts Monday.

I've still got time to re-do the beef if needed. What do you guys think?

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Dehydration Concerns on 09/04/2010 20:18:33 MDT Print View

The conventional wisdom is that you need to start with very lean meat, because fat does not dehydrate properly. If there is too much fat, then it can all turn bad. I suppose that if there is just a little, you might be able to get by (but I have not gone that route in a long time).

I agree that you will get better results by keeping it in the freezer for now. Then, 9 days? That is kind of on the long side for what I feel comfortable with.

If you have the time, you might set that beef aside for home consumption and do another batch with extra-lean meat.

--B.G.--

Rod Lawlor
(Rod_Lawlor) - MLife

Locale: Australia
Check your chicken on 09/04/2010 20:58:53 MDT Print View

Dan, I think your beef will be fine, esp if you eat it early in the trip. Don't leave it sitting around in the sun in the days before you eat it.

I'd be more concerned about your chicken. Have you tried rehydrating the small cubes yet? My exp is that these come back just a little tougher than Vibram boot soles. When we dehydrated for a 5week trip, we had to go to minced (ground) chicken. It worked fine. Apparently canned or pressure cooked chicken also works.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife

Locale: Gateway to Columbia River Gorge
Dehydration Concerns on 09/04/2010 21:01:23 MDT Print View

I hope you've tried rehydrating a sample of each meal at home! Especially the chicken breast. The general perception is that non-pressure-cooked chicken comes out more like chicken jerky after dehydration. You don't want to find this out in the trail! If you cut the chicken in tiny enough pieces it may be OK, but do test. It is generally suggested to use canned chicken for dehydrating. And I still remember my chicken casserole with peas, which I didn't test before going on the trip. The peas were still the consistency of buckshot after 15 minutes of cooking!

I'd use the items you dehydrated (after home testing!) earlier in the trip. Maybe something different the last few days.

TVP is fine as the protein ingredient for spaghetti sauce. Just add powdered beef bouillon for the beef taste. I do this even at home. For my camping meals I often use TVP plus an appropriate bouillon as the protein. Some people get gas from it, but I haven't had any problems. Again, test at home before leaving. More work, but better-tasting, is to cook rice or quinoa in chicken, beef or vegetable broth before dehydrating

Sarbar's website, http://www.trailcooking.com/, has lots of great ideas for home dehydrating and for preparing meals using supermarket ingredients. Lots of recipes. I'd look through these for meals for your last few days.

Don't toss what you have already dehydrated, but keep the meals in the freezer and use them for the first few days of your trips, especially the fatty hamburger. Try to keep the stuff relatively cool, at least out of the sun when possible.

Let us know how they came out! You have me drooling over the idea of fajitas!

Edited by hikinggranny on 09/04/2010 21:07:51 MDT.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Dehydration Concerns on 09/04/2010 21:19:17 MDT Print View

Many years ago, when I first got my food dehydrator, I ran into so many meat problems that I gave up on drying my own meat. Instead, now I buy freeze-dried meat in quantity and then use it sparingly with other items. Now most of my dehydrated food is fruit. Obviously there is no problem with fat there.

--B.G.--

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - M

Locale: Cascadia
Dehydration on 09/04/2010 21:45:48 MDT Print View

Thanks for all the very helpful comments guys.

I went to the grocery store to get some extra lean ground beef but they were all out. I did buy some canned light tuna and canned shrimp which I am going to try dehydrating in the morning. Anyone have experience with these?

I might grab some extra lean ground beef tomorrow but I'm running out of time (I leave early Monday) so if that doesn't happen I'll use the fatty ground beef on day 2.

Regarding the chicken, I had a buddy dehydrate chicken once and it stayed pretty darn tough. In this case I made the pieces of ckn extremely small. I shaved the baked chicken breast with a good knife and then I crumbled the shavings. It might not come back great, but I think it'll be eatable and it's just a bonus ingredient in my fettuccine alfredo so if it's looky shady I can leave it out. The pieces really are pretty darn tiny though since I was aware ckn can be tough.

TVP + beef bouillion does sound like a good idea. I'm going to have to mull over my fatty ground beef vs. extra lean beef vs. TVP and make a decision soon. I have the feeling that if I don't use the fatty beef and it sits in the freezer for a few months then it'll wind up not getting used ever, so I'd like to use it right away ideally.

Regarding test re-hydrating, I've done a sample of the chili with great results. I also dehydrated some slices of a ham roast but those didn't rehydrate at all so I've cancelled that meal. I'll try the chicken now.

Edited by dandydan on 09/04/2010 21:48:33 MDT.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Dehydration on 09/04/2010 22:22:16 MDT Print View

Another idea that I have used lately. If freeze dried meat is a problem, and if dehydrated meat fat is a problem, then try bacon crumbles. At my store, there are two brands sold in packages of 3 to 5 ounces. It's bacon, and it is already cured and sealed air-tight, so it is stable. Once it is opened, it isn't going to spoil in a few days.

Although I am not a big red meat-eater, I've found this to be handy. I just pour some in a bowl with instant rice and some instant veggie flakes, then pour boiling water over it. Done.

--B.G.--

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - M

Locale: Cascadia
Bacon on 09/04/2010 22:47:57 MDT Print View

I did actually stumble across some bacon when shopping for this trip. It's pretty neat. It's actually full strips of real bacon that's been cooked and sealed into plastic packaging. I guess it's the same basic idea as the bacon bits, but in whole strips. We're going to use them for some BLT sandwiches with sealed heavy pumpernickle bread, sundried tomatoes, McD's mayo pouches and unfortunately no lettuce.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Bacon on 09/04/2010 23:02:58 MDT Print View

Dan, you are not allowed to make the rest of us hungry that way!

I have some other items hidden away for my next trip. I have an Alaskan sausage made out of beef and reindeer meat. Then some smoked salmon with some spicy mustard.

--B.G.--

Gary Dunckel
(Zia-Grill-Guy) - MLife

Locale: Boulder
Dehydrating burger on 09/05/2010 09:15:42 MDT Print View

Dan, I've had great luck dehydrating bison burger. It has quite a bit less fat in it than "low-fat" beef burger. It rehydrates pretty quickly, and it tastes just like beef. I store the portions in my freezer, vacuum sealed.

As Bob mentioned, you can also buy #10 tins of FD beef, burger, and chicken (as well as other stuff--peas, corn, green beans, FD rice etc.) from a place like theepicenter.com. I wait for a low humidity winter day, open the big can, divide it into individual portions (1.0 oz. for the meat, less for veggies), and vacuum seal them. They remain shelf stable in my cool basement for over a year.

I like to buy 4 pints of my favorite Mexican green chili, and dehydrate it, run it through the food processor, and vacuum seal individual portions. It rehydrates well. Then there are all those items you can buy at Packit Gourmet, like cheeses, yogurt or coconut powder, FD olives, etc. This allows you to stockpile various ingredients for making all sorts of tasty meals.

Generally, anything FD or dehydrated will remain shelf stable for 6-12 months if vacuum sealed and stored in a cool, dry, and dark place. But any meat that you dehydrate yourself must be stored in the fridge (short term--6-12 weeks?), or in the freezer (6-12 months?), preferably vacuum sealed. The fat content is the weak link here.

Combining your own ingredients allows you to create exactly what you want. I like the fact that I can control the salt and fat content, and can I use whatever spices I like. Now, the only time I eat a MH Pro Pack is when I'm in Griz country, and I don't want to create lingering aromas by simmering the good stuff. But there's nothing I like better out there than my spicy Indian chicken masala, red beans & rice with dehydrated spicy chicken sausage (sliced quite thin), good low-fat versions of beef stroganoff and chicken alfredo, or the perfect Mexican concoction. By the way, my meals usually are somewhat fuel-intensive, since I like them best when I can simmer them for 10 minutes or so. I most always have a campfire, which conserves my canister fuel. But you can also create scads of FBC meals, using the ingredients of your choice. Sarbar, Laurie, and Dicentra are the authorities here.

You'll be a busy man this winter, should you choose to get into this dehydrating thing. But you'll never eat drab food on your trips again. I know that most of what I've written comes too late for your upcoming trip, but it should give you some fuel for thought for using your idle time this winter.

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - M

Locale: Cascadia
Thanks on 09/05/2010 09:40:08 MDT Print View

Thanks for the advice. You've definitely got some good ideas that I'm going to look into for upcoming trips. Ordering that freeze dried meet does sound good.

I'm also relying on fresh fish for at least one meal this trip. Hopefully those sneaky critters don't let me down. This trip is in Griz country (I even saw one in there this spring) so I'll need to be very careful with smells.

Gary Dunckel
(Zia-Grill-Guy) - MLife

Locale: Boulder
Rehydrating your chicken on 09/05/2010 10:15:22 MDT Print View

Dan, one thing I forgot to mention: if you let your chicken sit in a freezer baggie with some water for a few hours, that should help rehydrate it. Try it at home to see how it works with the batch you have (today). If it brings it back to life, then you should be able to make it work on the trail. Just add a little water to the chicken baggie while you are still hiking and let soak (and make sure that it doesn't leak!). Boiling water helps it rehydrate, so if it's still a bit tough, you could simply boil it awhile before adding your noodles. That's what I do with my sliced and dehydrated pre-cooked chicken sausage--I heat the sausage/water to a near boil, turn the stove off, let it soak till it cools down, then repeat. After 10-15 minutes, the sausage is tender, and it doesn't take much fuel to get it that way.

I hope that you have a great 9 days. Plenty of fish, no griz, and legions of beautiful wood nymphs popping wild berries into your mouth as they massage your tired muscles at the end of each grueling day. We'll need a full trip report of course...

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: Bacon on 09/05/2010 10:17:30 MDT Print View

On bacon, also look in the salad dressing aisle in your grocery store. Next to the croutons are bags of crumbled shelf stable bacon - in 2 meal size bags. Often found next to Bacon Bits - this is the stuff I use often in meals. It is bacon and not in strip form.

Elliott Wolin
(ewolin) - MLife

Locale: Hampton Roads, Virginia
RE: Dehydration Concerns on 09/05/2010 15:58:29 MDT Print View

We've had no problems dehydrating canned chicken and turkey, ground beef, ham (comes out VERY salty), smoked salmon, various types of cooked sausages, and other meats I can't think of at the moment.

We've also purchased dried ground beef, I've seen sealed packages of various types of ham that don't require refrigeration, as well as foil packs of chicken, tuna, salmon, etc. I'm sure we've only scratched the surface of what's available. And we don't worry about the minor extra weight compared to fully dried foods.

We don't bring a great deal of this stuff along, but we have no problem drying or finding what we want (without resorting to expensive freeze-dried foods).

Edited by ewolin on 09/05/2010 15:59:09 MDT.

Robert Alston
(Ocotillo)
Rinse with hot water on 09/05/2010 17:51:30 MDT Print View

One thing to consider with higher fat content in ground beef is that a lot of the fat is going to render out into liquid. Make sure to chop of up the ground meat well and then run some hot water through the meat after draining to wash out a lot of the fat content.

I usually use the 99% fat free ground turkey and turkey sausage for my freezer bag meals.

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - M

Locale: Cascadia
Shrimp on 09/05/2010 23:13:44 MDT Print View

The shrimp seems to have worked pretty well. After an hour in cold water rehydrating it was a bit tough but tasty and soft enough to be edible. I think with a bit of boiling/simmering it'll come back quite well.

The tuna seems like it'll work as well, but I think I lacked a bit of foresight on this one because I was planning a no-cook lunch and now I think I'll need to simmer the tuna to properly rehydrate it, and then I'll need to rain and cool it before I make the tuna salad wraps. Oh well...I'll do it on an easy day.

Does simmering/boiling rehydrate to a further degree than just setting it in cold water? Or does it just rehydrate to the same point, but it happens a lot faster in hot water?

Edited by dandydan on 09/05/2010 23:15:24 MDT.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Shrimp on 09/05/2010 23:24:50 MDT Print View

Dan, I think it kind of depends on what specific type of food you are dealing with. It seems like some stuff just does not do well at all with cold water soaking. Instant Quinoa will rehydrate in cold water, but it takes a while.

I never tried dehydrating tuna, basically because I had a bunch of freeze-dried tuna, and now the little 3-ounce foil packets of tuna are available.

Rehydration in hot or boiling water is a lot more foolproof.

--B.G.--

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: Tuna on 09/06/2010 10:42:17 MDT Print View

If you cover the tuna with cool water and let it sit for an hour or so it will be good to go. You can do this with chicken as well.

But personally while it can be done tuna stinks to high heaven when drying - YMMV ;-)