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Preparedness Basics: How to Use a Dehydrator

Preparedness Basics: How to Use a Dehydrator

Whether you’re using it for food storage, snacks, or camping, using a dehydrator to dry your own food can be a great money saver—plus you know your food was fresh before it was dehydrated! There are a lot of different variables to consider when dehydrating fruits, veggies, and meats, so this is a basic how-to that will work as a jumping off point.

What you need:

  • A dehydrator (like the Excalibur, L’Equip, or American Harvest)
  • Fruit/Veggies/Meat
  • Cutting board
  • Knife
  • Air-tight containers/freezer bags
  • Optional:
    • Provident Pantry Iodized Salt, Provident Pantry White Sugar, spices
    • Ascorbic acid or citrus juice
    • Pot with boiling water for blanching (a method of partially cooking fruits or vegetables in boiling water before dehydrating them. Blanching makes it easier to peel produce and helps to keep their colors vibrant and bright instead of turning gray in the dehydrator.)


How to Prep Your Foods and Use Your Dehydrator:

1. Collect your ingredients. If you’re using fruits or vegetables make sure they’re of good quality and not bruised or overripe as this will impact the quality of your dehydrated goods.

2. Prepare ingredients. This will vary depending on what you are using, but this means cleaning, hulling, and slicing produce or cutting up meat. The important thing is to maintain consistency in the thickness of your slices/pieces to ensure drying at an even rate.

  •  Fruit: If desired, treat fruits prone to oxidation with citrus juice or ascorbic acid to help retain color throughout the process. You may also need to crack the skins of tough fruits (grapes, berries) to allow the moisture to evaporate.
  • Vegetables: For most vegetables, a short blanching in boiling water will help speed the drying process and help maintain color. Three to five minutes should be enough.

3. Season. This step is optional, but if desired you can add salt, sugar, or spices.

4. Load. Take all of your pieces and load onto the dehydrator trays without overlapping pieces.

5. Go! Turn on your dehydrator immediately after loading. Consult your owner’s manual for recommended drying times and other specific instructions. Expect it to take anywhere from 6-12 hours.

6. Check. As you get close to the end of drying time, you can check to see if your pieces are done! To check, remove a piece from the dehydrator and allow it to cool. Feel it with your fingers. If it feels dry to the touch, then it is probably done. An additional test can be done by cutting open pieces to see if there are any moisture beads. Another option is putting warm pieces into a plastic bag to see if condensation forms. If any moisture is present after trying one of these three tests, you need to dry them out more.

7. Cool. Allow your pieces to cool for 30-60 minutes before packing (they should be completely cool to the touch).

  • Conditioning Dried Fruits: Because fruits retain a small amount of moisture, it is necessary to condition them before storage. Conditioning is a method of protecting the fruit from spoilage, especially from mold. Place loosely in a jar until about 2/3 full. Lightly cover. Shake once a day for 7-10 days. If condensation appears on the jar, the fruit needs to be returned to the dehydrator for further drying. Repeat conditioning process if more drying is necessary.

8. Store. Place in air-tight containers or plastic freezer bags (remove all air) and store in a cool, dry place. When properly stored, dehydrated foods usually last about a year.


To learn more tips about how to prepare your foods for a dehydrator, check out our blog post “ Preparedness Skills: Dehydrating Basics.”

That’s it, a basic how-to for using a dehydrator. Isn’t it easy? Time to go make some tasty snacks!


For all those with years of experience using a dehydrator, what other tips would you give beginners for dehydrating fruits, vegetables, and meats?

8 thoughts on “Preparedness Basics: How to Use a Dehydrator”

  • Robin

    I also like to dry herbs like basil, mint, and cilantro. I save my spice jars.

  • dm

    drying some items like peppers, even mild bell peppers, makes strong fumes. dry outside on the porch and it will be fine.

  • Carol

    Can I dehydrate thin slices of potatoes and put them in a plastic baggie with an oxygen tablet. I will also vacuum out the oxygen. Shouldn't this make them last for a few years?

    • beprepared

      Dehydrating your potatoes and putting them in a plastic baggie with an oxygen absorber will only help to preserve the life of the product a little bit. As we discuss in our article, Shelf Life, the enemies to food storage items are heat, oxygen, moisture, and light. In addition to preserving your food with an oxygen absorber, you'll also want to store it in a dark, cool, dry place to ensure that it will last. Check out our article, Shelf life for more tips http://beprepared.com/education/shelf-life

  • Pat

    For Carol,
    To dehydrate potato slices (scalloped size) you must blanch the potatoes in boiling water for 3- 5 min, cool, the dip in acidified water (25% lemon juice-75% water), let drain on paper towels and place on your drying racks. The potatoes should be dry enough that they make a
    'clicking' sound when dropped on the counter, like a plastic chip. I don't think plastic baggies are a sufficient air barrier, better to use mylar bags with your oxygen absorbers. You can suction air out of these using your food saver with canning jars. When suctioning you will 'hear' a cracking sound as some of the potatoes get broken in the mylar bags, stop removing air at that point.

  • Spencer Petri

    I buy frozen vegetables which are on sale, green beans, sweet corn, etc and dehydrate them. They require no blanching. I no longer grow a large garden so this works out OK. I store these in pint glass jars after they have been vacuumed with a vacuum sealer.

  • Annie Ridge

    I have bought a Foodsaver V3880 but I don't exactly know how to use it. I really like your notes. that help me so much!

    • Emergency Essentials
      Emergency Essentials June 29, 2015 at 2:55 am

      Hi Annie,

      I'm not familiar with that product, however the following link to their website should be of assistance. This is the user manual:


      Hope that helps!

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