Many people want to know which method is the best for storing their food, and depending on whom you ask, you will probably get a different answer. Each method has different advantages and disadvantages, depending on what your priorities are when it comes to food storage. We have outlined the basic methods, and how they affect your food storage. So you be the judge of the best method for you and your family, and start getting prepared!
When food is dehydrated, the water is slowly cooked out of the fruit or vegetable, without actually cooking it. There are three different methods: air-dried, sun-dried, or kiln-dried. Food can be easily sun-dried from your home, whereas the air or kiln method requires more equipment. All methods are very cost-efficient for storing food. Once fruits and vegetables are dried, they are then stored in airtight containers. Usually they are packed with an oxygen absorber, which effectively removes the oxygen, leaving only nitrogen behind.
- Lower price than freeze-dried
- Food is compact--more can be stored in a container
- Food can be dried at home (sun-dried)
- Easy to reconstitute with water
- Food loses some texture when dried
- Some loss of taste compared to freeze-dried
- Need a machine to create air tight seal and add oxygen absorber
Freeze-drying is a process of preserving food that retains the delicious taste and nutrition of fresh foods. Fresh or cooked foods are flash frozen and then put in large vacuum chamber that remains as cold as -50° F. Minimal heat is applied, and the ice evaporates without ever going back into the liquid phase. This removes almost all of the moisture from the product.
Finally, the product is canned or bagged and labeled for long term storage for easy use at a later date. Although the freeze-drying method is generally more expensive, it generally produces a shelf life similar to that of dehydrated foods. It is a good choice for fruits and meats.
Image Used with permission from Oregon Freeze Dry
- Food keeps texture and shape
- Quickly reconstitutes with warm water
- Lighter, for carrying or backpacking
- Keeps full taste and size or bulk
- Higher price
- Need expensive equipment for freeze drying process
- Only cost effective for selective products-- meats, fruits, and vegetables
- Requires more space to store since food remains full size
The dry ice method can be done at home with a few simple tools. The carbon dioxide that is released from evaporating dry ice will kill all animal life in the container, thus helping it to store longer. There are two different ways to fumigate wheat with dry ice:
Basic on-top method
- On top of an almost full five gallon container, place one-quarter pound dry ice on nonconductive insulating material, such as kraft paper.
- Press lid down gently so some air can escape.
- After about 20-30 minutes, check to see if the dry ice has completely evaporated.
- If not, wait another five minutes and check again.
- When ice has completely evaporated, remove kraft paper and seal container.
Basic on-bottom method
- On the bottom of a five gallon storage bucket, place one-quarter pound dry ice under nonconductive paper that can be left in the bucket.
- Fill bucket with food you want to store--wheat, legumes, etc.
- Press lid down gently, leaving room for a small outlet for escaping air (lid will bulge and eventually blow off if air cannot escape).
- When dry ice has completely evaporated, seal container.
Caution: Do not allow dry ice to touch the food directly, or it will be frozen and become useless as food.
- Inexpensive, few tools required
- Can use dry ice method at home
- Can be used for grains and legumes--items that don't need to be freeze-dried
- Dry ice may be difficult to locate
- Dry ice needs to be carefully handled to avoid minor injuries
- Food has to be stored in large plastic buckets that may be permeable to oxygen
- Not the best method of long term storage--bacteria may still grow in carbon dioxide
Source: Making the Best of Basics--Family Preparedness Handbook by James Talmage Stevens