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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?

  • Emergency Cooking Basics

    Learning how to cook in an emergency can help make your time during it more comfortable

    Imagine having to prepare and cook meals for your family from scratch, outdoors, and without electricity. Is it hard to imagine? What if you added the stress of natural disaster to the scenario? Would you have the knowledge, skills, and equipment to make meals without the modern conveniences you now enjoy? Long term storage foods range from the most basic items like wheat and beans (which take more time and energy to prepare) to just-add-water freeze dried meals. Likewise, emergency cooking can be as basic as boiling water over an open fire to rehydrate a freeze-dried meal or as involved as hand-grinding wheat for baking bread in a Dutch oven. How you cook during an emergency will be limited to the types of foods you have stored, your knowledge and skills, and your equipment. But don’t worry. We have articles that cover a range of emergency cooking topics. For now, here are some basics:


    All the food storage and equipment in the world won’t do you much good if you don’t know how to use them. What and how you cook will determine what kinds of food you’ll store and what skills and equipment you’ll need. So, it’s important to first know yourself and your family. Once you decide what types of food storage you’ll store and use, it’s important to learn all you can about it. This might include reading cookbooks, product information, other books and articles about food storage and emergency cooking. The more you learn, the more prepared you’ll be.


    Knowledge is invaluable, but you should also practice what you learn. Learning how to prepare your food storage items, trying recipes, and using your equipment will familiarize you with emergency cooking before a crisis. It will also help you fine tune you food storage plan.


    Again, depending on the types of food you store and your cooking style, you’ll need different kinds of cooking equipment. If you plan to stick to basic food storage items like wheat, beans, oil, etc., you’ll need a grain mill, baking equipment, etc. If your storage is mostly just-add-water foods, you might not need more that a camp stove and a pot to boil water.

    It’s important to explore your options by learning about and trying a variety of emergency cooking methods for different types of storable foods. The Emergency Cooking Insight Articles linked below will get you on your way:

  • Outdoor Cooking Tips

    Check out these outdoor camping tips to help you cook easier and better meals

    Cooking out in the open is a great way to enjoy the outdoors. It is also a wonderful way to prepare your family for emergencies by learning how to cook without electricity. Outdoor cooking can involve elaborate Dutch-oven meals or simple tinfoil dinners, but cooking and eating outdoors takes some knowledge and preparation. With that in mind, here are a few tips and ideas that can help you have a positive outdoor cooking experience.

    1. Decide what cooking method or equipment you will use to prepare your outdoor meal. Will it be a gas powered camping stove, an open fire, charcoal briquettes, or some other method? Before you decide how to heat your meal, be sure to check any local restrictions in your camping area. Are open pit fires allowed? If not, you may need to bring a camping stove or some other alternative cooking method.If open pit fires are allowed and you plan on using one, be sure to only build fires in designated fire pits. If there are no designated fire pits, find an open area away from low hanging branches, miscellaneous groundcover, and dry vegetation. Clear a ten-foot circle around the area where you will build a fire and then create a fire bed or fire pit. Fire beds can be made of rocks, silt, clay, sand, or any other non-flammable materials available. A small pit, approximately 4 to 10 inches deep can serve quite well as a fire bed. Surrounding your pit with small rocks can provide an extra layer of protection.
    2. Set up a cooking fly. An old tarp or heavy fire-resistant blanket strung between two trees, poles, or walking sticks can provide protection from the elements for your cooking area. Always face the fly away from the wind. This will provide maximum protection from unexpected wind, rain, sleet, or snow. Be sure to dig your fire pit about ten feet in front of the fly, far enough from the fire that sparks won't harm the fabric, but close enough that you can step beneath when weather is bad.When using a camp stove, be sure to plan ahead. You will need to pack more fuel than your stove will carry, unless your trip is very short. Be sure to pack flammable fuels in high quality metal containers and always mark them to keep them separate from drinking water and other liquids. Also, be sure that fuel containers are airtight so that there is no leakage of fuel or fumes, and store extra fuel away from your cooking area.You may want to bring a small table or some wooden blocks to put your stove on. Many stoves have their own stands, but others will need to be kept off the ground and away from potentially flammable materials.When lighting your stove, be sure to follow the manufacturer's recommendations. Never use a stove in or near a tent. Never open fuel containers on or near a hot stove, and never try to refuel a stove that is hot or still burning.
    3. Whether you are cooking with a stove or an open fire, it might not be a bad idea to locate your cooking area 30 or 40 yards downwind from any tents or shelters in which you will sleep. Curious animals might be attracted by the smells of your food and you don't want them sniffing around your tent at night.
    4. Remember to properly cook your food. To ensure yourself a successful foil dinner, follow these steps. First, make sure you use two layers of heavy foil and use tight folds to trap the moisture inside. Make sure that you cook on charcoal or the hot coals of a wood fire, never on flames. Occasionally turn over the foil packet to cook evenly and prevent burnt food. Remember, every foil dinner needs a source of moisture like onion slices, soup or salad dressings, seasoning sauces, butter, vegetable stock, or a spoonful of water. Cooking depends on the amount of heat in the coals, but a good average is fifteen to twenty minutes for hamburger, at least twenty minutes for chicken, and longer for solid meats like steak. Use caution because cooking too long can burn or char the food, but undercooking can become a health hazard. Check one meal before pulling out the other meals if you are cooking more than one. Hard veggies like carrots and potatoes will take longer to cook.
    5. Be sure to leave the camp area in better condition than you found it. Before pulling away from camp, thoroughly douse your fire, mix it around with a stick or shovel, and then douse it again. Refill your fire pit or scatter your fire bed. When you are all packed up, scan the area to make sure that nothing is left behind.

    We hope this article has helped you learn how to cook safely outdoors. It is always a good idea to learn alternative cooking methods and ways to prepare food while camping or even in an emergency.

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