Hey there! Have you ever gotten a dehydrator but never really used it? You’re missing out on so many benefits! It’s way more useful than other equipment in your kitchen. I mean, what other appliance lets you preserve food without refrigeration? None except for your pressure canner.
A dehydrator can also save you money by completely eliminating food waste, helping you make homemade baby food, making lightweight food for camping, and bulk up your emergency food supply when the power goes out! Plus, it’s better than your air fryer, am I right?
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You know what else is great about dehydrators? They can save you a lot of time in the kitchen since you’re already working with fully cooked foods or things that suggest rehydration.
We’re going to share with you 10 things that are absolutely worth dehydrating and 5 things that we won’t. We want to give you plenty of ideas, especially if this is your first time on dehydratorlab.com.
In this article:
1. Dehydrated Ground Beef
Let’s start with something that I will absolutely dehydrate again: ground beef! Here is how I feel about my ground beef; I can never be without it again! Have you ever tried dehydrated beef? It’s amazing! The best part is that it stays chewy and tender even after the process.
You can use as much or as little as you need, so no more waste or freezer space! Plus, it’s super easy to pack it for lunch. Can you imagine all the meal prep time you’ll save with shelf-stable, ready-to-go meat in your pantry? And, you’ll have one less pan to clean! Trust me, your family won’t even know the difference.
If you or a family member is hesitant about eating dry ground beef, I understand. My partner once said to me, “I don’t think I’m going to like that, babe,” when she saw me putting ground beef crumbles into the dehydrator. To which I replied, “Why didn’t you tell me when we had it in spaghetti last Wednesday and in tacos last night?”
Well, honey, that was the last I heard of it because it’s extremely hard to tell the difference between freshly cooked ground beef and rehydrated ground beef. You’ll just dump your dry crumbles into a bowl, cover them with hot water, and put a plate on top for several minutes. You’ll start to see things perk up pretty quickly!
Now we’re going to cook the fresh ground beef on the stove. Make sure you’re using lean or extra-lean ground beef with a fat content of no more than 15%. Fat and meat can turn rancid over time when exposed to oxygen, so we want to avoid that.
Also, don’t throw away those savory flavored beef drippings! Pop them in the fridge to harden and turn into lard and bouillon. They’ll keep for a week and add so much flavor to your dishes! You can use them to make a beef-fat-fried potato scramble for breakfast, which is a one-pan Sunday breakfast that we love. You can use them like vegetable oil!
Next, rinse your beef with hot water to remove more fat without taking away minerals or flavor. Make sure to place a bowl below to collect the water as it drains out. You’ll see that it becomes nearly translucent, which is a sign that you’re removing most of the fat. Boil for another 5-10 minutes to separate the fat from the meat.
After a final rinse, your ground beef is ready for the dehydrator! Make sure to use a fruit or liquid tray to catch small crumbles and don’t overcrowd the dehydrator. This way, you’ll have sufficient air flow and everything will dry evenly. Set the dehydrator to 145 degrees and wait for about 6-8 hours.
Finally, you’ll have these beautifully crisp round bits that, when kept airtight, will keep your meat tender for over a year! Can you start to see why I’m such a fan of dry ground beef?
2. Scalloped Potatoes
Next up are scalloped potatoes. You know, Betty Crocker has nothing on me! Her recipe only gives you barely two cups of sliced potatoes and hardly a half cup of powdered cheese, and charges you at least two dollars a box for it. And then, she still asks you to bring your own milk and butter! Y’all, that’s outrageous!
But compared to Betty’s recipe, mine is a steal! A quart-sized jar of home-sliced potatoes gives you almost two and a half cups of larger and thicker slices, and I spent only two dollars for an entire 10-pound bag. And the best part? I prepare them the same way as the package kind, but I buy dehydrated cheeses in bulk from my Amish market.
This sour cream and cheddar cheese blend makes the scalloped potatoes so tender and delicious, and it costs only a fraction of what Betty’s recipe would cost you. Y’all, they come out so tender and taste wonderful at a fraction of the cost! Yum!
3. Dehydrated Mixed Vegetables
Mixed vegetables are simply amazing! Living in a townhome, we are limited on freezer space. But hey, I don’t have to miss out on those frozen vegetable sales anymore. You know why? Because I can bring them home, dump them on my dehydrator racks, come back in a few hours and later on, stuff several bags into one jar. Frozen veggies rehydrate so well!
So, if you’re looking for an incredibly easy dehydration project, start with mixed vegetables. And, oh my, if you’re a mushroom lover, you’ve got to try dehydrating them. Whether you need a little or a lot, dehydrated mushrooms are perfect for pizza toppings, thrown into soups, salads, casseroles, or as other sides. They’re ready within a few hours and taste oh so delicious!
4. Meals in a Jar
I wanna share with you some cool recipes for making meals in jars. First, get some boxed dehydrated mashed potatoes, add in some herb season blend, dry beef crumbles, powdered sour cream, and mushrooms and you’ll have an awesome shepherd’s pie that only needs some water to be added.
Another favorite of mine is vegetable soup, just grab some boxed pasta with bouillon, throw in some veggies, mushrooms, and seasonings, and remove the air using a brake bleeder. Then, put some jar jackets on them and voila! You can now take them with you anywhere!
I pack my lunch regularly but these meals in jars are great insurance in case I forget my lunch or if I’m just in a rush. Plus, I love jar jackets because they’re so convenient and safe to use.
They’re even microwave, freezer, and dishwasher safe! If you wanna try silicone jar sleeves, just make sure to get the ones with holes or slits. Trust me, it’ll be a pain in the butt if you get the solid ones.
I’m currently using Jar Jackets brand and they’re interchangeable between regular and wide-mouth jars. Check out this link to get your hands on some!
5. Dog Jerky Treats
At my house, everyone eats well, even our Boston Terrier Neo, and he goes crazy for these jerky treats. First, grab a slightly frozen pork loin to make slicing easy, then cut it into even pieces. Mix healthy liquid aminos, a bit of molasses, and other healthy spices like turmeric into the mix.
Put them on the dehydrator rack and keep in mind that these treats are for your furry friend, not for you because they will smell so good that you’ll want to eat them. Buying high-quality dog treats can be costly, so making your own will save you some cash.
6. Dehydrated Lemon and Orange Slices
Seriously, you gotta start dehydrating your lemon and orange slices when they’re in season and super cheap. I scored some sweet Meyer lemons and they’re perfect for my tea. I always keep a few tea bags in my purse for when I’m out or at work, but now I also keep dehydrated lemon slices with me.
They hardly take up any space or add any weight, so I can easily throw them in my water bottle or cup of whatever.
7. Dehydrated Strawberry Powder
Drying out strawberries is super easy. Just slice them up and put them in your dehydrator. Keep those strawberry tops because you can use them to make your own vinegar by adding filtered water and sugar.
After they’re all dried up, it’s kind of a pain to take them off the rack, but I’m going to throw them in the blender for my morning smoothies.
8. Dehydrated Banana Peels
Attention gardeners and house plant lovers! Don’t miss out on the benefits of dehydrating your banana peels. If you love making smoothies with frozen bananas, don’t toss those peels into the compost. Instead, cut and dehydrate them to create a shelf-stable potassium fertilizer.
You can use it whenever you need and as much as you want. It’s an easy and sustainable way to give your plants the nutrients they need.
9. Dehydrated Greens
Dehydrating greens is an excellent way to make the most out of celery, kale, and broccoli. When you dehydrate these greens, they blend into a fine powder that can be used in various ways.
This green powder can be easily added to smoothies, soups, baked goods, and practically anything else you can think of. Instead of throwing away greens that are going bad or are no longer fresh, dehydrating them will help reduce waste and save money in the long run.
By making your own green powder, you’ll be avoiding the overpriced pre-made mixes in the market. Moreover, using this powder to make a quick smoothie will save you time and reduce the mess that comes with cooking with fresh greens.
10. Leftover Coffee Beans
Let’s talk about one of my favorite things – coffee! I just can’t start my day without it. After I clean my French press, I put the leftover beans into a bag and pop them into the fridge until I have enough to run my dehydrator. The best part? It makes your whole house smell like a coffee shop! Once they’re done, I like to use them in my garden.
If you’re thinking of trying this out, you’ll need a few things besides your dehydrator – a FoodSaver, mason jars, and new canning lids. But don’t worry, you don’t need to spend a fortune on a commercial vacuum sealer machine. You can get a vacuum pump for around $35 from places like Amazon. It’s super safe and easy to use!
To seal your jars, just place the FoodSaver mason jar sealer over the lid and push it down to make sure it’s secure.
Here are some easy steps to follow:
- Prepare a clean and dry mason jar.
- Attach the mason jar sealer to the FoodSaver machine.
- Place the jar lid on the mason jar and attach the sealer over the lid.
- Start the vacuum sealing process on the FoodSaver machine.
- Wait for the process to complete.
- Remove the sealer attachment and verify the seal.
- Store the vacuum-sealed jar in the refrigerator or pantry.
Not Going to Dehydrate Anytime Soon
All right, so when it comes to what I am not going to dehydrate anytime soon, onions are definitely on that list. It’s not because they turned out badly, but rather the logistics of it are just too much. Running a dehydrator fills your home with the smells of whatever you’re dehydrating, and onion smells can linger for days.
I tried keeping my dehydrator outside, but I just don’t want to risk forgetting about it. Dehydrating onions is just not worth it for me. It’s easier and cheaper to find them in powdered form, and I don’t need them in their dehydrated state.
Cabbage is another thing I’m not going to dehydrate again. It just doesn’t come back to life, and I can make my own sauerkraut and pickled purple cabbage, which we love. There’s no point in dehydrating it when it doesn’t do anything for me.
Bananas are also off the list. They lose their color, texture, and taste, and it’s just not worth it.
Strawberries and Berries
As for strawberries, I won’t dehydrate them in any form other than powder. Slicing them is a lot of work, and they rip and tear too easily. They also become too mushy when rehydrated.
Berries, in general, lose their flavor and color in the dehydrator, and it’s not worth going through the prep work to perfect them. I prefer dehydrated recipes that are easy and quick, and I get plenty of preserved berry taste from my jams. Fermenting or canning them is a better option for me.
Eric MitchellEric is the owner, author, content director and founder of dehydratorlab.com. He is the lead architect and the main man in matters concerning dehydrators, their accessories, guides, reviews and all the accompaniments.Whenever he is not figuring out simple solutions (hacks) involving cookery and their eventual storage, you will find him testing out the different types of dehydrators, to bring us the juicy details regarding these devices.He is a foodie enthusiast, pasionate about making jerky has a knack for healthy and tasty food and won't hesitate to share out any ideas that might be of value around this subject.
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