Did you know that the process of dehydration and freeze-drying is not the same, whether that is preparation or the primary process? Though they deliver a similar result, these two methods have quite a few differences. There is a fine line between dehydration and freeze-drying that most of us are not aware of. More often than not, whenever we think about freeze-drying, we think of the process of dehydration, which is partially correct but not totally. The two have distinct differences that set them apart. Dehydration is not freeze-drying, and freeze-drying is not dehydration.
However, it does not matter if these methods are not the same because one should be a part of every individual's survival kit because they have no additives, preservatives and gluten free. They are essential, especially when days when we are out of our comfort zone and looking for ways to fuel up our bodies with the nutrients we need but the most convenient way possible. Or simply for days when we need to pill up our stock of goods for emergency purposes. That is why it is good to identify the differences between the dehydration and freeze-dried meals and find out which is ideal for each occasion. To keep things clear, we rounded up below the differences between freeze-drying and dehydration. So the next time you bump into one of these, you will clearly grasp their concept and have an idea which one will you suit your lifestyle better! Without further ado, let us have a look at the critical differences between dehydrated meals and freeze-dried meat.
Understanding Dried Food
Drying food drains food items and pre-dried ingredients of any moisture content present in and around them. It is one of the most efficient ways of preserving food for long periods, especially when you are stockpiling for emergency purposes. It may come as a surprise for many, but dehydrated foods are a rich source of vitamins and minerals. They are relatively healthy in terms of nutrients, but their calories and sugar are also concentrated, which is usually the dilemma with this type of food processing. It is worth discussing the fundamentals of dried food and what it essentially entails to understand each method.
How to Dry Food?
Wondering how food dehydration is done? Food dehydration is a process by which the food's moisture is reduced to low levels to improve its shelf life by adding one or more forms of energy to the food. Any individual can either use a modern appliance or old and traditional methods at home to execute the drying process. Modern appliances include commercial freeze dryers, freezers, dehydrators, and vacuums. As per the conventional methods, you can use natural sunlight and air to take advantage of and dry most types of food products.
Pros and Cons of Dehydrated Foods
There is a handful of reasons why people prefer dehydrated foods. It comes with great benefits that most of us come to love, but it also has its fair share of adverse effects, and we are about to roll down one by one to give you an idea.
1. Low Risk of Bacteria and Contamination
Dehydrated foods are a low risk of bacteria, fungal growth, and contamination since most bacteria and fungi thrive in a wet and moist environment. That is why dehydrated food lasts a long time because they are moisture-free. However, they must be carefully sealed and placed in airtight, moisture-proof containers.
2. It is Relatively Healthy
Dehydrated foods are relatively healthy and 100% natural since we use the raw form of meat when dehydrating. In addition, it retains most of the vitamins and minerals present in the food, such as vitamin C, carotene, magnesium, and iron. Unfortunately, when you cook food on high heat, it loses the nutrients it contains.
3. Increased Energy
Since dehydrated foods concentrate on calorie and sugar content, it boosts energy when consumed. Some research even suggests that nutrients in dry food are more easily absorbed by our bodies, helping us feel more energized. However, it is recommended to consume it in minimal proportion since it is loaded with sugar and calories, which is also not really ideal for our bodies. Too much sugar in our body can lead to certain diseases and we want to avoid that at all costs.
What is Freeze-Drying?
On the other hand, freeze drying has long been known as a reliable way of keeping food from getting spoiled. Believe it or not, this process dated back a long, long time ago. If we are to look at history books, the first people to develop freeze-drying techniques date back to the ancient times of the Incas. How cool is that? However, most of us are still unaware of this process and neglect to use it. As a result, we are missing a whole lot of benefits by not switching to freeze-drying.
To understand this concept, freeze-drying dehydrates food by removing the ice and transforming it into vapour. It is a healthy method of food preservation as it retains the beneficial plant compounds and nutrients in foods, including their colour, taste, and appearance. It feels like eating fresh meat every time you will use it. However, freeze-drying is a slow process. The average cycle takes about 24 hours. But what are 24 hours compared to its long shelf life that can last for years without perishing? Take for example, No Rush freeze-dried meat. This product can last for up to 25 years, even without the help of refrigeration. That is why it is a deal for stockpiling, especially for those who cannot do their grocery run from time to time.
How to Do Freeze-Drying?
Three steps are involved in freeze-drying: freezing, sublimation drying, and desorption drying. The most critical part of these steps is the freezing phase. The first step is where the product is often frozen under atmospheric pressure. Next is the primary drying or the proper freeze-drying, which is the sublimation step in which frozen-free water is removed. Lastly, secondary drying or desorption drying is where products are dried to their desired humidity by removing the remaining water.
To perform this method, it should be done in an area with controlled conditions where the water will not melt. The presence of liquid water may change the product's overall outcome, such as its shape, composition, and physical properties. It is a meticulous process, but freeze-drying done the right way possesses superior quality compared to dehydrated food by other methods.
Pros and Cons of Freeze-Drying
Freeze-Drying comes with great benefits that we are about to discover! Let's take a look at some of its pros and cons and see for ourselves how beneficial it is.
1. Freeze-Dried Meals Are Completely Healthy
Freeze-Dried meals are done without any additives or preservatives to prolong the shelf life of the products. On top of that, it can retain all the minerals, vitamins, and nutrients in the meat. Therefore, it is safe to assume that freeze-drying is a healthy alternative to enjoy now and then.
2. Cook The Way You Like It
Apart from the nutrients and minerals, freeze-dried meat also maintains the taste and texture of the product even after going through the lyophilization process. Hence, it is easy to incorporate into your favourite home-cooked meals, and there is no slightest change in how you will make it. Expect that the juiciness and tenderness of the meat be precisely the same as raw meat simply because freeze-dried meat is also raw meat that has just undergone lyophilization.
3. No Refrigeration is Required
Although it has undergone freezing, there is no need to store it in a cold, dry place. And YES, the food will not spoil even when not refrigerated...for years! But, it is required to keep them in airtight containers for long-term storage.
4. Easy to Bring Anywhere
Most freeze-dried meals now come in small packages since they are sealed and vacuumed. That is why they are easy to bring anywhere, and it is now the favourite camping meal among hikers and enthusiasts because of the convenience and health benefits they bring.
5. Freeze-drying is Expensive
All things have their fair share of disadvantages, and for freeze-drying, it is the production cost. Freeze-drying equipment is not that budget-friendly. They come in hefty price tags, which is why some prefer to look for other methods to prolong food's shelf life. Good thing there are now innovative products that provide freeze-dried meals that suit the way. With this, you will no longer need to purchase expensive equipment for your freeze-drying needs at home.
Moisture Drainage Comparison Between Dehydration and Freeze-Drying
Reducing the moisture content of the material plays a vital role in prolonging the shelf life of a product. It predicts and outlines how long food can lasts, and the lower the moisture present in the food, the longer it will last without perishing. For dehydration and freeze-drying, both methods are efficient in removing the moisture content of the meal. However, the two have distinct differences in terms of how much moisture they can draw based on their processes. There is a difference between dehydrating and freeze-drying meat regarding the efficiency of removing moisture content. For the dehydration method, the process can drain approximately 90 to 95 per cent of moisture. On the other hand, the freeze-drying way is a tad bit more efficient in this case, with the ability to remove moisture content of up to 98 to 99 per cent. Hence, most freeze-dried products claim that they can last up to 25 years since the moisture present in the product is relatively low.
What are the Main Differences Between Dehydrating and Freeze-Drying Meat?
What sets them apart from each other? We have listed below the main differences between dehydration and freeze-drying for better understanding about the two. The following are the critical disparities between each method of preservation.
One of the most important factors relating to drying food is the final product's longevity or shelf life. This is usually the main reason why most of us rely upon these methods of preserving food for its long shelf life. It saves us time from grocery shopping and money since they last for a very long time. And the shelf life itself depends on the percentage of moisture content left over after the process is complete. So if we follow this rule and take a look at the moisture drainage efficiency of dehydrating and freeze-drying, then it is clear to deduce that the final product of freeze-dried meat will essentially last longer because of its potential to remove up to 98 to 99 per cent of moisture present in food.
Although dehydrated food can lose up to 95 per cent of moisture, it is more likely if use advanced dehydrating equipment as opposed to traditional methods of sun drying, which are only capable of removing 70 per cent of the moisture. So as for the shelf life, the former technique helps you prolong the life by 15 years, and only one year for the latter.
On the contrary, a high-quality freeze-dried meat has no more than 2 per cent moisture left over, which results in a relatively higher shelf life. Certain freeze-drying companies claim that their products have a shelf life of 25 years, give or take, which is impressive compared to dehydrated meat.
The taste of the food product is undoubtedly the key factor in selection. Almost everyone chooses a meal based on the flavor; hence you need to know the difference in taste that each method delivers. It is a relief to know that neither dehydrating nor freeze-drying affects the food's taste too much. However, freeze-drying does retain the original flavor better than the other.
Since the process of freeze-dried meat involves barely any heat and is solely dependent on low temperatures, the natural scent and more flavor of the meat is better to preserve in this method. In addition to that, the freezing temperatures are also helpful at retaining the proper texture, shape, and color of the meat, thus delivering a higher quality product and real meals for years on end. Because of this, the majority of people, especially any hungry hiker and outdoor adventurers, prefer freeze-dried meat in their outdoor adventures.
The dehydration method utilizes heat in its process, which essentially strips the food of its natural flavor profile by a gradual amount. Not only that, but it also slightly affects the texture and smell of the meat.
So you have dried your food, and now it is time for preparing it for consumption, given that you made sure to pre-cook the food before drying it. The freeze-dried meat will be relatively easier to prepare since it only requires a small amount of hot water for a few minutes before you can indulge in the food's natural flavors and textures.
The dehydrated food, however, requires a bit more work. You will need to make sure that you cook the food in boiling water to rehydrate it to be suitable for consumption. So, in essence, preparing dehydrated food can be a bit more time-consuming, so if you need food with urgency, then freeze-dried meat and other food products will be your best option.
Since both formulas have undergone freezing and dehydration, you may wonder if they can still return to their original state once dehydrated. Can they really look like their original version? The answer will be YES and NO. YES, they can be rehydrated. But unfortunately, dehydrated foods cannot be rehydrated to their original state, unlike freeze-dried food.
In freeze-drying, after rehydrating the meat for about 20 minutes, it will return to its original state and can be enjoyed the way you want your raw meat. Foods are close to the original in most instances.
Many experts have stated that freeze-dried meat and other products can retain more nutrients after the freeze-drying process is complete. Some freeze-dried meals are made free from harmful chemicals such as additives and preservatives, which makes them safer to consume. So naturally, consumers are getting more nutritional value from their rehydrated freeze-dried meat along with other foods.
Unfortunately, it is not the same case for dehydrated foods, mainly due to heat during its process. The heat provided to the food in the drying process essentially rids the food of its nutrients. For example, a good amount of the protein in meat ends up getting denatured because of the heat, leaving the consumer with lesser nutritional value. In terms of the statistics, freeze-dried food retains about 97 per cent of its nutrients, whereas dehydrated food only retains approximately 60 per cent.
Even on the texture, the two have distinct differences, and it is almost impossible to confuse freeze-dried and dehydrated food once you get the chance to eat it or even touch it.
If you intend on getting dehydrated food, expect that the food will be hard and usually brittle. While some dry food, such as fruits, are elastic, others will make a hard plink once you drop them on the counter, like carrots and other hard veggies that have undergone dehydration.
Meanwhile, freeze-drying offers a more natural texture and almost melts in the mouth. The surface can be vividly seen as similar to the raw ones and tends to weigh less but take up more volume. More so, the juiciness and tenderness of the meat is always present!
There is no doubt that both dehydration and freeze-drying are essential methods for preserving food. And since they have different processes, their processing time also differs. Let us say for dehydration the average dehydration procedure takes approximately 8 to 12 hours. Meanwhile, freeze-drying is meticulous, which is why it requires more time to develop. On the average freeze-drying process, it can generally take between 20 to 40 hours to make.
After going through these methods of preserving food, it is expected that there will be changes in the proportion of the product, such as meat. In terms of size, meat that has undergone dehydration is reduced by up to 50% of its original size compared to the freeze-dried product. With the latter method, some foods are entirely the same as the original, with no alterations present in size. Imagine buying a slice of meat at your local grocery store and having it undergo lyophilization; the size of the meat is still the same, but you can now store it for years, safely and hassle-free.
Now that we know the differences between dehydration and freeze-drying, we can now distinguish the two once we see them and plan out which will suit our budget and lifestyle the most. There is no arguing that both methods exhibits exceptional ways of preserving food. But if you plan on going for a cheaper option with a can-do-quickly mindset, you can opt to use dehydration. However, if you are after the wellness of your loved ones and looking for a meal that can last for more than a decade without perishing, freeze-drying is always the safest and best option. Because of these revolutionary ideas, we can now store emergency meals at home without worrying about them getting spoiled. On top of that, they make life easier, especially when going out and having a vacation.
In summation, both freeze-dried meat and dehydrated meat are good options for a country cuisine and prove helpful in emergencies. They are both easy to prepare and provide us with our daily dose of much-needed nutrients. If you plan to go on a picnic or any similar activity, then dry food would be ideal for you. Freeze-drying is for you if you intend to store the food for more extended periods. In addition, freeze-drying is also an excellent choice for people who are always on the go or have a hectic schedule since this one is easy to prepare and tastes almost identical to raw meat. Even if you have picky eaters at home, they will surely love the taste of freeze-dried meat!
[Last updated on January 12, 2023]