What is Freeze Drying? - Introduction and Benefits

Several years ago we added a small orchard to our property.  No more than 6 trees, but we expect a nice harvest from them each year.  That is one reason we wanted to get our family a freeze dryer.

What is freeze drying and how might it benefit your families food preservation efforts.
This post contains affiliate links to products we recommend.  We do make a portion off any you may purchase.  See full disclosure here.

    But what is freeze drying? Freeze drying is a process that preserves food by removing the moisture content from it. As a result, freeze dried foods last longer, maintain their shape and color, and are light and crunchy.

    It has become increasingly popular in the past few years for its ability to preserve the taste, texture, and nutritional value of foods. But what exactly is freeze-drying? And what are the benefits for your family.

    what does freeze dried mean

    What Is The Purpose Of Freeze-Drying?

    The purpose of freeze-drying is to reduce moisture content while preserving nutrients and flavor. This process involves freezing an item almost completely solid and then removing all moisture content through a vacuum process. 

    This process takes many hours in a freeze drying machine.  But when the process is complete, the end result is a product with a shelf life of up to 25 years when stored properly. 

    Freeze drying also preserves color and texture as well as vitamins and minerals in the food.

    what is freeze drying

    Is Freeze-Drying Healthy?

    When done properly, yes! Since most moisture content is removed during this process, bacteria cannot survive or grow; therefore reducing spoilage and extending shelf life significantly without adding preservatives or chemicals like many dehydration processes do. 

    This makes it one of the safest methods for preserving food with minimal loss in flavor or nutrition. And since no heat is involved in freeze-drying process itself, vitamins and nutrients are not destroyed during the process.

    what does freeze dried mean

    What are the best foods to freeze dry?

    Anything!!  What you freeze dry will depend on what your family consumes and what produce you grow or purchase.  You can freeze fresh fruits and vegetables.  These make amazing snacks.  Or you can add them to casseroles and soups.

    You can freeze dry entire meals and proteins like soups, casseroles, pasta dishes, even meat dishes.  Simply add hot water to reconstitute and use.  

    We personally like to make a double batch of soups and freeze dry half.  This way in a couple months (or years) I can just pull it out and have a quick family dinner in the time it tasks to boil water.

    You can even freeze dry candy which creates a fun, crunchy texture.

    what is freeze drying

    What foods cannot be freeze-dried?

    Most foods can successfully be freeze dried.  Freeze drying is the process of extracting water from foods.  That means foods that contain high quantities of oil will not freeze dry well.  These include things like:  syrup, honey, butter, peanut butter and jam.

    Other foods may take additional time to freeze dry like cheeses, fatty meats and citrus fruits.  Though these items can be freeze dried, be aware that the end result might not always come out like you want.

    What is the difference between freeze drying and dehydrating?

    This is a common that many people have asked, us included.  Freeze drying and dehydrating essentially do the same thing, remove moisture from food.  However, they end up with very different results.

    Dehydrating foods requires heat to be used to remove moisture from foods.  As a result, foods often change shape, color and flavor during the process.  And as with all cooking, some of the nutrients change when heat is applied.  Dehydrating is still a great way to preserve foods.

    Freeze Drying foods is the process of freezing foods and removing moisture through a vacuum.  This means the food is never cooked just warmed enough to release moisture before the moisture is removed.  That means the foods retain their color, shape and flavor.  They also keep most of their nutritional value.

    Is freeze drying better than dehydrating?

    Both methods are great ways to preserve foods.  But they are different.  For instance, foods that are dehydrated have a short shelf life, change color, are more difficult to rehydrate and weigh more than those the are freeze dried.

    However, dehydrating costs much less because freezer dryers are a big expense.  Overall, your looking at cost versus taste and preservation.  Both methods work for preserving. 

    What is freeze drying and how might it benefit your families food preservation efforts.

    Can I Freeze Dry at Home?

    Yes, you can.  But proper freeze drying requires a machine.  There are several available machines in many different price ranges for household use.  We use the Harvest Right freeze dryer.  We purchased the large which has 5 trays.

    There are smaller models that are less expensive and work great for small batches.  But if you plan to preserve a lot of your families harvest, I suggest spending just a bit more to get the larger machines.  You won't regret it.

    what does freeze dried mean

    How long does freeze dried food last?

    Freeze dried food can last up to 25 years if stored properly.  You want to invest in some good equipment for storing your freeze dried foods.  

    what does freeze dried mean

    What equipment will I need to freeze dry my food?

    Just like anytime you preserve food, you'll need special equipment to freeze dry and store your food.  Some things you will need are:

    Freeze Dryer:  We use the large Harvest Right Freeze Dryer.  We decided to go with the large because it can hold more, which means filling less often versus running the machine more often.  But they come in small, medium and large.  And they released an Ex-Large version in 2023.

    Canning Jars:  You can store many foods in canning jars for short term use.  For long term shortage, jars need to either have an oxygen absorber or be sealed using a vacuum sealer.  They need to be stored in a cool and dark area to keep colors fresh.

    Vacuum Sealer: A vacuum sealer is a good investment if you plan to store your freeze dried goods in jars.  This eliminates the cost and need for oxygen absorbers.

    Mylar Bags:  A Mylar bag is a great choice for storing freeze dried foods.  They come in many sizes and keep light from getting to foods.  They can be stored in tubs or 5 gallon buckets for easy access.  Make sure to purchase thick bags to avoid foods puncturing through and ruining your food supply.

    Impulse Sealer: An Impulse Sealer is used to seal Mylar bags.  Heat is applied to the bag layers to seal them together and avoid moisture, air and light from penetrating the bags.

    Oxygen Absorbers: Whether you plan to use Mylar bags or canning jars, you'll want to invest in oxygen absorbers.  These will be added to each Mylar bag and short term shortage jars.  This ensures that any oxygen in the packaging is absorbed and keeps the food from spoiling.  

    You can purchase these in many places including from Harvest Right and even on Amazon.  We've had success with both, but you may need to try a few brands until you find one that works best for you.

    what is freeze drying

    What are the drawbacks of freeze drying?

    Freeze drying is expensive to get started.  We are talking several thousand dollars.  That is why we researched and talked to friends before we purchased.  We wanted to get the right product and know it would be beneficial to our family.

    Another drawback, there can be a long waiting process.  Freeze drying can take anywhere from 12-48 hours, sometimes more.  It is not a quick turn around like it can be for freezing or canning.

    However, in the end you get a lot of product for a little effort.

    Don't rush into purchasing a freeze dryer.  Do some research.  Ask a friend.  Try samples from companies or individuals you know that have a freeze dryer. Take your time.

    But I will say that freeze drying is an excellent way to preserve food while maintaining its nutritional value and taste.  If your family grows and preserves a lot of food each year, a freeze dryer is another great option for preserving food.  

    We are loving ours.  We've done so many different fruits, vegetables, meals and even candy.  It has been a fun adventure, but also a great way to store our food stores safely in less space.

    What is freeze drying and how might it benefit your families food preservation efforts?


    Privacy Policy and Disclaimer

    All tutorials and images are property of A Frugal Homestead. If you wish to share, you may use an image or two. Please provide a link back to the blog post. Do not remove any watermark or crop and edit images. All tutorials and designs are for personal use. Feel free to share through social media.

    Copyright A Frugal Homestead - All Rights Reserved

    Site Disclaimer