Freeze drying may be the best way to store food for the long term. It’s also a great way to make snacks for the family or ingredients for some recipes. But freeze drying alone won’t protect your food from spoilage. Any food that has been freeze dried needs to be protected from both moisture and oxygen therefore it needs to be stored in well sealed containers or packaging of some type. Before we dive into how to store your freeze dried food we should note that you need to ensure that it has been thoroughly freeze dried first. You’ll want to spot check a piece or two by breaking them in half and checking that the middle of the food item has no visible ice crystals and isn’t cold, which would indicate that it is completely dried through. If it isn’t freeze dry it a bit longer to ensure it’s completely dry.
Mylar bags that are properly sealed are the best solution for long term storage of freeze dried food. You’ll also want to include an oxygen absorber in the bag as well. Sealed mylar bags will prevent any fresh air or moisture from getting in better than any other solution. Including an oxygen absorber will neutralize the oxygen in the small amount of air that is in the bag and help deal with any that may eventually work its way in over years of storage. To properly seal the bag you’ll want to get a quality impulse sealer. The sealer will also come in handy for resealing bags. You’ll be less concerned about breaking the seal on a bag if you can easily reseal it once you’ve retrieved all you needed from it.
Vacuum sealers for home use have become quite popular for helping to preserve food for longer periods of time. They are a great option but it should be noted that plastic does allow a small amount of oxygen transfer over time compared to the microscopically less porous mylar bags or metal #10 cans. If you want to ensure you maximize the longevity of your food, vacuum sealed plastic shouldn’t be your first choice, especially when it comes to meat. For shorter periods of non-meat foods, vacuum sealed plastic bags are a great and convenient solution.
Depending on your situation, you may prefer to seal your food up tight in cans for easier storage. It’s a great option but does require a large and expensive can sealer. #10 cans are very similar to a typical soup can or similar that you’ll see in your local grocery store except it’s much larger. If you’ve every bought coffee in a can it likely came in a #10 can. They can hold a little more than 5 typical soup cans, which are referred to as #2 cans. #10 cans are very common in the food service industry. If you’ve ever worked or spend time in a commercial kitchen you almost certain have seen a #10 can. One plus for cans over mylar bags is that you can purchase plastic lids that you can use to reseal a can after it has been opened. It won’t obviously be airtight but it will do a great job of protecting the food inside for a decent period of time, making it more convenient to use the contents of the can over a few weeks of time. Don’t forget, when sealing your cans an oxygen absorber is also a best practice.
Good airtight jars are excellent options for shorter term storage to protect freeze dried food from moisture and fresh air while being convenient to easily access the contents. Obviously not the best solution for long term storage, but including an oxygen absorber would be a smart addition. Glass jars with rubber seals are ideal but good quality airtight plastic containers will work just as well. These aren’t long term storage options so go with what fits your needs best while still being reasonably airtight and convenient to use.
Different foods last different lengths of time when freeze dried. Fruits tend to not last very long, becoming less than ideal in as little as 2 years. The longest will last 25 years or more. Typically, freeze dried foods don’t “go bad” but they will become less appetizing and powdery as long as they haven’t been contaminated with moisture.
No but it should be kept at cooler temperatures. Warm temperatures can adversely affect the food but refrigeration isn’t required.
Both are methods for removing moisture from foods to allow them to last far longer than they normally would before going bad. Dehydration typically removes 95% or so of the moisture within foods. Freeze drying removes as much as 99% of the moisture. This makes freeze drying a more effective solution for extremely long term storage of foods.
While studies have shown that some nutrients are reduced through the freeze drying process, the amount of the reduction is fairly negligible. Freeze dried food is essentially just as good for you as before it was dried.
Anything that is mostly made of fat (butter or sausage patties) or mostly made of sugar (jams or jellies for instance) will not freeze dry well. Things “with” fat or sugar in them will freeze dry just fine. It’s just when you are attempting to freeze dry something that is mostly composed of fat or sugar that you’ll be challenged.
When you want to be prepared with food for years to come, freeze dried food is your absolute best solution. This is the solution the military uses for there MRE’s (Meals Ready to Eat). For the longest shelf life, which should be 25 years or more, mylar bags with oxygen absorbers are the best choice. #10 cans are just as good as long as you’re okay with the high cost of a can sealer and the slightly less user friendly process.
Long term storage isn’t always the goal with freeze dried foods however. Just longer than the foods’ typical shelf life may be your goal. If this is the case, mylar bags or #10 cans may be overkill. A good airtight glass or plastic container will suffice and be much easier to deal with.
No matter your needs, make sure your food has been completely dried and do your best to protect it from moisture and oxygen. These are the 2 factors that will ruin your freeze dried foods.
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