How to dehydrate your own backcountry meals

For a little over a year now, Dylan and I have been dehydrating our own meals to take with us on our trips. I bought a used Sunbeam food dehydrator on trademe for $40, and I’m pretty sure we’ve gotten our $40 of use out of it!

Dehydrating meals may seem like a lot of work, but considering how expensive most backcountry cuisine or other pre-packaged freeze dried meals are (around $10/meal), and that they’re not really that tasty… Dehydrating your own meals may suddenly seem a lot more appealing.  If you’re someone with particular dietary needs or food allergies, finding appropriate meals can be difficult, so the option of creating your own meals from scratch may be the answer!

We’ve actually enjoyed trying different recipes – giving ourselves a lot more variety in our tramping meals, the ability to include your favourite veggies, etc. And the best part is, they weigh almost nothing and take up very little space.

I’m not going to proclaim to be a food blogger or a masterchef. This is just to give you an idea of our process of dehydrating. This happens to be a chicken curry (yes I used sauce from a jar – like I said, not a master chef – but your meal will only be limited by your creativity in the kitchen!).

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Veggies!  I love veggies.

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Sauce (yes 2!  We like our meals to be “saucy”, tomatoes, rice, chicken

Step 1:  Chop up everything into quite small pieces (more surface area, easier to dehydrate).  I am very bad at cutting things up finely so for me this is small.

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Chopping into small pieces

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Small pieces

Step 2:  Cook everything up as usual.

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Cooking

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Cooking…

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Lots of sauce!

Step 3:  For this meal, I mixed the sauce and rice together.  Depending on the type of carbohydrate I’m using, I may or may not include.  Rice takes a long time to cook so if I’m doing a meal with rice I often include it.  However, I have made meals that were a meat/veg/sauce only and then served them over instant mashed potatoes, couscous or pasta which I cook when we’re in the backcountry.

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Mixing rice into the sauce

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Our dehydrator – stained from many tomato meals

Step 4: Spread your meal in a thin-ish layer on each of your dehydrator trays.  I made a huge batch of curry so I’ve packed it in pretty tightly here.

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Layering up the trays

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Outside of the dehydrator.

Step 5:  Dehydrate on high for 24-36 hours.  This meal took 36 hours.  Time depends on how much food you’ve got in there, etc.

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The finished process

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Definitely dehydrated and crunchy!

Step 6: Remove from trays and place into a bag.  Carefully label what it is, and when you cooked it up.  We store our meals in the freezer and portion them out into individual servings as needed (yes, I just guess every time – eventually you get better at guessing serving size + water ratio).

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Bags of dehydrated meal!

And voila!  You’ve just completed your dehydrated meal.

Tips: Mince, beans and veggies re-hydrate best.  Chicken is worst (it will never fully re-hydrate perfectly and will be a little chewy).  Tomato based dishes work really well, we like to add a lot of cheese as well (seriously, cheese makes everything better).  If you’re going to make a sweet dish (e.g. Honey soy chicken, or Terriyaki chicken which are some of Dylan’s faves) make sure to mix the rice in as the sugar/honey in the sauce will act like glue to your dehydrator trays.

Have you tried to dehydrate your own meals?  Any trips, tricks or fave recipes?

Dehydrating is a bit of trial and error, but honestly well worth a shot.  You’re only limited by your skills in the kitchen.  Good luck, happy cooking and happy tramping!

 

 

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