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tips for home cooked dehydrated meals

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tips for home cooked dehydrated meals

Postby sparky » Sun Mar 17, 2013 8:14 pm

I have thought about doing this for a long time, and want to prepare my own meals from now on.

I have a few questions that could probably be answered by internet searching, but I would like to open a dialog about it here. I have mever dehydrated so I am a a blank slate here....

I have read on the internet that dehydrated food doesnt taste as good as freeze dried. Does anyone agree or disagree with this?

How long does dehydrated food last, and what is your preferred storing method?

I am not looking for recipes, but what types of meals are ideal? Is simple better, or is there really no limit to the complexity of ingredients?

From what I gather, the less fat the better....or easier to dehydrate and rehydrate. Is this true?

thanks in advance
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Re: tips for home cooked dehydrated meals

Postby gary c. » Mon Mar 18, 2013 7:09 am

sparky wrote:I have read on the internet that dehydrated food doesnt taste as good as freeze dried. Does anyone agree or disagree with this?
I think a lot of things taste the same but when I do notice a difference I think that freeze dried retains a better flavor.

How long does dehydrated food last, and what is your preferred storing method?
My experience is that it lasts much longer than what is recommended. I have left dehydrated food in my bear can in the garage from fall to spring and ate it without worry, never had a problem. I do make sure that those are no fat meals. I keep my dehydrated food double bagged in the refrigerator crisper except for dehydrated meats which are kept in the freezer because of fat content.

I am not looking for recipes, but what types of meals are ideal? Is simple better, or is there really no limit to the complexity of ingredients?
Most of my stuff is pretty simple, just add water.

From what I gather, the less fat the better....or easier to dehydrate and rehydrate. Is this true?

Like I wrote above I think it lasts better than many caution about but I try to keep fat to a minimum. I wouldn't leave dehydrated hamurger in my bear can until next season and I keep it in the freezer until ready to use.

thanks in advance
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Re: tips for home cooked dehydrated meals

Postby bluefish » Wed Mar 20, 2013 4:48 pm

Gary, good info. I've been thinking about this for quite awhile as a way to upgrade food quality on the trail. Is there a dehydrating system or brand you would recommend?


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Re: tips for home cooked dehydrated meals

Postby gary c. » Wed Mar 20, 2013 6:54 pm

I keep my dehydrating really basic so I don't have a particular brand to recommend. Before I bought one I made a few phone calls to my aunts, mother inlaw, friends of the family and by the weekend I had two dehydrators in my garage. Lots of people buy or get dehydrators as gifts to be healthy making banana chips and fruit leathers but never really use them. What I'm saying is ask around because free is always a good price. If you do buy one you don't need anything really big and fancy. I would sugest something with four trays, heat level adjustable, and with a fan. Here is a good example of what I'm talking about.
http://www.walmart.com/ip/Nesco-Profess ... R/10982697

The grates in the bottom of every dehydrator I've seen are too large for much what I dehydrate. Rather than buy the commercial inserts (got one included w/dehydrator) I just bought a roll of rubberized window screan from the hardware store and cut out my own. They work much better than the commercial ones and cheaper.
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Re: tips for home cooked dehydrated meals

Postby bluefish » Wed Mar 20, 2013 7:19 pm

Thanks, Gary. Free is an excellent deal. If I can't get that, maybe 5.00 in a yard sale. Sparky, thanks for sparking my interest. :)

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Re: tips for home cooked dehydrated meals

Postby dave54 » Wed Mar 20, 2013 9:08 pm

sparky wrote:...From what I gather, the less fat the better....or easier to dehydrate and rehydrate. Is this true? ...


Fat does not dehydrate, at least not to any appreciable degree. And fat does not store well.

OTOH -- the biggest limitation of trail nutrition is consuming enough calories. If you use a working figure of ~3500 calories per day for the average backpacker (some days more, some days less, depending on metabolism, body build, etc) you will run a caloric deficit unless packing multiple pounds (4+) of food per day per person. One way to help get more calories in your diet is with fat. Fat has 9 calories per gram versus 4 for carbs and proteins. However; most of us have sufficient stores of fuel in our bodies for a short trip without any problems (those extra few pounds we just cannot seem to shake).

Most easy to prepare lightweight freeze dried or dehydrated meals and snacks are not nutritionally balanced. Again, not really a problem for short trips, especially if you also pack a daily multivitamin or similar. Nutrition possibly could become a problem on longer trips.
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Re: tips for home cooked dehydrated meals

Postby rlown » Wed Mar 20, 2013 10:37 pm

dave54 wrote:the biggest limitation of trail nutrition is consuming enough calories. If you use a working figure of ~3500 calories per day for the average backpacker (some days more, some days less, depending on metabolism, body build, etc) you will run a caloric deficit unless packing multiple pounds (4+) of food per day per person. One way to help get more calories in your diet is with fat. Fat has 9 calories per gram versus 4 for carbs and proteins. However; most of us have sufficient stores of fuel in our bodies for a short trip without any problems (those extra few pounds we just cannot seem to shake).

Most easy to prepare lightweight freeze dried or dehydrated meals and snacks are not nutritionally balanced. Again, not really a problem for short trips, especially if you also pack a daily multivitamin or similar. Nutrition possibly could become a problem on longer trips.


Kind of serious here. does anyone peak out at 3500 calories a day or just take what they can because they know they'll be out and grab a burger or a pizza. Most trips aren't thru hikes and last a week or two at best. 11lbs usually fits in my can. I don't pack it full of nuts and berries and.. well.

I know I don't have enough food to probably burn more than 2300 calories per day, but maybe that's just me. I do force myself to drink water, and maybe no so much on the food.

I'm kind of agreeing with you that most of us do have the fat stores. Although.. I don't lose sustainable weight when i get home. It's water weight and comes right back.

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Re: tips for home cooked dehydrated meals

Postby gary c. » Wed Mar 20, 2013 11:43 pm

There is no way that I even get close to what I burn on hiking days, I might make up a little on layover days. I normally carry a dry salami or a few packs of peperoni but that is more because it tastes great than for the extra calories. My favorite thing to dehydrate and carry to add to most dinners is dehydrated hamburger. Even though you have to go to lengths to get the fat out before dehydrating there is still some left over but if done right it keeps way longer than I need it to.

My favorite backpacking dinner is 1/2cp dehydrated refried beans, 1/2cp dehydrated hamburger, and some dry tortilla soup mix for flavor. Rehydrate the mix and wrap it in a couple of tortillas with some taco sauce and cheese. Dried onions and jalapenos if I'm feeling adventurous.
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Re: tips for home cooked dehydrated meals

Postby longri » Thu Mar 21, 2013 9:30 am

I don't avoid fat when I make dehydrated meals. One of my favorite dehydrated dishes is made with a significant amount of olive oil. It's definately oily after it's dried so I keep it in the freezer until I go on a trip. It still holds up for a few weeks unrefrigerated. That is, I have never detected any rancid flavors. YMMV.

The caloric needs of backpackers is all over the place depending on the terrain, the distance, the load, and, of course, the individual. One of the things that really shocked me when I started doing ultralight trips was how much less I needed to eat with the smaller load versus a "normal" pack, even when I walked twice as far.

Most people run a deficit not just because they don't want to carry enough food but because the food they do carry isn't as tasty or digestible. Picture in detail the differences between what you eat in the backcountry versus in the city. Which makes you salivate more? There are backcountry gourmets out there but most of the stuff people cook just isn't all that wonderful when compared to fresh food. Sometimes altitude makes a difference too.

dave54 wrote:If you use a working figure of ~3500 calories per day for the average backpacker (some days more, some days less, depending on metabolism, body build, etc) you will run a caloric deficit unless packing multiple pounds (4+) of food per day per person.

Four pounds? That would pretty low calorie food. I did the spreadsheet thing on a trip once where 3500 Cal per day was my target. I ended up with about 1.6 lbs of food per day.
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Re: tips for home cooked dehydrated meals

Postby dave54 » Thu Mar 21, 2013 8:15 pm

1.6 lbs seems a bit light.
Let us use the often-recommended calorie ratios of 40% carb, 30% protein, and 30% fat. Some sources use slightly different ratios, this is the most common. For a 3500 calorie diet the numbers then come to 1400 calories carb, 1050 cal protein, 1050 fat.
Carbs and proteins yield 4 cal per gram, fat yields 9 cal/gm. This works out to 350 gm carb, 262.5 gm protein, and 116.7 gm fat. Total 729 gm of pure caloric macronutrient per day. Add in the recommended fiber of 14 gm per 1000 cal of food and you get 49 gm fiber. Grand total 778 grams of pure food, or 1.7 lbs of calories and fiber per day. There are another couple of grams of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals, etc). I am ignoring those. Also assume on backpacking trips in the Sierra the most important macronutrient, water, is in ample supply.
If you could find a food that was pure nutrients with no inert material your 1.6 lbs is about right. Food is not pure nutrient. There are inert ingredients, water (even dehydrated food has some water weight), packaging, and other non-nutritive components of food. Values for the inert mass of food are hard to come by, but consider your fecal mass as an analog for the unused portion. Subtract out the water weight (again values vary, use 70%) and you have a rough approximation of the amount of inert and unused portion of your diet. The average person passes about ¼ to ½ pound of solid mass per day. This gives a minimum of 2 pounds per day of food with 100% efficiency. No food has 100% efficiency. If doubling to four pounds per person per day (to allow for inefficiency, waste, etc) seems high to you, OK, use another factor. You still have a lot of food per day to equal a sound nutritious diet – an impractical amount for backpacking.
As noted in an earlier post it is difficult to avoid running a caloric deficit. By increasing the amount of fat you can reduce the deficit, but not eliminate it. However, if you have extraordinary luck fishing or find the mother lode of berry patches…
Nearly everyone has sufficient stores of fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K) so shorting these in a backpacking diet is no worry for several weeks. The water solubles (B complex and C) should be replaced on a regular basis. For most people a daily multivitamin is sufficient. Minerals are also not a problem except for multi-week trips.
There is a large range of specific nutritional requirements even among similar individuals, so this analysis is a general guideline only. Listen to your body. Most people can ‘feel’ when they are short a specific nutrient. Even if you cannot identify the specific nutrient, you may notice a change in your body telling you something is amiss.
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Re: tips for home cooked dehydrated meals

Postby rlown » Thu Mar 21, 2013 8:34 pm

seems we're off topic and into caloric requirements for hiking.. Unless Sparky, that's what you were after..
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Re: tips for home cooked dehydrated meals

Postby longri » Fri Mar 22, 2013 8:58 am

Yes, Dave, I calculated 48% fat (by Calories) for that trip -- I normally eat a lot less fat at home but I think it's okay to deviate from ideal dietary track for a week or three.

Back on topic: I never buy freeze dried meals as they are almost all nasty, oversalted, and somewhat expensive. Too much packaging as well. If I had a lyophilizer I would freeze dry meals, not because they taste better than dehydrated (they don't) but because they generally rehydrate more quickly.

Three things: (1) The meal has to taste good fresh! (2) It needs to dehydrate reasonably well, and (3) It has to rehydrate properly. It's that last one that often makes/breaks a dehydrated meal. Some foods simply do not come back as well or in a reasonable amount of time. You need to experiment.

There are websites devoted to dehydrated meals, but you can just start with simple things. It's amazing what works as long as you aren't planning to keep it at room temperature for a year.
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