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Freeze Dried vs. Dehydrated Foods: What's the Difference?

I've always loved tech, including food tech. Freeze-dried food, sustainable farming, and even coffee brewing methods can be interesting.

Freeze-dried or dehydrated food, which is fresher?

Freeze-dried or dehydrated food, which is fresher?

Freeze Dried vs. Dehydrated

Storing food is always a smart thing to do. Besides saving you a lot of time and money, you are all set for the near future should a disaster strike.

But which method keeps your food fresh the longest? Is it better to freeze dry or dehydrate foods before storing? Both methods will keep your food edible for a long time, but there are some key differences you should understand before choosing either method. You will find a complete comparison of the two below, and we hope the information will help you figure out which way to go for storing your food.

Comparison Categories

We will compare freeze-dried and dehydrated in five different categories:

  • Shelf life
  • Preparation
  • Taste
  • Nutrition
  • Weight

Read through the sections carefully and you'll figure out what works best for your needs.

1. Shelf Life

Moisture is what causes food to deteriorate and decompose. That's why fresh fruit and meat last only a few days before you have to throw them away. When there's a lot of water in the food, you have to eat it as soon as possible. So, let's see how much moisture these two food preservation methods remove in a direct comparison.

Dehydrated food is prepared by removing moisture out of fresh ingredients. You need a commercial dehydrator to get the best results, but you can also use some homemade methods. Professional dehydrators are able to remove 95% of the moisture from any food type, while homemade methods remove about 70%. Most dehydrated food has a shelf life of about one year, but if you used a high-end dehydrator to remove the moisture, it could still be edible after 15 years.

On the other hand, freeze-dried food can be stored for much more extended periods. This is done by lowering temperature in a hurry to freeze food particles and moisture, and then lowering the pressure so that the ice sublimates (converts from solid to gas) to low-temperature steam and is expelled.

When properly executed, this process removes up to 99% of the moisture, giving freeze-dried food a shelf life of at least 25 years. Both dehydrated and freeze-dried foods substantially prolong the shelf life of most food types, but freeze-dried food tops in this category for surviving two or more times longer than dehydrated food.

2. Preparation

When it comes to preparation for eating, freeze-dried food is easy to manage. It is pre-cooked before packaging, so all you have to do to enjoy a 25-year-old recipe is to add some water and wait for a few minutes. You may not even notice that the food is dated a quarter of a century back.

Dehydrated food is also easy to prepare, but the process is somewhat different. Dehydrated food is originally made raw, so you'll have to cook it before eating it. You can also boil it to rehydrate and return it to its original texture. The process takes about 20 minutes, which won't be a problem when you have time, but when you're in a hurry, freeze-dried food will be ready for eating much sooner.

3. Taste

The flavor of the food makes all of the difference. No one wants to eat food that tastes like cardboard, so it's essential that the original flavor stays unchanged. The good thing is that both methods keep the flavor at almost the same level as before. However, since the preparation processes are different, one of them tastes better than the other.

Freeze-dried food also takes the cake in this category because it's prepared with little heat, so the taste of the food stays the same. On the other hand, dehydration involves a lot of heat to get the moisture out of the food, which affects the taste and smell of the food. It will still be close to the original product, but you will be able to notice a difference in taste and texture.

4. Nutrition

By the nature of freeze drying food (as explained above), most of the nutrients stay intact. Once you rehydrate the freeze-dried food, it will feel and taste fresh. So, basically, think of this process as a way to freeze the food and unfreeze it when you want to eat it. There is little change in texture, taste, or nutritional value.

Dehydrated food, on the other hand, has to go through the evaporation process. It's prepared in large ovens that use relatively low heat (compared to cooking) to evaporate water from food. The process affects the nutritional value of the food, which loses about 40% of the original nutrients due to evaporation. Freeze-dried food loses only two to five percent of the original nutrients, so it's clear that it's the better solution in terms of nutritional values.

5. Weight

If you want to store the food in your home (or underground bunker) only for emergencies in case of food shortages, you don't have to worry about the weight. But, if you want to carry the food with you on camping and hiking trips, you'll need to consider this factor.

Freeze-dried food is lighter and easier to manage than dehydrated food, so if you're planning to go on a long hike, freeze-dried food will be the better option. However, if you want to make a meal out of freeze-dried food, you'll have to bring some extra water which you will need to rehydrate it.

Dehydrated food, on the other hand, doesn't need extra preparation and you can eat it on the go. You can also eat some freeze-dried foods like fruits and vegetables without rehydrating them, so the final choice is really up to you.

Freeze-Dried vs. Dehydrated Food: Final Verdict

The bottom line is that freeze-dried food is much better than dehydrated food in most categories. Both preservation methods have their pros and cons, but freeze-dried food is much more practical for use. Not only that, it keeps 98% of the original nutritional value, and it's lighter than dehydrated food.

Also, dehydrated food can only last up to 15 years if prepared using the best possible dehydrators. In contrast, freeze-dried food may still be edible after 25 or even 30 years. So, if you want to stock up on your food supplies in case of a global catastrophe or a zombie apocalypse, you might want to start freeze-drying everything you can.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Ben Martin