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Backcountry Kitchen The Backcountry Kitchen forum is for the discussion of food and cooking gear related topics for backpacking trips (e.g. menus, recipes, stoves, fuel...).


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  #1  
Old 03-31-2014, 12:11 PM
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purplesherifftaylor purplesherifftaylor is offline
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Dehydrating and Food Poisoning

Are there problems with food poisoning when dehydrating food?

I doubt there are, if following good guidelines.

I told an acquaintance I might be getting a dehydrator, and she said "Aren't you worried about food poisoning?" From the look on her face, it was clear she was not the least bit interested in my answer.

She gets that same look when she is explaining to people that it is impossible for a tarp to keep you dry in the rain, and that cuben fiber will shred at the slightest touch.

I have never heard or read about anyone getting food poisoning from dehydrated food. Have you? If so, what did they do wrong?

T.I.A.
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  #2  
Old 03-31-2014, 09:24 PM
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Grandpa Grandpa is offline
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Quote:
If so, what did they do wrong?

They ate it.


That aside, I haven't heard of any problems with food poisoning from dehydrated food. For extra safety, I store the food I dehydrate in the freezer until I leave for a hiking trip. If I have a cooler along for transportation to the trail head, I'll keep the food in Ziploc bags in the cooler until I get there. Being pretty much an omnivore, my biggest problem has been my ad hoc recipes aren't always appealing to hiking partners who are pickier eaters.

I think your acquaintance probably worries too much.
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  #3  
Old 04-01-2014, 04:22 PM
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richwads richwads is offline
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It depends on what you're dehydrating. Dried fruit is fine without refrigeration for a Loooooong time as long as you keep it dry. I imagine dried vegetables are similar. Keep inside ziplock bags to protect from bugs and humidity. There isn't anything wrong with freezing or refrigerating it tho.

Dried raw meat (jerky) can be stored in zip lock bags at room temperature for an unlimited time without going "bad", although its texture might deteriorate after a year or so . It should have all visible fat removed and be sliced evenly thin (like 1/4 inch for example) in order to not overdry and underdry parts of it. Read up more on that and use trial and error. Store bought jerky won't last over a week or so once opened as it is left with more moisture (to be easier to eat) than traditional jerky.

Dried cooked meat can go bad without refrigeration. Fat will go rancid, for one thing. Also, cooking breaks down meat cells, allowing easier bacterial and critter entry than dried raw meat does.

To be careful and dry your food no more than a week before your trip, and refrigerating it until the day you leave, will lower the odds of it making you sick, for sure.

GL
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Old 04-01-2014, 05:47 PM
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IdahoSkies IdahoSkies is offline
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We have dehydrated food every year. (No way we could eat everything from our garden before it went bad). We have never had a problem, not like with canning. But in general, fruit and vegetables will dehydrate and then last a long time. The key being make sure its not gooey. If you don't dehydrate the material so its dry to the touch I could see that in a while it might start growing fuzzies. But in the 20+ years that I have been dehydrating stuff, I've never had, or heard of food poisoning being a problem with it.
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Old 04-04-2014, 05:27 AM
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Bushwalker Bushwalker is offline
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While "food poisoning" and food "contamination" are not to be taken lightly, at the same time they are issues where I believe that there is more spoken, written and worried-about the topic, than there IS actual food poisoning itself out there in the world !

Dehydration of the foodstuffs - for storage and transport - isn't usually to be found listed as a major factor in food poisoning ~ but poor food handling, lack of proper hygiene, and improper storage and preparation are..
(As for other possible sources of "contamination" apart from spoilage or poisoning, these are myriad : industrial pollutants, drugs, hormones and antibiotics, pesticides, contaminated water, external sources of bacterial or fungal contamination, other foreign substances such as plastics or petroleum products, etc. ~ so that they are more of a "risk" than food poisoning ! ).

Despite widely-held misperceptions that commercial and factory food processing is the main culprit in food poisonings and contaminations, the sorry fact is that the THE #1 source of food poisoning is in the home kitchen, and in poor personal habits (like those who don't wash their hands after going to the toilet, handling babies or pets, or before and during food preparation..) ~ a major source of food contamination is people mixing raw and cooked meats (especially when handling poultry or fish..), and not cleaning work surfaces after handling raw meat..

I'VE yet to hear about any food poisonings tied into the use of properly dehydrated foods, and while no doubt it does happen occasionally, the risk is small enough that it's not something that I will be losing any sleep over.
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  #6  
Old 04-06-2014, 07:33 PM
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GGervin GGervin is offline
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+1 to Richwad's comments.

I've only had home dehydrated jerky go bad on me once, and that was because of the marinade I used (I don't remember the culprit ingredient, but it might have been too much sugar). It molded within a few days. Of course, I was smart enough not to eat it.

I think carefully choosing foods to dehydrate really is the key. There's a reason you can find lots of beef jerky recipies, but no chicken jerky.

Personally, I almost always do some home dehyrating before a packing trip. It lets me decide what I eat. (With the number of food allergies I have, that's a significant boon.) I love the fact I can invent my own packing food, and keep it light and compact by dehydrating it before I go. Don't let fears of poisoning tales keep you from trying it. Just be smart about what you do dehydrate.
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Old 04-14-2014, 07:32 PM
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BPhil BPhil is offline
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+2. Food handling is far more concerning. Passing a bag of jerky or trail mix around the fire is a common practice I observe and abstain from on a regular basis.

Brian
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Old 05-07-2014, 05:21 PM
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Perkolady Perkolady is offline
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I've been enjoying my home-dehydrated foods for several decades now. I will offer my $ 0.02 to those who would like them

With most quality dehydrators, there will be an instruction booklet of some kind included. Follow it closely! If you still aren't sure, there are plenty of dehydrating books, and internet info available.

Definitely consider a dehydrator with a variable thermostat. Different foods require different temperatures to obtain the best results! Some foods might dry too fast on the outside, while staying damp inside and the moisture trapped inside could cause a problem On the other hand, some things could also end up horribly brittle and inedible... Having the correct temperature setting for whatever is being dried really helps to minimize negative results either way.

Pay attention to any pre-treatments that may be necessary. Some foods require things like peeling, checking, blanching, bruising, dipping, etc., etc. before dehydrating. Some things may require pre- or partial cooking.

Use the freshest ingredients possible. Place things onto the trays as uniformly as possible (thickness and spacing).

Work as cleanly as possible. Sterilize where you can. Keep pets out of the work area, etc.

Don't panic... things WILL look and feel different when they cool on the tray.

I prefer to use my dehydrator when the weather is dry. It doesn't take as long and I like to keep the foods as dry as possible while they are cooling off and being packed away. Less moisture = better shelf life.

When storing foods, keep out as much oxygen and moisture as possible, and store in a cool, dry, dark place. Another very good place to store is in a freezer. It might help to store in the portion size you will likely use most. When the girls and I knew we would be preparing for trips, we'd make things in advance and bag up individual servings for each of us ahead of time, then just grab things as we need them from the freezer. That way, if one was a mac and cheese addict while the other was a spaghetti addict, everyone could be happy

So.. how do I know if something's *gone bad*? Different foods will have different shelf lives, so that's hard to say..... But....Well, I've never had any foods look moldy or anything. After a while, they might look a little... um... *different*. The color will fade. The taste won't be as intense. Never had anything smell or taste bad though, even after several years. In general, the higher the fat or oil content a food has, the shorter the shelf-life. They tend to go rancid if left at room temperatures, and in a shorter time span than other foods. Shelf-life is something largely dependent upon the circumstances previously mentioned. It takes a little practice to get the hang of it. A good rule of thumb is... *When in doubt, throw it out!*

One other thing worth mentioning... there is a difference between dehydrated food, and freeze-dried! Freeze-dried often has a longer shelf-life, BUT, it ain't gonna taste like home cookin'!!

Perkolady
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