Freeze Dried Foods and Dehydrated Foods – What’s the Difference Anyway?

Everyone has heard of dehydrated foods. It’s the simplest and least-expensive way to store food for longer periods of time; it’s something that’s more affordable for families to do at home–if they can afford to spend the time preparing and dehydrating foods for emergency food storage. But what of freeze-dried foods? To some people the term may be completely new, or sound familiar but unsure of the definition. Some may have even tried freeze-dried food without even realizing they have. If you have had “astronaut ice cream” before, then you have tried freeze dried food.

When gathering food for emergency food storage, hiking, camping or other similar reasons, it is good to know the difference between these two types of prepared food storage. Not only will knowing the difference help you understand how they’re made, but help you know why some processes will be better for the types of food you wish to store versus other types of food.

Traditional food drying, or dehydration, has been around since ancient times for food preservation. Since the convenience of refrigerators weren’t around, the sun, wind and air had to do the drying. By removing the majority of water, enzymes and microorganisms are inhibited, stopping or severely slowing their usual routine of spoiling food.

Today, solar or electric food dryers can be bought for your personal home to provide more consistent results. With the cost of purchasing one, let alone the time it takes to prepare dehydrated food yourself, these reasons often steers people from that route. Fortunately, with improved technologies, the internet, and companies mass producing dehydrated foods, consumers can buy dehydrated food at affordable prices–not to mention save countless hours of dehydrating food yourself.

Freeze drying food has not been around too long, and when the concept was originally practiced, it wasn’t used for food. During World War II, certain medical supplies were spoiling before arriving to their destinations. Scientists determined that by freezing the materials at a certain point then drying to remove the formed crystals, it would preserve its state without refrigeration. While the process had to be modified for the sake of preserving the texture of food when freeze-drying, a faster freezing process is done to prevent crystallization from breaking the cell-walls of food.

Now understanding the big difference between the two methods of preserving food for emergency food storage, hiking or the many other reasons people buy dry food, which method is the best? As with almost all answers to broad questions, the answer is: “it depends.” Each process has its advantages, and when used correctly, can give consumers looking to purchase food storage the best options available.

Traditional dehydration is less expensive than freeze drying. Without the need of more expensive and sophisticated equipment, standard dehydration will produce preserved food at a cheaper price. Nevertheless, this process has more limitations, including the quality of some types of food’s texture and taste. Most dehydrated foods can have little to no seasonings or other ingredients. Once you rehydrate your food, usually more cooking can be required if it’s a full meal you desire. That’s why dehydration is better for simpler foods such as snacks, fruits, grains, etc.

Freeze drying, while more expensive, can open your world to many more possibilities for preserving food. Entire meals with full ingredients, seasoning, etc. can be freeze-dried together. Additionally, only water is needed to prepare your meal again, reducing the need for preparation. Still, with a higher expense, freeze drying may not always be the best answer every time.

The best result then for finding the right type of prepared food storage is finding preparers that use both methods. Many companies today prepare full pre-made meals for food storage, which include food that has been both dehydrated and freeze-dried, depending on the type. This allows all servings of food, be they freeze-dried meats, or dehydrated grains, suit you and your needs for food storage, camping, hiking, or whatever other reason you have for purchasing preserved foods.