Dehydrated Food versus Freeze Dried Food


Are you curious to know the basic differences between dehydrated food and freeze dried food?

Lots of preparedness-minded people who have a so called ‘deep pantry’ and will often have a variety of foods for longer term storage including dehydrated foods and freeze dried foods.

Here are the basics regarding each process:



Dehydration is the process of removing water from a substance, in this case – food. Dehydrated foods have much of their water content removed.

Many preparedness food-storage vendors sell dehydrated foods, however it also a process that you can do right in your own home with either a low-temperature oven or a purpose-built food dehydrator, similar to this one… Excalibur.

During the process, moisture is removed from the food by slowly heating it at temperatures which may range from 115-F to 155-F depending on the recommendations for the food type itself. Typically a fan circulates the air within the food dehydrator to evenly distribute the heat. The process time may range from 8 hours to 12 hours or more, depending on the moisture content of the food and other factors.

When finished, typical ‘dehydrated food’ moisture levels are reduced to levels in a range from 10 to 20 percent – depending.

Home dehydrated foods may have a ‘typical’ shelf life ranging from six months to a year, however it is fairly easy to obtain much longer shelf life for many dehydrated foods by drying them longer, keeping them in a cool-dry storage environment, and properly packaging the food (vacuum sealer).

Dehydrating at home is a great way to store extra food from your garden, or vegetables and fruits you have purchased at the market at a great ‘sale’ price.

Advantages of Dehydrated Food

No waste
Low moisture
Do it yourself
Long shelf life
Not easily spoiled
Costs less than freeze dried food




Freeze drying is also a dehydration process – with some differences which enable the food to become MUCH DRIER than dehydrated food.

The freeze-dry process is a professional process which is very expensive to reproduce at home.

The foods are processed / frozen, and during the freezing process the surrounding air pressure is reduced in a vacuum chamber to enable the (frozen) water in the food to change from a ‘solid phase’ to a ‘gas phase’ in order to remove even more moisture.

Freeze drying removes more water from foods than dehydrating (down to just a few percent!), so it lengthens the shelf life. Many vendors of freeze dried foods claim shelf life as long as 25 years.

Freeze-dried foods can taste amazingly delicious due to the unique process which retains even more flavor and nutrients.

Advantages of Freeze-dried Food

Very long shelf life
Very lightweight
Very low moisture
Reconstitutes quickly
Best way to dry meat items
Generally tastes better than dehydrated
Retains original shape, texture, color after reconstitution


Both dehydrated and freeze-dried foods have a place in one’s diversified food storage. Freeze-dried foods are more expensive although very light weight with a long shelf life. Dehydrated foods can be processed at home, albeit with a shorter shelf life.


  1. Two comments, both should be stored below 74 degrees room temp to ensure food value retention, and freeze dried food has another advantage it is not effected by additional freezing during storage as it is already freeze dried unlike some items that are dehydrated could be damaged.

  2. We have both dehydrated and freeze dried. The dehydrated works pretty good in things likes soups and stews because of the long cook times. We like to simmer our stews for hours. Freeze dried re-hydrates much quicker and is far superior in taste. We prefer freeze dried, but the cost is prohibitive. My dream is to one day own my own freeze dryer.

    1. Well, today is the last day for Harvest Right’s
      “in home freeze dryer” sale. You can buy one for a cool $3,119 (shipping included).

      There you have it.

  3. The Economic Advantage of Freeze Dried Meat.

    As a young girl I could purchase a hot dog for fifteen cents. The hot dog has remained the same. Only the price has changed.

    When you freeze dry meat you are making a guaranteed investment. Consider what a pork chop will cost in twenty years. For those on a fixed income, investing in freeze dried meat is of paramount importance.

    Purchasing commercial freeze dried food is expensive and may not suit your taste. In pictures it appears as though it is light on meat and heavy on pasta and rice. With your own freeze dryer you can preserve your own homemade soups and casseroles. Yes, a freeze dryer costs a lot, but over twenty years it will be an excellent investment.

    Also, when purchasing commercial freeze dried food, you are paying an awful lot for rice and pasta. These items can be easily stored at a much lower cost. The same holds true for powdered eggs and cheese.

    Bread is an essential. Storing massive quantities of wheat and yeast can easily be replaced with freeze dried bread. Less time and work is involved to have a sandwich.

    I have plenty of dehydrated food, but it is all vegetables. My new freeze dryer has allowed me to extend my deep pantry to a greater variety. It has been a great investment.

    1. @ Pieface,

      You are right on the cost of buying the freeze-dried meals. The cost figures much higher. That is why I only buy the individual fruits, veggies, meats. It is the most cost effective way to buy it if you can’t afford your own freeze dryer.

    2. Thank-you. Your post has many good points, including reminding us that food cost increases. We try to stock up on foods when they’re a good price, and more than once had to live off of our pantry when our income was lower than our expenses. My son has never missed a meal or been deprived of a typical menu because of it, praise Jesus. Not only will I get many years of use from a quality freeze-dryer, it’s something that can be passed down to my son &/or passed around for family use.

    3. Hey everyone,
      What about family’s going in together and buy one?
      Three family’s at 1000.00 each. I’m going to try that.
      One person ( I’m part time), can do most of the dehydrating,
      Everyone else brings their food to the dehydrator and helps when they can🌼

  4. Someone on this blog has a freeze dryer (sorry can’t recall who).

    Please could they chime in on costs, with purchase cost figured in?

    1. Hi Anon

      I have now put about 90 batches through my freeze drier. Most of the spring stuff was emptying out the excess in my freezers – mostly meat. Since then it has been berries, vegetables, and fruit from garden. Now it is on to meats and other protein foods that really make the freeze drier valuable.

      I like to cook most of my foods prior to the processing – scrambled eggs with cheese and spices mixed in, stew meats with added seasonings, ground meat sauces with vegetables mixed in,….. The freeze drying process does not kill potentially bad stuff in food, so I like cooking so to safeguard ourselves and make preparing to serve faster, I cook first then dry.

      In an emergency, I do not want to cook some meals for long periods to prepare (such as a stew) due to fuel use and safety reasons (smells carry).

      The costs I have calculated for store bought foods (mainly meats, eggs, and cheese) and not counting the electricity average less than $3 per serving. Obviously, all home grown food is only the cost of production. The cost of mylar bags and O2 absorbers are only pennies and since most of my foods are placed in the many glass sealers I have, the cost is even less.

      The greatest advantages are: no need to rotate foods, and the retention of the original flavor. You can pop a freeze dried raspberries into your mouth and your mouth will pucker due to the intense tartness. Hope this answers your question.

      1. I should also add that by my figuring, each batch in the drier is about enough food for one person for one week. So, my 90 batches done since the beginning of the year is almost food for two years for one person. I think that the cost of the unit will easily pay for itself in two years.

        1. homebody

          Thank you. I am not in any position to purchase one, but when I win that lottery thinking it is on the list.

          Having said that, it has always interested me, and I appreciate hearing about all the aspects of it.

          Any time I have purchased freeze dried foods/berries/veggies, I have loved the taste. I am suspecting that possibly more nutrition is retained in freeze dried over ..dehydrated / frozen? Any thoughts/info on that?

        2. Anon

          I can’t give you a scientific answer to the nutrition question, but I can state that my energy level is not diminished eating my prepare food as compared to fresh.

          On the lottery, you may be better off enrolling in a lay-away program with the company or some squirreling away at home. As NRP would say “you eat an elephant, one bite at a time”.

        3. homebody

          Yes, I understand about layaway, saving for it, etc…

          I am not at all handy, and not (honestly) in/of the mindset to manage the maintenance/etc of these things..

          But, I think at some point in the future I may be. I take a lot of “learning” and “getting mentally ready” on new things like this….May sound silly, but still, better I realize this and try to work my mental way up to to speak.

          In the meantime, I do appreciate your update/info.

          I am going from the taste, (of the limited ones I’ve had), and from that I suspect the nutrients are good quantity, so to speak.

        4. Homebody, wondering if you could share what freeze dryer you ended up going with and whether you like it? Been debating for about a year on one…


        5. I got a stainless steel unit from Harvest Right with four extra trays and a starter pack of accessories including the heat sealer.

          I ended up with a bad pump that leaked oil – they replaced it in three days no questions asked. Good service so far on more bags etc.


          Makes noise like a small compressor so I keep it in an attached garage.

          Creates heat so expect unit to work harder in the summer.

          Takes about twenty four hours for a batch but some foods need several hours more. I do not like to take any chances for long term storage.

          I use parchment paper in my trays so food is not in contact with aluminum.

          They recommend a 20 amp service but I think a 15 amp may do with no other loads on the circuit.


          Does a good job of drying.

          As I stated – good flavor retention.

          Easy to use but maintenance required on the pump – pump service minimal each batch, oil flushing every five-seven batches, total cleaning about once a month.

          Four trays is a good capacity for me. Holds a blend of 16 eggs, scrambled with a pound of cheese, seasonings, and a quarter pound of cubed pre-cooked ham. Holds about twelve cups of berries that are not stacked too high so as to allow faster drying.

          There are probably more bit of information but this is just off the top of my head.
          Perhaps others have had different experiences.

        6. homebody ~

          Could you give an estimate of the time required for the different servicing you’ve mentioned? Pump service after each batch, oil flushing every five-seven batches, and monthly total cleaning? Thank you.

  5. Just a tidbit—I remember when freeze drying just became popular and tried to replace the taxidermy business. Back in 1979 I was mounting trophy fish using borax to preserve the skin and air dehydration, and one of the new processes for mounts was expensive freeze drying.

    I never went into it because of the dryer cost more than my home at the time and very few people would pay $400 for a freeze dried fish back then. How far they have come.

    1. I should add my mounted fish still have been preserved for 37 years. Don’t ask how it tastes… :-)

  6. My first experience with freeze dried foods was LRRPs (long range ration packs) in Viet Nam. The next time I used them was on a backpacking trip on Maui in the mid 1970s. I was stationed on Oahu at the time and bought the mountain house packages at the post exchange for a dollar each. I’d like to see those kind of prices again.

    Question for those who know more than me. We always heated the water before adding to the pouch. Is that really necessary? Will they re-constitute with tap water?

    1. Hello Me

      The best way to reconstitute most of the food is using regular unheated water, leave in fridge until pliable, drain, and cook or heat as required. Some foods such as a stew preparation, I do the meat/seasonings separately and add vegetables that are either dried or fresh depending on availability. This way the veggies are firmer and retain their flavor more so over a regular cooked stew in a slow cooker.

      1. Foods like the stew I mentioned are just placed in a pot with enough water to reconstitute (check as the mixture moistens) you may have add more water as it heats. Then the veggies are mixed in later.

  7. I am SERIOUSLY considering purchasing one . . . and have one simple question to those using one:

    Can I Freeze Dry already frozen meat, chicken, veggies, etc ?

    I have two freezers full of the above, and would LOVE to freeze dry much of it.

    The space saving would be tremendous – – not to mention making space for other “stuff” in the freezers.

    I started researching various products, but have not found an answer to my question.

    At first I felt that I could simply buy already Freeze Dried meats, etc, but now want to expand on that.


    P.S. I’m also looking to use some excess cash to expand my Preps.

    1. Sorry about the title of my question. I haven’t posted much to this forum yet.


      1. If you read my posts today, you will see that when I got my drier I started by taking stuff out of my freezers(mainly meat).

        If the meat was flat and not more than 1″ thick, I put it in the drier frozen. Some steaks and chops. I still prefer to cook my meal prior to drying but raw meat does dry quite well.

        Roasts, hamburger, turkeys, hams, etc. were cooked and then the leftovers from each meal were freeze dried. Frozen veggies that could be crushed to separate were put in the drier frozen. Hope this answers your question.

        1. Sorry Homebody . .

          I guess I missed that in your post.

          So, To Freeze Dry all the frozen roasts, chicken, etc, I guess I have a “Whole Lot of Cooking to do first. For me that kind of discourages spending on a freeze dryer.


        2. You are going to eat the meat in the freezers in time so why push it – I guess if you were handy with a saw, you could slice up that turkey frozen but I have never tried to do it – perhaps NRP could do it with a chain saw.

        3. Thanks

          I have several chainsaws and other saws that I could use, but that really discourages my initial intent.

          “The space saving would be tremendous – – not to mention making space for other “stuff” in the freezers.”

          I don’t have any frozen turkey.

        4. OK
          To prevent any further comment on my question, let’s just close this conversation. This is why I usually don’t comment on forums for simple information.

    2. @ OzarksHermit

      I believe I would like to interject, from the info homebody has offered and the discussion….

      The simple answer you were looking for is….”Yes” Frozen Meats can be freeze-dried.

      I do believe homebody was offering other information (such as “best if no thicker than 1” and so-on) that has worked well for her. Which I among others I’m sure greatly appreciate considering this is an open Forum and others do read the comments.

      Hope you do well with the purchase of a Freeze-Dryer and other preps.


      1. NRP

        Thanks for your comment. I think my disappointment comes from a person’s question about a complex process such as food preservation and then is upset when you try to answer the question. It is like someone asking “how do you garden” but explain it in 50 words or less in simple terms only.

        Yes, I am continuing to add TP to my preps but if you recall am a great advocate of bidets. I guess one point I have not considered, is that where I live we have plentiful amounts of water – not like dry gulch NM. (just joking)

        take care

        1. Thank you very much homebody for answering many questions. They have been very helpful!!! Mr. and I are looking to buy the Harvest Right. We have nice canned meat we bought from Lehman’s and time is running out. There are only two of us and cannot always eat all we purchase. Will probably start with drying the beef, pork and chicken.

        2. You are very welcome. That was exactly the same problem the two of were having and forced us to give away much garden produce and stored food. Now I can ship the processed food to my kids without the fear of spoilage.

      2. Just a clarification – I too am an old f*rt. Spent most of my life in construction and some farming. 6′-1″ and 180 lbs Can work all day and also do not hold with bad language. When the time comes, I will be a formidable force when attacked by the golden horde or basement dwelling snowflakes. BUT, like many of the older generation that help and taught me how to get the job done, I too offer help and information to those that ask (to a point).

  8. Advice and information that I give freely is only meant to assist anyone inquiring about freeze drying or other experience I might have regarding prepping. No expectations exist on my part to engage in unwelcome dialogue and there are no expectations of gratitude. But, I do expect that comments, given in answer to questions, are not rebuffed due to my attempt to give complete information. Sorry if I am not simple enough.

    Ken, delete this post if found to be offensive but dismissal for attempting to help someone is a slap in the face to me.

    1. @ homebody

      I understand your feelings of “dismissal for attempting to help someone is a slap in the face to me.” Not that I have ever had that happen to me (more than 8 times this week, hehehe), well maybe so, but please don’t let it detour your participation in the Blog. We ALL come here to get as much info as we can, Ken does a great job of monitoring, and I personally like seeing all of the “added Info” that people pile on, it only helps us all.

      I have had thoughts of also purchasing a F-Der and thank you for your input.

      Hopefully you’ll understand my meaning when I say, “Grab another 32 pack of TP and please keep smiling” life is to short to be upset.


  9. I dehydrate my mushrooms, potatoes, apples, and a few other things. I love them! :)

    I wish I could afford a freeze dryer… maybe after the house is paid off… I’ll invest in one – if the world lasts that long. :(

  10. OK everyone my two cents, I highly recommend the Harvest Right freeze dryer.

    Their service department is one of the best to deal with. So far it’s still a learning curve for us as we’re on batch 20. The vacuum pump takes special attention to keep it running peek performance so we change out the oil every load and filter through a Harvey filter. It’s a large investment but in the long run should pay off. Has anyone tried freeze drying salmon yet? That’s will be our next experiment. Best to all.

    1. Hello Who Knows

      I only drain a dixie cup of oil after each batch to remove any water and settled sediment. After five-seven batches I flush the used oil as directed by the company and fill with new oil. After about a month (perhaps 20 batches) I do the entire dismantling and cleaning. This amount of maintenance seems to be adequate to keep the pump running well. Oil is costing $80 for 4 gal and shipping is very fast.

      I do not filter oil but keep an eye on the color of the oil – when I suspect a contamination from a particular food, I change the oil even if the prescribed schedule has not indicated this service.

      I have not tried fish yet but I believe that if the meat is not too oily, or the fish is cooked, it should dry well.

      I run the Platinum pump but I have also purchased a second economy pump should the first give me trouble or if the cleaning of the Platinum is delayed. This way I can continue the process. Take care.

      1. I did inquire if the company had thought of installing a sediment/moisture trap in the system. Their reply was a cost of between $1000 to $1500 and therefore was not proposed. Perhaps a cheaper type will be available in the future.

        1. Thanks for the feedback. When you fully drain the oil, I’ve noticed the very last couple of drops show the most food sediments and water as it tends to stay up top. Planning on buying the after market stainless steel splash guard and bolt set for inside the pump. Happy prepping

        2. Hope you do not mind the question, but where would such a splash guard be installed (roughly)?

        3. Inside the pump body bolted on the top side of the pump. It seems to get the most abuse from the water and food particulates. It helps to keep the oil from coming out the vent handle. I just had my pump apart for cleaning and next time I’ll replace those parts with SS. Word for the wise, use a dab of Vaseline on the gasket when putting the pump back together. Off topic, I see Harvest Right is now offering a second set of trays for free at the 2995 price. We’re just ordering a second set for 120, but in the long run worth it.

        4. Thanks for the info. We have two sets of trays which works well for us. I have not had a gasket leak after four major cleanings but I will certainly take your advice on the vaseline.

  11. Homebody,

    I remember when you first posted about this and have been wanting one for a long time. I have been watching the price on these and am so close to pulling the trigger. After watching the videos on their site with the pre-made lasagna and Chicken Alfredo, I wondered how those got reconstituted… I emailed, and they replied that steaming would be the best option for those types of foods. The meats look easy enough, just set in a bowl of water, but it’s the other things I’m curious about. Who wouldn’t like a nice lasagna or something similar…. Maybe some Pad Thai takeout??

    Any info you through out is awesome, as I’m eagerly trying to convince my better half :-)

    1. Hi Double Tap

      Right now I am focused on limited ingredients that can be mixed at a later date. This way I can determine which of the foods is easier or better to dry. So far I have found that peaches do not work well for me, apples are a lot of work, and high fat foods are difficult (so I pre-cook). Bread is definitely a waste of my time and storage area.

      I am far from the MRE approach to food storage with the mix in a bag with hot water approach. I do not think it would work for me – I like to pick up a well sealed jar, see the quality of the food and mix with other ingredients to suite my mood. Take care. Best of all for the better half – storage time is almost indefinite with no need to inventory for rotation.

      1. homebody…

        Seems like that is a good plan..You can later put together most any recipe you want that way…

        I wonder if freeze drying (the already dried) spices would add any shelf life to their flavor. They are mostly long lasting anyway, just curious what you think (pepper/cayenne/paprika/sage etc)…

        1. Anon

          I’m not big on strong spices but I do add some to various foods prior to drying – that way I am not faced with opening larger quantities of spices when I only need a little – then what re-freeze – not worth my time. Be aware that when doing garlic, onions, or similar strong fragrances – the smell is for many hours and will permeate through your entire house (if drier is in the same building).

        2. homebody

          Makes sense about adding it,
          and re the garlic/onion..

          I only have a dehydrator , but did onions couple of times..YUP Potent…

        3. @ Lauren

          You did WHAT!!?? Hahahaha, I could not even imagine. OMG

          Assuming you sold the car with the windows down??? ROFLMAO.


  12. Hello, I am new to this blog process but in reading these posts, has anyone had any issues with the mylar bags that the food is stored in? I went back to check after my last freeze-dried batch didn’t seal to find that several of my batches from April-May are still sealed but the food inside seems soft and not hard as when they were sealed. I’ve checked and have done the sealing process correctly per Harvest Rights website. I’m worried that the food (i.e., mushrooms, chicken, peppers, etc.) are ruined. Thanx in advance.

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