Harvest Right (HarvestRight) Home Freeze Dryer Owners Tips & Tricks

Do you own a Harvest Right freeze dryer? Apparently a fair number of you on this blog have one. I noticed a conversation thread about the HarvestRight in the open-forum. So I decided to capture some of that conversation here and establish a sort of “place holder” for owner discussion (tips and tricks) for this home freeze dryer.

Just so you know, I don’t have one (yet) :=)

However I do have a storage of freeze dried foods in #10 cans. I’ve purchased a variety of freeze dried foods which are added to my overall long term diversified food storage. As you all know, purchasing freeze dried food can be expensive. That’s because the process is relatively expensive and time consuming. However the benefits and rewards can be significant.

Home freeze dryers have become very popular among the preparedness crowd. I believe that’s due to several things… An increase in preparedness awareness. The availability of more home freeze dryer choices. And more affordable freeze dryers than in the past.

I have no affiliation or advertising arrangement with HarvestRight at this time. They’re the apparent “go to” brand for home freeze dryers so that’s why they’re named here.

Why do people buy a home freeze dryer?

Do you own a HarvestRight? By the way, do you spell it HarvestRight or Harvest Right?

Why did you buy it? What was your motivation(s)? They’re kind of expensive, so how did you justify the purchase?

I suppose if you plan to freeze dry a lot of food for storage purposes, it could eventually break even. After that point, it’s all on the plus side… I wonder how much food you would have to freeze dry to make it worth it?

Other motivations to buy one might also include the hobby aspect of it. That would make sense for some.

Another reason could be that you know what you’re putting in there. Your ingredients. Your choices.

I know that some freeze dried foods can make for delicious snacks too. You can get some great results this way.

Anyway, you owners of the Harvest Right, let us know your reasons…

‘Montana Home’ here on the blog asked (regarding the Harvest Right) “Do you have any helpful do’s and don’ts or things you wish you knew? Or anybody else that has one and wants to chime in.”

So I thought that would be a good starting point. I captured a few of the responses and will copy them below. If would like to add more tips and tricks, comment below.

HarvestRight (Harvest Right) Tips & Tricks comments

Harvest Right Owners:

‘Mrs. U’ says…

I like my Harvest Right a lot, and have a medium with 4 trays. You know what is in your food.

I have an older pump which is a bit noisy, but okay. Consider the premier pump or the oil-free pump if budget allows, they will be extra. The included pump is fine though. Occasionally the oil gets trapped in the vacuum hose, but is easy to fix by unplugging from the dryer and turning it on. The included pump will spray oil, but I fixed that with 2 paper towels, a sandwich bag and 2 clothes pins. You will want to use Robinaire oil, less water in it. The pump will heat up a room for sure. I have several large plastic peanut butter jars I let the used oil settle in. Have a filter too, but found that the oil will settle and can be used several times.

The only issue with the dryer was a door adjustment and operator error. Get the silicon tray inserts for sure. Timing is something you will learn. Don’t want your food to be ready at 1:00 am!

Mine is on a cart, easy to move. Will need a cart that is flat on top.

You can save ($) when freeze drying meat. Cooked is my preference.

I have posted about Freeze Dried Rice a Roni, but here are specs. A #10 can of good Mountain House, Rice and Chicken cost around $27.00 (as of this post date) with 9 servings, which is cup each. I can Freeze Dry some cooked Rice a Roni with added chicken and extra veggies of my choice and get 16 one cup servings for around 6 to 10 dollars. Freeze Dried meat is real expensive. Pork rehydrates the best.

Oh and do not Freeze Dry any fatty meat like hotdogs or kielbasa. The fat will be vacuumed up under the tray holder and be a bi atch to clean off.

‘Mitten Mom’ says…

I have a medium Harvest Right and I love it!! I ordered it first week in August (2020) and didn’t actually get until November.

Of all the years I’ve been reading this blog there we so many helpful tips written but I never thought my DH would ever want to purchase a freeze dryer, so I never made notes.

I would love to have a standing article for tips and tricks of the Harvest Right here on MSB. Most articles on the web are from the older style units, which is fine but their new software makes it pretty easy to use. Because the unit monitors things pretty good. I always try to add a couple of hours after the process is complete for good measure.

Seriously I cannot imagine you regretting purchasing it in the end!!

‘NWMitten’ says…

We have had our medium size Harvest Right since July of 2020. It was DH’s idea and I was hesitant because of the cost, however I will admit it was a wise decision.

I freeze the vegetables from the garden that will last us a year, the rest has all been freeze dried.

I am not a canner nor do we have any type of livestock, so long term storage had been expensive buying freeze dried meats and dairy.

The freeze dryer has given me peace of mind in having a long term pantry.

I have freeze dried lean beef, pork, chicken and turkey that will provide us for at least two years if needed. When we do our shopping every two months, I always purchase at least two of everything we have in our meal plan. Then I will freeze dry the second item as well as any left overs from casseroles and such.

‘Hermit Us’ recommends to always cook meats before hand which I agree with, and I always freeze the trays at least overnight which cuts the cycle time down.

Items that caused a problem:

The only items that have caused a problem for me were store bought frozen berries. Too much water for the pump to handle. I have had success with raspberries and strawberries, but the ones that caused the problem were mixed blueberries, raspberries and strawberries. They were frozen in chunks and I think I just didn’t break them down enough.

Also wanted to mention the customer service is very good. We bought the oil-free pump and those berries messed it up. Harvest Right had us send it back but sent us an oil pump, oil and filter to use while they checked out the oil-free pump. They told us to just keep the oil pump at no cost when they returned the oil-free pump.

We really didn’t see much difference between the two pumps. As long as you can get oil, and don’t mind changing it, we thought the oil pump worked just fine. Could have saved us some bucks if we would have known.

This freeze dryer has been run at least twice a week for about 8 months with no further issues. Hope this helps.

‘Mississippi Gal’ says…

I have had a medium Harvest Right freeze dryer for about 3 years now.

The regular pump that came with the machine started having problems last year, and I replaced it with the premier pump. I wish I had had it all along. It is so much quieter than the standard pump–the freeze dryer itself makes more noise than the premier pump.

Also, having the ability to go 25-30 runs before changing the oil is a nice plus (granted, it’s not difficult to filter the oil after each run–it’s just more convenient not to). I would definitely recommend the premier pump if you can afford the upgrade.

‘AZoffgrid’ says…

We have the medium machine as well, with the oil less pump after not wanting to mess with filtering the oil any longer.

Check out Utube for lots of great drying ideas (our favorite candy is freeze dried Skittles…crunchy and puffy). Apples, yogurt drops and strawberries! I could make them every week and still not keep up with family demand.

Cut berries (blueberries, strawberries, grapes, etc) in half and position cut side up so they dry better.

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41 Comments

  1. I continuously go though the cost vs benefit of this device. Would I be better off just buying 300 Mountain House freeze dried meals from Wally World at $9 each or purchase a machine that can freeze dry my favorite Chinese, Mexican, Italian food at a cost greater than $9 a meal after the time spent, materials and maintenance on the machine?

    1. That’s why I believe a motivator really has more to do with the hobby/fun aspect. Which I get it… we all have our splurges and justifications for the things we like to do or buy ;)

      1. Ken, I can’t remember ever thinking you were wrong on anything, but for me you are wrong in this being a hobby/fun thing. Hobbies for me are sewing, pottery, leather working and flower gardening, ( the vegetable gardening is a necessity ). I am not a great cook, in fact I dread cooking. We have very boring taste and the freeze dried meals out there had many of the things we just don’t like. For the past 10 years we were stocking away $1500. – $2000. worth of the basic meats, poultry, vegetables, fruits and dairy each year. So in that time 15-20 thousand spent. In the last 8 months I have spent maybe $2,000. on the same items and have put up as much as 8 years of the purchased foods and I know exactly what is in it. For me it isn’t all that fun and is work in the preparation and packaging it correctly. As I said earlier it’s that piece of mind it gives me for the lack of ability to raise livestock or canning.

          1. Ok Ken, I took a deep breath. One thing to mention, if you are going to rely on freeze dried foods you need to have plenty of water available. It’s not a problem where we are, but if a meteor hits the Great Lakes, resulting in a tsunami, I hope our hill is high enough.

          2. Ken I kinda think it’s a fun thing. Just like canning, it’s a lot of work and in the middle of the job you’re waiting for it to be done. But it’s still fun. And in the end, when your looking at your end result, bags of Mylar food or jars of home canned goodies on the shelf, it is very satisfying and puts a smile on your face!

    2. That 300 meals will last about 3 months (assuming they actually have enough calories for a serving to count as a meal), during which time you could have saved another 1000 meals. At that point the machine will have paid for itself several times over, and the $ will be meaningless when you need food.

      If I can make my favorite Italian, Chinese or Mexican food for maybe $.50 per serving, does the same calculation apply? I don’t know how much these things cost to run.

      1. Serving size is a major consideration when purchasing FD food. Mountain House is usually a cup, but many are 1/2 cup. I gauge my servings on a cup per person per meal as an average.

    3. It would take awhile to pay for itself and you could purchase a pallet of FD food. So a person has to figure the numbers logical to them. 300 meals won’t get you to far. The cans would be cheaper. See my Rice a Roni specs above. :-)

  2. Well ya all know me, I have a question for those that Freeze Dry AND Home Can.
    As far a taste, what would you recommend?
    As a person that Cans a LOT of Home Grown veggies I’m just wondering about flavor over the years and of course nutrition value.
    I do keep Home Caned foods a very long time, some stuff up to 7-8 years depending on how good of a Harvest I get that year and what I’m canning.
    Also Home Frozen Foods are about the same, if Vac Sealed and frozen it seems I can get at least 6-8 years.
    With that in mind I do wonder about the investment in the Freeze Dryer as I would bet most do.
    I also do a lot of Dehydrating and vac seal it in Jars or Mylar Bags

    So I’m really concerned on cost?

    From their website…. Cost = 2,695.00

    Like I said, just wondering. Although as Ken said, Hobbies are a GREAT thing and can be expensive. Heck that last Rifle Scope cost me that much HAHAHAHA Now if I only had a Rifle to put it on ughhhhhhh

    1. NRP & Blue,
      I buy in bulk and I also can lots of stuff. I have home canned Chicken breast but am not a fan. I think it tastes dried out and has a weird texture that I just don’t like. I’ve eaten it and would eat it if that’s all there was. I also tend to eat canned (store and home canned) items a few years old or more, not the typical 12-18 mos that is advertised.
      I have my stash of home canned items and now I have a stash of FD items. Continuously working on both aspects. A deeper pantry, with multiple layers makes me happy!!🙂

    2. I grow a big garden and pressure can and freeze veggies every year. The freeze dryer hasn’t replaced canning for me. I typically freeze dry things that I wouldn’t normally can: mushrooms, apples, bananas, cheese, peppers, fresh eggs, etc. Sometimes I freeze dry meals but usually I prefer to freeze dry individual ingredients. I use my freeze dried mushrooms and peppers regularly in my cooking. I enjoy snacking on the freeze dried fruit. Items like freeze dried cheese, fresh eggs, and meals are more for long term storage rather than regular use. The freeze dryer just give you more options, which I appreciate. I still use my dehydrator–I prefer using it for onions and hot peppers.

  3. I buy Qt & 1/2 sized mylar bags (Amazon). It allows me to put 2 servings (i like bigger serving rather than smaller) & it fits nicely. I usually package 2 serving sizes because that’s a good go to for me & I can take out more bags as needed for more family.I also label my bags with how many servings, date & whether it’s cooked or raw, if made elsewhere (ie costco rotisserie chicken) & any instructions that may be important for others if your not around, example egg powder to water. The raw vs cooked may be helpful in the future because freeze dried & raw may tend to look the same in the end (only seen comparisons on online videos, haven’t FD any raw meat yet that I can think of.) Costco chix is an easy purchase to bring home & cut up & toss in the FD. We’ve done it a few times. I use 10 ea sq baking pans I purchased at dollar tree. You can fit 2 1/2 pans on 1 med tray. Most items you can scoop 2 C (stew for example) into the pan & then freeze in your chest freezer. Then when ready run warm water on bottom of pans, pop out onto the HR trays. Schoolreports is on Rumble&YouTube & is where I found this idea

  4. I have had my freeze dryer for about six years. Pretty much every second morning I pack up a load, prepare the next load and load it in about two hours later.

    i haven’t been cooking the meat first. Any suggestions on the best way to cook it.

    i have tried different ways to do bread. Sometimes it will crack. Rehydrating hasn’t been very satisfactory.

    berries have to have their skin broken in order to release the water content.

    I make thin omelettes and steam them to rehydrate them.
    Today I am drying coffee grounds. DH doesn’t like the store bought freeze dried coffee and I want some long term storage coffee. Hope this will work. This type of experiment makes freeze drying a hobby.

    1. Skeezix, I bake or cook meat in skillet. For instance sirloin steak, slice thin, season and cook in a little butter to get a nice crust so to speak. FD’s real nice, rehydrates ok. Would be a real treat shtf. I find pork rehydrates the best. The small sliced hams in the meat dept. do real well and are cooked already. There are vacuumed packed tenderized turkey breast that cook quickly and FD well to. I’m sure raw is ok but will of course need fuel to cook.

      1. On the sliced cooked ham, I layer in 2 slices and cut in smaller sections. FD’s pretty quick, lower in moisture.

  5. Oranges have been a problem for me. I cut them up quite small because of their high water content. When they are finished, they have lots of crystallized sugar protruding from them. Unfortunately these crystals are sharp and will make pin prick holes in the Mylar. I now double bag them.
    I may try rinsing them first and hope they don’t lose their sweetness.

    Stay frosty.

  6. Oh I also wanted to mention, that the current harvest right dryers that have the (new) standard oil pump do not need to be changed after every batch now. It is now every 5 batches. That is way better than the old style ones. And the computer screen tells you when to do it as well. I also keep a running journal of how many batches I’ve ran, of what food, etc, and when I changed the oil along with what brand (I’ve used harvest right oil, robinaire oil and will soon try Dairyland oil). Anyway wanted to clarify the new units vs the old units, and the oil changing schedule.

  7. Harvest Right recommends 7 mil bags that is all I use. Some FD food can have sharp points when dried so thicker is better. I buy one size bag, 7mil one quart. Personally found it easier to have one size on hand and just work with that. I seal my bags in three places and use desiccants along with the oxygen absorber. Another food for the freeze dryer is expired food that is still good. We purchased some Betty Crocker Helping Hand pasta meals back before 2015. There were 12 boxes, so get out the pans, cook it up, add more meat or some veggies and FD. Dried and ready to use for long term. Thing about cooked FD is it can be eaten dry if you have Water. No fuel needed.

  8. Bought my FD in 2017. Not sure how much the electric is. I have not noticed any big difference in the bill. Electric goes up all of the time anyway.
    They recommend a 20 amp plug for the dryer as the dryer will sometimes fluctuate up to 16 amps. I had to buy an extension cord to reach the 20amp plug in the laundry room and purchased a commercial type with a higher amp rating. Lately I bought Tripp Lite surge protector for the FD and the washer. These expensive computer boards need some protection.

    1. I seal my bags across the top three times. Use the flat 7mil quart bags. I usually have room to heat seal 3 times.

  9. Have you tried the manual vacuum seal using 1/4 inch poly tubing?
    Stick the poly tubing inside the mylar bag, up against the edge side of the mouth of the bag. Seal the bag with heat (iron) except for the portion where the tubing exits the bag. Using manual lung power, draw all the air out of the bag, though the poly tubing. Let the bag collapse over the contents as you kneed the air with your hands, pushing the air out of the bag, into the tube. Carefully pull the poly tubing out of the bag, letting your fingers trace the path of the tube out of the bag and you maintaining a manual vacuum. As you get to the top seal, use your fingers to collapse the bag seal where the tube exits the bag. Use the heat (iron) to seal the mylar bag completely, where the hose previously exited the bag.

    1. I haven’t done it precisely that way, but I do use lung power to get air out. It works. Only a small area for air to get back in before the bag is sealed, but a little does get back in. You have to seal fast! : )

        1. Mrs. U I suspect unless you blow into the bag no. As I read it they are sucking out the last bit of atmosphere out of the bag. But then again I don’t have a freeze drier, just a sealer unit.

  10. So Ken- as the person that asked the question and went ahead and pulled the trigger on the purchase this morning, here are my reasons. I have thought about it off and on for three years, but never really had the money The stimulus money was the deciding factor, if the gov is going to try to buy me off then I’ll spend it on one more way to disengage from the system. I’ve been reading a LOT in the last 24 hours and I read that if you run your machine continuously then it pays for itself in 30 days, but if you do only one batch a week it takes about 9 months, I didn’t think that was too bad a ROI. I want to specifically do things that cost a lot if you want to buy store bought FD foods, meat being primary (I have three freezers that I wouldn’t mind freeing up some space and risk losing with no power for an extended period of time).

    1. I also want to do the things that I would miss the most or enhance my beans and rice, like cheese and fruit. I also read an article that had something that hadn’t occurred to me, in a SHTF when cooking smells could be a give away, rehydrating FD food has little odor and takes less energy to cook, then say dry beans. Lastly, we do a lot of hiking/backpacking and making my own, way better meals is a real plus.

      1. I have FD’d some cooked dried beans. They get very crunchy and could then be mashed into a refried consistency.

    2. Very cool Montana. You can thaw the meats, cook and FD. Meat has less water and will FD quicker than say veggies or pastas. Don’t have to cook, but I personally would prefer to know that the meat would be free of bacteria and such. When you are ready will give you some info on timing foods. Keeping a log is very helpful.

      1. Thanks Mrs U- I’d appreciate an estimate on timing foods. Now that I made the decision, 10 weeks out seems sooo long.

  11. I’ve owned a FD for years the only problem I’ve had is with the vac. pump went first with a oil less it lasted about 2 years. Now i have the premium oil pump which works great. AS ken has said you want to have food for your pets. i don’t think there is any better way to put up food for them than freeze drying. We buy chx. at the restaurant supply store 40lb case. Regular dog food has a lot of oil in it and goes rancid in about a year or so. Eggs are great freeze dried and my point is the wife and I went thru our supplies and had to throw out thousands of dollars of old cans 2012 13 14 the freeze dried food lasts for 20 years or more.

  12. This article just caused my internal debate on whether to get a freeze dryer to kick off again, lol!

    Right now, I’m stuck on which size…medium or large? Looks like most folks here have the medium, and I’m wondering if anyone regrets not getting the larger one?

    My use would mostly be for excess garden produce (canned and/or dehydrated in the past). I’m thinking prep work would be about the same, but nutritional content much improved by freeze drying (3% FD loss vs 40% canning loss if you believe the ads). I also maintain a decent inventory of commercially canned foods that usually get donated when rotation time comes around. I think those could also be freeze dried at rotation time for longer storage life.

    Unfortunately, the best place for me to put one would be in the garage, which would entail a complete rearrangement of all the mess that’s there right now. Ugh. If lead time is 10 weeks, guess that would sure set my priorities for the next 2 months!

    1. FinallyOuttaCA, I have managed well with the medium size. I would suggest getting a 2nd set of trays, that has helped me a lot. I don’t enjoy cooking all that much so when I do, I make alot. For instance I just unloaded and packaged four trays of Lasagna, when I loaded the trays I found I had Lasagna left over and it would have filled a fifth tray. By having a second set of trays I was able to fill a fifth tray and stick it in the freezer to go in with my next batch. I will cook enough ground beef to fill the remaining 3 trays and all is well. DH made room in his temperature controlled wood shop for ours, but we made sure it is in an area that won’t be affected by dust or anything else flying around in there. You do have to keep an eye on heat and humidity, freeze dryers don’t like either of those in excess. Hope you win that internal debate.

    2. FinallyOutta CA,
      I also do not regret my medium size. As mentioned earlier comments I utilize the square pans from dollar tree and that helps without having extra pans, as I can deep freeze stuff in there (mind you only as deep of about 3/4 to 1”or so or about the depth of the FD trays itself) then transfer to my freeze dryer trays when ready to FD that food. I have thought about extra sets of trays but right now this is working for me. I have my FD in an unused bedroom. I can shut the door when using. I have closed off my furnace register and it is pretty cool (60ish degrees) in there in the winter (Michigan). Having said that I have had the unit put a screen notice that it may take longer to dry due to warm room temperatures” or something like that. So I now just open a window when I’m freeze drying. I also purchased a stainless steel prep table to set it on. I made sure to have usable space besides just having the FD sit on it. That helps when dealing with the food/trays before and after,

    3. MW Mitten & Mitten Mom,

      Thanks for the additional input. Went ahead and ordered one with the oil-less pump (my splurge). Placed the order online since all their sales phone lines were busy. I suspect they will be doing a LOT of business with Spring arriving. Delivery is still 10 weeks out, so that will give me time to reorganize the garage, get an appropriate table (existing workbenches are too high), and hopefully be ready when it arrives about the same time my garden starts producing. Also ordered an extra set of trays & the silicone mats (tho’ may switch to parchment paper?). Found a guy on YouTube (Retired at 40), who has some neat looking tray stacking clips and an anti-siphon kit to help prevent backflow from the drain bucket.
      A big deciding factor for me was expected cost increases of everything. Already seeing it in many areas, so don’t want to lose a bit of my garden production given high replacement cost from the store.
      Thanks again!

      1. FinallyOuttaCA- Retired at 40 has some great hacks and I did go ahead and order from him the anti-siphon and tray stackers. I could pick up the anti-siphon thing much cheaper, but I have appreciated his tips and video so much I am happy to support him. I have been hearing that HR is telling people 10 weeks, but some are getting them much sooner, so fingers crossed that is true.

      2. I cannot believe I came home to an email from Harvest Right that my Freeze Dryer has been shipped! What happened to the 10+ weeks I was going to have to get the garage squared away? Yikes!
        Looks like FedEx will be contacting me for delivery in a few days…hopefully this will go more smoothly than the solar panel delivery they messed up several years ago……

  13. Here is a tip that I’ll pass on. Leave the door open if you are not using for a period of time. Keep that air circulating in it rather than closing it up tight. Don’t ask me how I know… ☹️

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