What is the purpose of food dehydration

Crispy cucumber chips. Dried tomatoes. Mango roll ups. Just three examples of very unusual products that have arisen from a process that still receives far too little attention in most hobby kitchens. Dehydration - also known as “drying” - is one of the most obvious processes when handling food. Dehydration stands for dehydration - basically exactly what happens anyway if you leave something there for a long time. With the subtle difference that tomatoes, meat or mushrooms do not go moldy in this case, but become a taste explosion. You can read what is behind it and which devices you need here.

Dehydrating and drying: vital in the past

Dehydration is the scientific word for dehydration. Dehydration, in turn, can be equated with drying - at least in the broadest sense. And that, in turn, is a process that our ancestors used to make food last longer. Dehydration preserves food - there is a simple reason for this: you rob bacteria that are permanently in the air, their livelihood and reproduction basis. If the liquid content drops towards the 10% mark, the shelf life increases at the same time.

While the drying of food was still vital for our ancestors, today it is a small luxury that one can theoretically save in the age of preservatives and imported products. Strawberries are now also available in winter - freshly flown in. Pumpkin in spring? No problem! Compared to our ancestors, we no longer have to rely on collecting berries and fruits in summer to avoid starvation in winter. Nevertheless, you can find dried fruit next to fresh fruit in the supermarket - and that is by no means a paradox.

Chefs of all classes have always endeavored to give their dishes an intense flavor. You are looking for tasty foods with lots of natural umami. The process of dehydration basically ties in with exactly this thought. The taste of food becomes highly concentrated in the course of dehydration. While a lot of tasteless liquid "dilutes" the taste in its natural state, at the end of the dehydration there is a product that still has a maximum of 10-15% of the original moisture content. Tasteless water has evaporated while the flavorings are retained. The result: dehydrated foods taste much more intense than the original product. Just think of dried tomatoes, dried fruit or dried fish. They are already taste explosions without the addition of flavor-enhancing ingredients. Seasoned with sugar or salt, the taste is sometimes so pronounced that it causes irritation in the mouth.

When we dried cucumber slices, which consist of almost 100% water, in the test, it was an ambivalent experience. Both the crispy consistency of the cell membrane that was left over and the highly potentized taste of the otherwise subtle cucumber were unusual and exciting. From this perspective, dehydration can definitely be viewed as an avant-garde cooking method. Developed from a vital necessity to a purely taste-focused process. Dehydrated foods offer the opportunity to penetrate a new level in the flavor spectrum.

What exactly happens when you dehydrate?

The question arises why dried fruit and other dehydrated foods still lead a shadowy existence apart from posh gastronomy and raw food fans. A plausible explanation is the amount of time it takes to dehydrate. Why is that? This process has nothing to do with baking or cooking. When dehydrating, the temperature only in exceptional cases exceeds 60 degrees. A dehydration process can therefore take 10-20 hours, depending on the size of the pieces to be dried. So-called dehydrators - also known as dehydrators - control the process. So drying is not a waste of time, but at the same time not for the impatient.

By reducing the temperature to 40-50 degrees, the structure of the food remains intact and the cells do not denature. In other words: After dehydration, the products are still in their raw state, but have lost a large part of their liquid. Vitamins and minerals have been retained, however. When dehydrated, there are no toasted aromas, there is no change, just an intensification of the taste. If food is heated to temperatures above 60 degrees, the denaturing processes that start bring about changes in taste. Bottom line: dehydration is the gentlest way to heat food to remove water from it

Drying with the dehydrator

I work at home with the Excalibur from Keimling - a device that is aimed primarily at beginners. Compared to the professional model Sedona, it is somewhat space-saving (if you can speak of space-saving at 60 x 60 cm). However, it has a slightly reduced range of functions. The Excalibur is ideal for hobby dehydrators. Vegetables or fruit can be sliced ​​and placed on the five drawers, which in turn are equipped with perforated drying mats. The temperature can now be selected using a wheel and dehydration begins immediately. The device blows warm air inside and removes the moisture-laden air.

Anyone who dehydrates automatically ensures that the space around the dehydrator takes on an intense scent. You should be prepared for this or deliberately dehydrate in a closed area. What you shouldn't forget: a dehydration process that extends over a whole day naturally increases the electricity bill a little. I usually calculate with two euros per day in the dehydrator. If you want to do without a dehydrator, you can of course dehydrate in the oven, at the lowest setting. This is not cheaper and it has other disadvantages: The oven must be held open with a wedged towel so that the moisture can escape. You will never be able to set a certain temperature in the oven nearly as precisely. Furthermore, there is no sophisticated exhaust air system.