Prepping Foods for Dehydration - Septree

Prepping Foods for Dehydration

Now that you've selected which foods to dry in your new dehydrator, it's crucial to properly prepare them beforehand for optimal results.

The way you cut, season, or process ingredients can significantly impact the drying time, texture, and final flavor. Let's discuss the proper techniques for preparing a variety of fruits, vegetables, herbs, meats, and more.

Produce Preparation

Fruits: Most fruit should be sliced 1⁄4-1⁄2 inch thick for efficient drying. Pay attention to density - softer fruits like bananas can be a bit thinner. Remove any blemishes, bruises or spoiled spots. Peel thick-skinned produce like mangoes, papayas and citrus fruit unless you prefer the rind. Halve or slice pits and cores.

Apples: Use a mandoline, sharp knife or corer tool to slice apples into rounds or half-moons. To prevent browning, soak slices in lemon juice water for 10 minutes before drying.

Berries: Leave small berries like blueberries and cranberries whole. Slice or smash larger berries like strawberries horizontally about 1⁄4 inch thick.

Pineapple: Slice off the rind using a knife, then quarter and slice the flesh into half-moons about 1⁄4 inch thick. Remove any eyes with a small knife or corer.

Bananas: Peel bananas and slice crosswise 1⁄4 inch thick. To intensify sweetness, toss slices in a little lemon or lime juice.

Mangoes: Slice off the cheeks from either side of the flat pit. Score the flesh of each cheek in a cross-hatch pattern and then use a spoon to scoop out 1⁄4 inch cubes.

Citrus: Thinly slice oranges, lemons, limes and grapefruit rounds about 1/8 inch thick, removing any seeds. To keep color, soak in ascorbic acid solution (1 tsp in 1 cup water) for 5 minutes.

Vegetables: For best results, prep veggies similarly to soft fruits. Remove eyes, cores and peels when applicable.

Tomatoes: Thinly slice Romas crosswise or halve cherry/grape tomatoes before drying. Blot excess liquid with a paper towel.

Peppers: Wear gloves when handling hot peppers.Slice bells, jalapeños and habaneros about 1⁄4 inch thick with seeds and veins removed.

Carrots: Shave carrots into thin ribbons less than 1/8 inch thick using a spiralizer, mandoline or sharp peeler.

Zucchini/Summer Squash: Slice rounds 1⁄4 inch thick or cut into half-moons, triangles or sticks for variety.

Green Beans: Trim ends and slice beans crosswise into 1⁄4 inch pieces. Or leave whole and snap manually into 2-3 inch sections.

Broccoli/Cauliflower: Break florets from cores into 1-2 inch pieces.

Mushrooms: Thinly slice button mushrooms or tear shiitakes/oysters into 1⁄4 inch or smaller pieces.

Sweet Potatoes: Peel if desired, then slice 1⁄4 inch thick or dice into 1⁄4 inch cubes. Toss with a small amount of lemon juice to prevent browning.

Seasoning Produce

For extra flavor impact, season produce before or during the drying process. Here are some ideas:

Citrus slices: Toss in granulated sugar, cinnamon or other dried spices before drying.

Berries: Mix in 1-2 tsp. honey or vanilla per 1 cup of berries for natural sweetness.

Pineapple/Mango: Sprinkle each slice lightly with Tajín or chili lime seasoning.

Apples/Pears: Toss slices with cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, or citrus zest like lemon.

Tomatoes: Brush each side with olive oil and Italian seasoning before arranging on trays.

Carrots: Toss carrot ribbons or coins in honey, orange zest, thyme.

Zucchini: Sprinkle rounds very lightly with red pepper flakes, garlic powder or parsley.

You can also experiment drying produce mixtures like blueberry-basil or mango-habanero slices for exciting flavor combinations. Don't over-season—less is more.

Herb Preparation

Fresh herbs should be carefully prepped to avoid bruising leaves. Gently remove stems from tougher herbs like rosemary sprigs:

Basil: Stack whole leaves loosely without crushing.

Chervil, Cilantro, Dill: Tear larger sprigs or fronds into 1-2 inch sections.

Mint: Remove stems and pile loose leaves in bunches.

Oregano, Sage, Thyme: Remove stems if desired, otherwise dry small sprigs intact.

Parsley: Fluffy tops can dry whole, stems may be composted.

Chilies: Stem and split hot peppers open to flatten them for faster drying. Remove seeds for less heat.

To intensify flavor, you can also infuse herbs by drying layered with other aromatic ingredients:

Rosemary-Orange Peel: Alternate peels and rosemary sprigs on a tray.

Lemon Verbena-Lemon Slices: Tuck verbena leaves between thin lemon rounds.

Thyme-Shallot: Scatter dried shallot rings under small thyme sprigs.

The possibilities are endless - trust your taste buds when pairing dried herb flavors.

Meat Preparation

Proper prep is key when dehydrating meat for jerky, ensuring food safety and tenderness. Start with the freshest cuts possible. Trim visible fat, silverskin and connective tissue from strips. Slice meat:

  • Beef: Against the grain into 1⁄4 inch thick strips.

  • Venison: With grain at 1⁄4 inch thickness.

  • Turkey: Slice breast meat into 1⁄4 inch strips with grain.

  • Chicken: Slice breast into 1⁄4 inch strips with or against grain.

  • Always manually test meat doneness with an instant-read thermometer rather than relying on visual cues alone. Prep larger batches for maximum flavor impact:

Marinating Meats: Submerge sliced meat in a tightly sealed container of flavorful marinade, such as soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, Sriracha or liquid smoke, for 1-4 hours in the fridge.


Brining Meats: For poultry and game meats, submerge in a saltwater brine (1⁄2 cup salt per 1 gallon water) for 30 minutes to an hour before patting dry. This helps retain moisture.

Dry-Rub Meats: Season sliced proteins liberally on both sides with a spice rub including salt, pepper, paprika, crushed red pepper, garlic powder before drying.

Be sure to pat excess marinade or rub from surfaces before placing on dehydrator trays. Always partially dry meat in a single layer with space between pieces until no longer pink inside before cool handling. Enjoy your homemade beef or bison jerky!

Dehydrating Tips

Here are some additional tips for achieving great results:

  • For greens, chiffonade by rolling leaves tightly, then slicing crosswise into thin ribbons.

  • Cut ingredients uniformly for even drying - thinner pieces dry faster than thick hunks.

  • Fruits and veggies should be ripe yet firm for ideal texture. Select seasonally when quality is high.

  • Prick skins of tomatillos, peppers and other tough-skinned items before drying to allow steam to escape.

  • Rotate trays periodically to promote even cooking and prevent sticking.

  • Maintaining proper spacing between pieces ensures air circulation for quick, hygienic drying.

  • Test drying periodically with a paring knife - items are dry when leathery yet pliable.

  • Cool fully before sealing in airtight containers to lock in nutrients. Enjoy your creative recipes!

With careful prep work, your dehydrator opens up all sorts of culinary possibilities for enjoying produce, herbs and proteins in their elemental concentrated forms. Enjoy the process and your nourishing results all year long.

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