What to dehydrate and why?
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Jul 11, 2012 at 9:54 am #1291888
A friend lent me his dehydrator to prep for my upcoming trip… and once again, this "experienced backpacker" is realizing how little she knows!
On another thread, I read about dehydrating cooked quinoa, and I'd like to better understand why this is a good idea and whether I should be cooking and dehydrating my couscous, "Stelline" pasta, and the like for my upcoming thru hike. I believe I understand the primary benefits of using a dehydrator for fruit, meat, veggies, and sauces (no water = lighter and will keep for longer), but I'm less clear about using a dehydrator for other foods.
Here's what I'm wondering:
Fuel savings? To rehydrate, you can use cold water, so zero fuel use. This, however, requires 1) the desire to eat a cold dinner, and 2) treating the water first (more AquaMira needed). And what about if you want a hot meal? Many of these foods require ~10min cook/simmer time. This can be accomplished with a pot cozy, post-boil (total fuel usage = 1oz denatured alcohol).
Weight savings? Does one serving of something (such as quinoa, pasta, or couscous) that has been cooked and dehydrated weigh less than it did in its original dry form? I realize this isn't rocket science to determine, but I'm running a bit short on time…
Volume? Does a serving of dehydrated cooked couscous (or other similar foods) take up less space than an uncooked serving?
Thanks!Jul 11, 2012 at 12:20 pm #1893990
Don't worry about couscous – it is "precooked" if you will. It just needs hot or cold water and a sitting time.
Where you save is in longer cooking "raw" items – quinoa, rice, large pasta, whole grain or whole wheat pasta, etc. Then you need only rehdyrate with hot water not cook for 10 to 20 minutes using a lot of fuel. So yes, you save weight – in fuel!
If you make meals in the FBC way (and no, you don't have to do it in a bag, you can use a mug or pot) you add near boiling water, cozy and come back 10 to 15 minutes later to a hot meal. Pretty easy!Jul 11, 2012 at 1:12 pm #1894011
Thanks, Sarah. BTW, what does FBC stand for?
As far as fuel savings go, to cook pasta and similar, I would only use an once of fuel to boil water – my cozy will simmer/cook. So, unless I'm overlooking something, being able to simmer this way (without using fuel) negates the potential fuel savings of cooking and then dehydrating. Would you agree?
Do you know how the packed volume/weight of cooked and then dehydrated vs. uncooked (dry) foods compare?
Thanks again!Jul 11, 2012 at 1:40 pm #1894024
FBC=freezer bag cooking :-)
Pasta is a personal taste thing. I like precooking my bigger pasta at home, then I don't have starchy water left over, unless I specifically use a recipe that uses that water. And I like my pasta to keep moving during the boiling – not just sitting, I find it lumps together. Where as if I cook and dry before, yes, soaking in hot water works great – no starchy water :-)Jul 11, 2012 at 1:42 pm #1894026
PS: As for weight and volume? It depends. Pasta is about the same in size/weight as when it was "raw". Lentils and beans? Much lighter once cooked and dried. Same with veggies and fruits.Jul 11, 2012 at 2:34 pm #1894048Lynn TramperMember
@retropumpLocale: The Antipodes of La Coruna
If you are not in a hurry, there is not a lot of advantage IMHO to cooking and dehydrating starches that are already dehydrated. So I personally save the dehydrator for wet/heavy foods and just cozy-cook grains. The exception for is whole grains and legumes such as brown rice and beans or chick peas which can't always be cozy cooked without significant pre-soaking. So I guess it depends on your menu. I also guess some people are happy to eat cold soaked meals, but I'm not one of those people!Jul 12, 2012 at 2:21 pm #1894348Tracy GroundsMember
@tracygroundsLocale: Indiana, USA
Don't forget to dehydrate a few fruits since they are great for energy. My personal favorite is mango.Jul 16, 2012 at 10:26 am #1895188Laurie Ann MarchMember
@laurie_annLocale: Ontario, Canada
I always cook and dehydrate lentils, beans, quinoa, and the like. I don't for couscous because of the reason Sarah mentioned earlier. I also use things like instant polenta.
I'm not of the same style as FBC although many of my meals can be rehydrated using the same methods. FBC uses home-dehydrated and store-bought dried ingredients and makes different combinations for the meals. Some of the foods are quite tasty.
I prefer an approach that is more like the food we'd eat at home. I quite often dry whole meals such as chili, Cuban Pork Stew quinoa & lentil stew, Moroccan chicken, hummus, roasted tomato dip, citrus lentil salad and so on. I find it creates a good flavor profile and it suits my palate better. Food is such a personal thing and you'll find what works for you.
I don't often dehydrate pasta… it does come back a little mushy, I find. But I'm an al dente pasta snob… lol.Jul 16, 2012 at 7:52 pm #1895331
Thanks for your input and the good information.
It looks like I'm being lazy and may not use the dehydrator this time around – or maybe just for a few bits of fruit and to see what happens with packaged tuna. This is the longest trip I've planned (~200 miles) and with that there has been plenty to keep me busy. Maybe after I have one long trip under my belt, I'll explore the dehydrator. For now, my dinners will include instant mashed potatoes, mac 'n' cheese (replacing the mac with smaller, denser pasta), couscous, and (already) dehydrated soups & beans + olive oil added to everything. Yum!Jul 16, 2012 at 8:15 pm #1895336Laurie Ann MarchMember
@laurie_annLocale: Ontario, Canada
I can't wait to hear about the trip when you return. I'm off the trail and only have one wilderness trip this summer (Mommy of a toddler woes – lol).
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