Whether you’re new to the world of food dehydrating or freeze drying, or you’re a seasoned pro, there’s no doubt that both methods are a great way to preserve food. They’re great money-savers—being that you can literally make your own herbs or cocktail garnishes instead of purchasing store-bought products—and they’re both a great way to cut down on food wastage by repurposing fruits and veggies that may be almost ready for the organics bin.
But what is the difference between freeze-dried and dehydrated? Which is healthier? And, what are the benefits of dehydrating vs freeze-drying? Read on to find out.
At Commercial Dehydrators, we’re proud to offer dehydrators that are made with premium materials, are lightweight and produce high quality results. Our 16 tray dehydrator—which is the smallest unit in our range—is made completely from commercial grade stainless steel, has almost 28 square feet of dehydrating space and can dehydrate approximately 25 pounds of product at a ¼ inch thickness.
In comparison, a larger freeze dryer on the market is only 5 trays, can dry approximately 12-16 lbs of product, and weighs around 274 lbs for a stainless steel version (253 lbs for non-stainless steel). Besides the actual unit itself, a vacuum pump is also included (another 32 lbs) which sits outside the freeze dryer and needs to be maintained regularly by replacing the oil about every 3 cycles or if you buy the premium motor you will have to replace the oil every 20 cycles. The alternative here is to upgrade to an oil-free pump, but this will set you back additional cost of close to US$1500.
This larger size freeze dryer retails for US$3595, which is approximately 4 times the price of our 16 tray food dehydrator. Our unit also has triple the capacity but is over 4 times lighter in weight than a freeze dryer. Apart from this, our dehydrators require little to no maintenance besides cleaning the trays and a wipe down of the unit itself. The operation of a freeze dryer can also be considerably louder than a dehydrator with the running of the machine and pump being quite noisy.
Dehydrating foods is a process that has been around since ancient times when the main method of drying would be laying food out in the wind and sun—this was seen in a lot of Middle Eastern and Oriental cultures. Following this, Europeans built houses that were specifically made to dehydrate food, where fresh produce was dried by the heat of a fire. From here, we move on to the first food dehydrator which was invented in France in the 1800s, where the method of hot air in a machine was used to dry out fruits and vegetables. Since then, the process of dehydrating foods became common during the World War 2 period, and in the 1960s its popularity grew with the campers and hikers of the world who were looking for meals and snacks that were lightweight and nutritious for their adventures.
The process of freeze drying foods originates back to the 15th century when the Incas stored food in the high mountain altitudes, with cold temperatures freezing their produce and the water content slowly vaporizing. In the early 1900s, the first freeze dryer was invented and later modified by using an electrical pump to create the necessary vacuum. In World War 2, freeze drying was a method used more for medicinal purposes, preserving and transporting blood, medical supplies and even food to the soldiers in the war. It has since been used a lot throughout the medical industry and in the 1960s NASA incorporated the freeze drying process to provide food for astronauts. One of the most common freeze dried products, and by far the most popular, is freeze dried coffee.
So, here’s our breakdown of freeze dryers vs dehydrators. Whilst there are benefits of both, it all comes down to individual preference and the purpose of the finished product. For more information on our food dehydrators, check out our resources section on the website, or contact us directly—we’re always here to help.