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How to Prepare Dehydrated Food

“Dehydrated” means “removing the water” from something. So, rehydrating it should be a simple matter of just dumping some water on dried foods and having it magically return to its original form.

Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world and rehydrating food is a little more complicated. The good news is it’s still pretty simple.

If you’ve ever cooked rice and oatmeal or prepared dried beans, you’re already a rehydration expert. Oats and rice are merely dried cereal grains that are cooked and rehydrated in one step.

Instant potato flakes are another familiar dehydrated food that’s familiar to most people. The rehydration and cooking process is much like that of rice and oatmeal, but it requires only the addition of boiling water to render them edible.

You could do the same thing with dried beans, but you'd use a lot of cooking fuel. Most people soak dried beans in water overnight, or bring them to a brief boil to shorten their soaking time, to soften their outer seed coats. The beans expand to several times their dried volume and are then cooked.

Only cold water is needed to rehydrate most of these foods. On the other hand, the application of a little heat speeds up the process. If you want a food product that’s somewhat similar to its fresh counterpart, using cold water is your best choice. If you’re going to use the rehydrated food in a cooked dish, using warm or hot water puts food on the table a little faster.

Beans and other legumes require special handling not needed when preparing vegetables such as our and our Most vegetables are easily and quickly rehydrated using water. The seed coatings of legumes contain a large amount of proteins which toughen when exposed to salt, acid and prolonged high temperatures during their initial soaking and cooking. If you want your beans to soften successfully, avoid adding salt, vinegar, wine, tomatoes or other acid-containing products until the final stages of cooking.

Most dehydrated foods don’t require this much fuss. Measure a specific amount of dried food and then add three times as much water to rehydrate it properly. Make sure the food is submerged in the water. Wait about 20 to 30 minutes and – voila’ – you have rehydrated food ready for immediate consumption or further preparation in an entrée or side dish. Don’t add any salt or other seasonings until you’ve rehydrated the product and its flavor emerges.

Meat and its TVP analogs require similar handling as vegetables. However, rehydrate meat under refrigeration or at least on top of ice to avoid exposing it to warmer temperatures that encourage spoilage. Alternatively, cut meat into bite-sized pieces and drop them into the boiling water it will be cooked in.

Add some edible fat to both dehydrated meat and TVP dishes to improve their rib-sticking qualities. Their low fat content makes them shelf-life champions but leaves them less than satisfying to hungry people.

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