The Big Deal About Freeze Dried Food

Gaye Levy Gaye Levy  |  Updated: December 16, 2020
The Big Deal About Freeze Dried Food

So what is the big deal about freeze dried food for long term storage?  I have been skirting around the edge of this issue since early summer, when I had my first taste of some prepackaged, freeze dried food from a #10 tin.  Oh sure – it all sounded good.  After all, it was roast beef and for a meatasaurus like me, how bad could it be?

While not to disparage one brand over another, the roast beef from Thrive was, well, the word that comes to mind is vile.  I tried it plain and I tried it hidden in the rich broth of homemade soup.  Your mileage may vary but it was bad.  Really bad.

Freeze Dried Ice Cream

Did you know that there is even Freeze-Dried Ice Cream?

Update:  In all fairness, the other products from Thrive are excellent.  The only “bad” product to my taste is the roast beef.

So back I went to the drawing board.  I thought if I could learn about the science behind freeze dried food, I might be able to make better choices going forward.

How does freeze drying work?

­Freeze-drying works by putting food into a state of “suspended animation”.  Provided the food is of good quality to begin with, it gets freeze dried where it can stay, under proper storage conditions, for 20, 30 or even 40 years.  When you get around to eating it, you add some warm to hot water and the food comes back to life, supposedly ready to eat with the same taste and texture it had to begin with.  That is the theory, anyway.

In the most simplistic of terms, freeze drying removes all water from food.  This performs three important functions:

  • Removing water eliminates the spoilage that can occur when microorganisms (such as bacteria) feed on the food causing decomposition, disease, or a completely benign but utterly disgusting bad taste.
  • Removing water also  puts a stop to naturally occurring enzymes in food that react with oxygen to cause spoiling and ripening.
  • Freeze-drying significantly reduces the total weight of the food, making it lighter and easier to carry and to package.

But what about dehydrating food?

Dehydrating or drying food is not all that difficult.  All you need to do is set the food out in a hot, arid area, and, given enough time, the liquid water inside will evaporate.  If you do the job right, this will eliminate about 90 to 95% of the water.  Not bad.

But the problem with this method is the heat.  Heat will change the shape, texture, taste, smell and appearance of food.  Now when you are cooking something for dinner tonight, that is not necessarily a bad thing.  But to eat 10 or 20 years from now?  Probably not.

How is freeze drying different?

imageFreeze drying, on the other hand, locks in the original composition and structure of the food by drying it without heat.  Instead of using heat, the water is converted to ice and then to a vapor or gas using a special machine.  This vapor is allowed to evaporate out and when the food has dried completely, the process is done and you have a perfect freeze-dried food.

It is then sealed in a moisture-fee package, typically a Mylar pouch. a bucket or a tin, along with an oxygen absorbing material.,  Then, as long as the package is airtight and secure, the food can sit on a shelf or in a pantry for years and years without degrading.  Ultimately, it is re-hydrated to its original form with warm water and you are good to go.

But How Does it Taste?

Okay, so I already told you that the roast beef was terrible.  If all this freeze-drying science is true, how could that be?  Honestly?  I don’t know.  What I do know is that since that day in July, I have tried some other freeze dried products and they are darn good.  Better than good as a matter of fact.

For example, a few days ago we flipped open the top of another Thrive product, the Ground Beef.  After hearing about my complaints about the Roast Beef, Misty Marsh at Your Own Home Store offered to send me some samples, convinced that I should give freeze dried meats another try.

In the picture below you will see the ground beef from can to pan and ultimately in my bowl of homemade chili.  Now doesn’t that look good?  And the taste?  As good or better than the real thing.  Wait!  I checked the can.  This is the real thing!  So a big thumbs up to Misty, her sample, and the Thrive roast beef.

Thirve ground beef (Small)

Thrive ground beef 2 (Small)

Survival Woman Chili (Small)

A couple of things:  Misty kindly sent the samples to me but she did not ask for a single thing in return.  But let me tell you a little bit about her.  She is an authorized independent Shelf Reliance consultant who became interested in Thrive food a bit over a year ago when she lost hundreds of dollars of food from her freezer when her family had to move due to a job loss.  Real meat, cheese, and produce with a 25 year shelf life – she became hooked as did her family.

So now I was 1 for 2.  Time to try something else.

My next venture into the world of freeze dried foods was some good old fashioned scrambled eggs with sausage.  This time I chose a Saratoga Farms product.  Now I must tell you that I am not much of a breakfast eater – a double grandee latte about does it for me – but I do enjoy making breakfast for Shelly, the Survival Husband.

The first thing I noticed was that there were no foul orders when I opened the can.  I also noticed how real those little nuggets of eggs looked.  (Hey, they were real – just freeze dried).   The only thing that I questioned was the size of a serving at 1/2 cup.  So, just to be safe, I doubled the quantity and got started by  pouring some warm water over the dried egg and sausage mixture.  At the end of 7 minutes, we did a taste test and decided that warmish eggs were not too appetizing so we threw the mix in a small skillet and heated them up for about 5 minutes.

The result?  Well, after the first few bites S.H. gave them a 6 on a one to ten scale, ten highest.  But he kept eating . . . and eating . . . and before he was done he proclaimed that this was and 8 or 9.  The exact words were “addictive”.  Here are some pictures:

Eggs (1)

Eggs (2)

Eggs (3)

The Final Word

Way back when I wrote about common food storage mistakes, I noted that a common goof is to purchase products you either don’t enjoy or don’t know how to cook.  The rule to buy what you like most certainly applies to freeze-dried foods.  Many companies offer single or double meal pouches or a sampler sized tin that you can use to try a product before buying in huge quantity.  I recommend that you take advantage of these convenient, pantry sized products before committing to the larger sizes that you will store for the long term.

Bargain Bin: Here are some of my favorite food storage items. Whether you are just getting started or a seasoned pro, here are the items you will need when purchasing food in bulk for the long term, SHTF needs. And to help with your food storage questions, coming soon, my new eBook: The Preppers Guide to Food Storage.

Mylar bags & Oxygen Absorbers: What I love about Mylar bags and oxygen absorbers is they protect against every single one of the food storage enemies. Prices do vary but for the most part, they are inexpensive and easy to keep on hand. And while you can seal them up with a FoodSaver, some tubing and a common clothes iron, I find it infinitely easier with a cheap hair straightening iron.

60 – 300cc Oxygen Absorbers: This is one area where you want to make sure you are getting a quality product.

Mylar Zip Seal Food Storage Bags: These are the zip seal bags that I used to package up my spices, herbs and butter powder. These are extra heavy, 5 mil bags. I found that the zip feature made packaging extra easy although I still seal the bags with my hair iron.

FoodSaver Vacuum Sealer: As long as the unit has an accessory port (and this one does), and inexpensive FoodSaver will work just as well as the fancier models. That is my two cents, at least.

FoodSaver Wide Mouth Jar Sealer: Already have a FoodSaver? If so, check out this jar sealer which can be used to vacuum seal your Mason jars. This is a great option for short to mid term storage of items such as beans, rice, sugar, and salt. Store your jars in a cool, dark place and you are set with the added advantage of removing a small amount for current use without having to disrupt your large Mylar bag or bucket of food.  There is also a version for regular sized jars.

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0 Responses to “The Big Deal About Freeze Dried Food”

  1. It is all relative. I hiked for 60 years and have eaten and carried everything imaginable. When single serving packets of freeze dried food came on the market I was over the top excited about them. When you have just walked 20 miles with a 35 lb pack and reached a remote but awesomely beautiful place and you are starving that freeze dried meal tastes like a $30 restaurant meal and as you sit there enjoying it you mentally are patting yourself on the back because it only weighs 4 oz compared with the can of beans etc. you used to carry. Now the same meal in your kitchen won’t bring you to the brink of other worldly delights like it does in the wilderness so you have to put things in perspective. On that subject, I am 68 and I have to tell you the best backpacking/hiking/mountain climbing meal in the world is a freshly made peanut butter and jelly sandwich. This means you carry PB & J and a loaf of bread but it is worth it. Now the same meal served tonight for dinner will get you kicked out of the house. But there is something about having climbed a 10,000 ft mountain and starving that makes that PB&J sandwich heaven sent. Try it.

    • I am 58, and can’t hike anymore. My back and legs are caput. In light of those facts, the PB&J sandwiches are a god send even at home. I use a really good seed & sprout bread, sugar free strawberry preserves, and an excellent peanut butter, and I can still be in heaven…right in my own home!

  2. The article was informative. The purpose behind freeze dried foods is for an emergency situation, a situation that will take months to resolve until food can be grown be it plants or animals for consumption. Whether it tastes good or not is relative, since it is a matter of survival. By the way, I did try the survival biscuits I wrote about earlier in the week. They ended up a little overdone, since the recipe was geared for a solar oven, BUT I tried them anyway to see if they would work. I did not suffer any hunger pangs for several hours so they did their job. Another example of a food for an emergency situation that tastes fair , but will pull a person through hard times. Read the article on SHTF: the plan for an eyeopener. It’s about what one person did to survive.

  3. Thanks for the wonderful and informative article regarding your testing of freeze dried foods. I’ve tried a few while camping and found them convenient and tasty. I like MREs too!

  4. I have researched food storage, both freeze dried and dehydrated, and have concluded that long term storage depletes the nutrients , but still is “tasty” after many years, because of all the MSG and its 15 or so different forms. MSG is an excitotoxin and is actually a poison to the body and brain.

  5. Shelf Reliance’s Thrive freeze dried food is MSG free with no additives or preservatives. The ONLY product they carry that contains any MSG is 3 of their TVPs. You can see an official list here:

  6. Dr.Royal Lee (DDS) obtained the first patent for freeze dried food, in the 1930’s. His company makes natural nutritional products by extracting the nutrients from the foods as whole natural complexes. He would never use the freeze drying process because he discovered than many phytonutrients were destroyed and therefore they did not work as well. His company only uses room temperature vacuum dehydrating.

  7. I have read much about freeze drying and freeze dried foods. I want to beef up my store of freeze dried foods because often times, I might buy something, use a small portion of it, then the rest sits till it spoils. I think if I purchase my FD foods, and repackage any left overs from can or pkg., I can get a much better value for my money. I just have to have the MBs and OAs available to do so. I already have the bag sealer, but the hair iron is a new idea and sounds like it would work really well for my purposes. Thanks for the idea.

  8. Mimi – If you are opening a can of Freeze Dried food for day-to-day use, I suggest removing what you think you will use over a three month period then storing the rest in mason jars sealed with a food saver jar attachment. You can pop in a small oxygen absorber (although for just a year or two it is not necessary) and you are good to go.

    In many respects, for shorter-term storage (a year or two) this is a lot easier than dealing with a Mylar bag.

    And BTW, once I started using a hair iron to seal the Mylar bags, I didn’t bother with anything else. It is that easy!

  9. We tried MH freeze dried products and liked most of the selections. They fit the bill to take camping and hiking. Are favorite is the “Sweet and Sour Pork”. Could use a little more pork thou. The serving sizes list for most of these type of products are on the small size. So, double the servings when making them. Here at home we also use dehydrated food. We dehydrate a variety of vegetables and vacuum seal them in mason jars. It’s simple to take some dehydrated celery or broccoli and add them to canned soup to make them much better. Even thou we have packed long term food in Mylar bags with O2 absorbers and sealed them in food grade buckets. We are constantly using the dehydrated food in mason jars. I guess what ever works best for you and your family should be your plan.

  10. Dear Sirs,
    We wish to buy Freeze Dried Scrambled Eggs without any kind of additive, not even salt. We are looking for these eggs for a very specific dietary need. There can be no added salt, pepper, meat, cheese….. nothing else. Only 100% pure SCRAMBLED and COOKED eggs. Ready to add hot water and eat. Not powdered eggs. Must be FREEZE-DRIED….. not dehydrated .
    In case you do not stock and market these kindly indicate whether you can get it made for us on our placing a firm order. We require about 10 lbs per month. In such a case how long do you take to deliver these? Your immediate response to this will be highly appreciated. In case you can supply please send the under mentioned details.
    Please give us the following information about the above:
    1) We prefer to buy organically grown or free range eggs. Please confirm the availability of these eggs with you.
    2) In what sizes you supply the above, like in oz bags or 5 pound bags or 50 pound bags and so on.
    3) Your price for the above units and cost of shipping (We are at Denver, CO, USA)
    4) Whether you supply to any shop at Denver so that we can buy from him. If you supply please give the contact details of the shop.
    5) We want a purity certificate for the above from you. Please indicate whether you can give us such a certificate.
    6) Please state how to order the above.
    Best regards.
    Y Udaya Chandar.

  11. Being I’ve been on strike for over a month at the refinery and trying to save money I decided to break into my emergency food supplies and give them a try and here’s my review. Saratoga Farms Freeze Dried Scrambled Eggs & w/Sausage in the #10 cans I received contained no oxygen absorbers and were not crunchy like all, like the Mountain House food I tried (both in #10 cans and in the single serving bags (they all were crunchy.. I chunked the 1st can in the garbage thinking it was bad but decided to go ahead and try my 2nd can today. It tasted all right but I don’t think I will ever buy from them again. I think I’ll stick with Mountain House and leave Saratoga Farms alone from now on.

    Jim in Texas

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