When I first started developing recipes, back in the dark ages of the early 2000’s, I for the most part only used dehydrated ingredients in the recipes I was developing.
At the time, freeze-dried ingredients were hard to find, and there were few options to buy. Freeze-dried was mostly only complete meals, or if you could find an ingredient, it was in a small pouch and over-priced (it’d be a cup of freeze-dried meat and you paid $10 or more for it). And the companies that existed were lazy. Yes, I said that. They were LAZY. They used subpar ingredients – the meat wasn’t high quality, the pasta was always mushy, the vegetables were pale in color. They didn’t have to try. At all.
Amazon did change that for the better in the past few years, as more brands came on the market. It’s far easier now to find freeze-dried, and have it be affordable enough to justify buying. It’s also in many cases far higher quality now.
It was often the same with dehydrated ingredients, but at least then you could buy a food dehydrator and make your own. Dehydrators were mostly affordable at $65 and up. But a dehydrator takes space, heats up your living space and you need to use it often to make it worthwhile.
Personal freeze-dryers were still many years away (and are not affordable even today….). Even today buying a freeze-dryer isn’t necessarily an option for most people. It takes a lot of food dried to make it cost worthy. And frankly, having the room for a unit (they are big and noisy) and the time to do it isn’t always what everyone has, when all they want is to make a few backpacking meals for the summer.
Buying your ingredients can be more cost effective, even if you buy a lot of fancy items (like I do).
This summer I am revisiting a number of recipes (in both our books, and on the website) and remaking them to use freeze-dried ingredients instead of dehydrated. The upside of this is the recipes rehydrate so much better – and faster. And that is a truth right there: freeze-dried does trump dehydrated for most ingredients. They refresh to look like fresh, and are not “leathery” as some dehydrated ingredients can be (green beans, corn, bell peppers are prime examples).
I use a few brands interchangeably:
Thrive Life (The only brand that offers a smaller size of product – they have #10 cans, “pantry” cans and some items in pouches)
Having said that, a big area I am working on in the recipes is using freeze-dried meat instead of canned or in pouches, as I have called for, well, years. It opens up what you can use and weighs a lot less in your pack. This means I have to adjust the water ratios for the recipes (you have to take in account for the meat and add enough extra water, but not dilute the spices and flavorings).
My goal is to produce 30 to 50 recipes on the website featuring freeze-dried ingredients. So far 7 recipes have been posted, with at least 15 waiting to be posted in the coming days and weeks. If you follow the newish TrailCooking Instagram account, you have seen me post a lot of photos of upcoming recipes. Every trip we go on, it’s like I have gone back to the year 2005, and I am developing recipes like I did then (I was hiking 4 to 5 days a week that year, and posting recipes like crazy).
(Or maybe more like summer of 2002 – when my diet often was Stove Top Stuffing with freeze-dried peas, bought out of the Campmor catalog…..)
The Recipes So Far:
This post contains affiliate links that give us commissions on products purchased. These items are what we used in the recipes. This includes both Amazon and Thrive Life.