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Home Freeze Drying – Read this Before You Buy a Freeze Dryer

Thinking about getting a freeze dryer? We'll explain how home freeze drying works, and answer questions about freeze dried food storage for emergencies and more.

home freeze dryer and freeze dried food in jars

Why get a freeze dryer?

I've been curious about home freeze drying ever since I did an interview with Dr. Prepper back in 2015. The doc raved about his home freeze dryer. He loved the quality of the food, how much money it saved him, and what a great addition it was to his preps.

In early 2016 Harvest Right home freeze dryers contacted me to do a review of their product. I could purchase it at a discount, as long as I did a review. My other option was to get it for free, if I committed to a series of endorsements.

Being the stubborn individual that I am, I didn't want to commit to selling you something that was such a big investment without thoroughly testing it. I purchased a freeze dryer and have been using it since May 2016.

My conclusion – if you want long term food storage or portable food storage, check out freeze drying. Commercial freeze dried foods are pricey and often have questionable ingredients. Home freeze drying puts you in control.

How Does Freeze Drying Work?

Here's the official definition of freeze drying (Lyophilization) from the FDA:

Lyophilization or freeze drying is a process in which water is removed from a product after it is frozen and placed under a vacuum, allowing the ice to change directly from solid to vapor without passing through a liquid phase.

The process consists of three separate, unique, and interdependent processes; freezing, primary drying (sublimation), and secondary drying (desorption).

So, how do we do that at home?

  • First, you get a heavy duty freezer (the Harvest Right units drop to -30°F (-34°C) or colder).
  • Second, you pair this up with a completely airtight chamber that can hold a vacuum (no oxygen) every single time you use it.
  • Third, you tie in a high end vacuum pump strong enough to suck the stripes off a zebra.
  • Fourth, you add a heater and thermostat, so you can cycle the temps up and down, repeating the sublimation process for hours on end.
  • Fifth, tie in a humidity sensor to make sure the water is out, triggering the cycle completion.

There's a reason the big commercial freeze drying units are priced from $5000 to over $100,000 – the freeze drying process is significantly more complicated than other home food preservation options.

If you're wondering how freeze drying compares to dehydrating, you can read more about that in the post “What's the Difference Between Dehydrating and Freeze Drying?

red home freeze dryer with produce

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Harvest Right Home Freeze Dryer Basic Information

Here's some information everyone should know before buying a Harvest Right freeze drying machine. Since the time this review was originally posted, Harvest Right made a number of upgrades. They now have HR pumps in two different styles, slight design changes in the main units, and new software that speeds up freeze drying times.

Freeze Dryer Dimensions

Harvest Right has three sizes of home freeze dryers – large, medium and small.

Each unit includes a detachable vacuum pump weighing 35 lbs that sits outside the freeze dryer. They also have a drain hose that routes below the unit. Oil free pumps are available at an additional cost. (More on this below.)

small red freeze dryer without pump
Small red freeze dryer, pump not shown.

Small Freeze Dryer

  • Overall product dimensions: 16.5″ W x 18.5″ D x 25″ H
  • 3 trays (7.75″ W x 14″ L x 0.75″ H)
  • 61 lbs.
teal medium home freeze dryer with pump

Medium Freeze Dryer

  • Overall product dimensions: 18″ W x 21.25″ D x 28.5″ H
  • 4 trays (7.5″ W x 18″ L x 0.75″ H)
  • 112 lbs.
large stainless steel freeze dryer

Large Freeze Dryer

  • Overall product dimensions: 20.25 ” W x 23.75″ D x 30.75″ H
  • Perfect for counter top, cart, or table.
  • 5 trays (9″ W x 20.5″ x 0.75″ H)
  • 138 lbs.

Moving these units is a two person job, unless you put it on a rolling cart, which many owners do.

I have a mid-sized unit of the old design, updated with new software.

How much food can you freeze dry?

Small Freeze Dryer

  • Freeze dry 840 pounds of fresh food per year (4-7 pounds per batch).
  • In a year's time, you can freeze dry 195 gallons of food.

Medium Freeze Dryer

  • Freeze dry 1,450 pounds of fresh food per year (7-10 pounds per batch, roughly equal to 1.5 to 2 #10 cans).
  • In a year's time, you can freeze dry 312 gallons of food.

Large Freeze dryer

  • 2,500 pounds of fresh food per year (12-16 pounds per batch).
  • In a year's time, you can freeze dry 546 gallons of food.

Why can't I stuff more food in, and stack those trays fuller? During the freeze drying process, ice builds up on the walls of the freeze drying chamber. Add too much food, and the ice buildup will get too thick for the unit to work properly.

Freeze Dried Food Q&A

What foods can you freeze dry?

Fruits, vegetables, meats, dairy products, meals, desserts, and more. Freeze drying is safe for preserving cooked pasta and grains, unlike canning.

Those of you who follow me on Instagram know that I've freeze dried plenty of fruits and veggies, but I also tried some more interesting items like scrambled eggs and fajita filling.

What foods can't you freeze dry?

Anything that's mostly fat or mostly sugar will not freeze dry well. Fat won't dry – but it can heat up and melt in the unit and coat every surface. When I tried pre-cooked pork sausage patties, they made a big mess.

Sugar binds to water, trapping it in the food. This is great for inhibiting bacteria growth, but it means you can't freeze dry jams and jellies that are mostly sugar. Plain fruit and most desserts are fine.

freeze dried cheesecake
Freeze dried cheesecake

How long does freeze drying take?

Around 24 hours was the estimated freeze drying time for an average load, but with the new software, I’ve freeze dried loads in as little as 13 hours. Warm, humid conditions increase drying time.

When you load up your home freeze dryer and hit “Start”, the unit takes you through a short menu. You select whether the food going in is already frozen (or not), and whether it is solid or liquid. Then the freeze dryer prompts you to close the drain valve and begin the cycle.

The new software is smart. The main differences between the old and new software are as follows:

  • It measures the freezing temperatures (it used to only measure the warming temps)
  • The vacuum pump is used as part of the freeze (when the temp of the food hits 0 degrees F, the pump turns on). This is important because the food gets colder faster.
  • Once the food is frozen cold enough, it clicks immediately into drying (it doesn't wait for the full freeze time to finish)
  • The drying phase ramps up to the specified shelf temperature (this helps you get a better finished product)
  • The final dry is the same

The biggest benefits occur if you put pre-frozen food it. However, there is still a decrease in the processing times for foods that aren't pre-frozen. Anyone who gets a new freeze dryer also gets the new software.

The new software will be sold as an upgrade to older users, due to the customer service involved with it. Harvest Right has almost 50,000 freeze dryer customers. I received a copy of the new software to test and review.

Can you mix foods in the freeze dryer?

Yes, but watch placement. The website claims that flavors don't mix, but we have found that they do. We ended up with freeze dried kiwis with a hint of green beans. Advice from the freeze drying groups suggests placing stronger flavored items on the upper shelves, milder items on the lower shelves.

As always, proper food safety rules should be observed. Avoid cross contamination, dry thoroughly, and package promptly.

freeze dried vegetables

How do I know the food is done freeze drying?

The freeze dryer senses the moisture content of the food and finishes the cycle automatically, but sometimes it’s a little off and you need to add extra time.

When you first remove food from the dryer, it will be a little cool from the ice buildup inside the chamber, but not “cold”. I always break open some larger pieces and check inside for cold spots. If you find cold spots, put the trays back in and add time to the drying cycle. Your freeze dryer will prompt you to check for dryness.

One of our readers, Rose, shares what she does to check dryness:

One thing I did choose to add to my arsenal for safety was a FLIR thermal imaging camera. With one easy picture, I can quickly identify areas on the tray that might not be completely dry, and pose an issue for long term storage. The image will show as being “cold” in the area that is not completely dry.

In the MANY loads I have done, I have only had one that didn’t pass (the pre-mashed potatoes) the very center of the tray was still cold. I was able to quickly extend the dry period for a couple more hours and produce a perfectly done product with no fear!

FLIR ONE IOS Thermal Imaging Camera for iPhone – works with the phone

FLIR C2 Compact Thermal Imaging System – standalone camera

How do I use freeze dried foods in recipes?

Check out “Pantry Stuffers Rehydration Calculations Made Easy“, which has tables that show how much water and how much product to add when substituting dehydrated, freeze-dried, and powdered products in your favorite recipes.

Freeze dried fruits and vegetables (those with less sugar) get so dry they are easily crushed into a powder in a blender or food processor. The resulting powder is bright in color and intensely flavored. You can use this powder in smoothies, or for flavoring. For instance, add strawberry powder to make strawberry flavored whipped cream.

freeze dried powdered berries and drink

How do I store the freeze dried food?

THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT! Once the freeze dry cycle is complete, you must package the food in containers that moisture and oxygen proof, such as Mylar, mason jars or cans. Adding an oxygen absorber helps to ensure freshness.

Meat with any amount of fat will go rancid in a matter of weeks if not properly sealed in an airtight container with oxygen absorber. Putting it in a mason jar and screwing on the lid won’t cut it. (We made that mistake only once.)

We use Mylar bags for most of our long term storage because they are light and durable. You can reuse Mylar, but of course the bag will be slightly smaller. Mylar is great for camping and travel.

Mason jars are a good choice if you:

  • Aren’t concerned about the weight
  • Have room for glass jars
  • Don’t deal with tectonic disturbances or any type of disasters that might tip over your storage

You can use a Foodsaver attachment to vacuum seal jars, or remove the shelving from your Harvest Right freeze dryer and use the vacuum cycle. For long term storage, food is vacuum packed with oxygen absorbers in the jars. For short term storage, I vacuum seal without oxygen absorbers.

Can I use FoodSaver plastic bags for storing freeze dried foods?

No, not for long term.

My friend Gale discusses the difference between Mylar and foodsaver bags in her post “Using Mylar Bags for Food Storage“:

First and foremost, the term “Mylar” is actually one of many trade names for a polyester film called BoPet film. For the technically inclined and the curious, that stands for “Biaxially-oriented polyethylene terephthalate”. This film was developed by DuPont in the 1950’s and was first used by NASA for mylar blankets and long term storage as it increases the shelf life of food by eliminating oxygen. Think superpowered aluminum foil.

Since then, many uses for Mylar have been embraced due to its high tensile strength and its moisture, light, gas and aroma barrier properties. Mylar is also a good insulator against electrical disturbances, which is why it is used for making emergency blankets.

For all of these reasons and more, Mylar bags are considered the gold standard when it comes to long-term food storage.

What about Vacuum Sealed Bags?

Vacuum seal bags, such as those for the FoodSaver are a wonderful convenience and easy to use. But alas, they do not have the thickness nor the strength of Mylar bags and they may start to leak after 3 or 4 years.

They are still a great alternative for your short-term and mid-term storage items, especially if you are diligent about rotating foods and using them for your normal meal preparation activities.

Your FoodSaver bags do not need to be improperly sealed to let air and moisture in. They are simply not as thick or as tough as Mylar.

Alternatives to the HarvestRight Freeze Dryer

There are knockoffs available from China. Based on reviews, they are inconsistent in quality and operations. Although they are cheaper we do not recommend them. We only recommend HarvestRight.

freeze dried food in mason jars

How much is a freeze dryer?

Home freeze dryers range in price from $1,995 to $3,495, depending on size and exterior finish. This cost includes the Freeze Dryer, Vacuum Pump, Vacuum Pump Oil, Oil Filter, Stainless Steel Trays, Mylar Bags (50 ct), Oxygen Absorbers (50 ct), Impulse Sealer, and HR Guide to Freeze Drying.

All units have a 3 year Limited Warranty, versus the one year warranty on many appliances.

Harvest Right also offers 0% interest financing, allowing you to lock in sale prices with a $250 minimum down payment. You pay as much as you want, when you want.

When you reach the designated down payment for the unit of your choice, they ship your unit. You then pay the remaining balance over 12 months with 0 interest.

Harvest Right also offers different accessories separately, such as extra trays, mats, Mylar bags and oxygen absorbers.

These units are a big investment. If you know you're only going to use it a couple times per year (or not at all), spend the money on something else you know that you will use.

If you want more food security and food preservation options, read on. Home freeze drying is more affordable than ever.

large home freeze dryer and accessories

Layaway Option

Harvest Right offers a layaway option so you can lock in sale prices or reserve your machine. (They are experiencing a backlog in orders right now.)

How the layaway works:

  1. Lock in your sale price with a downpayment ($250 minimum)*
  2. Pay as much as you want, when you want
  3. Receive 0% interest until paid in full. Your freeze dryer will ship after you've made your final payment.

Locating your Freeze Dryer

Freeze drying machines eat up a fair amount of real estate. This is not a toaster oven or blender. The main unit is about the size of a dorm fridge, plus it has a hose and vacuum pump. Many owners buy a heavy duty rolling table to hold the unit, but a counter top or table can get the job done.

I currently have mine on a counter in the garage, against a wall. The on/off switch is at the rear of the unit, plus the pump has its own on/off switch. You need to be able to access both of those and have clearance for power cords.

Power requirements: The small and medium units use a standard 110 volt outlet, but it's best to have it on its own circuit if possible. If you try to pair it with another heavy load appliance, you're likely to trip a breaker. (I found that out the hard way, and we installed a dedicated circuit.)

The large unit requires a 110 volt (NEMA 5-20) outlet and a dedicated 20 amp circuit.

Watch the temperature. The recommended temperature range for operation is 35-90°F. The most efficient temperature range is between 50-75°F.

Although safe, operating your freeze dryer in temperatures above 90°F will affect batch times and reduce the life of the condensing unit (freezer).

As the temperature rises where your freeze dryer operates, so does the length of time it takes to finish batches of food. This happens because with hotter operating temperatures it is harder to reach the extreme cold required by freeze drying.

Don't operate the unit below freezing. You are likely to have water within the compressor, and it can freeze and destroy your compressor.

Home Freeze Dryer Noise

During the first part of the cycle, the refrigeration unit is running. During the second part of the cycle, the vacuum pump is running. The noise isn't super loud – think vacuum cleaner, not jackhammer – but it is noticeable. I'd highly recommend planning to have it in an area where the door can be closed.

strawberries in freeze dryer

Freeze Dryer Maintenance

As I mentioned earlier, the freeze dryer does a complicated job, so there's a little more to it than just flipping a switch.

Think lawn mower, not kitchen mixer. If you regularly abuse your power tools and don't do basic maintenance, don't get a freeze dryer. I know many of my readers fix and maintain not only their own things, but other's people's equipment, too, so I'm not too concerned about this.

We drain the oil after each use and refill the vacuum pump with clean oil. Oil is filtered and reused. Before filtering, we freeze the oil. After freezing, we pour the oil off the top of the container into the filter. The water (as ice) sits in the bottom of the container.

Visit “Harvest Right Freeze Dryer Oil Change and Filtering” to see a video of the oil change itself and the use of an inexpensive homemade oil filter that works.

Oil-Free Freeze Dryer Pumps Now Available

Harvest Right listened to customer feedback, and they've developed a premium oil-free pump. All new freeze dryers ship with standard Harvest Right brand pumps, but the oil-free pumps may be purchased at an additional cost.

If doing an oil change every time you’re freeze drying sounds like a bit of a hassle, the oil free pump may be right for you.

Note that the oil free pump does use slightly more electricity than the default vacuum pump.

Things I Love About the Harvest Right Freeze Dryer

Home Freeze Dried Food is Tasty

Hands down, my favorite thing about the Harvest Right freeze dryer is the quality of the food. The commercial freeze dried food I've tried has been okay, but our home freeze dried products are amazing. I mailed some to a friend recently as part of a gift exchange, and she wrote back, “Okay, Laurie, spill the beans on how you freeze dried the fruits. My kids are absolutely in love with them!”

The texture of freeze dried food is light and crisp – more like chips than jerky – even freeze dried meat. We freeze dried fajita meat strips, and they tasted like crunchy little meat flavored Cheetos, the boys called them Meatos.

When we prepped freeze dried fajita filling for dinner, all we did was add a little water to the pan with the food, cover and heat through. Dinner was ready in less than 5 minutes. (If you happen to have a Sun Oven, they work well for rehydrating freeze dried meals.)

The fruit is so good – absolutely, intensely fruity, light and crisp. You can also powder your freeze dried fruits and veggies and use them as natural food colors (and flavors), as noted above.

freeze dried fruits - berries and apples

Home Freeze Dried Food is Easy to Make

Filling the unit is easy. For meals or other prepared food items, simply cook your food and let it cool. Cut into small piece, or thin slices (if needed). Load the food on the trays; place the trays in the unit.

For freeze drying fruits and vegetables, I prep them as I would for freezing or dehydrating. Blanching is recommended for vegetables, especially for cabbage family crops like broccoli. Without blanching, they may outgas during storage, potentially bursting the storage seal.

If you want to freeze dry soup or liquids (like milk), you can do that, too. It helps if you reduce the amount of water to cut drying time, but you can freeze dry “as is”.

You Can’t Beat Freeze Drying for Long Term Food Storage

The shelf life of properly stored freeze dried foods is amazing. Low fat content foods like fruits, vegetables, lean meat, rice, noodles, etc. have a shelf life of 20+ years when packaged properly. Higher fat foods have a 10-15 year shelf life. No other food supply compares for long term food storage.

Why bother with food storage that lasts so long? Because life happens. One year I might have an amazing crop of a particular item, then crop failures for several years. If there's a job loss or an emergency, with my freeze dried food I know we'll have a stash of food we actually like to eat.

Food prices keep creeping up, so why not preserve food now to take advantage of lower prices?

Freeze Drying at Home Can Be Allergy Friendly

Food allergies and sensitivities are becoming more and more common. Freeze drying allows you to safely preserve a wider variety of foods than any other food preservation technique. You know you’re only minutes from a safe meal. When traveling, you don't need to keep food in a cooler.

I have a friend whose daughter has EoE (an allregic swallowing disorder). She found that freeze dried foods didn't trigger her gag reflex, and was finally able to eat more of a variety of foods.

freeze dried ham. potatoes and peas, in jars and rehydrated on plate

Home Freeze Drying is Cool

Pun or no pun, home freeze drying allows you to experiment with options you won't see with commercial freeze dried foods – or other food preservation techniques.

One member of an online forum had his aging grandmother cook her favorite meals. He then freeze dried them to share with the family after she was gone. What an amazing gift to be able to taste a loved one's cooking one more time.

Another couple was freeze drying some of their wedding cake and the bride's bouquet. Still another took meal pouches to work and just added hot water to have a real meal while her co-workers were gnawing on granola bars as they worked through lunch.

My boys love crunchy snacks, so we've freeze dried things from sweet potato fries to pickled beet slices as chip and cracker alternatives. Freeze dried yogurt drops turn bulk yogurt into a special treat. Combining berries and yogurt into cute silicon molds makes a melt in your mouth dessert bursting with creamy berry flavor.

heart shaped freeze dried strawberry yogurt snacks

Are you ready to invest in a Home Freeze Dryer?

Do you:

  • Want more options for long term, healthy food storage that your family will enjoy eating?
  • Have someone with allergies who needs safe food options?
  • Need ready made meals to go?
  • Try to store abundant produce for when harvests aren't so good?
  • Get excited about trying new food options and preserving special memories?

If any of these sounds like a fit, take a closer look at freeze drying. I'm happy to answer any questions you may have. If I can't answer them, I'll find someone who can. Leave a comment and let me know your thoughts!

Freeze dry at home

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My referral link: https://affiliates.harvestright.com/115.html

If you choose to purchase a Harvest Right freeze dryer through my site, I receive a commission at no extra cost to you. (Thank you!)

You can watch the video below to see how I freeze dry strawberries. (These are the berries that had my friend's kids raving about them.)

You may also find useful:

Originally published in 2016 with the title “Home Freeze Drying – The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”, updated in 2019 to current title. Harvest Right fixed “the ugly”, which was the original messy pump, so I took that out of the title. I’ve also added information based on reader feedback. Please scroll through the comments for more Q&A!

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573 Comments

  1. “add a vacuum pump that can suck the stripes off a zebra” LMAO

    But seriously, thank you for the well-put-together piece here. Very informative and I’m still on the fence with the freeze drier as I read and understand more. It’s also nice to know Harvest Right is standing behind their units for 3 years.

    1. As I note in the article, it’s like any piece of equipment, only worth the investment if you use it. Some people cover the cost of the freeze dryer purchase by freeze drying foods for others, or selling freeze dried food. (A local friend did this.)

      Lately we’ve been using ours to freeze dry excess eggs for winter use, as the duck patrol stops laying entirely for winter, and the chickens don’t lay very much. I’ve been considering upgrading to one of the new models, but our original is still working, so no rush on that.

  2. Do you happen to have the recipe for the Berry Yogurt bites that are freeze dried? I tried clicking on it but got nothing.

  3. Hi,
    Would you say that the electricity generated by running a small HR machine is a significant expense? Curious if that is a factor that stands out for this product.
    Thank you

    1. It depends on your electric rates. We have an article – Harvest Right Cost Analysis – where one of our readers broke down the energy use from his unit. At his normal electric rate running large loads, it was costing him around $2/load to freeze dry. He tested a medium unit. If you click through the link it breaks down how to optimize load size and full testing information.

  4. Hi, I would like to use the harvest right freeze dryer for cut up apples and black currants are these fruits recommended?

    1. Apple slices dry well, though different types of apples have different textures when dry. Some are softer, while some stay more crisp.

      Black currants will be difficult to dry because of the thick skins. You probably need to slice them or at the very least puncture the skins to get them to dry. Slicing would work better.

    2. My family loves sliced apples freeze dried especially when they’re sprinkled with a little cinnamon before going in the freezer.

  5. I love my freeze dryer except for one thing: I haven’t found a yogurt (other than the store bought garbage) that will freeze dry intact! I’ve tried several different kinds of yogurt and I have tons of starter now but I REALLY want a shelf stable yogurt for my snacking father who struggles to eat regular meals.

    1. I added about a tablespoon of dry baby oatmeal to a large container of Yoplait Yogurt. Then I used a pastry bag with the star tip on it. They came out perfect!!!

  6. I’d like someone to address the high ~32% rate of dissatisfied customers for this product. Most of the complaints consist of vacuum malfunction, pump problems, long delays for parts and customer service. I ordered mine two months ago so it should ship soon. Hope I get one of the good ones.

    1. I think it’s safe to say that the people who have a properly functioning machine often don’t take time to leave reviews, because they are busy using their machines. (Check out the online freeze drying groups for all the stuff that people are busy happily drying with their fully functional machines for proof.)

      If they truly had such a high failure rate, they couldn’t stay in business. We still have the same unit we got over six years ago and have had only minor maintenance issues. Stuff wears out over time.

      It is a complicated piece of equipment, so I suspect at times there may be some user error involved, too. I think they’re also having a lot more troubles with shipping in recent years. The unit leaves Harvest Right in good shape, then ends up completely banged up before it reaches the customer. I’ve seen a lot more postings about that type of thing happening. Even when there’s not visible damage, the unit still may have been dropped or mishandled during shipping. We ended up with a lemon riding lawnmower like that. The guy who sold it to us must have known, but not told us about the problem. We took it to another repair shop, and said the frame was cracked, like it had been dropped off a truck while unloading. We couldn’t see the damage, we just noticed it had a strange vibration.

      I know they are also struggling with supply chain issues like so many other business, so they probably can’t get the needed parts quickly, so they can’t send them out quickly. You’ll find similar issues for other not so mass produced products, like apple presses and pressure canners. I just went to the Lehman’s website, and apple presses are still out of stock. When my husband ordered one, it took a year to be delivered – not joking. I checked the All-American Canner website, too, and every single model is out of stock. They’re hoping they might have some in by the end of the year.

      Small to medium sized businesses often get their orders bumped to the end of the line behind bigger businesses.

      I don’t think most people have a true understanding of how years of continuous disruptions and increasing costs are impacting businesses. It’s hitting even harder in Europe, with many forced to close their doors due to heating and electricity costs.

      Frankly, I’m surprised at how well Harvest Right is holding up given everything that’s going on. They are not a huge company – less than 100 employees – and I can imagine the volume of calls and emails they receive daily. I do think they try and make things right, but that’s not always easy to do.

    2. I will take a minute to add my 2 cents. I purchased my freeze dryer April 2018, and returned it June 2019. They agreed to give me a refund, less a substantial restocking fee. Bottom line, I am not really an early adopter. I expected it to work more like a dehydrator, i.e. put the food in, set the timer, take the finished product out and put the next batch in. For some reason, I expected the unit to be able to measure when the food was fully dry, and was frustrated there is not good way to know. I ruined a few batches of precious food I had grown in my garden. I didn’t like all the messing around with changing the oil in the compressor, and all the ‘babysitting’ I felt it needed. There were some maintenance issues, and their tech support gave me some incorrect information, and I got frustrated. Obviously all this would be resolved with patience and experience.
      I think it is an awesome concept, and sometimes I wish I had given it more of a chance. Someone who understands how it works, is willing to use it properly, and willing to tolerate some inconvenience with technical support, will be very happy with it.

  7. thank you for putting so much information out on your experience with freeze drying. i admire your writing style and hope to obtain a freeze dryer shortly; more to play with and learn about long term storage as any other reason, i hope the reports of intense fruit and berry flavors are accurate; as i get older nothing seems to taste as good as when i was a kid.

    1. The better the quality of the product you start with, the better the quality of the finished product, or course, but the freeze drying process does concentrate flavors. It’s bad for dill pickles (so salty!), but great for fruit.

      Too much of the store produce is bred for durability instead of flavor, and picked green.

  8. I love my HR! I’ve freeze dried milk from my goats and cow, scrambled eggs, precooked meats and meals. I never got into the Candy that some people are obsessed with. However, I have one of the original machines. They said I can’t update firmware. And I have a messy pump. So, from that stand point, I wish I had waited to purchase. It looks like they got a lot of stuff sorted.

  9. i am very interested in the harvest right freeze drier but quite honestly scared to buy one given all the bad reviews on the Better Business Bureau’s web site. I did my usual final search for issues prior to going ahead with the purchase and was surprised bu the number of complaints. There are issues right up to May 2022 so these are not old issues.

    can some people that ACTUALLY have a unit post and let us all know how their experiences.

    1. I actually own a unit. I also invite you to look through the comments, which include many comments from readers who actually own a unit. You can also go online to youtube, and watch hundreds (probably thousands) of videos from people who actually own a unit, or go to Facebook and search on freeze dryer groups, and find thousands of people who actually own a unit.

      Yes, there are still occasional problems, and yes, on the BBB site you will generally not find comments from happy customers. Harvest Right has shipped tens of thousands of units. These are fairly complex pieces of equipment. Sometimes things go wrong. It happens. It’s impossible to operate a business and have every product/every job turn out absolutely perfect, and the happy customers tend to be busy using their products and not telling the whole world about it. (Unless they have a youtube channel or Facebook group, etc.)

  10. You know it’s funny Laurie, I am new to freeze-drying, but getting to choose the amount of salt in a particualr bag is important to me as I don’t want to die of a heart attack, or sodium poisoning! I checked the ingredients in some of the freeze-dried producers’ products, I was shocked at the sodium content, in some cases, it was greater than 30% of the food.

  11. Hi Laurie,

    Wow! I stumbled across your blog looking for more freeze dried store bought options for my 4 y/o son. He is autistic and will eat only freeze dried fruit. I’m almost certain if I bought a freeze dryer he would eat more variety of foods. He was a normal eater until he got sick then he just stopped eating normally. I have spent more money trying to find foods he will eat and with store supply issues I can’t guarantee he will have his favorites and his favorites are all he eats. I just wanted to stop by and thank you!

    1. Hi Catherine. thank you for your kindness.

      Home freeze drying does give you a lot more options, and we personally much prefer the flavor of our home freeze dried products to pretty much everything we’ve purchased. If your son deals with any allergy issues, processing your own food is safer, too. I hope you can find a way to help him to get back to eating more normally. I have friends who’ve used the GAPS diet to improve gut health and also had an improvement in autism symptoms, but I know it can be challenging for those on the spectrum to adjust their eating habits.

    2. I’m so very sorry to hear about your son! Since C-19 I deeply researched vaccines and am 100% convinced our health institutes make us sick and dependant on big pharma THROUGH VACCINES! You can find all ingredients in vaccines on the CDC’s ‘vaccine excipient chart, appendix B’. Everyone should be appalled! Never get another shot! I was a vaccine whore until I researched the REAL STORY OF VACCINES. The drs will adamantly tell you that’s not true but they get$$$ for vaccinating!!
      I’m so sorry for your family!! May God Bless you and your family! Dr Brian Ardis is a very good start to research! With God’s love , jeani

  12. With dehydrators, shelves may need rotating because the airflow doesn’t reach certain shelves as well as others. Does the freeze dryer have similar issues?

    Experiment idea: For blueberries, the options mentioned are piercing each berry or freezing & pulsing in a food processor. What about using a meat tenderizer like at the link below – modify it so it can only puncture the berries & not go all the way through? (frozen berries would probably work best)


    1. The freeze dryer dries pretty uniformly, as long as the trays are loaded evenly. Given that you would need to interrupt the vacuum process during drying, rotating trays would be difficult.

      The meat tenderizer might work, and be a little faster than attempting to puncture individual berries, if you can get the berries to stay in one place. Frozen round balls tend to want to spin and roll away/

  13. Jay Winthorp is clearly a coping poorfag who’s desperately trying to justify his decision to always do the cheapest thing possible. Some people can actually afford to buy things based on criteria other than just being a poorfag you know Jay.

    1. Hello,

      My question is how you would know if the food was safe to eat in terms of botulism and time stored? Would you see that the food is spoiled after 5 years for some items that contain milk oil and fat? Or would it be unknown since you can’t see, taste or smell botulism. I worry that i would spend all this time and money doing this instead of buying freeze dried foods from a big company and in a disaster 10 years down the road might indaventently poison myself.

      Also, not sure if you know the answer, but i have heard you cant use oxygen absorbers for things like baking soda and baking powder because it could explode. Also absorbers should not be used for salt, sugar and spices? Is this true?

      Thanks very much for taking the time to answer!

      1. Botulism spores require very moist conditions to thrive. Properly freeze dried food cannot grow botulism spores.

        To thrive, the bacteria need:

        Temperatures between 40-120°F/ 5-49°C
        Anaerobic conditions (Oxygen below 2%)
        Neutral pH
        Moist conditions (Water activity level greater than 0.85)

        To compare, normal water activity levels for common foods are as follows:

        Food Typical aw
        Fresh meat 0.98
        Cheese 0.97
        Preserves 0.88
        Salami 0.83
        Dried fruit 0.76
        Honey 0.75
        Pasta 0.50

        So if you’re storing in normal room conditions with an oxygen absorber, the temp, O2, and pH may be right, but dry food will not grow the spores. If you’re drier than salami, the spores won’t grow.

        (Read more about in the article, “Botulism – Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Tips for Safe Home Canning“.

        Odds are if your food is not dried enough, or there was too much fat, or some other issue, you’ll clearly be able to identify that something is not right, because the food will have softened in storage, or the fat will smell rancid, or there will be some other obvious indicator. We had some issues with this early on when we were first learning. I put meat in a jar without vacuum sealing or O2 absorbers, and it got stale. Another time, I though my pumpkin puree was dry enough, but checked the package months later and it was slightly soft. We used it sooner than later, and it was fine, but I wouldn’t count on soft food for longer storage.

        If you’re drying cooked foods, you’ve killed the microbes. If you’re drying most fruit, it’s too acidic to grow botulism spores.

        O2 absorbers

        You don’t need them for sugar and salt. They keep “as is”. I do like to add moisture absorbers to keep them from turnings into bricks.

        I try to rotate my spices annually, but would use O2 absorbers for longer storage.

        Leavening agents are chemically reactive, as are the O2 absorbers. I could see where they would possibly react with each other and cause a blowout.

  14. Can a person freeze dry Italian Ice or would it just turn into powder? Italian Ice has mostly water, ice, and flavoring with sugar added.

    1. I have not tried it, but given that it is mostly water/ice, I don’t see how you could end up with anything other than powder, except perhaps sticky powder that won’t finish drying properly because of the high sugar content.

  15. I am torn between the medium and the large unit. Is the large unit too large? What are your thoughts?

    1. How many people are you feeding, and how much stocking up do you want to do?

      With continued supply chain disruptions, I highly encourage people to stock up now if possible. Our freeze dryer allows us to stock up with food that will last for years and requires no refrigeration or freeze space.

      We got this in email from Valley Food Storage last week:

      “We just spoke with our protein supplier and found out that the prices of beef, chicken, sausage, and eggs have TRIPLED since our last big order. From farm to table, the supply chains are facing crushing delays, livestock shortages, increased labor costs, and staffing issues. All of this compounds into the most ludicrous price hike I’ve ever seen in my career.”

      The medium unit can hold 7-10 pounds per batch, the large can hold 12-16 pounds.

  16. Hi Laurie,

    Thank you so much for your detailed reply! I really appreciate it – it helped clarifies a lot of things. Will take notes on all the information given. Some follow-up questions regarding pre-freeze.

    1) How long do you recommend to pre-freeze the food?

    2) How much time does it cut down on freeze drying if the food are pre-frozen?

    3) How do we know the actual time it takes for freeze-drying in order to plan our production time?

    And lastly, do you know if Harvest Right deliver the machine specifically to Malaysia? If yes, does it include installation + guidance on how to use the equipment by their trained technician?

    Thank you in advance Laurie! Looking forward to your reply!

    Regards,
    Lim

    1. 1 – It depends on the food, but 8 hours/overnight is typical.

      2 – This depends on the food, and ambient conditions. The factory default freezing time in 9 hours. When you want to freeze dry food that is already frozen, you turn on the unit and run it for a half hour to chill it, then load in the food. The unit chills it more, then starts the drying process. Since you’ve brought down the temperature of the food, the 9 hour freezing time will be reduced, but not eliminated completely, because the freeze dryer takes the temperature below zero.

      3 – The only way to know for sure what your dry times will be in your conditions with your specific food is to test it. Drying times vary based on the food itself (what it is and how much is loaded) and ambient conditions (temperature and humidity). If you search around on the internet, there are probably people who have posted freeze drying times for certain amounts of certain foods in their location.

      You’d need to contact Harvest Right to see about shipping to Malaysia. Their phone # is 1-800-700-5508.

      They don’t have installers, as the units are pretty easy to hook up, but there is an owner’s manual included.

  17. Dear Laurie,

    Greetings! My name is Lim, I am from Malaysia. Thank you for the great content! I must say, it was a great review with in-depth information! I am tempted to purchase this machine using your code but I have several questions before I make my decision. It will be great if you can assist me in these and clarify the questions to the best of your knowledge. My plans are not for home usage, but actually to start a small business selling protein packs. It will be cooked chickens and beef. I do have plans to include fibre and fruits pack in the future (combination of fruits and vegetable). I am actually from the health and fitness industry hence producing healthy food for my clients is my goal, but not sure if this machine is suitable for the direction of my business. Below are the question.

    1) Is this machine suitable for businesses? Do any of your reader purchase this equipment for business other than home usage?

    2) Is cooked chicken breast suitable for freeze drying? If yes, must it be in a small cube size or can we freeze dry the whole chicken breast by itself?

    3) Is cooked beef suitable for freeze drying?

    4) Can we freeze dry different types of fruits together?

    5) Can we freeze dry different types of vegetables together?

    6) Is this machine suitable for heavy duty? Meaning it will be constantly running all the time. As small business but trying to produce volume, I think it will be running almost all the time.

    7) How user friendly is this machine? And will we be able to do our own maintenance with guidance? As I am in Malaysia, don’t think Harvest Right have reps over here.

    8) You’ve listed all the advantages of this machine in your review, however would you be able to share with me some of the disadvantages of this machine?

    That’s all from me. I have yet to contact Harvest Right, as I’m thinking it will be better if I can hear it from you – unbiased review regarding this machine. I really appreciate it if you can help me out on this. Thank you so much in advance, appreciate it! Looking forward to hear from you.

    Regards,
    Matt Lim
    Malaysia

    1. Hi Lim. I’ll do my best to answer your questions.

      1 – Some people do/have used their freeze dryers for business/heavy use. If you want to do this, I’d suggest an extra set of trays (or something of a similar size) so you can pre-freeze one load while another load is in the dryer. Pre-freezing also cuts down time in the dryer. I’d opt for the premium pump (not the oil free or standard), as it uses less electricity than the oil free pump, does not require oil changes after every use, and tolerates higher temps better.

      2 – I would not attempt whole chicken breasts, as I would be concerned about moisture retained in the center of the cut. That said, I’m sure some people do it. If you wanted to attempt it, I would pound the meat flat, or opt for strips.

      3. Yes, we’ve freeze dried cooked beef as ground beef, strips, slices, and chopped meat.

      4 & 5. Yes, you can mix different fruits and vegetables, but I always aim to group products that have similar drying times if possible. For instance, I wouldn’t mix mushrooms and tomatoes, because the mushrooms dry quickly, and the tomatoes are quite wet and take a long time to dry. I would mix pears and pineapple, as both are very sweet and very moist.

      6. From reading online forums, I do know that some users keep theirs running almost constantly.

      7. Our machine has required very minimal maintenance over the past five years, and we have done all of it ourselves. Even here in the U.S., most people are not familiar with home freeze dryers.

      8. You can’t dry fatty foods (like bacon) or some extremely sugary foods. (Most candies will work, but not jam or jelly.) If you have a fruit or vegetable with a well sealed skin (like blueberries) the skin needs to be pierced for them to dry. The freeze drying process takes longer than canning or freezing. The machine is a sizeable investment. It is noisy while operating, so I wouldn’t like to have it in the room that I am in.

  18. Bought mine in 2015. Looks nothing like the one pictured. I asked about having it refurbished, Harvest Right indicated my only option was to buy a new one. They don’t even want to help with any problems with it. I’ve only used it perhaps 50 times. It was a waste of money.

    1. I bought mine in early 2016, so I would think yours would look similar. Mine is the one in the video, and the black one loaded with berries in the still photo.

      Given the shipping costs to send it to HR and back you, and that they are dealing with a backlog of orders, I would imagine that it would not be cost effective to refurbish it. It’s also past the three year warranty period.

      You never mentioned or not if it was working? They may be able to get you a software update that you could install yourself to improve performance. That would be more cost effective. My 2016 unit is still chugging along. We just dried a batch of duck eggs last weekend.

      I specifically note in the post:

      “These units are a big investment. If you know you’re only going to use it a couple times per year (or not at all), spend the money on something else you know that you will use.”

  19. Hi,
    I was wondering if you would know if there would be any reason to buy the stainless steel model, besides looks? Do the other ones rust out eventually?

    1. I have not seen any indication of advantages to the stainless steel other than cosmetic preferences. The inner drying chamber (the part that actually gets wet) is the same with stainless or other exterior finishes.

  20. just got my freeze dryer! I am so glad i found your site. How do you make the freeze dried berry yogurt snacks? I looked through your recipes but couldn’t find it. thanks!!

  21. If freeze-dried foods really last 20-25 years, why not use the expensive machine for enough food you think you could use … THEN sell the freeze-dryer to recoup some expense. Might be a way to justify the purchase to a questioning spouse!

    1. I found it difficult to find a buyer for a used freeze dryer, mainly because of the shipping costs. In addition, I take advantage of sales and my own harvest, so I would lose that if I processed a finite amount of food and sold it. I am always trying new stuff to freeze dry. My 2 cents. I did sell my small dryer but I met them half way between Alabama and Texas ( between my place and the buyer) when I bought my large dryer.

  22. Can I use my own vacuum pump which pulls a complete vacuum and not pay for the extra pump ? My pump is also oil less
    Thank You
    Lars

  23. I have a medium sized Harvest Right with the original Vacuum Pump from purchase of a year ago. I can successfully freeze dry vegetables like peppers where the pump will create a vacuum of down to 125 M TORS bey when we do cherry tomatoes and cannot get below 880 M TORS. Harvest Right says I need a new pump. I filter the oil after each use and there are no vacuum leaks. What is your opinion

    1. Do you have any friends who work with vacuum pumps that you might be able to hit up with questions? Our pump does its thing consistently, so I don’t have any experience with this to help troubleshoot.

  24. There is a company that sells a filter system as well. It will void your warranty as well, but it makes changing the oil much easier. Since I had to take on this chore myself (my husband used to do it, but he passed away), I don’t know if I am doing it 100% correct, but I just drain a bit of the oil (it always looks clear to me) cold and make sure it is clear, top it off, then I start the pump up for 2 minutes, drain quite a bit of the remaining oil after it is warm, then top it off again. (Please correct me if I am doing it wrong) But it isn’t bad. A bit messy.

  25. Hi, The idea of changing the oil in the vacuum pump every run seems like a miserable chore to me, so I was wondering why wouldn’t just adding a particulate filter and water separator to the suction end of the vacuum pump prevent any damaging materials from ever getting into the pump oil?

    I’ve researched these and they seem to be commonly used on vacuum systems commercially everywhere. Is there some reason this can’t be done? It seems that if you could prevent moisture and particulates from ever getting in the oil, then normal interval oil changes would be all that is needed instead of oil filtering after every use. Surely, someone has tried this?

    1. I think it voids the warranty, but people have done it, so if you are technically savvy, odds are you could do it.

      Any time you add more parts, there’s an option for something more to malfunction. Also, more parts increase the cost, and people already complain about the price.

      My son built a little pull out shelf that sits under the pump to collect the oil. Oil changes are not a big deal for us.

  26. Hi,

    Went thorough your interesting article. I have a question. Can we freeze dry herb leaves with this freeze dryer?

    Thanks much.

  27. Laurie, very nice review. This is the kind of information for which I’ve been looking. I’m considering purchasing one of these units. I have the resources to be able to get whichever I’d like so that isn’t so much of the issue. My concern is some of the reviews I’ve read about quality and customer support from HR. I’ve seen it go both ways but I’d like to hear what you have to say. Do you think the oil-free pump is worth the added cost? Thanks!

    1. Harvest Right has shipped out over 100,000 units at this point. The majority of them work as expected, as shown by the dozens upon dozens of photos and videos shared by Harvest Right users on social media. Sometimes there’s a problem. It happens with equipment that needs very specific conditions to function correctly. For the most part, the feedback I’ve heard has been that HR goes well beyond any other appliance manufacturer with their troubleshooting and replacement policies.

      I suspect (to borrow an IT tech support acronym) that there are some PEBCAK errors, too. (Problem Exists Between Chair and Keyboard) One individual who contacted me about their unit has exchanged over 150 emails with HR staff. They even shipped that person’s unit back to HR, tested it, dried food successfully with it and shipped the unit and the food back to the person. I’m not there so I can’t say what’s going on for sure, but have you ever heard of that type of service from another company?

      Oil free is worth it if you don’t want to bother with oil changes and don’t have high electric rates. The oil free pump does use slightly more electricity than the standard pump.

      1. Vacuum pumps are used a lot at my work. I talked to the person who is responsible for their maintenance. Oil-free scroll pumps do require scroll seal replacement periodically and bearing replacement less often. Do you know how often the Harvest Right pump needs maintenance?

        1. The operating manual indicated that the tip seal needs to be replaced every 8000 hours (roughly 250 free dry batches) or yearly.

          Every 2 years of every 16,000 hours (roughly 500 freeze dry batches), it suggests replacing the O ring, shaft seal, crank pin, and bearings.

          For more information about seals and bearing replacement call 1-800-865-5584.

          1. Hi Laurie, We purchased an oil-free vacuum pump the end of last September. We have run it quite a bit, but only about 3,600 hours have passed and it seems unable to pull an adequate vacuum. We checked the door seal several times and made sure the drain valve was closed. We have not disturbed the vacuum hose from the pump to the chamber.

            Which oil-free vacuum pump do you have experience with? We have the white box-shaped one. The instruction manual I was sent is for the upright black one. I would think the instructions would be the same anyway.

            I suspect we got the black one with our new large freeze dryer, but my wife won’t open the box until we figure out if we have to spend $400 plus shipping every 4-5 months.

            Is the second oil-free pump more reliable than the white one? I’m not very happy after spending almost $2,000 for a pump.

          2. Hi Duane.

            I don’t have an oil free pump, as the original pump gets the job done. I’ve never heard of the white box shaped version of the oil free pump, and the only owner’s manual I could find is for the black upright one.

            I’d call Harvest Right and explain the issue, and keep contacting them until you get a resolution. Their support number is 800.865.5584. You can submit a helpdesk ticket at https://odoo.harvestright.com/helpdesk-ticket

  28. Not many people can afford to buy a freeze drier right now. Aside from campers ;not many people eat freeze dried food often. If you own a farm; you can get a tax write off when you buy one. Who else can do that?
    If I could qualify for a tax write off; I’d consider getting one

    1. If you created a home based food business where you sold food that you freeze dried, you could write off the expense of the machine.

      Harvest Right has sold over 100,000 units at this point.

  29. Can you place small metal trays on the HR trays? So if you wanted to separate something liquid from other items?

    1. I have not tried this, but I think I saw someone do it in one of the freeze dryer groups. You’d want to make sure there’s good heat transfer for the freeze/thaw cycles.

  30. Im curious if these machines are made in China or in the USA? I found the exact commercial grade on Alibaba for $1,000 and harvest right is selling for $7000.

    Does anyone know if the machines are from China or not?

  31. do you receive a commission? I would like to order through your site if you do. I have gathered so much practical help from you. thank you.

  32. Hi Laurie,

    Do you know if it’s possible to Freeze Dry Pre-cooked wontons (dumpling) ? then re hydrate later to consume?

    The wontons consist of ground pork, shrimp chunks, mushroom chunks, sesame oil, and vegetable oil all wrapped in a wonton skin wrap.

    I know you mentioned mostly fat items didn’t freeze dry well, such as pre-cooked pork sausage patties. Which is a bit similar to ground pork I’m assuming. But I wasn’t sure if the wrapper would made a difference or maybe if the fat content is less in the wonton filling?

    Also will the layer of fat covering the interior of the machine after the process cause possible damage to the machine long term?

    1. I think it would be tough to get these to evenly freeze dry and rehydrate because of the different mix of materials and the fatty meat being in a relatively thick pocket inside the wrapper, but it might be possible. I haven’t seen anyone try it in the groups, but they do freeze dry foods like sausage gravy. We’ve freeze dried spaghetti hotdish, but no filled pasta.

      We scrubbed down the interior of the unit to remove the fat. You’d need to clean thoroughly, otherwise it would start to stink over time.

  33. We are going to be buying a large unit sometime soon. I was wondering if there is a video of the unit running. So that I can see how loud it is to try to figure out where the best placement is going to be. I was thinking outside under a covered area but during the morning the sun would be on it and not sure if that is a good idea.
    I also was wondering what would be the purpose of freeze drying rice and pasta, when it comes to food storage. I can see maybe for hiking but not for long term storage. I would love to know your thoughts on that. How much meat have you done and does it cook up nicely after. Like chicken breast. Can you reconstitute it and fry it like normal?

    1. The freeze dryer will work best if protected from temperature and humidity extremes.

      The sound is comparable to running a vacuum cleaner, so you want it in an area where you can close the door or otherwise isolate it from your main living space, if possible.

      Some people freeze dry rice and pasta as a substitute for store bought “instant rice” or quick mix pasta. Some people also find in certain recipes that the starches rehydrate differently from the sauce and they like to keep them separate until serving. (We make casseroles with rice and pasta and haven’t had a problem.)

      I haven’t done raw meat, only cooked, so far. Others have posted online that they’ve done it with good results. The big thing is keeping the meat thin so it dries evenly and completely. I would not personally attempt to freeze dry a whole chicken breast, but strips of meat for stir fry or fajitas would be fine. Most people rehydrate meat strips overnight in the refrigerator in cool water, then drain and use as normal.

      I like the option of being able to open a bag and having it safe to eat straight out of the bag, so my only raw storage items are fruit and veggies.

  34. Hi, Can I freeze dry juice, kombucha, milk and to turn into a powder and then rehydrate at a later time?
    Thanks!

  35. Hello, I have a new 2020 medium Harvest Right Freeze Dryer and we followed all directions accordingly, including the bread burn batch. I noticed a ice and water drained thereafter was quite strong smelling (chemical smell) I went ahead and started my first batch of food. Do you have suggestions or advice about the strong chemical smell? Concerns about the freeze dried food? Thank you!

    1. I didn’t have a chemical odor with mine, so I can’t speak from experience, but you may want to taste test the food to make sure the odor didn’t transfer. If there is any off-flavor, I’d suggest giving the inside of the unit a thorough cleaning with warm, soapy water. Wipe down with soapy water to remove any residue, followed by a wipe down with clean water (no soap) and let dry completely.

    2. I just got my harvest right – also a 2020 medium – and mine also has a very strong chemical smell. I did the bread batch and threw it away and then did a batch of food and the food was wasted – it tastes like chemicals. I am calling Harvest Right today to see what to do next. What happened with your unit?

  36. I have a question about the viability of the oxygen absorbers over time as they are in packs of ten. As I have a small FD I generally am only sealing 1-2 bags per batch. I have been careful to fold and seal the opened plastic with the remaining absorbers with tape so as to prevent ongoing exposure to air but I am wondering if there is a length of time that a ten pack can be opened and the absorbers still work adequately. I have just packaged my first 10 Mylar bags over about a month timeframe. I have also noticed that some bags seem to contract down more than others which I am guessing might relate to the absorption of the oxygen. Does the amount of bag contraction mean the oxygen has been absorbed more completely? Should I be concerned about the preservation of the contents more if the bag has not shrunk down around the contents?

    1. I haven’t found that a bag shrinking or not shrinking directly impacts the quality of the contents.

      I do recommend that you keep your unused oxygen absorbers in a small, tightly sealed glass container, not just fold over the original plastic package and tape it. I open a 10 pack of O2, take out what I need, and immediately place the unused packets in a sealed mason jar.

      Most O2 packages have an oxygen indicator in the package that will show if there is oxygen inside the packet.

      It would probably be best to use the packages you’ve sealed that you are concerned about sooner rather than later (1-2 years instead of 5 or more).

    2. What I do is to have a food saver type bag ready. I take out the number of oxygen absorbers I need from the bag I have, and then re-vacuum seal the bag ASAP. I also break down huge quantities of the absorbers into more reasonable sizes to cut down the time they are exposed to normal air.

  37. Thank you Laura, Carrie and Deb for your responses. They are very helpful in the decision process for me. I have wanted a freeze dryer for about 4 years. Now I am really excited that we are actually going to buy one. I bought a 10×12 greenhouse today and live in zone 6 so I am hoping that really helps extend my growing season on the front and back end. Between the greenhouse, our outside garden, and our decision to start eating plant based (not vegan, we still have a little meat) I feel our need to store large amounts of our harvest will ultimately lead me to choose the large one. Definitely not the small. Its a no brainer to jump the couple hundred to the medium. Its just jumping that extra $$ to the large that has had me on the fence. It sounds like it would be safer to get the large in the beginning. I would hate to get the medium and have regret. Thank you all again for responding and the good info you provided. It has been very helpful to me.

    Thanks

    Jason

  38. Thanks for the very informative article and review. My wife and I are trying to decide on what size unit to purchase. It is between the medium and the large. Do you feel that the medium size is adequate under most normal circumstances or do you wish that you had purchased the larger one? We also freeze, and pressure can to store some our garden food but its almost impossible to store enough in that manner to last until next harvest. I just wonder if the larger one is worth the extra 800-1000 dollars. Anyone have any regrets? Thanks for any input that might help us make our decision. (Our garden is not super huge, its just me, my wife, and 3 kids) But it seems like that we end up giving half of our harvest on a lot of vegetables away due to not enough time to can, and freeze them all.

    Thanks

    Jason

    1. Hi Jason.

      It depends on your use patterns.

      With five in the household, you could justify the bigger unit, especially if you want to bulk process produce. I have a friend in California with only two people in their household, and he wishes he’d gotten the large instead of the medium. He’s the Energizer Bunny of food preserving. There’s a lady in Texas who keep three (maybe four now) units running. (I have no idea what she does with all the food, since I think it’s just her and her husband at home.)

      Our use ebbs and flows throughout the year. We have four adults in the house, but may soon have another. Right now, we’re doing more beef and meals, slowly moving the half a steer out of the freezer. Cooking up enough to fill four trays is plenty for me, but if you have larger cookware, then you might be doing more big batch cooking already, so a batch to fill the big unit would be easy. (You can mix foods, of course, but I like keeping similar foods together because it’s easier for me to track the drying.)

      Both should get the job done, but the bigger unit will let you stash more, faster.

    2. Jason, I have the large and it is just my husband and I. The thing to remember is that you can always put less in a large and run it. You can only out so much into a medium. This time of year I find myself doing a lot of leftovers, along with what’s on sale fresh at the grocery store. I don’t recall anyone in the online groups that I am in ever wishing that they had gotten a smaller one.

    3. As a person that started out by buying a small Freeze Dryer, then later regretting that decision and getting a Large, perhaps I can give some perspective on this. The Large has 5 large trays, but I almost always run with 5 or 4 trays… so I make use of the larger size.

      I like to batch stuff, and that seems more efficient that running two or more batches where one large one would do. With the improvements with the software (pre-freeze setting) this REALLY makes it more efficient.

      However, the large is HEAVY, and requires more space — I had to order a table to accommodate the larger model (for about $100 off of Amazon, stainless steel with a open shelf under that works great for the drainage bucket. It is just a bit too deep for most normal counters or (what I had before) tool chests. If you can afford and have a space for the large, it definitely comes in handy at harvest time.

      I would never recommend the small — although it was a lot quicker than the large (before the software upgrade).

      Whichever you decide on, I am sure you will enjoy it. I hate throwing away food I grow with a passion, and between canning and freeze drying, I do pretty well. I do a lot of ground meat as well, so I don’t worry about the freezer failing or meat getting old. Ground beef and ground lamb do really well when used in cooking — especially as they absorb excess water, which some of my older canning attempts had. Good luck!

  39. Hi Laurie,
    I just tried my first batch of freeze drying with mandarin oranges. I have the mylar bags and sealer. I noticed after sealing that the bags have a “warm feeling” when I handle them. Is this normal? I am using the oxygen absorbers in the bag.

  40. Hi, you mentioned freeze drying the fajitas. My main interest in the units is to freeze dry complete meals, but I have a hard time believing the texture of different items will return when rehydrated. Do you have any more experience with that type of thing you could share?

    1. Ground beef, pulled beef, sliced beef, ham chunks and chicken chunks have all rehydrated amazingly close to their original texture, to the point that I don’t think someone could tell that they had been freeze dried. Pork sausage patties are the only meat that we’ve tried so far that didn’t work well. They had a more jerky like texture.

      Pasta was a bit softer after freeze drying, but not bad. Definitely firmer than canned commercial pasta. Rice is good, too.

      Vegetables and fruits are not going to have a crisp texture after rehydrating. When we want crisp, we keep them dry (usually for snacking). Otherwise texture is similar to cooked veggies/fruits, or frozen that have been thawed.

  41. I’m still confused about storage requirements after FD. I’m interested in one of these because I’m terrified of botulism and canning. Am I basically canning after FD? Or do I drop an oxygen absorber into the jar and screw the lid closed, or drop one into a mylar bag and suck the air out with my Seal-A-Meal? (I don’t think mine actually pulls all the air out, but it’s o.k. for freezing meat) What about snack items that aren’t all eaten in one sitting, such as banana chips or dried sliced strawberries, where my kids may want to grab a handful and screw the lid back on the jar, or mixed vegetable soup blends where I only want to use a small portion of what is in the jar/bag? All this talk about vacuum sealing after putting in jars puts me back into my “improper canning/botulism” frame of mind…

    1. First off, don’t panic.

      Botulism spores are found all over in the soil. They hang out, we hang out, and most of the time there’s no trouble.

      I discuss botulism in detail in the post “Botulism, Causes, Symptoms, Treatment Tips for Safe Home Canning“. As I note in the article:

      To thrive, the bacteria need:

      Temperatures between 40-120°F/ 5-49°C
      Anaerobic conditions (Oxygen below 2%)
      Neutral pH
      Moist conditions (Water activity level greater than 0.85)

      In freeze dried food, you could end up with the first three conditions met – but you lack water.

      Clostridium botulinum bacteria won’t multiply and produce spores in dry conditions. Neither will other microbes that produce spoilage. Get your food super dry, and it gets stable. That’s the primary preservation concept behind freeze drying. Oxygen in the air causes oxidation and spoilage, so we try to get that out of the storage, too. Thus, the O2 absorbers and/or vacuum sealing. There are different sizes of O2 absorbers for different sizes of containers.

      To keep your food safe after it gets out of the freeze dryer, you need to keep it dry and not exposed to excess oxygen.

      Glass and metal containers are airtight. They do the job well if properly sealed. Mylar also works well, and it light and easy for you to seal at home.

      Regular plastic vacuum sealer bags look airtight, but they are still slightly permeable, and let some air and moisture through. For a year or two, they’d be okay, but not for longer storage.

      For longer storage, I usually use Mylar with an oxygen absorber. Sometimes I use glass, either with an oxygen absorber, or with vacuum sealing the jar. I don’t have a way to seal metal containers at home.

      As long as a container is resealed after opening, the food will stay stable for a time, especially high sugar items like fruit. (Sugar and salt bind free water and inhibit bacteria growth.)

      If you don’t expect to use up the contents of an open container within a week or two, reseal it with the vacuum sealer or a fresh O2 absorber for longer storage.

      If you you have a lot of humidity, you can stick a moisture absorber in the bottom of the mason jar that’s being opened frequently to help keep the food stable.

      Vacuum sealing doesn’t work well on Mylar bags, because they have a smooth surface. The bag opening sucks shut and no air can get out. People have rigged up an assortment of tricks to work around this, but an O2 absorber gets the job done with less fuss.

      Does that make sense?

  42. Based on your review of both the unit and the customer service I purchased one of the large units. I am still a very new newbie, so I don’t have any discussion yet, but I do have a question. My wife is busy planning her next year’s kitchen garden, but I am more of a meat man. Will the unit adequately dry slices of corned beef, and if so, what is a maximum thickness? I would extend your answer to slices of roast beef, pork roast or chops, lamb, and even salmon. What do you think? Should these slices be cooked first or may they be dried raw?

    1. Meats and fish can be freeze dried cooked or raw. I’ve seen people freeze dry lean steaks that were one inch thick, but most people stick to 1/2 inch thick or less. Raw meat also seems to rehydrate faster than cooked meat. Just make sure to observe proper food safety rules and don’t cross contaminate cooked and uncooked foods. Thinner slices freeze dry faster.

      Salmon tends to be an oily fish, so I wouldn’t cut that too thick.

      1. Some notes on steak from one of the freeze drying groups that I’m in:

        “I do raw steaks. Some people use broth to rehydrate meat. I just use cold water for mine. I put them in a bowl of cold water and stick them in the fridge for 20 mins. If I’m in a hurry, I use my food saver and vacuum marinate to force the water in faster.
        Not sure on the thickness because I just buy mine at Ralph’s (Kroger) and throw them on my trays. Make sure you trim all your fat as it doesn’t Fx and will go rancid.
        When you cook after rehydrating, don’t cook as long as normal. The cook really really fast.”

        “I would not go over half an inch, keep it under 10 pounds and preset times work fine. 9 freeze and 7 final dry. I use broth or water and put it in a ziplock of cool water overnight to rehydrate since it is raw.”

        “I did an experiment a while back with some Filet Mignon, sliced around 3/8″ thick. I seared a piece to medium and put it in the FD along with a raw steak. When I tried to rehydrate the cooked one, it was over-cooked. The raw one I tried rehydrating with hot water and also cold. The hot water overcooked it. the cold water was perfect though. Once rehydrated, it cooked up just like a fresh piece of steak. Very, very good results.”

        “We usually freeze dry thinner pieces and double stack in the freeze dryer. It rehydrates better.”

  43. Deb Miller comments always enjoyed. She’ should be a freeze dryer spokesperson.
    Reason for my comment, tho, other than that, is I’m thinking seriously bout buying an oil free pump soon and am so grateful for your site, was wondering if it would benefit you in anyway if I order it thru you. Thanks.

    1. Thank you for your thoughtfulness, Bill. Yes, anything ordered after clicking through to Harvest Right using my affiliate link supports the site, whether it’s a full unit, a pump, or accessories.

  44. Are there any sales coming up in the near future? These seem so pricey. Can get a sawmill for under $3000 so this seems like an awful lot for what it is. Any coupons?

    1. Harvest Right quite frequently runs different sales and promotions, but it is a complicated piece of equipment with computer controls, sensors, and parts that need to operate under extremes of pressure and temperature. They do offer layaway to lock in sale pricing, and zero percent financing.

    2. You can get three sizes, the largest is roughly $3000. The small is around half that on sale. I have had both small and large. While I love the capacity of the large, the speed of the small (and size) was a plus. I think in retrospect I would have gotten the “standard” or medium size one, but it all depends on how you want to use yours. I have found the freeze dryers worth the cost of ownership and a whole lot of fun. I make my own healthy cat food, save all my harvests, and buy in bulk from trusted sources and not have to worry about shelf life.

      1. Thanks for sharing your experience, Deb. I find that the standard is a handy size for our family of four, and the new software has significantly improved drying time from when I first started freeze drying food at home back in 2016, even though I still have an older unit.

  45. Great blog and comments! Lol’d at some of them. I’ve learned a lot and am convicted. If I wait for a sale with Harvest Right but purchase through your affiliate link, do I still get the sale price? We’ll be ready to buy in September.

    I don’t do Fakebook but I’ll relent and join that group if that’s the best way to get info. Been preserving food since 2009 and I’ve gotten very adventurous with canning/dehydrating. Can’t wait to jump into my next obsession!
    Thanks!

    1. You can use the affiliate link at any time (and thank you for doing so). They also have a layaway program that lets you lock in a sale price with a small amount down ($250 minimum downpayment), so you can take advantage of the sale and complete the purchase when you are ready.

      From their site:

      1. Lock in your sale price with a downpayment($250 minimum)*
      2. Pay as much as you want, when you want
      3. When you reach the downpayment amounts shown below, your freeze dryer will be sent to you
      $1,400 (Small Freeze Dryer)
      $1,500 (Medium Freeze Dryer)
      $2,000 (Large Freeze Dryer)
      4. Pay the remaining balance equally over 12 months with 0% interest

      It looks like you can go to the site to put the order in the cart (which should credit the Common Sense Home affiliate link – I think – may have to ask about this), but then need to call 1-800-700-5508 to finalize the layaway.

      We have some very helpful readers who are willing to share their knowledge here, but the Facebook groups have 24/7 freeze drying and nothing but freeze drying. The stuff that people run through their dryers is a little crazy. Youtube also has a TON of freeze drying videos, so you can stalk people without the commitment of Facebook.

      One thing I recently found out from a friend of mine (and need to add to the post) is that the oil free pump does use a little more electricity than the default pump, so if you live in an area with high electric rates, that’s something to consider.

  46. Since surving Hurricane Florence in Sourheastern NC, I joined a very small food salvage mission.

    Our local community has a robust system of retail recovery, collecting near dating fresh convenient foods (hummus, sushi, wraps, pastas, soups, etc -and- produce from both grocers and farmers. There is such an abundance of farmed food they never makes it to the mouths and tummies of humans.

    When we learned any-and-all unclaimed fresh foods were being taken away by hog farmers to feed their livestock at the days end, I began wondering… how could this food be recovered more thoroughly?

    So much perfectly fresh produce, either near coding out dates or “too ugly” to make the cut for the “prim & proper” produce stacks available at any corner local or big chain grocer. The bend of a banana isn’t curved enough. A dented Apple, Even much of the claimed food loses essence as its transported from donors to food banks that break down shares to various pantries.

    With the good being free, could freeze drying be a new wave of preserving food salvage for non-profits?

    We still have regions of poverty sticken families in food deserts 8 months post recovery.

    I’m curious if freeze drying would be an economical option for not only recovering free donated foods, but also truly building a bank of high quality real food nourishment.

    The amount of waste that continues despite a crisis state is unimaginable.

    If you know of any projects using freeze drying to take food salvage a step further, please let me know!

    1. It depends on labor costs and electricity costs. If you have willing hands to prep the food for freeze drying, that’s the first step. You’d also need to seal the finished food in airtight containers quickly after processing, so it didn’t soak up humidity from the air.

      The large freeze dryer holds 12-16 pounds of food per batch, which may or may not be enough to make a dent in the volume of food you’re seeing. It’s quite a bit for a family, but not necessarily for an organization.

      I have not heard of a group using freeze drying to salvage food, but I will certainly be on the lookout.

  47. How do you make crunchy, sweet & salty freeze dried green beans like you can get at Yoder’s Market?

    I tried just adding olive oil and sea salt but not the same. The ingredients list state Dextrin, which I cannot find to anywhere. I have Maltodextrin, would that work? How much would I use?

    1. Hmmm…you’d have to ask the folks that make the green beans at Yoder’s market to know for sure, but dextrin is likely part of the equation.

      From “Difference Between Dextrin and Maltodextrin“:

      Dextrin:

      A thickening and binding agent in food applications and pharmaceuticals and paper coatings
      A crispness enhancer in foods
      Used as a thickening agent to thicken food sauces

      Maltodextrin:

      Used in beer brewing to increase the specific gravity and improves the mouthfeel of alcoholic beverage
      Used to produce “light” peanut butter in order to maintain the texture
      Used as a cheaper food additive to thicken food products such as infant formula
      Used as a filler in sugar substitutes

      Production
      Dextrin: Dextrin is enzymatically derived from corn, potato, arrowroot, rice or tapioca starch.

      Maltodextrin: Maltodextrin is enzymatically derived from corn or potatoes starch in the USA and from wheat or barley starch in Europe.

      From “HOW TO USE TAPIOCA MALTODEXTRIN“:

      Maltodextrin traps fats inside its granules. When consumed, it dissolves on the tongue, releasing the flavor of the original fat. Powdered fats can also be sprinkled on plates (instead of drizzled) or food for a different look and texture.

      HOW TO POWDER FATS (BASIC METHOD):

      1. Measure out your fat and maltodextrin (see how to weigh molecular gastronomy ingredients for the basic method).

      The standard proportion for powdering fats is 60% fat to 40% maltodextrin by weight. You may need to adjust this proportion for some fats.

      2. Optional: Melt the fat if necessary (bacon fat, duck fat, white chocolate, etc).

      3. Combine the fat and maltodextrin in a food processor (preferably a mini food processor or mini work bowl if appropriate for the amount you’re making) and blend until a powder forms. Stop the processor occasionally to scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl.

      4. Break up any large clumps and serve, or pass through a mesh strainer for even finer powder.

      Store any leftover powdered fat in an airtight container in a cool, dark, dry place.

      If you don’t have a food processor, powdering fats can also be done with a sturdy whisk or spoon, but takes considerably more work.

  48. I thought I would let y’all (ok, I live in Alabama) know of something I tried lately… a test… I got a BIG jar of Mt. Olive dill pickles (from Sam’s, about $5) and tried freeze drying them. My husband loved them, he took them to one of his clients and left them by accident and THEY loved them. The pickles didn’t require much processing time, and they are crispy. You can taste the saltiness… My thought is to MAKE YOUR OWN pickles (that way, you can get the best pickles fixed the way you like them) and freeze dry them for a tasty treat without any oil (like a lot of folks around here like them — fried pickles are a thing) that is also fairly healthy. If my cukes come in, that is what I will do!

  49. I ran across your site the other day and sent for 2 sets of 2 packages of things to try. One was fruit and the other scalloped potatoes. I gave one set to my daughter and kept the other for my self. My husband and I tried the fruit and I found it to be quite good. My daughter called and said ” MOM, we gotta get this. It’s great, even if you only use it to preserve fruit. ” I had to agree with her, the fruit was great. I would cut the bananas a little thinner.

    I learned how to can from my mom when I was young. When I left home and started my own family. I canned almost every thing I grew in our garden. As time went on I also took up dehydrating fruits and vegetables. I have all the canning jars a person needs. I have the vacuum sealer because it helps keep the foods from getting freezer burn. I can and dehydrate the foods we grow and it helps cut food costs. When fruits that I can’t grow go on sale I can or dehydrate them. I think the freeze dryer will just help me keep the things I already do safe longer.

    My husband and I spend most of the summer on our sail boat sailing around Lake Superior. I can see where freeze dried foods would actually be a better choice on how to carry foods with us. On a sailboat you do not have a freezer so frozen food is out of the question. Canned foods have a tendency to get rusty because of all the moisture on a boat. Home canned jars help here but finding containers to hold glass jars so they don’t break is not real easy. I do have several plastic storage boxes designed to hold them but then I have to try to keep them from moving around and the weight can get quite heavy. My husband says we loose 2 inches on the water line every time I stock the boat with food for the summer. I can see where the freeze dried stuff would be a lot lighter and easier to carry.

    If you can, dehydrate or even freeze dry, you can save foods that would otherwise end up going bad because you can’t eat it all when it gets ripe. This way, in the winter when we have 4 feet of snow outside I can sit back and enjoy the raspberries, plums and apples that would otherwise gotten over ripe and gone to waste. My daughter and I plan on getting a freeze dryer, that we can share right after payday. We both are looking forward to using it. Thank you for listening to me and letting me say a few things. Sorry I said so much. Donna

    1. No need to apologize, Donna. Hearing what readers are up to is helpful, as everyone has a little bit different situation. Freeze dried foods would definitely be lighter to pack. You’ll need water for rehydrating, but impact resistant water containers are much more common.

  50. I bought a medium size and like it. I just wish there was more info of FD all drying all things. It seems a lot of folks don’t want to share of all the things that might be able to FD. The books I’ve seen have a low limit of what I can FD. Can I FD cat food, dog food, corn on the cob, etc. FD has been around long enough to have updated. The books I’ve seen are lame and not informational on what is already out there. I don’t want to FD and make my family sick or poisoned. I feel the hype doesn’t live up to what I wanted. Don’t get me wrong I FD a lot, but not enough of what I thought I thought I could do for my family. Am I missing the advance info?

    1. Are you on Facebook at all? There are several groups where people share a ton of information on different items they freeze dry. Also, you can bop around youtube, where there are channels dedicated to nothing but freeze drying. If you want information on freeze drying specific unusual items, odds are it’s out there if you look for it. Check out Harvest Right Freeze Dryers – Freeze Drying Adventures. Over 15,000 people who do nothing but talk about freeze drying. They’re freeze drying everything from bulk pork loin to moringa to horseradish.

      Regarding cat food and dog food – what types of cat food and dog food? I’m guessing you mean canned food, not dried. If so, there shouldn’t be an issue with freeze drying it, as long as you follow standard food safety rules, as noted. The food in the cans is processed until sterile, even if it was made from scraps that wouldn’t normally be used for human consumption. Clean everything thoroughly between loads, and don’t cross contaminate.

      Corn on the cob would not be a good candidate for freeze drying, since the center of the cob would likely retain moisture. If you slice the cob into circles, you could probably do it it, but then you’d have corn cob slices.

  51. Hi Laurie We are looking into buying the meduim Harvest Right Freezer. I love the idea of doing this in my home but I have read reviews about the customer service is with Harvest Right. What are your thoughts of the customer service and how long have you had you freezer? Some of the reviews about getting parts sent to them or even getting returned phone calls was not very satisfactory.

    1. Hi Shelia.

      We’ve had our unit since 2016, and have not had significantly issues with it. With the original JB pump (which they no longer ship), I did swap out some of the interior parts with stainless steel versions of the parts. The original parts got some corrosion because a little water gets into the pump oil when you use the unit. Not a big thing. We’ve done no maintenance on our new Harvest Right pump other than filtering the oil after each use. It’s running well.

      Last summer, we ended up installing a dedicated circuit for our freeze dryer in our garage, because it was on a 15 amp breaker with the garage opener and freezer and would sometimes trip the breaker. Now that that’s done, no more breaker tripping. My friend, Dennis, rigged up equipment to measure energy use of the unit, and found out that it does spike above 15 amps at certain times in the cycle. so a 20 amp circuit is preferred.

      I haven’t had the need to contact customer service for our unit, but the majority of reports I’ve read online have been positive. Once in a while, I’ll read something from someone who feels their complaint has not been addressed in a timely fashion, but it is not the norm. They ship out thousands of units. Satisfied users seem to far outnumber those with issues. Having dealt with thousands of questions and comments over the years, I know there is no way on earth to please everyone. It’s the nature of the beast.

  52. Not all canned goods have a 20 to 25 year shelf life.. I was at my grand mother’s house years ago and we heard small explosions…it was some of her canned goods exploding ..what a mess and they were only a couple of years old..

    1. Absolutely. A poor job of canning can be VERY dangerous. Also wide temperature changes can even cause commercial canned foods to explode. The safest storage, is a cool (55F) low to moderate humidity location with steady temperature (no temperature variance). The most important though is starting with safe canning practices. We suggest mylar with an oxygen absorber for the freeze dried or dehydrated food for this very reason, it reduces sun exposure, wont break or crack if knocked off a shelf by accident or in an earthquake. Always check your food, purchased or home canned, before you eat canned or otherwise preserved food. If it looks or smells bad, throw it out.

  53. I’ve been using the standard sizes unit for 6 months now and have put away a lot of food. Gardeners, hunters and fishing fans can get this unit to pay off.

    When seasonal shrimp comes in cheap/on sale, it gets peeled, deveined and FD’d. Raw meat and seafood seems to work best. For raw shrimp, rehydrate in a bowl of iced water, covered in the fridge. I do that in the morning. By evening, just toss the shrimp and its soak water in a pan, bring to a boil. After 30 seconds, drain and chill with cold water. Tasted, texture was like fresh! Frozen shrimp doesn’t keep for long; the same is true with fish.

    We save TIME by cooking large batches of, e.g., Dal, chili or baked winter squash and FD-ing it, so a quick meal can be had with minimal prep.

    We live in a rural, pretty remote place. During snowstorms, power can go out for a week, or roads can be blocked for days. One year, a hurricane caused regional power to go out for a week, mostly due to downed trees. We’re used to this and have the usual “country” essentials: generator, oil lamps, Coleman stoves, wood stove, etc. I’m putting more and more food up as freeze-dried. It’s lighter, more shelf stable, and, in many cases, the best way to store foods (esp. meat, fish etc.) long term (over 6 months). Every food has best most practical preservation methods.

    Dehydrated tomatoes are better tasting and easier to use than FD. Canned tomato sauce makes more sense than FD’d., especially in mason jars with corrosion-proof Tattler lids. But, if you want to make tomato powder, for quick sauces etc. : slice>FD> crush to a powder with an old-fashioned potato masher> sieve out seeds & skins>store. It’ll thicken tomato juice into sauce in no time.

    I’m experimenting with whole fish fillets. Some retain damp cores (thick fillets) so get refrigerated in a double bag and re-dried after this “conditioning”, moisture equilibrating about 24-48 hours. The cores of fresh meat and fish tend to be fairly sterile, so spoilage can be delayed during the above. In any case, this is better than trying to FD cooked fish, because the product will ultimately be sterilized by final cooking. I think, as FD-ing foods becomes more common, we’ll see methods evolve to condition foods, much the way dehydrated foods are conditioned, to insure uniform and complete dryness.

  54. I”m considering buying a freeze dryer to make backpacking meals. Can the meals be re-hydrated in the bag? (provided I remove the oxygen absorber). Can the oxygen absorber be re-used? since I have to carry it out with me anyway….) Is the oxygen absorber necessary for short term storage? (ie less than 6 months)

    1. Yes, you can rehydrate in the Mylar pouch, like the lady I mentioned in the post who was bringing meals into work for working lunches. Some foods will work better than others, so you would probably want to experiment at home to see which of your personal recipes work best.

      There’s no way that I know of to recharge oxygen absorbers. It’s a one way chemical reaction. Some moisture absorbers can be recharged. You can probably skip the O2 absorber if you know for certain the food will be used within 6 months.

    2. Adding to Laurie’s reply… which I don’t disagree with at all! I will say that I do reuse the oxygen absorbers in a limited way. For short term stuff, I put them in a mason jar with a small oxygen absorber. I leave the absorber in the jar until the jar is empty. The jar gets opened and shut in the meantime. It does still absorb oxygen, as there is a seal on the jar. I do not recommend this for anything that will be kept long term.

      1. I would also add that info that is included with my oxygen absorbers claims they are efficient up to 30 mins exposure. 30 mins is a lot of opening and closing

  55. You can remove rack from freeze dryer and put jars inside with loose lids and close and turn on pump and it’ll vacuum seal jars. Lid inserts will rattle and then seal. There’s a demo on YouTube about it

  56. Where can I buy the sealing unit you use to seal the food in jars? What machine/ brand is it? Do you have a link for that?

  57. Laurie, you have the standard size and as you know, I had the small and now the large. What is strange is that the time it took to finish a batch of food in the small dryer varied greatly depending on what I was drying. The large freeze dryer takes 46 hours no matter what I am drying. So far I have done previously frozen veggies, fresh green peppers and cut corn, green beans…all 46 hours….do you think that is strange? Btw, the large is. 110, but required a different outlet.

    1. That seems odd to me, although those things are probably all quite similar in water content and drying properties. Something completely different (non veggie) like fruit, or meat, or dairy might be a better test to trigger a different time. Is there anything in the manual? You might want to contact Harvest Right. That seems like an unusually long cycle, even with the big unit.

  58. I was surprised by the time difference in processing between the large and the small freeze dryers. In retrospect it does make sense, but items that would take 30 hours in the small dryer take 46 in the large!

  59. I just upgraded my small freeze dryer for the large one. I had so much …fun… (should I admit it? Trying out new foods and saving food that might otherwise be wasted) that I wanted more capacity. While the small sat comfortably on a tool chest, the large doesn’t quite make it (the tool chest was 19″ deep and I couldn’t even turn the new dryer sideways (the feet were spaced 21+” on the narrow side), I relatively inexpensive commercial heavy duty table I ordered (Seville, 46″x24″ for $150) should fix that problem. What I don’t grow in my own garden (limited space, raised beds only) I get from trusted sources in quantity. I recently tried cherries and blueberries… not the prettiest but they taste great. I did try the suggested method of freezing the blueberries first, then pulsing two times in a food processor. That seemed to chip nearly all of the fruit. The berries were messy on the tray (and the silicone tray liners are SO GREAT, thanks to the tip I got here, I order new ones for the bigger dryer. The berry yuck just washed off. I sold my old one to a fellow enthusiast who had been looking for a dryer for a while, but was held back by the initial cost. Anyway, I am still loving the freeze dryer after 2 years. Hoping for many more! The sale made the cost of the large about what I paid for the small dryer.

  60. Hi and thanks for the great review. I am looking into getting one of the units to freeze dry my own foods. First and foremost, Doing it yourself ensures what you are getting. Second, the commercial food is ridiculously expensive. Third, I want to know be sure I like what I am eating. Survival is both mental and physical. A good tasting meal is very important psychologically. In the military I ate MRE’s and they sure don’t improve your mood. I also don’t want to open a giant pouch or can of store bought freeze dried peas for one serving. When you do it yourself you can make the portions as big or as small as you want. The unit will be used for several families so the cost for it is much more reasonable. Is it something everyone needs? No, not really. But, if you can swing the price, it is a better investment than most of the other junk we all have but don’t really need.

  61. With all the food that is being thrown out, I thought what if we opened a kitchen and made meals, freeze-dried them and made them available. This way whole meal could be made like they have frozen dinners and people would have access to good food that was destined for the garbage dump. My question would be the feasibility of the project and the costs associated with the machinery to do the job.

    1. I think the prime issue with a project like this would be ongoing labor involved, moreso than the initial start up costs. The freeze dry cycle also takes a variable amount of time, so you can’t guarantee that someone could come in at a specific time and a load would be ready to pack – unless you had uniform food going in, which would be unusual with leftovers.

  62. Wow, such a treasure trove of valuable information in here! I read of some price comparisons in favor of justifying the cost of one of these freeze dryers. I didn’t read ALL the posts — so many posts! So I did the old browser trick of using the “find” function to return the word “rural”, and only found two, so I’m going to add mine.

    I recently bought a house way out in the remote upper Mojave desert of Darwin, CA, population 35, elevation 5,000 feet; hot summers, cold winters, and very quiet at night. Clear skies always, and a billion stars at night. Around half of those in Darwin are my dear long time friends. One major thing that makes a freeze dryer attractive for such a remote area, and a potential money saver in the long run: the nearest grocery store to Darwin is in Lone Pine CA, a 70-mile round trip. And it’s a tiny market with very little choice, and it is the only market, and no organic produce. Better shopping is in Bishop, CA, a 150-mile round trip. For the best choices for good stuff, like Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, and independent organic shopping, that is closer to a 400-mile trip down to the Los Angeles area. So, we in Darwin don’t just run on down to the neighborhood store for a few tomatoes or a pound of something — there aren’t any stores for miles around!

    We have a community garden, and I plan on building a greenhouse on my property so as to start planting earlier, and continue late into the fall. Winter temperatures in Darwin can get down into the single digits overnight. So, a freeze dryer seems like just the thing to have in my house, so I can eat those yummy fresh veggies and fruits all through the cold cold winter, and without having to go shopping, and then either running out of good food or watching some of it spoil in the fridge. My shopping travel expenses are much larger than if I lived in a big city. The dryer is a large investment, sure, as will be the mason jars and sealer things. But I think that long term, it will pay itself back fairly quickly. For me, anyway. So, I am continuing my research into different makes and types of freeze dryers.

  63. Laurie, I love my small freeze dryer so much I am thinking of getting a large. 2 questions….you have a promo code? Do you think someone here might be interested in my 1 year old small one?

    1. Hi Deb.

      Glad you’re enjoying the freeze dryer. I don’t have a special promo code right now, but Harvest Right is running a Father’s Day promotion.

      I’m sure you could find a buyer for your old unit, as many would jump at the chance to get one at a discount. It would probably be easiest to see if you could find someone fairly local to avoid shipping costs. You’re welcome to post in the Facebook group if you like.

      1. Laurie,
        Just an update on my preps to date,got 2 12000watt gas gen sets to go with the solar system to have the needed power if the grid goes down or we out in the boondocks, that way can still freeze dry food,also got a large capacity dehydration and a food slicer and a bread machine,and a rechargeable vacuum hand held unit with bags with valves in them and can be cleaned and reused.
        Also increased the grow boxes to 30 and slowly fill both greenhouses as we go along. I am still working and thinking about other items,even wind generators as we go along.the way I look at it is that it is better to have it an use it occaisionally and not realy need it,but have it if you do.

    1. The Mylar bags can be reused, but they will lose capacity as you cut off the end to open them up. Oxygen absorbers work via chemical reaction, and are a one time use only product. Once the reaction takes place, it can’t be undone. There is no way to “recharge” them.

  64. I was wondering 2 things: How long a ‘batch’ takes – I realize it depends on what you put in it. Also does it consume a lot of electricity? Thank you for the wonderful information

    1. I think the shortest time I’ve ever had on a batch was mushrooms, which took about 21 hours. The longest was over 48 hours (trays completely filled with liquid). I haven’t run the numbers on energy consumption, but others have, and the estimates I’ve seen are around $2-3 per load on average.

  65. So does anybody know what you need to sell some freeze dry food from your house. Like to neighbors of friends of people around the city . Like I’m yard sale site so whatever I live in Colorado City Arizona just wondering.
    And where can I find the information to do this and how much to sell the product for.

  66. To Tyler,
    I am one of latest positive HR reviewers. I paid almost 3k for my unit because I bought it way back when before they increased production and lowered price. Where do you get off throwing out such a malicious, unfounded, untrue, faceless statement about people being strong armed into giving favorable reviews? Have you no rules you live by? I’m happy with my freeze dryer and Happy I don’t know you

  67. I just cannot trust a company that strong arms bloggers into doing positive reviews. And yes, paying them with expensive stuff is strong-arming. I understand it’s the same thing as advertising, but it really isn’t because it’s not divulged honestly by either party. So I will pass on this company, knowing what I know from your article. Thank you for exposing them.

    1. Excuse me, did you read what I wrote? If so, are you nuts?

      I haven’t been strong-armed into anything, and Harvest Right has been a pleasure to work with. I bought my freeze dryer at a cost that is higher than the current cost. It was a discount at the time, but they’ve brought their prices down quite a bit. I do earn an affiliate commission, but I would never promote a product or company that I did not trust. I’ve refused inquiries from many, many companies over the years.

      We got Janie’s situation sorted out and she is thrilled with her new pump. It was not noted in the earlier discussion, but she received an oil pump for free because the oilless pump was not available at the time her unit shipped. She gets to keep that pump as a back up – completely free of charge. How many companies do you know who give away a $300+ item because of a manufacturing delay?

      Snippet from the latest email I received from Janie:

      “The pump arrived today and as soon as I get assembly instructions, I’m planning to freeze dry my little heart out.

      Love, love, love the freeze dried food. Not the commercially freeze dried, my own.

      So far, mango is my fav. Plan to try watermelon soon.”

      Does that sound like an unhappy customer? I don’t think so.

      My connection with Harvest Right is clearly stated in the article. Pull your head out of your behind and read it through, and go harass someone else.

      1. Laurie,as I have said before,I have had nothing be good relation ship,and the only problem we had with the dryer was a heat sensor and they diagnosed that problem over the phone and sent a replacement and after we got it I had it installed in about 15 min and every I had a question it was answered right away,that is why I was surprised by Janies comment and that is why I told
        her about the Consumer Agency because a lot of people dont know about them,but I am glad that she is a happy camper and I am happy to know that Harvest went above an beyond what they to to satisfy a customer and as you said not many will take a loss to satisfy so I will continue to think highly of them and as I have said before I am completely satisfied with them and continue to d business with them,In fact I am thinking seriously about getting a large Freeze Dryer from them since they came out with the 110 volt one,think I will wait a little while and let the growing pains get settled.When I get ready I will use your link when I purchase.

        1. While there have been growing pains, I think they’ve done their best under the circumstances. I think Janie’s situation was largely due to a misunderstanding. No company can please every customer all of the time.

  68. This is sure opposite of my experience with HR. My unit too was slightly dented, but I signed for it and later, when unwrapping, noticed damage and informed HR. They scheduled it for pickup and my brand new shiney unit arrived before old one was picked up. I have found HR to be very into customer satisfaction and maintaining their reputation. I have been very happy with unit and customer service, including tech support tiger me thru learning curve and ordering product such as bags and Teflon pads, which I HIGHLY recommend. I was glad to see update on situation because Ihave been treated so well and machine is so good. Thank you for allowing me to share my Harvest Right experience on this awesome website

      1. It’s just sheets to keep the food from sticking. You could also use parchment paper, or Harvest Right sells custom liners. Some people don’t bother with them, but I found it makes the food much easier to unload.

  69. I read your review and even though the purchase was a serious wallop to our life savings, We bought one.
    It arrived in an intact box, with a dented frame. Harvest Right says since we didn’t discover what they had done to us, we lose. No one has to make anything right. I should have known right then to demand a refund. Wish I had

    I used it for less than 3 weeks, and it poured oil all over my floor. I had learned that they were offering an oil free pump for ONLY an additional One Thousand, Three Hundred Dollars more.

    I got in line early. Wish I had just demanded a refund.

    I’ve been waiting almost 2 months for the new improved pump. I finally paid for one since the manufacturer “was late sending them when I got in line” Wish I hadn’t

    Then I learned that all pumps were already out.

    Now we’re back to the “The manufacturer is late” story again.

    And I’m out an additional $1,300

    So far, for $3.500, all I have is a large blue anchor taking up otherwise needed space.

    I’ll keep you posted, if this post is allowed.

    Amazon has quit carrying them.

    1. I think Harvest Right is running into trouble with their growth rates and pushing to make the product more affordable. I’ve started to hear about delivery delays becoming more common, and some quality control issues. I’ll reach out to my primary contact at Harvest Right, and I would encourage you to keep calling and emailing until they get things sorted out.

    2. Janie,If I remember correctly there is a Federal Consumer Protection you can contact for problems when the Vendor/Manufacturer will not work with you on your problems,especially when it is damaged right out of the box,that is why that agency was creaed,you can d a google for it and contact them and see if they can help you,you DO have the right to get undamaged from the vendor.r

      1. Talking with Harvest Right, it seems Janie misrepresented her situation. The damaged panels were replaced. There has been a delay on getting her the new pump, but that was due to delay from the manufacturer, as was explained by Harvest Right. (As I mentioned above, they are having some difficulty keeping up with increased demand.) They also gave her an estimate of when the new pump would ship, and it has shipped within that time frame.

        Janie also seems to have misrepresented her behavior towards Harvest Right up to this point, and I’ll leave that at that. I feel confident after my discussion with them that they are doing what they can to make things right.

  70. Laurie
    To me freeze drying,canning,dehydration all have a niche in the food preservation market they all serve a purpose,also we have 2 greenhouses and plan o have over 60 grow-boxes from Garden Patch,so there should be an abundance of fresh vegetables to work with. The plan is to eventually using the above methods to not eat food from the commercial Market. we are also going to have chickens for eggs and rabbits for diversity in ongoing meat along with beef and pork,and later o start hatching Biddies for replenishment of the chickens.
    It is not cheap staring to be self sufficient believe,but to me it is worth it.

    1. Thanks, Layton.

      I agree that I use different methods concurrently. I like having options. Not everyone is as committed to the wider goal of self-reliance, so if they are only looking at a limited amount of food preservation, those are my top areas I would target for both methods.

  71. Hi Laurie,

    Before reading your article I really had no idea I could freeze dry at home. I am a big time gardener and this looks like it would be useful for extending the harvest life.

    My question is this: Compared to Canning, is Freeze Drying worth the extra investment?

    1. It depends on how you want to use your food storage. If you are comfortable using only approved canning recipes, weight of food storage is not an issue and you plan to use everything you store within 1-2 years, then canning may meet all your needs.

      If you’d like to store a wider range of foods, like dairy and recipes for dishes the way you make them instead of how a canning book makes them (including pasta, which is not recommended for canning); if you want food storage that can last 5, 10 or even 20 years; if you need lightweight storage; if you need storage that is earthquake resistant; if you need to make “just add water” meals or special diets meals for on the go; then freeze drying can be worth the investment.

  72. Can you freeze dry water? ie: freeze dry 1 pound of water so it goes down to say 3 ounces then reconstitute by adding say an ounce of water ending up with close to, or over, a pound of water. Thank you for the review.

    1. I’m not sure if you jest.

      Freeze drying water would leave air, and perhaps a few particulates, which you would “rehydrate” by adding back in all the water.

  73. Over the past couple of years I have started growing all my own food. At first I froze everything, but I filled 3 full size freezers so last year I bought a large dehydrator. It ran nearly 24×7 and could not possibly keep up so I was going to buy another and came across freeze dryers. Thanks for all the great information Laurie, I plan to buy a large freeze dryer. My concern is capacity, it looks like the large unit (5 trays 9 x 20.5 = 922.5 sq in) holds less than my dehydrator (9 trays 14 x 14 = 1764 sq in), and each batch takes longer.

    Can you comment on the capacity of the freeze dryer compared to the dehydrator?

    Thanks

    1. You’re correct, Bob, in noting that the capacity is slightly lower on the freeze dryer, even the large unit. I use freeze drying as a part of our ongoing food preservation, but it can’t do bulk processing as fast as other methods.

  74. I am so happy I found you. I have been researching this for sometime. I feel living in ruarl Montana and having kids and grandkids with severe food allergies this would be an ideal situation. The other thought I have that I did not see is I think it would be ideal to take out camping backpacking and in travel trailers to save space and time. Not sure if you have anybody with this experience but I feel you could have meals but together that safe space and time. My son backpacks and I know weight is an issue so you would not take cans of food.

    1. One thing you should note for camping and backpacking is that freeze dried food doesn’t shrink up like dehydrated food. After the freeze drying process, it looks very similar in size and shape to before the freeze drying process – except it’s really, really dry. So the food would be much lighter, but would still take up space. I prefer the flavor and texture of freeze dried foods over dehydrated, and yes, it would be easy to preserve allergy friendly meals and snacks.

  75. I apologize if this was already ask, I didn’t see it but I would like to know how expensive it is to run. If if takes hours to process a batch how much electricity is is pulling?
    Thanks

    1. Electricity use of the freeze dryer varies depending on the unit you have, the food you are drying, and the ambient conditions of the room the freeze dryer is in.

      The video below provides an example of the high end of costs, with a 47 hour cycle. Usually my cycle time is about half of that.

      1. One of our readers emailed me to share their experience:

        “Laurie, I have my dryer hooked up to a dedicated electric circuit and measure power consumption for every load of food I dry. I have a medium sized dryer and run loads of food that average about 70 ounces of water removed each load. On average I run right around 24 to 25 kw-Hrs of electricity per load. At the electric rate that I pay ($0.09/kw-hr) this works out to $2.25 per average load. If anyone cares I have the power consumption numbers on a per hour basis for each of the three dryer cycles.”

  76. This was such a fascinating article! Thank you for writing it AND keeping up with the comments.

    My husband and I are about to start the process of buying a small farm for permaculture. I have been thinking about preservation methods for the, hopefully, large amount of fruits and veggies we’ll be producing, and this sounds perfect.

    Question: Do you still preserve some foods in ways other than freeze drying? If so, what and how?

    1. Hi Melissa.

      Yes, I still use other food storage methods. It’s nice to have a variety of options in storage. Jams and jellies don’t freeze dry well, so those are canned. We go through a lot of tomato products (sauce, soup, salsa), which could be freeze dried, but we know we’ll use them in a year or two, so most of it gets canned. Quite a few veggies and fruits end up in the freezer, and some get canned. We ferment kraut, and sometimes other veggies. There’s also the root cellar for storage “as is”. Shell beans get dried. Herbs and some fruits and veggies get dehydrated, but not too many. The dehydrator also gets used for leathers and jerkies.

      The freeze dryer only holds so much in one load (our mid-sized unit holds about a gallon), so when I have large amounts of produce coming in all at once, I mix and match storage methods to get it all processed in a timely manner.

  77. Hello Laurie,
    Wouldn’t it be advantageous to dehydrate (at least partially) higher moister content foods prior to freeze drying to cut down on run time for the freeze dryer?
    Thanks, Cliff

    1. In most cases, I don’t think so. When foods are being dehydrated, they generally form a skin on the surface. This would inhibit freeze drying. Dehydrating also changes the cellular structure of the food. The cells shrink as the water is slowly drawn out. With freeze drying, the water goes directly from solid to vapor state, so the food doesn’t shrink. A freeze dried apple slice looks like an apple slice, not a little leathery strip. I think a combination of dehydrating and freeze drying would bring out the worst of both methods, not the best – but I have not tested this.

  78. Laurie –
    Thank you for the great review. I frequently use a dehydrator for doing simple snacks that we can take camping or on scouting events – but forget about trying to do something more substantial such as a prepared meal that can be taken on a backpacking trip.
    After reviewing some of the overall costs (and Jay W’s writeup on costs), I now feel more comfortable in deciding to put some money down for one of these.
    Being able to put together a chili dinner that can be freeze-dried and easily carried makes so much more sense than either buying the already dried ones ($10.00 for a 2 person meal?) versus my “troop meal” (8 boys, 10 adults) of about $25.00. Being able to freeze that entire batch and simply re-hydrate it when the time is right is ideal for us and overall, I feel the cost will pay for itself over time.

    Each year, we dehydrate a ton of fruits and vegetables, but this process does not seem to have the same taste as freeze-dried items. Once of my favorites to do is Yogurt, but it loses so much of it benefits due to the high heat process.

    I am now looking forward to my purchase and hope to be able to get this up and going before the summer camping/hiking season starts!

    1. The other thing about prepackaged freeze dried commercial meals is that they are generally short on meat, too. When you’re feeding a hungry crew after physical activity, they need something filling.

  79. I have been running my medium sized dryer for over a year with more than 100 large loads of food dried. Over time I noticed that it is taking a little longer to dry things. The JB pump has a lot of hours (2200+) on it. My oil is getting well used. I know I don’t have any serious vacuum leaks because I can pull a vacuum on the chamber, turn the pump off and it stays a vacuum for days. I ran a test to see if it was the oil. I have been using 4 gallons of VacOil Ecco Grade oil. I drain the oil right after a cycle is completed, remove the water and run it through a 10 micron filter (0.0004 inch). The oil now has a nice mahogany color and it is cloudy which the filter will not remove. I bought a gallon of JB Black Gold vacuum pump oil and 24 pounds of frozen green beans (12 two pound Kroger Brand bags). Green beans have a thick skin and take a little longer to dry. I ran two 6 pound loads with old oil and two 6 pound loads with new oil. It turns out that the green beans were 92% water and each load resulted in approximately 88 ounces of water being removed. Bottom line – virtually no difference in time to dry between the old oil and the new. In fact, the two loads using old oil finish 15 minutes faster than the new oil. I guess I’ll keep running the old oil.

    1. One other thing to note (as I was reminded by Bill), I switched to a homemade tp filter, and my oil now comes out completely clear, not cloudy. I’ve got an old Brita pitcher, and fill the filter spot with a tightly wrapped cross section of toilet paper wrapped with a coffee filter. Cheap, and works well.

      1. What brand of TP do you use, how long does it take for a batch of oil to go thru it, and how many loads do you filter before having to change the tp? Maybe I’ll set one of these up and use it after running thru my 10 micron filter just to remove the cloudiness.

        1. I use cheap toilet paper – no lotion or extra fluff. Scott or Kirkland are pretty common. I haven’t counted loads between changes. I just watch for when the filter start to look grimy. (You can pop it out and pop it back in quite easily, so you can see how far down the side the dark “ick” has penetrated down the side.) It filter through in less time than it takes to run a load. I usually have one batch of oil in the freeze dryer, one in the filter, and one in the freezer.

  80. Hey Laurie,
    Bill here again. In reference to cost analysis site you listed for freeze drying operation, I have been very curious about operation costs so I visited site, and as you have said, there are many variables such as temps and humidity etc, but with my standard size Harvest Right freeze dryer with original JB Eliminator pump, my cycle hours were about 25% less than theirs for four trays of identical foods. My unit is inside with constant room temperature, but for someone using their figures as a factor in whether or not to buy a Harvest Right freeze dryer, I would say in my opinion their cycle times are longer than normal. Thanks

    1. Thanks for sharing your experience, Bill. I know I see a huge difference in dry times for my unit, which is out in the garage, based on conditions outside, and also how I prep the food.

  81. I have been keeping track of the times for different food. One of the quickest was mushrooms at 19 hours, one of the longest was Brown Cow Vanilla Yogurt which was 44 hours. I try to plan to be there — and awake — when the cycle finishes. I found out the hard way that you can’t let it finish at night and just pack it up in the morning. It will re-absorb the moisture and you will have to re-run some drying time. So… I plan on 24 hours for foods I haven’t done before, and schedule it to end at a convenient time. Just a warning/suggestion.

      1. I know you can do that after the cycle is done, but I didn’t know you could do that while it is running… how? Maybe mine doesn’t do that? or is it a button that I didn’t pay attention to?

          1. Ha! I did an experiment last night, sure enough, the arrows were there, I just have never noticed them!! Thank you, that will be very helpful.

      1. I use the FLIR scopes that I have for my weapons,I just use it for double duty,no need to buy one for a specific use is there,the one I use is a holographic weapon FLIR and it came with a wrist attachment and a handle and the FLIR has a Piccany. rail attachment as do the wrist band and handle.
        It works real well,the trays and pads show as blue and the food if dry shows as light brown and if not dry in center it shows blue also,that way you can ck each individual item to see if dry quick and easy,

        1. That is a good idea… as I had a problem with assuming that the food would be dry enough to sit a while and with some that felt dry until I got to the very center of the center tray!

          I wish that Harvest Right would have a “keep dry” cycle at the end of the drying cycle!!! (Like a clothes dryer). Otherwise, the food re-absorbs the moisture from the air.

  82. I want to freeze dry coffee extract to make my own blended instant coffee. It is possible to do with this machine? How much amount of water based extract can be freeze dried? How much time needed to freeze dry. Have you sold this machine in Australia. Thank you. Prashant

    1. Yes, it is possible to make freeze dried coffee with the Harvest Right freeze dryers. For best results, you want to brew exceptionally concentrated coffee – stronger than most of us would want to drink – so that there is more coffee powder left after the freeze drying process.

      Harvest Right will ship internationally. You’d need to call for a shipping cost estimate.

      Their number is 1-800-700-5508.

      Business hours are:

      Mon – Fri: 8:00 am – 6:00 pm MST
      Sat: 9:00 am – 2:00 pm MST

  83. I plan to buy a freeze dryer for several reasons. The cost is not out of the realm of most people with the layaway plan. Its a matter of priorities. We do a lot of canning so im thrilled to know that our investment of mason jars can be used to store freeze dried foods. Canned goods/home canning contains salt & high heat destroys a lot of the goodness. Plus store bought cans are lined with something. If its bpa free its most likely lined with some other chemical laden thing equally as bad. Freeze drying is a no brainer.

    Now I can stock up on fresh organic foods and especially 100% grass fed beef & other organic meats certified humanely raised when they are on sale & preserve them in a way that’s simpler, healthier & tastier. Its also a helluva lot safer than canning with big pots of boiling water for several hours. I am excited for all the homemade gifts i will make in decorated mason jars. Who wouldn’t love that. Its not just about saving money. What a great hobby that’s soooo practical, fun, & healthy.

  84. Thanks for the great information. We finally purchased one at the end of November, but have yet to hook it up…dang it! Look forward to being able to save extra food!!!

  85. Id try freeze drying meats first and go on to the veggies and fruits. Meats being the most expensive to buy online.

  86. I actually OWN a Harvest Right Freeze Dryer. In a household of 2 adults and 5 cats, I was constantly throwing away garden/purchased items! When my tomatoes came in, I have gallons of them, and I can’t use them all and they weren’t the ones to use for sauces. I freeze dried them, and people at work (I brought some in for them to try) loved them as snacks. I have done cat treats (buy ham or turkey at the store, cook it, and freeze dry it) that my pets love. I have done prepared food, mushrooms (another one that fresh usually spoils before I get to use them all), berries of all types, yogurt, sour cream (another one that spoils before I use it all), guacamole, pineapple (I have a batch right now going), limes and lemons… sooo good I love it.

    Now, I got the small one, and I regret it, I wish I had the larger one (I am considering buying the bigger one, even for the extra cost!!). I had some problems with my pump, and I had to have it worked on by Harvest Right (it wasn’t one of theirs, so I guess I have an older model). There are kits that you can add on to make the oil maintenance MUCH easier (it cycles the oil through a filter, IIRC). However, Harvest Right doesn’t, at this time, support this add on. I have mine in the basement, so noise is NOT an issue. LOVE IT.

    I think that with all of the food I used to throw out, I can save money. Plus, I can buy in quantity and not lose any…and my pantry is in pretty good shape! I would love to get more from Harvest Right, and will research the new pumps in case I have any additional issues. I have a log of my freeze dried food for reference. I will be glad to share any “wisdom.”

  87. This is the second time I have read your review. I keep coming back to it as it is very helpful. I am considering this purchase more seriously since my Hubby actually brought it up to me again recently. When I first suggested it, he did not see the value. Now, he is really seeing the value of preserving our own produce and using sales and seasonal foods to prolong our food storage. Thanks for your review.

    1. You’re welcome, Wendy. It’s a big investment, but nothing else preserves food like a freeze dryer does. I appreciate the peace of mind with having food storage on hand that we trust.

  88. Thanks for your review. Have you tried to do it with meat? Because I am thinking of making freeze dried meat for my pets, and would really like to know if there is anything i should be aware of.

    1. You should be aware that freeze dried meat is so yummy you may not want to share it with your pets. Like most foods, meat freeze dries best when thinly sliced or in small pieces. Deli meat does quite well, as does ground beef, chicken chunks, ham bits and more. We made up sloppy joes and taco meat, fajitas, spaghetti with meat sauce, ham, chicken – all have been tasty. The texture of freeze dried meat is something like cheese puffs, so we call the pieces “meetos”.

      For pets, most people freeze dry raw meat. You want to keep the pieces small, especially if you’re not rehydrating before feeding. (For instance, making freeze dried meat snacks.) Freeze dried food is VERY dry. It is safe to eat dry, but if they eat any quantity of it, they’ll need extra water. Some people grind bones with meat and freeze dry for larger dogs, but I don’t recommend attempting to freeze dry meat on the bone.

      As always, proper food safety rules should be observed. Avoid cross contamination, dry thoroughly, and package promptly. Meat with any amount of fat will go rancid in a matter of weeks if not properly sealed in an airtight container with oxygen absorber. Putting it in a mason jar and screwing on the lid won’t cut it. We made that mistake only once.

      1. Hi Laurie,

        thanks for your reply. Haha that is true I might want to make some for my family as well.

        By the way, may I know why not freeze with the bone? because i raw feed my pets and they need to eat the bones as well.

        and one thing i do not understand, will the meat get bad after i open the package and take the meat out several times?

        I think I am ready to buy one soon!

        1. Hi Will.

          There’s no problem with bones, per se. The issue lies with making sure whatever you’re drying is completely and uniformly dry all the way through. If you have a big hunk of anything, it’s really difficult to get that center dry. Add in the changes in density across a hunk of meat on the bone, and you’ve got an almost guaranteed failure waiting to happen.

          What I’ve seen online from folks making homemade pet food to freeze dry that includes the bones is that they grind bones and meat together, and then freeze dry. Uniform density, and you can spread it thinly on the drying trays to make sure it dries all the way through.

          If you take out a small amount of food and close the package promptly, it won’t get bad right away. For instance, I open Mylar pouches, use some of the contents and promptly put the rest into a mason jar and close it. I try to use opened food within two weeks, especially meat products. If you let the sit much longer, even in a sealed jar, you’ll start to notice when you open the jar that it starts to smell stale. The appearance doesn’t change, and if it was freeze dried correctly there’s not enough moisture to grow mold, but the fats start to oxidize and get rancid. Depending on the humidity levels, the food may also start to get softer. Keeping the oxygen absorber in the jar will help slow down oxidation, but it can only do so much with the jar being opened and closed.

          1. Hi Laurie,

            You explained it very well. and I have some more questions which i don’t understand.

            (1) Can i put frozen raw meat in and freeze dried it directly?

            (2) How can I make sure the raw meat is safe to eat? i.e. no bacteria and contamination
            Does the freeze drying process help?

            Thanks for the help
            Will

          2. Yes, you can freeze dry raw meat. Yes, you could potentially put frozen raw meat directly in the freeze dryer, given that it was thin enough/sized small enough that it would dry completely (for instance, ground meat patties). Some folks do things like thin sliced pork chops, chicken breast and fish fillets, too.

            Like any time you are working with raw meat, you should follow appropriate safety protocol. Wash all surfaces thoroughly before and after they are in contact with the meat (including your hands). Label the freeze dried meat as “raw”, and be detailed in your description on the package of where it was sourced from, in case at some point it might be subject to a recall.

            If your meat contains bad bacteria going into freeze drying, they will still be present after freeze drying, so cook completely when you are ready to use your meat. The freeze drying process will put any problem microbes in stasis, so they won’t grow and spread, but it doesn’t automatically kill them. (Freeze drying may kill them, since microbes generally need moisture and a certain temperature range to survive, but it’s not 100% a sure thing. Some microbes have crazy survival abilities, and we’ve been breeding too many superbugs in recent years.)

  89. Wow! My head is spinning!! I just wanted to win some freeze dried food for emergencies and whoa! Lol.
    Great info…i know a lot more now…thanks for the tip on the hair straightener for mylar bags.
    I want to win because I want to have something on hand in case of an emergency of any sort. Thanks 🙂

  90. Freeze drying is on my list of things I would like to do. I’ve had some freeze dried foods and really enjoyed the versatility.

  91. We have been trying all kinds of foods to freeze dry. We purchased a large stainless steel model to freeze dry all the gardens vegetables we grew this summer. We expanded into all kinds of fruit – apples/applesauce, bananas, blueberries, strawberries, mangoes, peaches, watermelon, cantaloupe and pineapple (we did Christmas jars full of freeze dried fruit to friends and family today – very popular). The fruit is extremely tasty -watermelon is like cotton candy – it melts in your mouth. Blueberries are so light they remind me of cocoa puffs. The grandkids really devour these fruit snacks. Today for lunch we rehydrated Beef Vegetable Soup – this is the first attempt at rehydrating – I was very pleased with the taste. I really couldn’t tell any difference from fresh off the stove. Vegetables from our garden and local grass fed beef. It has been a fair amount of work cooking lots of extra food but extremely satisfying. Of course the fruit does not require cooking except for the applesauce.

    We just finished 2 batches of organic spinach and kale (for breakfast smoothies) and now have 5 trays of butterfinger candy bars near completion – haven’t tried candy bars yet. I am not a big candy bar fan but they were on bulk sale and sure would be a great treat when times get tough. The ice cream batches grew some bubbles but freeze dried quite nicely. We are very happy with our freeze dryer.

  92. Ordered my unit and the coupon code never did come up so that I could type in commonsense50 at checkout. Just saying, so you’ll know.

    1. Thanks for letting me know, Gil. I’ll get a hold of Matt at Harvest Right first thing Tuesday and see what’s going on. If you call the 800 number and tell them Matt Neville set up the coupon code but you didn’t see a place to enter it, they should give you the discount. I really hope they make some changes to make the website checkout process easier to use in 2018.

  93. I’d use it to freeze dry our garden produce for sure. My kids would be most thrilled about the fruit options! I would love having prepped meals that were so quick and easy to prepare, but still our good home grown stuff. Thanks for the giveaway!

  94. I’d love to try my hand at freeze drying foods. With a big family, I think we would use this to reduce our food bills and eat healthier. Thanks for so much information!!

  95. ever since I first heard about a home freeze drying system I have wanted to try one. I would try drying about everything I possibly could.

      1. Laurie,I noticed that no one that looked at a freeze dryer has mentioned that they have a layaway plan on them with a min of $250.00 down ans make your own payment plans and the price is locked in at the time of your deposit.That is the way I bought mine ,I live in Tx and 2 months before I came to Washington State to visit and set every thing up and when I left for Washington I paid it off so it would be delivered when I got here.I bought my Green House the same way,the only thing is the Green house was shipped free, and the freeze dryer did not,and when I complained it,they gave me the sealer and the Mylar and oxygen Absorbers at N/C.
        They will work with you on terms if you ask,but you have to ask.

          1. Laurie,some companies will work with a person so they can budget what they cant afford out right,I talked directly to Scott Neville on both purchases and we set it up on the phone no problem at all.After all they as in the bizz to sell to the consumer,and by having a lay away plan,in the long run they will sell more,and happy customers that will further spread the word about how the company is so helpful,and willing to work with the customers.
            I did the same on buying one of my thermal scopes from that I bought from Sportsman Guide,paid it out in 3 payments and use it to ck the dryness of the food when done that I did not even think about until I read it on here,never even thought about it,but it does work real good,if the food is dry it is a light brown color and the liners and tray’s are blue so you know the food is dry.

  96. Everything..why not? Experimenting is half the fun! Ok so I’d start with my herbs and move into what’s in the garden.

  97. I have thought about freeze drying produce or meat separately, but after reading your article I am now wondering about freeze drying complete meals or favorite dishes. I wonder how leafy greens would work…. You’ve got me thinking now! 🙂

    1. Leafy greens look almost the same coming out, but they turn to powder when handled. Sturdier greens like cabbage hold up better. Cooked cabbage resembles parchment paper after freeze drying.

  98. Wishing a Merry Christmas and a very healthy, prosperous, and Happy New Year to Laurie and August and all y’all. Thank you so much for all I’ve learned from your excellent site about freeze drying and other things. The world needs more people like y’all and more news like your newsletter. Thanks again. I know you’re slammed, so don’t worry bout taking time to reply. Keep up the great work.

    1. Thank you for your kind words, Bill. I popped onto the computer for a few minutes to check on a software update download (it keeps failing because of our choppy internet connection, but I’m getting close).

      Let me know if you have specific content requests for the coming year. My other half is wondering what he should tackle next while I keep working my way through updating everything on the site. Things sure have changed since I started doing this almost 10 years ago.

  99. I have been looking at purchasing one of these. However, the warranty has scared me a bit. You did a wonderful job on your review.

  100. I would use a Harvest Right Freeze Dryer for pretty much all my food preservation. With a few exceptions – fresh canned peaches come to mind – most of my home grown produce would taste as good or better freeze dried. Plus the resulting product is easier to store long-term. So far I’ve never heard of a Mylar bag shattering when it hits the floor, the way glass jars will sometimes do! But the best part, I think, is it would be so much easier to process abundant harvests by freeze-drying. Good intentions notwithstanding, long hours spent canning fruits and veggies too often ends with some of the surplus going to the chickens or the compost pile. Freeze-drying would seem to eliminate that waste.

  101. I would love to use it for all the fruits and veggies we like that go bad before we can eat them sometimes. Plus, make ahead camping meals would be awesome. There are so many things we would use our freeze dryer for if we had one. Thank you for such a great review, really answered a lot of questions I had.

  102. I always wondered about JB’s pumps. Most people that use them are in the HVAC business and they use them to pull vacuums on AC systems. I don’t know if they are designed and built to run them the hours that we put on them. I have an hour meter on my pump and it is right at 2300 hours. That is the equivalent of driving your car 100,000 miles. I know that HR has been rebuilding JB pumps and testing them before they send them out. They charge $200 for the rebuilt pump and they don’t want your old pump in trade. If HR has a better pump I will be first in line to get one. It would be really nice if the new pumps are quieter than the old ones and maybe my wife would let me bring the setup back into the house.

    1. The new pump is available now if you call the 800 number. I haven’t started promoting it yet since there’s no information online that I can direct customers to easily to purchase.

      Some notes on the new pump:

      The are cooling fins covering most of the pump, which should help a little when dealing with the high temps of extended runs.

      The oil drain valve sticks out just a smidgen past the body of the pump, instead of hiding underneath the oil basin, making it easier to access.

      Noise level – officially, the decibel level is slightly lower, but the pitch of the noise is also lower. Our unit is in the garage, too, and we can hear the new pump slightly more than we could here the old pump because of the pitch.

      The vent is on the oil chamber and has its own built in filter. No spraying oil.

      More oomph – the new pump is a 7 CFM compared to the old 6 CFM

      1. Epicenter Brian has several youtube reviews of the new pumps – the HR one (shipping standard since Nov 20th for new freeze dryers) and the oil less one as well. He does a nice noise comparison and test batches with each one head to head. Worth a look.

  103. Laurie, you said in a prior post that you are using a newer pump that has less issues with corrosion. I had talked to Matt awhile back and he indicated that they were testing different pumps. I am using an Eliminator made by JB industries. What are you using?

    1. Harvest Right has developed their own line of pumps. There’s one with oil and one that’s oil-free. The HR pump with oil is now the default for all new units shipped, but you can also purchase it as an upgrade by calling in. It’ll be officially launched in early 2018. I think the list price is around $300. The oil free is more, but I don’t know if they’ve set a price on that yet. From what I’ve seen on social media, most early testers are loving the new pumps. One of them posted an image showing the oil from the JB pump after one use – cloudy and dark with a fair amount of chunks in the bottom – you know the drill. They showed that next to oil from the new pump that they ran for 10 loads without changing. It was hardly cloudy at all. (I don’t know if they drained a bit off and added a bit with each load. That was unclear from the post.) I know we’ve been meticulous about draining and filtering with every load, and replaced some internal bits with rust resistant alternatives, and we still had discoloration and chunks with every single load with the JB pump.

  104. The filter that I use was originally recommended by Harvest Right before they started selling their own. It is a Harvey Filter. It does a good job. I use the Wix 51525 filter cartridge that he recommended which is a 20 micron filter. I also follow that up with a 10 micron filter that I found.

    It is good to hear that Wild Bill gets a year of use from one gallon of oil. I have only noticed recently that after 6 loads of use on my oil it is getting a little hazy which my 10 micron filter will not remove. I have 4 gallons of oil. I get almost 6 loads of food from one usage of a gallon of oil. I have all four gallon is use so I get roughly 23 loads of food out of 1 pass through the four gallons. All four gallons have been used 6 times. I have noticed that recently the oil getting a little hazy and have not observed any deterioration in pump performance and I am going to keep using this oil until I do. I am using VacOil Ecco Grade Freeze Drying Vacuum Pump OIl which was recommended by Harvest Right when I purchased my dryer. Hopefully, I will get similar longevity out of my oil as Wild Bill is getting out of his.

    1. I used the Harvey Filter for a while, and at first it worked well. Then I ordered replacement filters (directly from the Harvey Filter people, so they were the right ones), and since then it hasn’t worked correctly. My oil was still cloudy after filtering. We’ve now switched to an old Brita filter with rolled up toilet paper and a coffee filter, and that works beautifully.

  105. In response to Mr. Alexander’s info, most everything was good, but I got totally lost on the part about 6 loads on 4 gallons of oil and it’s starting to show signs and works out to 35 loads per gallon if used for 6 cycles. I run my unit, standard size, 24/7 probably 360 days a year and one gallon of oil lasts me about one year. I have 2 containers of oil so I can drain after every batch and put in 2nd container of oil to run while freezing and filtering other batch. What am I misunderstanding bout your oil usage? Thank you

    1. Wild Bill, I am doing something similar to you, I believe. I also have 4 gallons of JB oil but am still on the first gallon. I filter the oil through my Harvey filter twice and fill up the pump after the dirty oil is drained. I replace the oil each batch with the twice filtered oil. I have 5 months on our freeze dryer with about 60-70 batches. I did replace the filter on the Harvey filter after about 50 batches when it really slowed down….looking at 2-3 filters and 1-2 gallons of oil per year at the current rate (15-20 batches per month). I did toss the first round of oil when I replaced the Harvey Oil Filter at 50 batches – about a half gallon. It was tough to get it clear and started smelling strong. I have cleaned my pump once so far. Keeping the cleanest oil in every batch seems to work well for me. I am also very careful to not dump any water into the Harvey filter. I do not take time to freeze the water from the oil….Laurie – really good discussions – thank you for an awesome blog….

  106. The filtering system that I got from Harvest Right Accessories has done a very good job of filtering the oil for us .The filter has a drain at the bottom,and when finished drying and defrosting we then open the valve on the vacuum line and that valve closes the vacuum from entering the dryer and recirculates the oil through the filter,and and it cleans the oil good,you only turn the vacuum on for 5 min.When through just close the drain valve and open the pump valve to the dryer and you are ready to put another load in the dryer. The only problem we have had is that the circuit board went out for the heater,and Harvest sent another and I replaced it.

      1. It is from another company,but It works real good and they do take care of the vacuum pump if it messes up the pump,they will replace it with a new one and the filters are good for 3 months and the sell a group of the 4 the filters that are good for a year,they also sell the racks/pans in a set of 4 with brackets to hold them off of the bottom pans so you can fill the next batch and put them in the freezer so they will be ready to put in the dryer for the next batch.I have nothing but good things to say about Harvest right and the came through the problem I had with the heat module going out,and in about 10min on the phone a new module was on the way.I did buy 8 of the pan mats from Harvest Right and if the had the flush kit I would have bought it from them also and the pan clips. I also bought the mid size green house from harvest right and the grow boxes from the Garden Patch and now have 13 grow boxes the the green house and got 2 1800 watt solar gen-sets and 3 100 watt solar Panels and use it to provide heat lamps to the green house when it is cold.

        I also bought the wheeled cart that Harvest Right gave a link to and I also found the http://www.zorro.com sells a case of four gallons of the Robin air Hyd Oil for $79 dollars and free shipping.I also use one of my FLIR Scopes to ck to see if the batch is dry when done,works real good on whether it is dry or not.

        I was also seeing that some were complaining about the noise from the pump and dryer,well there is hardly ant noise now,just a low hum that is not really noticeable at all,when we first got it there was loud noise,but now just a low hum coming from it and the pump.

          1. That is a good price at Amazon,but when I was looking for it,they did not have it at that price,and when I look for something I always look at Amazon first,but Zorro was the least expensive,have so far bought 2 4 gallon cases from zorro. Some might wonder why I bought so much,but I dont buy for the short term,I but for if it is not easy to get it,in other words long term,the same as for the black Berkley filters,I have bought 10 of them for stock,the same as ammo,I reload and continue to do so for the simple reason that If it is ever hard to get,or cant get,it will be there for getting meat on the table,and when ever I purchase,I not only do it for now but we never what the next day will bring and so I get extra for stock. I just want the people that I care about to have what they need to be comfortable as can be for the times at that time.
            Just like the solar gen-sets,I do plan to add to them and daisy chain them together for steady power when needed,and to eventually have enough continuous wattage to be able to run the freeze dryer when there is no access to the grid. Call me paranoid if you want,but I do believe in being as prepared as I can for what ever comes down the pike,dont want to sit and say shoulda,coulda woulda when it happens.

          2. We like to stock up, too, especially on shelf stable goods. Better to have it an not need it than need it and not have it. As you mentioned, the vacuum pump oil isn’t something you can casually pick up at the local hardware store. (I asked a few just to make sure.) Same thing with the Berkey filters.

            We’ve been focusing on getting the long term plantings in first, then greenhouse, then outbuilding attached to greenhouse, and then the pond (which unfortunately was done incorrectly so needs to be redone before we can finish plantings in that area). I think next year we may add another small outbuilding for the ducks and put chickens where the ducks are now. (The current building was originally intended for chickens, but the slug population started booming so we switched to ducks to save the garden.) After that, hopefully solar and/or geothermal. We’ll see how far the budget stretches.

            If you’d care to share, I’d love to see more of your greenhouse setup. You can email to laurie at commonsensehome dot com. If you really want to share, we could feature it on the site, but that’s optional. We’re just in the brainstorming stage for the next steps here, so it’s always good to have more ideas. One of the things we’re considering after several cool summers is putting in a bigger hoop house over the top of the existing greenhouse to extend the growing season even more and have more protected growing area.

  107. By FAR the most info I have found on this subject. A lot of little questions answered(ie:the pump/oil problem). Have heard complaints but not fixes. Thanks. This puts it over the line for me. My wife and I want to eat foods that we are used to, seasoned the way that suits our body and have a safe long term food storage bank. Thank You

    1. I have had one of these dryers for over a year and have processed over 100 lots of food. The dryer works great when operated in a way to maximize performance. Being an engineer I keep track of all kinds of things related to the operation of the dryer. I have found:

      1. Cycle time goes way up if the thickness of food goes up. The thinner the slices or size of cubes the faster it processes.
      2. Cycle time goes way up if the temperature in the room is high. I live in Arizona and if I run it in the garage in the summertime it takes a lot longer
      3. Clean oil is essential. I drain the oil out of the vacuum pump at the completion of each cycle when the pump and the oil are still hot. I built a stand for the pump so that I could slip a collection container (sold by pump company) to facilitate this. I pour the oil into a transparent container and let it sit 24 hours so that water collects in the bottom. I pour off the dirty oil to separate it from the small amount of water that collects in each cycle. The dirty oil I put thru a 20 micron filter. The small amount of oil/water that I couldn’t separate goes into another transparent container. When I have enough I freeze it. The water turns to ice and I can recover the remainder of the oil. High vacuum pump performance deteriorates with dirty oil.
      4. Pump performance goes down if the pump is low on oil. I run my pump with an oil level that puts the oil 3/4 of the way up the sight glass. I have found that 22.5 oz of oil is what my pump takes to do this.
      5. Forget the business of reusing the oil over and over without filtering and then purging the pump every dozen cycles or so. Drain the oil each cycle, get rid of the water, and filter the oil before reusing and the pump will love it. I think the new instructions from Harvest Right require this.
      6. I have about 6 loads on the 4 gallons of oil that I have and it is starting to show signs that it has had it. This works out to about 35 loads of food per gallon of oil if used for 6 cycles. I am going to keep using the oil that I have to see if there is a point where performance starts to suffer.
      7. I fill my dryer so that it has to remove about 80 oz of water. I keep track of weight into the dryer and weight when finished. You quickly figure out the moisture content of food so that you can determine how much food to put in so that 80 oz of water are removed. I have found that loads larger than containing 80 oz of water take proportionally longer to process.
      8. I shut my dryer down for the summer in Arizona. It sat unused for 4 months. I refilled the pump with clean oil before shutting it down. When I started it up the oil was highly contaminated with rust and required extensive flushing to get rid of it. I don’t know why this occurred. Maybe I had some moisture trapped in the pump. Inside the pump cover there is a splash shield made out of steel that rusts. I removed it and replaced it with one that I made from aluminum and maybe I won’t have that problem next summer.

      The vacuum pump and the oil do take a little work but once you get into the swing of it it doesn’t take that much time and the dryer runs great. I am very pleased with the dryer that I have and the support that I have received from Harvest Right.

        1. No, I have the original medium sized unit. The large one wasn’t available when I purchased mine. If I had to do it over again I would buy the larger one.

          1. Thanks. I asked because of the pump volume. I didn’t immediately do the conversion, but we’ve found 700 ml to be a good oil volume, which is a little more than you use. (I was thinking at first that you were using more oil.) From what I’ve seen in the groups so far, it looks like the new pump has far fewer issues with crud buildup and corrosion. We just got ours so we’ve only run a couple of loads, but so far, so good. I’m checking with Matt from Harvest Right on the availability of those. I know they’re including the new pumps with current orders, but I don’t yet see them listed on the Harvest Right website.

  108. I love the idea of being able to freeze dry fresh produce for my family to use all year long! Each member has distinctly different dietary requirements and I think aging a freeze dryer would make snacks and meals a breeze!

  109. Am seriously considering biting the financial bullet and purchasing the smaller unit. We are moving to a rural area on Big Island , HI.
    We will have electric service (@ a higher rate than what we pay here in AZ. ). But, all in all it seems a good investment for our lifestyle. We are dairy, sugar, gluten, and soy free and I intend to take advantage of the abundant fresh organic fruits and vegetables there. However, I have so many other more interesting things to do with my day that I’m always on the lookout for convenient nourishing ways to feed us, without being “tied to the stove”.

    1. If you can get bulk meats or seafood of any type on sale (except maybe Spam – I think that would be too fatty), freeze drying would allow you to do batch cooking of just the meat portions of your meal, which you could easily pair with fresh produce. I did a batch of gluten free banana bread for a “treat” item last week, and it freeze dried quite well. The texture was similar to biscotti.

      I just contacted Harvest Right about the affiliate links again. I don’t know why it’s taking so long to fix, but right now my links only work in Internet Edge browser.

  110. Hi Laurie
    I can’t seem to find the last date for the Black Friday sale. I thought you mentioned it in your Facebook post but I can’t seem to find it now.

    1. The email that I received from Harvest Right was as follows:

      “We’re celebrating Black Friday all month long! Order now to beat the rush and ensure you get your freeze dryer in time for Christmas! Up to $700 off plus a $200 Starter Kit! That’s up to $900 in savings!

      Small: $1795 + Free Starter Kit
      Standard: $2095 + Free Starter Kit
      Large: $2795 + Free Starter Kit

      Starter Kit ($200 value) includes: Mylar Bag Sealer, 100 Mylar Bags, and 100 Oxygen Absorbers. Everything you need to start freeze drying!”

      So it looks to me like the promotion runs for the whole month of November, but it usually does take a bit of time to ship the units. (They are hefty.)

  111. Buyer beware! Harvest Right does not give you the whole picture before you order. Last week I excitedly went to get my Harvest Right standard size Freeze Dryer. I had carefully measured according to the specs listed to make sure it would fit in my kitchen. When I got it home the unit fit nicely on my shelf. There was an additional box that contained the pump which takes up a minimum of 8 inches of counter space. Then I read the instruction book. There is a hose underneath the unit that has to go into a 5-gallon bucket. The only space for it to come out of the unit is at the back. It is short enough that the bucket must be located at the back of the unit. I also discovered that you have to have access to the back to reach the power switch that is located to on the back of the unit just above the detachable power cords (one is like a pc’s power cord and the other is the pump’s power cord which plugs into the back of the unit). The specifications do not include the additional space required for the plugs, the pump or the 5-gallon bucket. It is not designed to be used in a kitchen unless you have space for a cart that can hold the 134 lb. machine. The other thing is that their videos all say it takes a day to freeze dry the foods. The truth is that most are 30 hours or more. Grapes can take 50 hours. It cost me $300.00 (15% restocking fee) even though I had not even full removed the plastic covering or taken the pump out of the box. I feel like the product was a bit misrepresented. As Nick from Harvest Right said, “Marketing tries to present the cleanest picture.”

    1. Marketing does indeed try to present the cleanest picture. Even in the freeze drying groups, people show off their custom carts and dedicated freeze drying rooms, making it all look easy.

      You’ll note in my review that I said that, “Second, the unit eats up a fair amount of real estate. This is not a toaster oven or blender. You need space. The freezing unit is about the size of a dorm fridge, plus it has a hose and vacuum pump.” and that it weighs over a hundred pounds. I also noted that we keep ours in the garage. I’ll modify the post a little to try and make this even more clear.

      The drain hose normally routes out the back, but you can reach under and reroute it out either side. In our case, because we were using an existing shelf in the garage, we moved the drain hose so it comes out the same side as the pump hose. If I’m standing facing the side of the unit where the pump hose comes out, we have our wall outlet, the unit (with cord reaching around from behind to the plugin in front of the unit), and then the pump sits behind the unit and plugs into the unit. The bucket to catch the meltwater sits below the unit.

      High sugar and high moisture foods do take longer, but I can do meat in less than 24 hours. Many foods do take longer than 24 hours, at least under the conditions that I use my unit in. (Not climate controlled, in northeast Wisconsin where the humidity is often high.) I’ve noticed that the ambient humidity levels impact drying times significantly. Given that HarvestRight is located in Utah (desert), I’d bet their ambient humidity levels are lower, so maybe their dry times are a little lower, too.

    2. I absolutely LOVE my Harvest Right Freeze Dryer!!! Yes, it is a little big but I can’t believe you would return it without even trying it!!! OMG! I am having so much fun with it. The only problem I have is that it is parked right next to where I watch TV since I have an open floor plan. The drying cycle is a little loud. I just try to run it so that the dry cycle runs when I’m sleeping and if it’s a really long cycle (like when I did my bean soup) I just turn up the TV! LOL!! It is a little bigger than I imagined but I would NEVER have returned it because of that! I knew it was going to be big! Also, if you would have researched it a little you would have seen where it talks about the pump and the draining. I was prepared for that, I even bought a cart before my machine got here. Research, research, research!!!

  112. I have purchased powdered peanut putter. Is it possible to freeze dry peanut butter and make my own? Is there too much fat in it? What about honey? I have seen powdered honey as well.

  113. Ok, I took the leap and just purchased the medium size freeze dryer. I really hope I get some use out of it and don’t find out it’s one of my impulse buys that just sits there. Too much money invested! Should I have purchased the silicone pads? I’m a firm believer in prepping for any emergencies that may arise. Or just the rising costs of food. Most items have doubled and even tripled in the last couple of years! Now I just need to know what all can I do with this thing?? Is there a good reference book or “cook book” that you could recommend? Can I freeze dry butter even though I know it’s mostly fat and won’t last 20 years? Can I use my Foodsaver and it’s bags instead of the mylar? I have too many questions! How do I use this for everyday living and not just for prepping??

    1. I’m not sure what you mean by silicon pads? Do you mean pan liners? If so, I use them and recommend them, but the ones I use are not silicon but Teflon. (They should be stable at the temps seen in the freeze dryer.) I got four of these sheets and cut them to width.

      I haven’t yet seen a great freeze drying cookbook. A basic one comes in pdf format with the unit. I’ve been considering putting something together, but I still have a bunch of bread books to sell and little free time. You can freeze dry a wide assortment of foods, but avoid high fat and high sugar foods.

      No, you can’t freeze dry butter. It will end up coating the interior of your unit and making a huge mess. I read the reports from one blogger who tried it. HUGE mess.

      No, I wouldn’t recommend Foodsaver bags for long term storage, although they would likely be fine for short term storage. (One year or less.) Foodsaver bags allow more air and moisture through than Mylar and are not suitable for extended storage.

      How to use a freeze dryer for every day use and not just prepping. For us, when the fruit and veggie harvests come in, some gets freeze dried. A portion goes to long term storage, and a portion gets used sooner rather than later.

      Freeze drying is also great for taking advantage of sales, especially sales on perishable food items. During or after the holidays, you can typically find ham or turkey cheap. Many delis will slice a boneless ham for you – and then you can freeze dry the slices and use them as needed. Roast up an extra turkey, chop and freeze dry. Use the freeze dried diced turkey in casseroles, soups and stews – or make a turkey casserole or soup and freeze dry that for a “fast food” meal down the road. Last weekend we roasted up two of our chickens to make more room in the freezer for the next batch that’s being processed this weekend. We ate chicken leftovers for a few days and still had enough to make up a triple batch of chicken and rice casserole to freeze dry.

      Freeze dried foods make awesome snack foods, too. You get the “crunch” without frying. Veggie slices are great. Freeze dried fruit is amazing. Cheese slices (I get presliced packs at Costco so they are all nice and even) and pickled beet slices are salty and flavorful. (Freeze dried dill pickles were too salty for me.) You can do sweets, too, like ice cream or gummy bears or yogurt drops.

      1. I have been busy with me new freeze dryer. I have done various fruits of which watermelon is my favorite! I have done spaghetti, spanish rice, bean soup with ham, potato soup, roast beef, various ice creams, (ice cream with chocolate chips and frozen snickers bars did not work because of the chocolate), yogurt drops, corn, bananas, apples, etc. I’ve been having a lot of fun posting my results on my facebook page to share with my friends.
        Anyway, I was looking at my canned goods I have stashed and found that I have some canned salmon and some canned tuna that are at their best used by dates. Have you tried to freeze dry these? My tuna is packed with oil, should I rinse it after draining? Could I add mayonaise and pickle relish to make tuna salad before freeze drying? Thanks again.

        1. How long did the cycle take on your watermelon? I’ve been thinking I should try it because people keep asking about watermelon extract and I think it would be a great way to concentrate the flavor, but was concerned by the high water and sugar content.

          As for the fish, I would definitely try to get rid of as much oil as possible. I haven’t done fish because we don’t eat a ton of it, but others have in the online groups. Mayonnaise does not freeze dry well – too much oil. Pickle relish would probably be fine.

          1. Sorry, I know I should keep track, maybe I’ll start. Watermelon is my favorite. One round personal watermelon fills 2 pans with a little leftover to munch. I always have to extend the dry time because it’s not quite dry. Have to make thin slices. Reminds me of cotton candy. Nice and sweet! You should try it! I can’t wait until summer to be able to get fresh watermelon for a lot cheaper. I only buy it when it’s on sale now. Still paid more for a small round watermelon than I will pay for a large one in the summer from the farmers market.
            I even tried freeze drying peanut butter fudge and a frosted Christmas cookie just to see what would happen. The fudge was a no go, too hard. The cookie was really good and crispy but I wouldn’t trust the frosting to last as long. i’m thinking of trying a peanut butter cookie next!
            As for the fish, I guess I’ll just try it! I think that I’ll drain the tuna and then rinse it to remove as much of the oil as I can. I think the salmon will be just fine as long as I blot off the excess water. Hmmm. Maybe I should dedicate a notebook for drying times and tips. Thanks

    2. Are you talking about the oxygen absorbers? My Freeze Dryer came with a starter kit — mylar bags, oxygen absorbers, and a sealer.
      Your Foodsaver bags are NOT the same as the Mylar! Those will not hold up as well or as long. You can buy both mylar bags and oxygen abosorbers on Amazon or other places on line for a reasonable price. I use much more of the small bags than the really large ones. I can get you links if you would like.
      And I really, really, wished I had gotten the medium sized freezer and not the small… I am envious! 🙂

      1. When I’m loading up my medium freeze dryer I sometimes wish that I had gotten the large one! LOL! As for the Foodsaver, I use this for things that are short term like my snacks. I also got the starter kit with my purchase and have already had to reorder more of the small bags. I wish they had even smaller bags for snacks. I also started my sealer on fire because I tried to reseal the absorbers and the plastic is thinner and I didn’t adjust the setting. So be careful of that.

        1. I had to adjust my sealer as well because of a burn spot. BTW, I use mason jars with an O2 Absorber in it for snacks and things that will be used quickly. Seems to work really well. I have a vacuum sealer (mine is from Cabelas) with a vacuum-mason jar attachment so I can use that option as well for short-term, small volume freeze-dried stuff.

  114. We are planning on buying a Harvestright freeze-dryer for food processing business in Africa . Would like to know what happens when there is an interruption in the power supply, would the process continue from where it stopped when power is restored or it will start all over? Also, when ground fresh maize is freeze-dried will it become powder?

    1. For a short power outage, the unit will continue the cycle from where it stopped. (I’ve had this happen a few times.) I’m not sure how long it can sit with the power off and still continue from where it stopped.

      I’m not sure what you mean by “ground fresh maize”. Are you talking about maize that is harvested wet, like sweet corn, or maize that is harvested dry like dent or flint corn? If a material is ground before freeze drying, it should be a dry powder after freeze drying, unless there is sugar or fat to make it sticky. When I cut sweet corn off the cob and freeze dry it, it dries as individual kernels with some powder. I have not tried freeze drying corn meal.

  115. I ordered my freeze dryer from Harvest Right last week. I make a lot of chicken stock and can it…can it be freeze dried?

  116. I have a question about the compressor oil. How much does it cost? What type do you use? You said that you filter it and reuse it, how many times can it be reused?

    1. You can get a gallon of Robinaire vacuum pump oil for around $25. I reuse it indefinitely – as long as it filters clean. You lose a little with each load, so it doesn’t last forever, but it can last a long time.

      1. Laurie,I also use Robinaire Hyd. oil and buy it by the case from Zorro for $79.00 and free shipping,and along with the quick flush filter system I purchased from Harvest Right Accessories,the flushing takes about 4 min,then drain the water out of the filter and then you are ready to do another batch,and the oil usage is almost nil,and you change the filter,every 3 months.

  117. Hi Laurie-

    We are planning on buying a Harvestrite Freeze Dryer. My 9 year old son and I went by the Harvestrite plant, and sampled the food, it was delicious. The employees were very helpful and knowledgeable.

    If we were to buy frozen berries from Costco, do you have any idea how much the total cycle time would be reduced if we put the berries in the unit already frozen?

    Thank you,

    Tony

    1. The cycle time really varies with ambient conditions, so it’s hard to estimate. The Harvest Right freeze dryer gets much colder than a normal freezer, so I typically just load the food in (fresh or already frozen) and hit the auto cycle. You might try running it on automatic, and then experimenting with different freeze times based on your initial results.

    2. I have used pre-frozen berries in the freeze drier. They seem to take about 24 hours (depending on what type of berries). I have only used the auto setting. I have to admit, thought, that the fresh berries seemed to taste …well, fresher… than pre-frozen. Of course, they were my pre-frozen and they were a probably about a year old. The veggies I bought from Costco did fantastic (pre-frozen). I don’t have my notes here, but I allocate 24 hours as an estimated time the first time.

  118. Hey Laurie,
    Much thanks for your preparedness series. Great, well researched helpful info. EM pulse big deal to me.
    Quick question if you have time.
    Earlier, (08-31-17), you told someone not to cover trays with parchment paper during freeze drying process because it would interfere with sublimation during the lyophilization process. I have been drying banana chips and sliced strawberries two layers with parchment between the two. How do you do two layers without covering lower layer with parchment or is it okay to do so?
    Much thanks again. Intellectual as well as well rounded knowledge on your site so useful and appreciated. Have a good septic tank day.

    1. So far so good on the new septic pump.

      Parchment is porous, so while it does interfere some with the freeze drying process, obviously it doesn’t stop it completely, as you’ve found. If I want to stack sticky food deeper on trays, I’ll usually prefreeze the food first before loading on the freeze dryer trays. Then in can be stacked without so much sticking together. I’ve also seen people stick banana slices on skewers, leaving just a bit of space between the slices, and then laying the skewers on the tray.

      Our unit is in the garage, so in summer when local strawberries are ripe, humidity is higher and temps are up. As such, I usually stick to a single layer of fruit, which still requires a fairly long dry time in those conditions. In fall, spring and winter when temps and humidity are normally lower, I load the freeze dryer a little heavier.

  119. Is there significant effect adjusting the heater temperatures – default is 125F – on food quality? I’ve tried freeze-drying kulolo (mashed taro, sugar, coconut milk) but ended up with a biscuit rather than a cheese puff consistency. Perhaps a lower temperature setting would help next time, say 100F?

    Maybe one reason to consider lowering the heater temperature to say less than 110F is for those who are on a raw food diet (no cooking temperatures – above 118F).

    I’d expect setting a lower heater temperature to prolong drying times but save food from melting or cooking. And a higher heater temperature to speed drying times. I haven’t checked but if the heater could go to 160F that could kill harmful bacteria.

    Any comments?

    Thanks for your great blog! I really learned a lot from you and your commenters.

    1. I’ve never tried kulolo, but that sugar and fat don’t tend to freeze dry well, as mentioned. My fatty sausage patties were definitely dense and chewy, whereas the lean ground beef was light and crunchy. I thin teh food itself drives the finished texture of the product far more than attempting to adjust the temperature.

      If you look at a pasteurization chart such as the one at http://www.milkfacts.info/Milk%20Processing/Heat%20Treatments%20and%20Pasteurization.htm, 161F for 3 seconds will kill most pathogenic bacteria in milk. Thicker products are pasteurized at a slightly lower temp (150 or 155F) for 30 minutes. So if the freeze drying process hits 160, odds are we’re clearing most pathogenic bacteria.

      1. Thanks Laurie! It’d be great if HR provided a chart indicating the uses of adjusting the heater temperatures for different foods. Why even bother to allow us to adjust it? For now I’ll leave it at the default 125F for most foods except perhaps consideration for volatile foods such as coffee or aromatics like thyme or garlic. There’s something going on with the gas equation that impacts the food material under freeze-drying conditions that I’ve yet to understand.

        1. Have you tried contacting Harvest Right directly? I think their general publications are meant to keep things as simple as possible to be more user friendly, but they may have additional available. I barely scratched the surface of organic chemistry in college, but if you’re curious, I bet there’s material online or in textbooks somewhere that discusses volatilization ranges for different food compounds and aromatics. I’m sure they need to know that sort of thing for products like freeze dried coffee. Heck, maybe commercial producers of freeze dried coffee discuss their methods on their websites?

          1. Good idea, I just did today via their FAQ section!

            Btw, I watched a Epicenter youtube on freeze-drying meatballs. They indicated that it created a greasy mess – coating everything within the chamber. Do you have such problems? I’m thinking that perhaps laying parchment paper on top of each tray might help. Say for oily foods only?

          2. I ran into a similar issue when drying precooked pork sausage patties, as mentioned in the post. Greasy mess everywhere. It’s really best to avoid drying high fat foods. Covering the trays with parchment would work against the freeze drying process because it would interfere with sublimation during the lyophilization process.

  120. Has anyone used this machine to dry herbs and to smoke later? being its legal now in many states.this would reduce drying time if it smoked ok might still need curing..

  121. Hi Laurie. Thanks for all you do. Your experience and wisdom with the freeze dryer is important to me.
    Please share your experience with the oil(s) for the unit. It seems to me that JB oil would be best for a JB vacuum pump. Harvest Right has offered two other brands over the last two years as alternatives, but both companies want me to buy 4 gallons at once. Where do you buy your pump oil?
    You have written that you have only used one gallon in a year with careful filtering. How long will the filter last when you freeze the water to the bottom of a jar? I understand that it takes about 700 ml to change the oil. How much of the first quart (that comes with the pump) gets used for the initial fill-up?

    1. The quart that comes with the unit is 946 ml, so you’ll have 246 ml leftover after the first fill – not enough to refill without filtering. You’ll lose some oil to filtering.

      I purchased a gallon when I needed more oil to have plenty on hand, then I purchased a case of four gallons because it comes with free shipping. I ordered both through amazon. Initially, I bought the JB Liquid Gold, but Robinair Premium Pump Oil is significantly less expensive, and is still a high quality oil. I got the case of Robinair. I figure it’ll last for years, but it won’t spoil sitting in the garage, and then I have plenty on hand. Prices on things only tend to go up over the years. We cracked open our second gallon this summer.

      Link to Robinair case of 4 gallons
      Link to Robinair gallon

      As to whether or not it’s best to use JB oil – I haven’t noticed any change in performance since switching to the less expensive oil. The Robinair oil is commonly recommended in many online groups.

      For the filter, I’ve switched to an old Brita pitcher with a hunk of toilet paper tightly rolled up and tucked in a coffee filter. Works like a charm, and super cheap to replace. You may be able to find a used pitcher at a thrift store. We had one that was about 10 years old and starting to look a little grimy, so we replaced that with a new one for drinking water and co-opted the old one for oil filtering. I’m not familiar with the filters that Harvest Right is now including with units. I get quite a few uses per filter, and it only takes a small portion of the toilet paper roll to fill the drain area, so one roll will make a number of filters. It’s the only thing that I use cheap toilet paper for.

  122. One thing I noticed was lacking in all the comments and review of this machine is how easy it is to store and transport freeze dried food. I am an avid hiker. When you put a backpack on your back filled with everything you need for a week in the mountains, I don’t want to have heavy, water packed, canned food with me. Pre-packaged meals are expensive and loaded with chemicals and preservatives. They are usually very high in sodium. Using the mylar bags, I can make a variety of meals that take up very little space and are light in weight.

    1. Thanks for sharing your experience, Terri. I’m a homebody, so I don’t travel much, but you are absolutely right. The food is super light, and you control the ingredients.

  123. Small and standard size run on 110 Volt. I think large freeze drier requires 240 volt. Something to consider

    1. Also, they should have a dedicated circuit. The boys left the air compressor plugged into the same circuit as the freeze dryer. It kicked in during a freeze cycle and tripped the breaker.

  124. Kinda like building a building…as soon as your done, you realize it could have been bigger. Go as big as you can afford

  125. Hello, thank you for sharing. I am interested in purchasing a freeze dryer, but I can’t decide between the small or standard size. Can you tell me what size unit that you have?

    1. I have the mid-size unit, which holds a quart in each of four trays. I haven’t used the smaller unit, but I think the mid-sized unit is a good size. If I’m going to put up food for storage, I like to process a fair amount at one time, so for me, going smaller wouldn’t be my choice.

  126. I bought a Harvest Right freeze dryer a few months ago and love it. We have to eat organically as we are intolerant to pesticides, and also have allergies to gluten, dairy and soy in our house. We also try to eat sugar free – that really reduces what we can eat!! We found that organic long-term food storage items were few and far between and often just included things like organic quinoa and rice. I know we’re trying to be healthy, but that would get a bit old after a while. We eat Mary Jane’s meals for camping and hiking, but they’re expensive. The freeze dryer allows us to make both hiking foods and long-term storage foods at our convenience to our standards. A store we bought meat from closed down recently and we had the opportunity to buy huge turkeys at half price (it was June/July!). My freezers were full and I didn’t have room for them, but was able to freeze dry 7 turkeys (one turkey, cooked and chopped filled my large freeze dryer perfectly). We can use them any time over the next few years and they won’t take up my freezer space. We love eating freeze dried sweet potato mash as a snack – looks like Cheetos, tastes wonderful. Also strawberries are a favorite. Our local farms are producing case lots of organic cherries and apricots for big discounts now and I get to freeze dry them for a future time. We went hiking today and ate some home made freeze-dried pasta bolognaise that tasted great. Am super happy!

  127. I have read the majority of the comments including those from last year. There are some major and minor points that I have not seen discussed but again I may have missed some. I may be brief on some points, however this might get long so grab something to drink first. 😀

    The gentleman that thinks that we should all shop at Walmart forgot a few things to factor into his cost analysis. The cost to go shop for said items is one. Fuel, bus or taxi fare all cost money. Even ordering items online cost shipping. The ones that are “free shipping” have the shipping cost figured into the purchase price. Many items do not have a big enough profit margin to allow the company to cover the cost of shipping from their pocket.

    There is what are you getting for your money cost factored into commercially canned items. It is getting harder and harder to find a 16 oz can. They are now 14 oz or less but still cost the same as what the 16 oz can used to. Can size is the same but less contents. Speaking of contents, anyone else notice that there is more water in commercially canned products compared to a few years ago? A few years ago, I was wondering if my time was being well spent canning my own produce. Some in my family said it was a waste of time and money. So I asked said person to go to the store and buy me the cheapest 16 oz can of carrots they could buy and the most expensive in the same size. Why carrots? It was what I was canning at the time. I had a couple of pint jars that failed to seal. There are 16 oz in a pint. See where this is going? I then had said family member drain each of the three items just like she would to use them. I still had yet to reveal why we were doing this to avoid bias. We together then weighed each of the amounts of carrots on my digital scale. I then asked her to figure out averaging high, what my utility costs were for each canner full including electric to run the AC and processing equipment, the natural gas for the stove and all the water that is used in prep, canning, and in clean up. Then what one jar costs divided by 6. I figure I get a minimum of 6 uses out of a jar before it becomes ineligible to can with. These costs are similar to what a commercial canner has to factor in expect the reuse of the jars. However, they can buy in wholesale/bulk and I must pay retail and taxes so I am already behind in costs. I will use the defective jars elsewhere but not for canning. Then figure out the cost of the flat that goes under the ring as these must be replaced every year. I did not include the cost of the canner as my grandmother gave it to me and I will pass it on to my kids. I took one pint jar that was packed and ready to can. I dumped out the water and weighed what the weight was in raw carrots to make sure the numbers are correct. As I buy my carrots from local farmers, we figured out my cost per bushel. Figured out how much is waste. It was all in buckets just needed to weigh it and then figured out the actual price per ounce I paid for the carrots including the fuel to go get them and return. Factored all of that to figure out the cost per ounce of home canned carrots. Then factored in the cost of the store bought carrots including taxes and fuel. The winner by almost double was my home canned carrots. If I get more than 6 uses out of a jar then it is more. Since I often buy jars at thrift stores and rummage sales, I am even further ahead. However, we used actual retail prices for the cost of the jars and flats. Some have even been gifted to me as everyone that knows me knows how I love to can. I did buy my carrots directly from the grower in a bushel amount. This is typically cheaper than buying by the pound in the local grocery, however I did factor the 30 miles round trip in fuel that it cost me to go get them. Plus I know how they were grown and now what exactly is in the jar. I should mention that the family member in question works in the accounting field. She loves numbers and will do math problems for fun. She did her work on three separate sheets of paper without looking at previous one just to triple check her numbers. We did use actually utility bills for costs.

    There is also the labor that goes into preserving the harvest. There is going to be that no matter how one chooses to preserve the harvest so I did not fact the cost. The time it takes to process carrots is roughly the same for canning, dehydrating, or freeze drying with the exception of blanching them if one chooses to.

    I have been disabled for almost 10 years now due to someone cutting corners at my job. I was injured and it destroyed both of my knees. I am between 40-50 years old and already need a knee replacement. The time it takes me to process a bushel of carrots from purchase to full jars on a shelf is much longer than it was 10 years ago. I tell you this to throw this thought out at you. We are all getting older. Some of use are aging a bit faster due to a variety of reasons. I would much rather load a freeze dryer and walk away then slave over a hot stove all day/night. I could be much more productive without the wear and tear on my knees by not standing in the kitchen canning. Plus I don’t have to order pizza so my family has something to eat while I use the whole kitchen canning. Also think about how heavy a canner is once it is loaded. Sure you can put it on the stove and add water to it from the sink. That is often a lot of steps depending on how your kitchen is laid out. One must also consider the weight of full jars themselves. Heavy duty shelves must be purchased or built to accommodate the weight of both full jars or cans from the store. Jars that are full of freeze dried items weight barely more than an empty jar.

    Quality of product is also a concern. By preserving food myself, I know exactly what is in the jar. For a multitude of reasons, produce that I purchase is grown organically. Certainly there will always be things I will can. Actually, I have to can it all right now until I save enough up for a freeze dryer. I think of it this way – traditional canning is like an old fashioned wringer washer where freeze drying is like a modern washing machine. I compare these as I have and do use both kinds of machines to do laundry. The time factor alone is a big difference between the two.

    Now I come to what seems to be a family quirk that would make freeze drying beneficial to my family and I. Neither my mother or I can handle any green beans that are to be canned. We can not pick them, snap them, place them into jars – nothing! Doing so will cause said beans to sour in the jar. Beans canned today when opened tomorrow will be sour if my mother or I touched them, even with multiple layers of disposable gloves on. We can pick them and snap them for fresh eating but that is all. Even blanching and freezing will result in sour beans. Why only beans we have no idea. I can cook them for fresh eating and then freeze them – other than being nothing but mush they are ok. This leads me to believe that I can do the same with the freeze dryer without issue. Although once I have one, I will experiment to see what happens. So in order to preserve green beans right now, I must rely on others to help me get the job done.

    Most of my family packs a lunch to work. When it is hot out, that means ice packs as well. It would be much nicer to send the same kind of leftovers only freeze dried when it is hot out. As they have to be reheated anyways, adding a bit of water at work before putting it in the microwave is not a big deal. It would also give them the opportunity to each it as is and stay a bit cooler. Some family members have food allergies as well that mean I cook from scratch. It is vital to their health that I know exactly what is in the food they are eating. Being able to make enough for 7-10 meals vs 3-4 is no bigger mess in the kitchen. I don’t have to tie up valuable freezer space either.

    Losing power and potentially losing what is in the freezer is a big concern here. We do lose power various time all year round. A small price to pay for the beauty and remoteness of where we live. Yes, we have generators. Those can keep us warm or cool depending on the time of year or keep the freezers cold. A juggling act to be certain. Just another reason that having at least some of one’s typical freezer items freeze dried. Space no longer becomes an issue if one finds a great deal on 5 lb bags of cheese.

    Like many rural families, mine loves to go camping and hunting. We spend 1 to 2 weeks every year, elk hunting alone. This equals a lot of food that must be packed in and waste packed out. Plus one must always over pack on food since we are hunting in the mountains. Getting snowed in for longer is a real possibility. The regulars in our camping area also know they are always welcome to eat for us. One day I may be cooking for 6, the next for 20. It pays to be prepared and neighborly. We take care of our own out here as it is two hours by 4 wheeler to get back to the pickup and then another hour or so to town depending on the weather and roads. This all equals to a large amount of meals that must be packed for. That all weighs down our vehicles a lot. We also have to take large coolers to keep meat cold in. If there isn’t a ton of snow, that also means loading them full of ice as well. I would much rather make large batches of meals at home – where I have time and freeze dry them. Don’t get me wrong, I love cooking on a wood stove!!! I am strange I know. However, there are other things I would rather do than cook all day. As I don’t hunt much do to my knees, I do the majority of the cooking. Again, being able to bring in freeze dried items would certainly lessen my work load and allow more time for fun things. I could also send a better quality of snacks with the hunters by making my own freeze dried items. There is a reason that most sporting goods stores sell freeze dried meals – ease of use and light on weight. When we go camping in the summer time, we might tent it or we might pull the camper. Either way, space and weight are an issue.

    Something else to consider is – what can be grown where you live? Where I live, if you don’t do raised beds, not much. The ground grows very little as it stands. Due to the growing zone plus the elevation that I live, many fruits and veggies are not able to be grown here without the help of a greenhouse/grow tunnel of some sort along with basically removing the existing soil and replacing it with something better. A couple hours from me there is a very large mushroom farm. An hour in a different direction puts in some river bottom land where they grow amazing sweet corn. Timing a visit on the west coast to fall during fruit harvest time is also a possibility. I must buy in very large amounts to make the trips worth while for the things I can not grow. Since I do most of the preserving myself, being able to freeze dry large amounts of food at one time would make it more cost effective than just canning alone. I am not complaining that my family doesn’t help. They all have work and/or school that take up much of their time. They do help when they can.

    I will step off my soapbox now. If you made it through all of this, thank you for reading. I just wanted to throw out some ideas that I had not yet seen mentioned. Reasons that make it a worthwhile investment for someone like me. Maybe not for others. It is up to each individual if the investment is worth it for their family.

    1. Thanks for your thoughtful comment and many well made points, Carrie. We rarely buy canned vegetables, but I’ve certainly noticed the shrinking package size in dry goods. It seems like you’d have plenty of opportunities to put a freeze dryer to good use.

  128. Laurie,

    I want to Freeze dry a homemade baby formula. I make the baby formula daily. Each batch is about 65 oz., making one batch a day. After reading your article I wondered if this would be a good product for me. The formula contains 60% barley water, 35% milk and 5% non-GMO organic corn syrup.

    I didn’t see how much time the Freeze Dryers require to finish each batch of food/liquid.

    Any advice or direction you could give is most welcome. I’d prefer to make and freeze dry and then simply reconstitute this that to go through the 6 1/2 hour process required each morning.

    1. Freeze drying time will vary depending on food/liquid being dried, amount of food being freeze dried, and ambient conditions of the area the freeze dryer location. I’d suspect 24 – 36 hours in “average” conditions.

      Given that dairy and grains freeze dry well and the sugar content is fairly low, I would think that the formula would freeze dry well, and the current sale is the lowest prices I’ve seen on the units to date.

  129. Something I have not seen discussed is the nutritional value of the freeze dried foods. Also, I juice my veggies with an omega very juicer. Can you freeze dry juiced veggies and if so, what nutrition do u lose? I ask because my husband and I have long term sailing ahead of us and I’m wondering if I could take my freeze dried juice with me.

    1. If you’re freeze drying liquid (in this case, juice), you’d end up with powder. I’m sure you could do it, as long as you didn’t overload the unit. Your dry time would be fairly long to remove all that liquid.

      As for nutrients, the article “Nutrition of freeze-dried vs. raw fruits and vegetables” at columbia.edu notes:

      Research has shown that while freeze-dried fruits and vegetables contain slightly lower amounts of certain vitamins, they are rich in antioxidants and fiber. Most researchers agree that the amount of nutrients lost from freeze-drying is miniscule.

      I’m sure that any heat sensitive vitamins, like vitamin C, would be slightly reduced because of the temperature cycling during the freeze drying process. That said, the freeze drying process does not cook the food, so it would still be raw and the majority of vitamins should be intact.

  130. I bought a freeze drier and it’s worth every cent and far better than I imagined. I love the thing. Run it every day. Start at bout 10 pm so freezing last till 7am and noisy drying part usually ends before bedtime next eve. Funny nobody would consider driving with no spare, but no spare food or water, no problem. Go figure. PS: your site is great Laurie. Thanks again

    1. Thanks for sharing your experience and note on timing, and thank you you for your kind words. I agree – sometimes people’s priorities don’t make a ton of sense, but we live in a world where the supermarket has always been stocked, at least for most people reading this site. Heck, whole meals are just a mouse click away in many areas. Living out in the country and being snowed in on occasion, as well as job loss, have helped me to appreciate a well stocked pantry.

      1. Amen to that William Parker and Laurie Neverman. In 2009 massive ice storms in our neighborhood here in the Ozarks knocked out power for up to a month, now just about everybody in this region keeps at least several weeks of food on hand. We didn’t move here until 2011 but heard so many stories of families caught without enough food and nobody able to reach them due to all the trees down that we’ve made food storage a top priority.

        We just set up our brand new Harvest Right freeze drier and with 16 raised garden beds (4’x8′ each) plus huge berry patches and a fruit orchard we’re gearing up to freeze dry around the clock. The blackberries are going crazy! Zucchini and peppers and beets are already ready to harvest! It’ll be a long summer all right, and if everything goes well we’ll be enjoying our own produce in the middle of winter.

          1. ChrisF, you are a couple months ahead of us. We had been looking at the Harvest Right Freeze Dryers for some time due to the initial cost, but our organic garden was just crazy this year. So we purchased the large stainless unit in August and the power switch has not been turned off yet. If you want the very best nutrition, taste, extended shelf life for family, kids and grandkids…the choice was very clear. Our unit will pay for itself in a year or 2 if you look at the cost of commercially freeze dried food….but the quality of the commercial stuff is not as good as what I’m freeze drying….local grass fed beef roasts, steaks, veg beef soup, free ranges scrambled eggs with our own garden peppers and onions, chicken corn soup from our own meat birds…getting hungry yet?

            Our freeze dryer is awesome…if you are concerned about the best quality food for any real world scenarios – and there are a ton of them, a Harvest Right Freeze Dryer is the clear choice…its all about family priorities.

  131. Hi Laurie. Thank you for the above and the courage to answer a variety of questions. I began this morning with discussing food storage with my sister – for an emergency and even a potential financial crisis that I am convinced will happen. Yes, I thought Y2K would take place. It would have caused issues but entities prepared early enough. Now, that is what I would like to do. I know units can cost a lot of money. I considered what my interests are and that is food value (nutrition) and also taste. Ever eaten C or K rations for any length of time? I have and even MREs get somewhat boring. As you point out, canned foods are less expensive but shelf like is a definite consideration as well as nutrition. It has been pointed out that you need a source of good water to rehydrate. Isn’t that the case with even desiring to drink water in any potential emergency? So, plan for that also. I don’t really know why some are so insistent to argue a point, but I now believe you have answered my concerns. Again, thank you for a well prepared article and planting the idea that I need to seriously consider purchasing a freeze drier for my food storage.

    1. Hi Neil. Glad you found the discussion useful. For my part, even if something huge doesn’t happen, there’s peace of mind in knowing you have food on hand that is good quality and something that you want to eat. I’ve eaten MREs and ration bars. As my nephew would say, “They’ll make a turd”, but eating them for any amount of time would be something I’d do only if I were truly hungry and had no other options.

      I haven’t seen food prices trend down, except for incidental sales here and there. I consider the time, effort and money we put into our food storage to be a worthwhile investment, just like the different options we now have for providing fresh water. We’ll always have a use for both. Before we invested in the freeze dryer, we invested in several different water filtration and purification options, and several water storage options. So far our well water is safe to drink, but many in our area have had their wells contaminated by factory farms.

  132. Hello. Which system, in your expertise, would work better for fruits such as lemons, limes, lychee, pineapple, mango…in other words, tropical fruit…freeze-drying or dehydration?
    Thank you.

    1. Because of the membranes in the citrus and the extremely high sugar content of the other fruits, dehydrating would probably be easier to work with, but patient folks have freeze dried pineapple and mango in small/thin pieces with good results and the taste is amazing.

      1. Thank you. As I’m a total newbie, I think I might try the dehydration first as the overhead is much lower (as per my research). Dehydrated food can also be vacuum-packed with the “oxygen” packets as well, correct?

  133. I would like to know if you have done any research with desserts. I bake certain things every year and sometimes multiple times in a year. I would use a food dehydrator mainly for that, however your posts indicate that sugars do not do well. Just curious as I am a manic baker and using a dehydrator for this purpose would surely lighten my load. Thanks in advance.

    1. Some sugar isn’t a problem, unless there’s a very high amount of sugar. For instance, members of the groups I’m in have done cake, cheesecake and a variety of other baked goods. The consistency isn’t the same after freeze drying – foods become very light and airy – but they are still tasty.

  134. Thank you for the thorough review! I recently started thinking about freeze drying at home because of (my food issues – celiac) and for our cats dietary needs. Just like human food, most commercial pet food makers fill the cans with unnecessary additives like carrageenan, even those marketed as limited ingredient, for sensitive tummies, when it’s a known digestive irritant for people and animals (I’m looking at you Nestle ProNourish for people and Canidae Pure for kitties), I could rant on and on about it, the subject makes me so angry.

    Anyway, like most things, it’s best to do it yourself. After researching grain free raw food diets for cats, I started thinking about dry food, bc the cats like to eat the crunchy stuff every so often too. So I thought freeze drying would do the trick since they love the freeze-dried Halo wild salmon. I looked up commercially produced freeze-dried raw foods and sure enough I was disappointed with everything I found in the ingredient lists. So again, like most things, it’s best to do it yourself.

    I scrolled through some comments (and wow was that Jay guy argumentative, I ran out of steam after that), but I have to agree with the reasons listed for not eating from metal cans, like toxins and other unsavory things packaged up with the food. Not to mention the flavor and mushy texture of canned food, and the fact that most cans inherently are lined with the estrogen disruptor- BPA. That’s another one that gets me fired up, especially for those of us with compromised methylation processes from MTHFR SNP mutations. But that’s another rant… So I’ll skip the Mylar pouches and continue to store my food in glass for ours and our fur babies safety!

    1. Some manufacturers have now replaced BPA – but the jury’s still out on the replacements. Glass jars are fine if you have the storage space and the jars, although I do think that O2 absorbers are a must for longer storage of any meat products. From what we’ve seen, fruits and veggies are more forgiving, but open a jar with any type of meat product and it should be used ASAP.

      It’s so frustrating reading labels nowadays. As you said, even the “good stuff” often has an excess of questionable ingredients.

  135. Another question for you. We have a small home and we’re thinking about putting our freeze dryer in the basement. I was talking to someone and she said it was very loud. Now I’m worried that it will be too loud to sleep. What is your experience?

    1. It is fairly loud – think vacuum cleaner. If there’s a door that can be closed to isolate the sound, it will probably be okay. If it was right under your bedroom, running while you’re trying to sleep, noise baffling might be required.

  136. Hey Laurie,
    That elbow swivel I was talking about goes on 3/4″ hose outlet on unit and points down so large hose connects to unit hanging vertical instead of sticking out and bending, thus taking up less space and probably longer hose life.

    1. Ah – following now, and your emailed photo came through. Most folks add adapters to the pump drain, so that’s where my thoughts jumped right away. Our pump is on the same counter with our freeze dryer, sitting just behind it, so the vacuum hose forms a gentle s-curve – no pinch. We also rearranged the drain hose underneath so it exits out the right side of the unit instead of left. The left side of the unit faces the wall, and everything we need to access is now on the right side.

  137. A little advice that I’m sure Laurie must know because you seem brilliant, yet so nice, is that if you drain any oil into a measuring cup and return the exact amount of new oil to pump, level seems to stay correct thus avoiding any spray mishaps; and also, NAPA Auto Supply sells a 90′ swivel elbow which attaches to hose outlet on unit allowing hose to go straight down instead of sticking out. Thanks.
    Oh, and disregard earlier message. No way I can unsubscribe to this site. Feel guilty using it and not paying for it, it’s that good.