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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?


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


My referral link:

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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  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.)

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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/

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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!


    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.

  14. 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.

    Matt Lim

    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.

  15. 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.”

  16. 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.

  17. 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!!