I have been dehydrating meals for a few years now for all my camping and backpacking trips, including the Lost Coast Trail backpacking and Haleakala backpacking. The whole process seems complicated, but once you try, just like anything else, you’ll find that it is rather simple. For whatever reason you decide to dehydrate your meals, in the long run this is the best way to enjoy your own food out in the wilderness. And I’d like to show you how to dehydrate spaghetti in this post.
There may be a few other ways to dehydrate meals that I am not aware of, but earlier on I decided to dehydrate my spaghetti the most convenient way possible, so I chose the most conventional way – using a consumer level dehydrator. And this is my how to dehydrate spaghetti using my Nesco dehydrator.
ITEMS YOU NEED
- Vacuum sealer
- Vacuum sealer bags
- Digital scale (if you want to weigh each pack)
MY HOW TO DEHYDRATE SPAGHETTI
I started dehydrating spaghetti 4 years ago soon after my first backpacking trip to the Ansel Adams Wilderness. We camped at Coldwater Campground for one night and by Thousand Island Lake for another. It was just wonderful.
But I didn’t necessarily find that having those packaged dehydrated meals was the best way to enjoy food out in the wilderness.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I want to make and dehydrate everything that I eat. I always bring Clif Bars – Sierra Trail Mix and Nature Valley granola bars with me to hiking, camping and backpacking.
But, when I didn’t know anything about how to dehydrate spaghetti, as a newbie to backpacking, like any newbie would, at first I looked at the variety of brands available in the shelves at REI, wondering which flavor would taste best. I eventually decided on Mountain House, one of the most popular brands and I believe that I picked Mountain House, Spaghetti with meat sauce (230 calories, 4.5 ounces).
It was not bad, but as you would expect, it was not the best meal I’d ever had. Of course, there were and still are organic meals available, too, although, how tasty they would’ve been or are is up to individuals.
Dehydrating spaghetti was one of those things that I wanted to try out. Of course, not everyone is into dehydrating their own meals because they believe that it is too much work. To a degree, I understand. Personally, I just liked the process.
And I am not going to deny that I liked the prospect of saving more this way in the long run. But if you have another way to save more, that’s great too.
HOW TO DEHYDRATE SPAGHETTI – STEP 1
The first step to how to dehydrate spaghetti is of course you make your spaghetti as usual.
Some separate noodles and sauce from meat when dehydrating because the meat takes longer to dehydrate. It is up to you, but I like mine all mixed. By separating those, it seems like there’s more work involved when you’re out in the wilderness. When they’re already mixed, all I have to do is just pour boiling hot water into it.
Note: You can dehydrate them on separate trays but together and then mix them when they’re completely dehydrated.
If you are vegetarian, obviously you would not separate anything. I do not eat meat a lot, but since I know they are the meals that I would have for protein and calorie intake in the wilderness, I tend to use ground beef. I’ve dehydrated chicken as well, but chicken doesn’t necessarily help speed up the overall dehydrating time.
With no meat, it would take a lot less time.
HOW TO DEHYDRATE SPAGHETTI – STEP 2
My dehydrator has 7 trays in total. While doing research on how to dehydrate spaghetti, as you may find out that it is cheaper to buy these trays together with your dehydrator than separately, AND that you would need many trays if you would like to dehydrate a huge batch at once.
Note: Please, keep in mind that the more trays of food to dehydrate there are, the longer it takes. In the end though various factors will determine how long it actually takes to finish dehydrating.
There are two types of sheets commonly used. One is fruit roll-up sheets and the other is screens.
As you guessed, food with liquid would be put on the first. Such as spaghetti. You would also want to use fruit roll-up sheets to dehydrate beef jerky or blended fruit juice to make fruit roll-ups.
If you want to dehydrate fruits, like blueberries, strawberries, and/or banana or apple slices, you want to use screens.
Note: One of the best ways to dehydrate your fruits with skin, such as blueberries, is to buy frozen fruits. Blueberries have thick skin, so it takes longer to suck moisture out of them. Dehydrating the frozen ones helps reduce the time.
Obviously the more sheets and screens you have along with more trays, the longer it would take to dehydrate. However, it’d be over at once.
Place your fruit roll-up sheets in the trays.
I use a Nesco Gardenmaster. There are a few different brands and models that also work well. At the time of doing research on how to dehydrate spaghetti, I found that this particular model was most cost effective for the number of trays that I would get. And also I liked the fact that I could easily expand it.
Excalibur, such as this model, is another popular brand. You want to do research, based on your own needs, such as;
- how often you would dehydrate
- what type of food you want to dehydrate
- how much you want to dehydrate each time
- what your budget is, etc.
HOW TO DEHYDRATE SPAGHETTI – STEP 3
In this case, I ended up using 4 trays.
Make sure that the spaghetti is laid down on the sheets as thinly and evenly as possible.
And when you spot bigger bits of meat, you want to break them.
Do your best to keep them in all similar sizes.
Once you’re done, it’s ready to cover the lid!
HOW TO DEHYDRATE SPAGHETTI – STEP 4
Once you’re ready to go, you make sure that it gets dehydrated in the right temperature.
For most of food, like fruits, veggies and noodles, it is good to dehydrate them at a temperature of 130 °F.
But if you are to dehydrate meat, like I did here, you want to keep it at a temperature of minimum 155 °F. The same idea applies when you dehydrate beef jerky. You do not want to have any bacteria that may remain in the meat.
I kept the temperature at 160 °F.
HOW TO DEHYDRATE SPAGHETTI – STEP 5
Depending on how much spaghetti you lay on each roll-up sheet and how many trays you end up stacking up, the length of time will vary. Also, the amount of meat in the spaghetti will make a difference in time.
Typically it takes between 8 and 14 hours. Of course, if you are to dehydrate just fruits (and less trays of them), it would take a lot less. When I dehydrate 6 trays of apple slices, it usually takes 6-8 hours.
It seems like a long time, but technically all you have to do is prepping. Once laying down spaghetti on the fruit roll-up sheets, you just leave the dehydrator on as long as it needs to be on, and you can literally forget about it. You use a timer to remind yourself.
Note: There are models with a timer feature that automatically turns itself off when it’s done within the time that you would set. It is convenient when you have to step outside around the time when it’s supposed to be done. Excalibur 3926TB Food Dehydrator is a good model to start your research on if you think that it is an important feature.
HOW TO DEHYDRATE SPAGHETTI – STEP 6
After 10 1/2 hours, my spaghetti was completely dehydrated. Because I was around a bit, I did move the upper trays down to the bottom a couple of times, since, as you guessed it, the fan is at the bottom of the dehydrator. And I also checked if the meat was properly dried by breaking them.
How you can tell if your spaghetti is completely dehydrated is by checking how easily they break.
The noodles are supposed to break like ramen noodles. If they bend instead of break as you add a force to break, that obviously means it’s not ready.
The meat is supposed to break like completely dried sand stones. When they’re broken, they should not have any moist remaining inside. If so, you must keep dehydrating them till it won’t.
HOW TO DEHYDRATE SPAGHETTI – STEP 7
Once you’re done, it’s time to vacuum seal your dehydrated spaghetti.
I use a FoodSaver Vacuum Sealing System. It’s great. If you want another brand, Nesco also has vacuum sealers too, but when I was doing research, FoodSaver stood out for me. I encourage you to do research according to your own needs and budget.
And I use Vac-Fresh Rolls when I need a refill.
Here’s a thing that what many dehydrating food blog pages, websites and YouTube videos don’t cover (or at least, that is the impression I got at the time of research anyway). These vacuum seal bags/saver rollers tend to be punctured easily. Particularly with spaghetti noodles that have sharp edges, you will see that more often.
And I must say that quality has nothing to do with a brand name. Whether it is FoodSaver brand vacuum sealer bags or Vac-Fresh Rolls, in my case, they both got punctured, which meant I had to re-vacuum seal them.
So, after several punctures, I started double bagging it before vacuum sealing it. And my choice has been ZipLock Quart Freezer Bags. Its durability is the reason why I use them while rehydrating the spaghetti.
As I demonstrated in the Chilao Campground camping post, all I do is pour boiling hot water into the spaghetti. I borrowed this idea from a good hiking friend of mine with whom I backpacked Havasupai Falls over two years ago.
I recycle one of the Mountain House plastic pouches that I purchased a long time ago, and this pouch would hold the freezer bag inside. And that freezer bag contains my dehydrated spaghetti. I pour hot water into it, close the pouch and let it sit for up to 10 minutes. Then, it is ready to eat.
Once I am done with the meal, I simply remove the freezer bag out of the pouch. No washing or cleaning involved. All I have to do is clean my spoon.
Whatever choice of your vacuum sealer, you follow the instructions to vacuum seal each bag.
Once the air was sucked out of the bag, it looks like this.
Each pack of dehydrated spaghetti weighs about 5 ounces on my EatSmart digital scale. Whatever amount you would like to vacuum seal, it is up to you.
Once it’s vacuum sealed, you would want to label them;
- what it is
- how much it weighs
- when it was dehydrated
Because once you’re done vacuum sealing all the pouches, you will toss them in the freezer and forget about them till your next trip. So, it is important to label them right then there with a Sharpie.
I ended up with a batch of 6 pouches.
They’re supposed to last several years in the freezer unchanged in quality. According to ReadyStore, it’d last for 15-20 years. Since it was meant for the shelf life of commercially available products, I’d guess a lot less for homemade, but I read somewhere that it was fine after 3 years.
THINGS TO CONSIDER
I am going backpacking in the Sierra Nevada for multiple days in August, and I have to carry all of it in my BearVault BV500 Bear Proof Container Bear Vault (2 lbs. 9 oz.), so it is critical to have a balance between the weight of the food I end up carrying in my backpack and the amount of calories I take in per day.
A multitude of factors is usually considered to know how many calories one ends up burning while backpacking, such as body weight, pack weight, elevation gain/loss, terrain, etc., but a rule of thumb is 25-30 calories per pound of body weight.
Since I weigh 149-153 pounds, if I say, 151 pounds is my average weight, I need 3,775-4,530 calories. But, of course, once again, it all depends on many factors.
It varies, but usually 140g (just under 5 ounces) of cooked spaghetti without meat provides roughly 220 calories.
Also, 1 pound of ground beef, 70% lean meat/30% fat, provides about 1,500 calories. Since I used 1.5 pounds, we’re looking at 2,250 calories in this batch. Divided by 6 equals 375 calories.
Note: 1 pound of chicken breast meat has about 500 calories.
[REVISE: 4/30/2016] Please, note that I had no intention of communicating that water adds calories when this post was originally published. You can weigh whatever amount that would serve you in advance to check what the amount of the calorie intake is.
I didn’t check how much each pouch of spaghetti would weigh before the dehydration.
When I add water, the spaghetti alone would weigh about 7 ounces, which translates into about 300 calories. Based on my past experience, it weighed 7-8 ounces when it was fully rehydrated. Combined with the calories of the ground beef, I estimate under or about 700 calories.
And to that, I add 1 ounce (5 tablespoons) of grated Parmesan Cheese, which has about 110 calories. So, in total, I’ll end up with about 800 calories per dinner. And I am going to add about 300 calorie worth of dessert, such as cookies.
Compared to the Mountain House Spaghetti with Meat Sauce, which I mentioned earlier, mine has at least 450 more calories for the extra 0.5 ounce in weight.
Of course, it is not that simple. Freeze drying meals (Mountain House and such) contains less moisture (only 1-2%), vs. home dehydrated food (about 10%), which results in a longer shelf life. Also, many point out that home dehydrated food lose Vitamins A and C and such, compared to freeze drying meals.
However, if it is only for a short period of time, and if I am going to be outside in the wilderness, I’ll definitely take mine over the packaged meals without thinking twice about it.
Plan it according to your needs and the amount of calorie intake per day, so that you can always enjoy tasty homemade spaghetti in the wilderness.
ONE MORE THING
After finishing writing a draft of this post, I dehydrated another batch of spaghetti. So, I decided to add it here. This time, I used 100% Whole Grain Rotini and Whole Wheat Penne Rigate.
After 12 1/2 hours.
A total of 6 trays of spaghetti with Rotini and Penne Rigate mixed.
I ended up with 7 pouches in total and each pouch weighs about 5.7 oz
The short video above shows how you know that your spaghetti is completely dehydrated.
Now it’s time for you to give it a try. Let me know how it goes. If you already regularly dehydrate your meals, what do you dehydrate? How often do you dehydrate your meals? If you simply buy readymade freeze drying meals, do you have favorite brands and/or flavors?
Thanks for reading.