How to Prepare Freeze Dried and Dehydrated Foods

There are two basic types of storable food:

1) Dehydrated
2) Freeze Dried

To read about the differences between dehydrated and freeze dried food, please read our Dehydrated vs. Freeze Dried Food page. This page contains some of the same information, but with an emphasis on food preparation (cooking).

Dehydrated food is the same "dried" food found in the supermarket, but packaged correctly and in larger sizes with our product lines. Unlike supermarket food, the shelf life of our dehydrated food will be substantially longer because of air-tight packaging, but it is the same food (and we have a far bigger selection of products that cannot be found in any store or supermarket).

Freeze dried food is pre-cooked, pre-seasoned and contains additional ingredents (such as rice or noodles, read the labels) to make a meal (exceptions being freeze dried fruit and meat, these are single-ingredient products). Most freeze dried foods are "entrees" (full meals) and need nothing but hot water to prepare.

There is also now a third type of storable food:

3) Canned Meat

Survival Cave makes the ONLY meat with a 15 year shelf life. It's wet-packed, and already cooked in the can at low temperatures. It is safe to eat right out of the can (but heat it up, it tastes better). Meat can be added to any dish (stroganoff, enchiladas, tacos, burritos (yes, I like Mexican food), hamburgers, or used as a topping / side dish on rice, potatoes, noodles, gravy, etc. We carry all of these products making it pretty easy to make great meals.


Both food types are prepared in similiar ways. Both require hot water for rehydration. Hot water can be readily prepared using a variety of methods. Using a stove top, microwave, or if the power is out a wood stove such as the Kelly Kettle (burns twigs). There are also propane camping stoves, barbeques, firepits, etc. Basically any usable method for creating heat and raising the temperature of a pot of water. We really like the Kelly Kettle (it's very fast).

Canned meat from Survival Cave is already pre-cooked and really needs nothing added to it. You can eat it "cold" but it's much better warmed up. Add it to any dish while preparing and that'll do the trick.

How Much Water?

Not much. Depending on the size of the portion(s) you are making, it's about 1 cup per person per serving (averaged). Some products use less (like baking mixes, pancakes, bread, etc. which use cold water and very little).

Some products like beans or rice will be boiled in extra water, because the cooking time will evaporate some of the water.

Each product contains preparation instructions on the label indicating how much water is needed.

Some products can be eaten directly from the package, no water needed. This would be all of the freeze dried fruits (all brands) and the Mountain House Ice Cream.

How Much Food?

Read the labels, as serving size does vary a bit depending on the food product. Measure out the serving size per person in a measuring cup. It's often a 1/4 cup or 1/2 cup, or sometimes 1 cup per serving. Put this into the correct amount of boiling water (dehydrated food).

For freeze dried food, read the label. Pouches are super easy - dump in the correct amount of hot water (usually about 1 cup) and stir and let this rehydrated completely. If you don't want to prepare the entire pouch, take out half, saving it for later, and cook the rest in a pot.

Food serving size and the number of people you are preparing for can vary, but it's pretty easy to do. Each product label (far too many to list here) tells you the serving size per serving. Multiply this by the number of mouths you're feeding. Do this for each product being prepared. Now, make enough hot water for all the products being prepared. If needed, use seperate pots to keep ingredients seperate (such as a side dish of rice or potatoes). Add in each ingredient and stir, cooking each for the appropriate time.

How Long Does It Take To Cook?

Cooking time varies from product to product. Dehydrated Spaghetti (which is the same thing as dried spaghetti - "dehydrated" simply means "dry" or "dried") for example, should be boiled until soft. Your elevation will determine how long it takes to boil a pot of water, higher elevations (usually over 5,000 ft) take longer to boil than lower elevations.

Cooking time can be from a few minutes to 20 or 30 minutes. Hard grains and legumes can take 45 minutes of boil time. This can be improved (shortened) by using a pressure cooker. There is also a technique called "Thermos cooking" where you dump in your dried food, add boiling water and forget about it for a few hours. The food rehydrates and cooks inside the Thermos.

Rehydration both cooks the product (softening it from it's dry brittle state) and rehydrates the food (water is absorbed). This is essential for palatability and consumption. Dried food CAN be eaten "as is", but you won't like it much. You can also rehdyrate using cold water, but it takes longer (up to several hours). We recommend using hot water, except for dried fruit (which can be eaten dry or rehydrated if desired) or the "bread" mixes (biscuits, pancakes, muffins, puddings, bread) which only require a little cold water (hot water not needed).

Dehydrated food cooks in the same time as the dried food from the supermarket, so if you have any experience with dry, boxed or bagged food from the store, it's the same cooking time.

Freeze Dried Food Cooking

Freeze dried food doesn't "cook" - it has already been pre-cooked and then freeze dried. Hot water is used to rehydrated the product and it should be left in the hot water to rehydrate fully.

We've found that 15 mintues is better then the suggested 10 minutes on the product label. The big advantage here with freeze dried food is it's already cooked - and it's already been seasoned (for entree meals) and it contains additional ingredients for a complete meal (exceptions being freeze dried fruit, whcih is just fruit). Add 1 cup of hot water (on average, read the label) for 1 cup of food for 1 serving. Easy as pie. Stir and wait 15 mintues, stirring once more. Oh, don't forget to remove the oxygen absorber before adding water.

Ingredients & Preparation

Dehydrated food is "single-ingredient" in most, but not all cases. Exceptions are dinner mixes and soup mixes, they are "complete", requiring no seasoning or additional food items (some bread products do require a little yeast). All the other foods are single-ingredients. They also the healthiest way to eat - you can add your preferred choice of seasonings or additional ingredients according to your dietary needs.

We do recommend using seasoning. I salt nothing these days, finding seasoning all I need to get the taste and flavor I like. Pepper, salt, garlic, cheese, salsa - use anything you like.

We have found that the Rainy Day line of dehydrated food meets over 50% of our food needs week by week. Meals are prepared from our huge variety, selecting from staples (beans, grains, potatoes, pasta) to dairy (milk, eggs, cheese). Individual foods are selected depending on what meal is being prepared. For simple preparation, the pre-mixed dinner meals are great. We add condiments (olives, sauces, etc.) and (sometimes) side dishes (like vegetables from the garden). But if we are only using dehydrated stored foods, then that's perfectly possible too. The Rainy Day line contains almost everything you'd need, including dried vegetables, soup, stews, bread and flour (including mixes) and meat.

Dehydrated foods can be substituted in any recipe that calls for fresh food. This is a very common technique used in cooking and resteraunts. Everyone has actually eaten a ton of dehydrated food but many never even realized it. The dehydrated ingredients can be added to anything.

Use a cookbook if you need to. Recipes are "easy" when using a cook book. If you have enough variety in your food storage, almost everything you will need will be there in your pantry. I've found that I also need oil, condiments, spices, syrup, jelly, olives, etc. Some of these I make myself.

Freeze dried food is even easier. Entrees already contains all the ingredients needed for a meal. Pick any entree - add water - dinner (or breakfast or lunch) is done! This is the biggest advantage of freeze dried, all the work has been done for you. No need to pick out anything else - but you can if you want to. Freeze dried vegetables, side dishes like rice and potatoes, meat (ham, beef, turkey, chicken) and desserts are available.

Which Do You Prefer?

Both actually. Sometimes I don't have time to help with the cooking. I never get lunch, and I can squeeze in a boiled pot of water and lunch entree easy enough. Weekends are just as busy (despite our hours saying Monday - Friday, I never get a day off). So depending on the "cooks" available and time - we use both products extensively. I love to eat healthy, so Rainy Day it is. But I also like the taste and convienence of freeze dried entrees.

I actually do recommend both if you can afford it. Freeze dried does cost a lot more, and Rainy Day dehdyrated products are a lot less. Both store very well. Having both does allow for a greater variety too (food fatigue is a real issue to address, so mix it up).

Do read "What Should I Buy" for more information on this point. Short version: buy what YOU eat - not what some salesman is trying to "sell" you. I never make a point to "sell" anything. Your diet is up to you. You know what you like - and what you don't like. What do you eat now?