Freeze Dried vs. Just Add Water: What are the Differences?

Not all entrees labeled "Freeze Dried" are created equal. Some companies label a "just-add-water" entree as freeze-dried, when in reality it may be only the meat or a vegetable in the product that is freeze-dried, while the rest of the ingredients are simply dehydrated. This does not mean that the product isn't good, but it is an example of less-than-honest advertising. It would be something like labeling a gelatin dessert as a "fresh fruit" product because it contains a little powdered lime juice along with all the sugar, gelatin, and so forth.

A true freeze-dried entree is prepared from fresh ingredients just as you would do in your own kitchen, and then the whole cooked entree is freeze-dried. The freeze-drying process involves flash-freezing the food, then placing it in a vacuum chamber in which 98 percent of the moisture is removed by evaporating the ice without returning it to a liquid form. The resulting product retains most of the shape, color, flavor, and nutrients of fresh foods. All you need to do to reconstitute it is to add water; you don't need to mix or stir the product before rehydrating. Examples of freeze-dried entrees include Mountain House's Lasagna With Meat Sauce, Chicken a La King, Beef Stew, and Beef Stroganoff.

There are also many wholesome, quality products labeled "Just Add Water," such as the Provident Pantry line, which may contain one or two freeze-dried components, but also dehydrated vegetables, noodles, or sauce mix. Provident Pantry's Teriyaki Noodles with Beef and Fettuccine Alfredo with Chicken are examples of entrees with freeze-dried and dehydrated ingredients. The instructions will advise you to mix contents well prior to rehydrating.

The shelf life of freeze-dried and dehydrated products is similar, and both types of entrees have great flavor. Mountain House products are gourmet, easy-to-prepare meals, popular for their great flavor, convenience, and storage capabilities. A few Mountain House products are primarily dehydrated, though they may contain some freeze-dried ingredients. Examples of these include their Blueberry Cheesecake, Raspberry Crumble, Granola with Milk and Blueberries, Wild Rice Pilaf, Pilot Crackers, and Creamed Beef.

In our Emergency Essentials catalog, each item that is truly freeze-dried is clearly labeled with the words "Freeze Dried" or with red initials "FD" before the name. Those without this label are dehydrated or a mix of dehydrated and freeze-dried ingredients. We suggest you store both types of entrees for variety and economy. Dehydrated entrees are able to pack in more calories per can with a better price-per-serving ratio, so they are a good fit for those who are working with a smaller budget.

The main consideration for you, the customer, is to be sure you're not paying "Freeze-Dried" prices for dehydrated foods! Freeze-dried entrees are a little more expensive because of the extra steps they go through and the expensive equipment needed to carry out the freeze-drying process. For more information, see Emergency Essential's article "15 Tips for Shopping for Food Storage" on the company website, beprepared.com.

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This article is sponsored by Emergency Essentials.
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