This article is a part of The Growler’s Outdoor Guide. Find more tips for outdoor adventure and dining here.
Extended camping treks involve a lot of planning, especially when it comes to meals. To punch things up—and not drag down your pack in the process—turn to dehydrated food.
Before you run out to your local outdoor goods store and stock up on vacuum-sealed, off-the-rack bags, consider taking the campsite gourmand approach and prepare your meat and veggies at home in a food dehydrator. Ranging in price from around $60 to upwards of $300, there’s no lack of options; we recommend checking out reviews on websites like Foodal to find your ideal fit.
Vegetables are a great building block for meals. There’s no need to cook most vegetables before drying them. A good rule of thumb: if you’d eat it raw on a salad (think green peppers, onions, and store-bought mushroom varieties), just clean it and chop it. If you’d normally cook it before eating (peas, corn, broccoli), it will usually rehydrate better if steamed for about 8 minutes before dehydrating. Carrots can go either way—consider it a chef’s choice.
Once your veggies are chopped and evenly spread out in the dehydrator, set the timer for 6–8 hours. When they’re dry, let them cool, then pack them into bags. When it comes time to cook at the campsite, add the dehydrated vegetables to simmering water and let them rehydrate back to their original form. Vegetables can be seasoned and eaten as a side, added to a breakfast skillet, or included in a broth while prepping soup.
Any meat (beef, poultry, fish) can also be dehydrated and works equally well as jerky or to rehydrate and cook into a meal. For beef, choose a lean cut and trim off any visible fat or membrane tissues; venison also makes for a fantastic lean red meat. For poultry, remove
skin and bones. Cut the meat into thin strips (about ¼-inch thick) and marinate it for 6–12 hours in the refrigerator. Pre-cook it via roasting or steaming until the inner temperature is between 160–165 degrees Fahrenheit, then rinse it and spread it evenly on dehydrator trays. Dehydrate at 145 degrees for 4–6 hours until hard; it should be dry-leathery or partly brittle when done. Put it into plastic bags and store in a dry, dark place at room temperature.
Some alternative dried goods are best if purchased from a store and can aid in creating easy, flavorful dishes—things like powdered peanut butter, which can be rehydrated for peanut butter or mixed in a dish for a savory addition, and coconut milk powder, which comes in packets at most Asian groceries and is a quick way to sweeten a dish and also serves as the base for a curry. For more traditional soups and stews, try bouillon cubes of any variety.
Recipe for Peanut Coconut Curry
1½ cups water
¼ cup dehydrated onion and pepper combination
⅛ cup dehydrated mushrooms (I prefer crimini)
⅛ cup dehydrated carrots
½ cup of sliced dehydrated red meat (beef or venison are a tasty option)
1 1¾-ounce pouch coconut milk powder
1 tablespoon peanut butter powder
1 tablespoon curry powder, plus more to taste
Heat water to a boil and add onions, peppers, mushrooms, and meat. Let ingredients rehydrate to their original state, about 7–8 minutes. Add curry powder, coconut milk powder, and peanut butter powder and dissolve. When powders are fully incorporated into the mixture, it’s ready to serve.