History of Food Preservation- Drying and Dehydrating Food

We owe our inquisitive readers, desirous of reading food dehydrator reviews or dehydrator reviews, in an attempt to find their best food dehydrator, an article on drying and dehydrating food, their past history, different methods used in the preservation of food from the primitive to the modern age. For the most part survival was the root cause of drying food. Proverb goes, “Necessity is the mother of invention”. Primitive people needed to preserve surplus food against rainy days. Foods and climatic conditions varied from region to region and so did preservation methods. Depending upon their food type and climate, they had to figure out different methods to preserve their foods.food preservation

Drying and dehydrating food

Drying and dehydrating food are synonymous to many, but food and nutrition experts see a subtle difference between the two terms. To them, drying food is a natural process like sun-drying while dehydrating food is an artificial way of drying food like using food dehydrators or other means. However, people have been preserving food since time immemorial by one means or another, that’s for sure. We will see below the different means and methods people have used in drying and dehydrating food with the passage of time.

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Drying Method

We will find no culture or generation of people that didn’t dry food for the sake of their survival. Of course, they didn’t apply the same method for drying food. Studies reveal that ancient Middle Easterners and people from the Orient sun-dried their food for preservation purposes as early as 12,000 BC. Cultures depending upon their availability of food items dried fruits and vegetables to fish and meat, Studies reveal. They also used salting and smoking method for the preservation of raw fish and meat. Centuries back Near Easterners sand- dried fruits having them wrapped with dried palm leaves. Peruvian Indians air-dried potatoes after freezing them overnight. More than a century ago people in the Arctic region preserved their walrus meat using a freeze-drying method. Native Indians in the USA dried their vegetables, fish, and meat using smoke.

Canning Method

Canning is a food preservation process that suggests preservation of food in cans or jars and a use of high heat to it in order to kill the harmful microorganisms responsible for the spoilage of food.

Nicolas Appert, a French confectioner figured out first in the 1790s that food can be prevented from being spoiled if it is exposed to heat and preserved in glass bottles. Nicolas’s theory was successfully experimented by the French Navy in 1806 when they were able to can foods like vegetables, fruits, and meat etc. Peter Durand, an English merchant introduced tin cans in 1810 following Nicolas’s ideas and received a patent from King George the third of England on August 25, 1810, Wikipedia.

dehydrating food


Freezing Method

Primitive people preserved meat in ice caves. Cellars and cool streams were also used for this purpose. Modern freezing method or process is more recent as compared to canning of food. Commercial freezing was not introduced until 1842 though freezing as a preservation method was revolutionized with mechanical refrigeration in the latter part of the nineteenth century. Freezing cannot destroy all the microorganisms in food. It can stop them from multiplying.Refrigeration is an expensive process compared to canning though it is a widely used method.

Freeze-drying Method

Freeze-dried food is as good as dehydrated food. They are light-weight and convenient for storage and easily portable. Refrigeration is not required but rehydration is necessary for consumption. It is freezing and dehydration combined. Previously frozen food stored in a vacuum-tight place and dehydrated by applying appropriate heat in a vacuum condition is what makes this method different from other methods.

Fermenting Method

As a food preservation method, fermentation was great. Fermentation could make delicious and wholesome foods with minimal ingredients alongside preserving foods. Microorganisms playing a role in this process are capable of producing vitamins. According to some anthropologists, the fermentation process dates back to 10,000 BC as the nomadic people turned into farmers to produce barley to make beer through the fermentation process.

Pickling Method

food preservation


Preserving foods in vinegar or a similar acidic substance is pickling. The idea of pickling supposedly came into being after the food was put into beer or wine for the purpose of preservation as both contain a low pH. Non-metallic containers like glass or stoneware were used to do that as the acidic substance would leach out some of the metal if a metal container were used to do the job. The Romans perhaps used this pickling method a lot. A wide variety of food preservation methods were exercised in the sixteenth century Europe with the advent of a great variety of food there. An example can be Ketchup. It made its journey all the way from the Orient to the Europe and later on to the USA. Interestingly, it was modified there by adding sugar to it as we find it today.


Drying and dehydrating food didn’t mean simply a food preservation method to our ancestors. Some anthropologists and historians opine that preserving food meant more than survival to them. They believe primitive people required preserved foods like dried meat, fruits, and vegetables for certain rituals as part of their heritage.

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