chicken
Protein is an invaluable source of long term energy in a survival situation or in any situation in which we are called upon to exert more energy than usual (camping, running, etc.) and/or a time when you can’t really cook or want to keep it simple during and emergency…prepackaged dehydrated food is great if you can find it cheaply, but knowing how to properly dehydrate protein NOW, yourself, before something happens is something to learn how to do and after the initial expense of buying a good dehydrator you will wind up saving yourself tons of money, not mention YOU get to control what goes in your food.

Previously I had dehydrated chicken breasts using one of those smaller, cheaper food dehydrators and honestly, after rehydrating and trying to eat it on the go, I thought that perhaps there could be a better, more flavorful way of doing this.

I wound up buying last year an excellent Excalibur Food dehydrator at a good discount from ebay simply because I was becoming frustrated with the limited amount drying space I had with my old round one. It wasn’t very efficient at drying, the middle ring took forever to dry, with the bottom and top ones drying very quickly and uneven drying on all rings so I was constantly moving the food I was drying around and the large slots meant a lot of food fell through as it was drying…nope…I bit the bullet and bought a good, solid Excalibur and I highly recommend that if you are serious about drying foods for storage or use during camping that you get one…well worth the money!

So here we go again on how to dehydrate chicken, while the first article I wrote on dehydrating chicken is a great and simple start to doing so, I have tweaked my technique and have learned a few tips to add to dehydrating your chicken to make your chicken turn out so much more better.

What you will need:
Dehydrator
Chicken (whatever you can lay your hands on cheaply)
Large pot for boiling your chicken
Powdered Seasonings for infusing flavor into the chicken

One thing I have learned since last writing about dehydrating chicken is that DARK MEAT is the best when dehydrating chicken. When you go to rehydrate or eat it like jerky, it rehydrates much more readily which can be important if you are carrying it with you to eat on the run.

I also like to use thigh or leg meat verses the breast…again, just easier to rehydrate. But use what you have, white meat, thigh, breast, leg, whatever, the process drying is the same. My only note on chicken breast is that it rehydrates more slowly and is tougher after rehydrating (not to mention it COSTS more money unless you can get a real deal on it). And don’t forget you can use bone in or bone out.

So, I found on clearance boneless chicken thighs (mostly dark meat) at the local market…spent maybe $2 for the package. If you are using chicken with bones in it, you will just need to spend the time taking the meat off the bone before putting in the dehydrator.

In one large pot I put 12 cups of water, seasonings to taste (I like to use garlic and onion powder with a touch of salt) and put about 1/3 of cup of each into the water. Then in goes the chicken.

At this point I bring the water, seasonings and chicken to a roiling boil and allow it boil itself until done. You will have to gauge for yourself when it is done cooking as boiling/cooking time will depend upon what you are using. To speed up the process of cooking and if you are using chicken breasts, I have found that by cutting up the breast into chunks FIRST (raw) and then cooking saves time and you don’t over cook the thinner chicken.

When the chicken is done cooking you will then need to do one of two things at this point…if you are using chicken that has a bone in it, you will need to get the meat of the bone place the meat on a plate covered with a couple layers of towels.
If you are using boneless meat you may just place the meat on a plate covered with a couple layers of towels.
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FYI: That water you just added spices to and boiled your chicken in? Excellent stock/soup base…don’t throw it away! Extend your money! Can it, freeze it, etc. IF you find yourself without power you have ‘instant’ soup base to rehydrate your chicken in!

Next, you will want to take two more towels, lay them over your meat and press the ‘juice’ out of the meat…this helps to speed up the drying time and keeps the meat from becoming too tough from ‘over dehydrating’ which can easily be done since everything you dehydrate is from the outside in and meat likes to retain its moisture! It wouldn’t to ‘burn’ (over cook so to speak) your meat!

Then allow to cool to room temperature, to speed this up you may place in the refrigerator. I am not sure WHY this helps, but by accident and then by design I have found that this really helps with retaining texture, taste and helps prevent the meat from being tough after rehydration (even with chicken breasts).

After your chicken meat cools off you will need to pull or cut into bite size pieces or whatever size you want. I just like bite size because its faster to dry and easier to rehydrate in your mouth if you want to eat it like that and if using in soups or casseroles you require less water/time to rehydrate (which is important especially if using with noodles or dehydrated veggies which rehydrate faster).

Very lightly spray your trays with an oil (not a lot, just a very, very light coat). This will prevent sticking which is very important if you are using one of the dehydrators that cheaper ones with the big slots. Not so important with an Excalibur as the screen is flexible, but I still spray, makes clean up easier!

Now you are ready to put your chicken pieces on the drying racks…
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At this point, close up your dehydrator…if you have one that allows you to set a temperature on it, you will use 155 degrees temperature setting, if not, just turn it on.
Leave the dehydrator be for at least 3 hours before opening and checking on the chicken. After 3 hours I found mine almost done. You may or may not have the same experience. But if not almost done at this point (and there are many factors that control this) close back up and check again in a couple of hours.

For those with the smaller, cheap dehydrators you may find yourself having to move trays and chicken around to get more even drying. If I am dehydrating A LOT of meat in my Excalibur I wind up moving the racks around once, the top one and bottom one go into the middle and the middle racks go on the top/bottom. But with only 2 racks in I did not have to do this.

IF almost done, shut it down and allow to cool again. I left mine overnight.
The point being is that you will want to shut the dehydrator off when the meat is almost completely dry and allow to cool off.

After cooling off, restart your dehydrator to finish dehydrating. Be careful at this point to check about every half hour so you do not over dehydrate and potentially burn your chicken.

You will know its completely dehydrated when it is no ‘spongy’. I like to ‘sample’ a piece. It will be ‘dry’ and crunchy but easy to chew. Don’t worry if it’s ‘hard’ that happens, but the more you dehydrate meat the better you will get at gauging when its ‘perfect’.

Allow to cool again before packaging by the method you want to do so. If you will be using within the week, ziplock baggies are great…anything longer than a week and you will want to vacuum seal the chicken some how, in a jar or a food saver, though the old timers never did this! For long term storage you will want to remove all the oxygen for best results and longest shelf life. Will store this way for AT LEAST a year, depending upon storage conditions.

Dehydrated properly, chicken (or any meat) is a great way to save money on food storage, make ‘fast food’ meals with little to no mess (one pot! Ever tried cooking after a hurricane? The less ‘pots’ the better!) or it’s a cheap way to make your own camping/bug out food.

My end result:
About 4 cups of protein and weighs in at just over 2 ounces.

To use:
Pretty simple, you can either just munch on it using your own spit to rehydrate it or you can add to water, soups, and so much more! Put together with veggies and noodles in water for a fast meal. Takes about 15 minutes in boiling water to completely rehydrate and heat depending upon the size you make the ‘bites’.

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