10 Common Freeze Drying Mistakes We All Make When Harvesting (2023)

It happens to all of us... a freeze-drying failure. Mine was pineapple juice all over the inside of my Harvest Right. It took me over an hour to get the sticky mess out of my machine. It was almost enough to make me give up and sell my freeze dryer. After all, buying a Harvest Right is scary enough without trying to figure out what not to do! That's why I decided to help you avoid some of the most common mistakes I've seen people make when freeze drying food. And hopefully it will help you love freeze-drying.

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Freeze-dried foods: what to do and what not to do

After the pineapple juice fiasco, we learned very quickly that there are some foods that simply shouldn't be freeze-dried at Harvest Right. (And that we should dilute the sugary liquid with water).

Reading the manuals that came with your freeze dryer is an absolute must! After all, you've invested a lot of money into this appliance, you really should know how to keep it working properly. I learned some really great tips and tricks that will help you succeed in your freeze-drying adventure.

(Video) 10 Reasons to Freeze Dry Food: Harvest Right Freeze Dryer for Long-Term Emergency Food Storage

Don't overload your freeze dryer

  • Putting too much food on your trays can cause uneven processing of your food. Try to keep food below the top edge of your trays.
  • Keep the weight of the food you are processing at the right amount for your harvest. Small: 4-7 pounds. Medium: 7-10 pounds. and large: 12-16 lbs. per batch. This will keep your machine working properly and ensure your batch is completely freeze-dried. It also prevents the accumulation of ice inside the drum, which can prolong the freeze-drying time.
  • Distribute the weight of your batch evenly across multiple pans.

Try not to freeze-dry foods with a strong odor/taste in the same batch

Unless you like your strawberries to taste like curry, it's a good idea to try to keep foods that smell and taste similar together in the same batch. Watch my video below to learn more about why it's a good idea to try to keep certain foods separate.

Freeze smaller, more uniform pieces of food

  • Always make sure your food is in small, even pieces for the most consistent results. Very large pieces take longer to freeze-dry, and if the pieces are not even, you have some food that has not been fully processed.
  • Cut the meat into thin slices, cubes or shred.
  • Pierce or slice unpeeled vegetables and fruits. This ensures that your freeze dryer can remove all of the water.

Foods that are not freeze-dried

Fatty foods don't freeze well. If freeze-drying high-fat meats such as sausages; always cook first, drain off any extra fat, then pat dry with a paper towel before processing. Below is a list of high-fat foods that are not freeze-dried.

  • Peanut butter/nut butter
  • Chocolate
  • Butter
  • Lard

High-sugar foods also don't freeze-dry well. Any syrupy or sugary concentrated liquid will be a disaster. That's why my pineapple juice exploded inside Harvest Right. He could have softened and been more successful. Sweets seem to be fine (certain sweets). I think it's because it actually has less sugar than some juices and it's in solid form. Below are some do's and don'ts when it comes to sugary foods.

(Video) Freeze Dryer Vacuum Error Troubleshooting -- SOLVED!

  • Mel
  • concentrated juices
  • Siropes
  • jams / jellies

Freeze dried raw food warning

10 Common Freeze Drying Mistakes We All Make When Harvesting (1)

One thing to always remember when using your Harvest Right is that it should be used like any other device you own. You should use the same safety and cooking practices as you would in any other situation. One important point to remember is that raw meats and eggs should not be mixed with other foods. Here are some good tips to follow when freeze-drying raw animal products.

  • Lyophilization does not kill bacteria. So what goes in comes out.
  • Keep your trays hygienic. Clean after each use. But be especially careful with trays that contained raw eggs or meat.
  • Always label your bags or jars to indicate the item is uncooked.
  • When rehydrating raw produce, DO NOT use hot water! It is best to rehydrate with cold water in the refrigerator and then cook as normal, following normal safe cooking procedures and temperatures.

Clean your freeze dryer regularly

  • Clean the inside of your freeze dryer with a damp cloth and mild soap. Remove the shelf and do the same. Dry it with a soft cloth. Make sure parts are dry and reassemble.
  • DO NOT use a brush, sponge or abrasive cleaner. This could jeopardize your right to harvest.
  • Clean the outside the same way you clean the inside.
  • If your freeze dryer has a lingering odor from one of your batches, use a vinegar, lemon, and water solution and spray the interior and shelf. Clean immediately with a soft cloth. You can also run a batch of bread through the freeze dryer like you did when you bought it to help absorb any additional odors.

Make sure your right to harvest is in a good location

Having your freeze dryer installed in a good location is very important to ensure you get the best freeze drying times and keep your machine working properly. I'm sure you don't like to work too hard when it's too hot, nor your proper harvest. It's best to follow these tips to ensure you get the most out of your appliance.

  • Install your Harvest Right in a cool, low-humidity location. If temperatures fluctuate too much, your freeze dryer will have to work harder and your batches will take longer to process.
  • It's best to have your freeze dryer in a location away from the main room if possible. This thing is LOUD trust me we had to have ours in our dining room and it wasn't fun. Now we have ours in the basement and it's much easier to live with.
  • Make sure there is enough airflow around the freeze dryer, especially the vacuum pump. We actually had a fan setup hooked up to our vacuum pump to keep it cool.

Vacuum pump maintenance for correct harvesting

It is very important that you keep your vacuum pump in good working order and that means changing the oil. It really isn't that difficult. I'm the one who keeps our harvest right and I'd say I change my pump oil more than we change the oil in our car. (I take my car to change the oil).

  • Make sure the oil is at the correct level in the indicator window before starting a new batch.
  • Check to see if it's cloudy or has food particles. If this happens, it's definitely time for an oil change.
  • Use only approved oil in your vacuum pump.This is the oil I useWith great success, Harvest Right used to ship this brand with their freeze dryers.
  • I always filter my oil and pour it into a separate container so I know which oil to use first.

Always use the correct setting to freeze-dry your foods

10 Common Freeze Drying Mistakes We All Make When Harvesting (2)
(Video) HARVESTRIGHT FREEZE DRYER HACKS Vol. 4- The Accessories You Need For your Freeze Dryer!

It is very important that you use the correct settings when processing a batch of foods in your freeze dryer. Using the correct settings ensures that your food is completely freeze-dried and that your machine is not working harder than it should.

  • If you pre-freeze your food, be sure to press the pre-freeze button so your freeze dryer reaches the proper temperature. Once the pre-freezing process is complete, Harvest Right will prompt you to add your food. Keep the food in the freezer until it's time to add it to the freeze dryer. This is important so the food doesn't get too hot.
  • If you are making a liquid batch, be sure to press the liquid button when prompted. You can mix many. And I always choose the liquid button if I have liquids mixed with solids because liquids take longer to process.
  • In my opinion, pre-freezing is the way to go because it reduces processing times. If you have freezer space, I recommend pre-freezing your batches.

Should you bleach your products before freeze-drying them?

I always recommend blanching certain foods before freeze drying. Think of it the same way you would homemade preserves. Blanching helps give food the right texture and color when you cook the food later. It works the same way with freeze-drying. Here are some of the foods I recommend blanching before putting them in your Harvest Right.

  • daddies
  • carrots
  • beans
  • asparagus
  • Parsnips

Additional tip for freeze-dried foods

When you are freeze-drying certain fruits, they may turn brown either before or during the process. Apples, peaches, nectarines, etc... have a tendency to oxidize. You can avoid this by spraying them with some lemon water. This will keep these fruits looking fresh when they are done freeze drying.

Preventing food freeze-drying failures

I hope you enjoyed learning how to avoid freezing failures on your Harvest Right. If you follow my advice, you can avoid the same fate I met with the pineapple juice disaster that had me cleaning my freeze dryer until the wee hours of the morning. The only way to describe it is like pineapple boogers exploded from the inside of my Harvest Right.

If you're still not sure if a Harvest Right is the right choice for long-term food storage for your family, check out my other post:9 Reasons Why You Should Consider Buying a Freeze Dryer

(Video) Harvest Right Vacuum Error! What to do when your freeze dryer doesn't work!

I would love for you to leave a comment below about what you would like to know before purchasing a Harvest Right or what your worst freeze-drying failure has been. Happy freeze-drying!


Why is my harvest right freeze dryer not getting cold enough? ›

If you get the message again (Not Getting Cold Enough), the system may have a Refrigerant Problem. It is possible that there is not the proper amount of refrigerant in the condenser. There may be a leak.

What are the drawbacks of freeze-drying? ›

  • Water required for reconstitution (except for simple snacks)
  • Slow process — average cycle is 24+ hours.
  • Some dislike the dry, styrofoam texture.
  • Not all foods can be freeze dried.
  • Airtight containers are required for long-term storage.
  • No space savings — the food's cellular structure is mostly retained.

Can you get botulism from freeze dried food? ›

When you freeze dry instead of can, there is no risk of botulism in your food. In fact, properly packaged freeze dried food will last for 15 to 25 years without risk of deterioration or disease. Changes in Taste, Texture, and Appearance When food is canned, it typically changes the texture from crisp to mushy.

What are the 3 main steps involved in freeze-drying? ›

Stages of Freeze Drying

There are three stages in the lyophilization process: Pre-freezing, primary drying, and secondary drying.

What temperature should I harvest right? ›

Raw or cooked foods are placed in the freeze dryer where they are frozen to between -30 degrees and -50 degrees Fahrenheit. 2. Once frozen, the freeze dryer creates a vacuum in the food chamber. 3.

How do you improve freeze-drying? ›

Increasing the amount of the sample that is in contact with the glass sides of the flask, will increase the heat transferred to the sample and will result in a faster lyophilization rate. Room temperature variances will certainly affect the required length of time to freeze dry.

Can bacteria survive freeze-drying? ›

The answer is no. Freeze drying does not kill bacteria; however, it slows down or inhibits their growth by removing water.

Can you freeze dry raw meat? ›

Meats (raw and cooked)

Meat is quite easy to freeze dry. It doesn't take long, and it turns out great. It doesn't matter whether the meat has been cooked or is raw, just place thick or thinly sliced pieces on your trays and let the freeze dryer do the rest.

Why freeze-drying is not widely used in food industry? ›

The main disadvantage of freeze-drying is cost, due to its high energy consumption and high costs for both operation and maintenance. The energy required for freeze-drying is almost double that required for conventional air drying.

Can salmonella live in freeze-dried food? ›

Freeze-drying does not kill salmonella or listeria.

Can freeze-dried food make you sick? ›

Freeze dried food is completely shelf stable and there is no food safety reason why you cannot eat dried food in its dry form.

How can you tell if something has botulism? ›

You cannot see, smell, or taste botulinum toxin – but taking even a small taste of food containing this toxin can be deadly.
  1. The container spurts liquid or foam when you open it.
  2. The food inside is discolored, moldy, or smells bad.
Jun 6, 2019

What is the ideal pressure for freeze-drying? ›

The pressure in the freeze-dryer chamber should be below 610 Pa (the approximate triple point pressure of water). Usually, in the case of plant materials, it is around 63–124 Pa at a temperature from −25 to −20 °C and lower [64].

What is freeze-drying basic principles? ›

Freeze Drying (Lyophilization) is a process whereby a product is dried under low temperature and vacuum. The water in the sample is first frozen to a solid and then removed directly by turning the ice into vapor. This is done under vacuum and without having to pass through the liquid phase.

Why do things puff up when freeze-dried? ›

This process is called sublimation. The temperature of the freeze-dryer chamber is slowly warmed to a comfortable -10 degrees. As the ice crystals in the food sublime, they gasify and disperse. This process is typically repeated a couple of times.

Is it better to harvest in a day or night? ›

What Time of Day to Harvest? Timing the harvest is Paramount to the final quality. Harvest your precious buds in the dark, just before the lights normally come on. If possible, do not allow the plants to see direct light as long as their roots are attached.

Is it better to harvest at night? ›

Nighttime harvest can provide fruit that retains significantly better internal and external quality: sugars, acids, flavor compounds, color, firmness, etc. Even the mechanical act of separating fruit from stem or pruning can be easier at night, when the crop plant and its parts are less stressed.

What happens if you wait too long to harvest? ›

Waiting longer to harvest gives the trichomes ample time to develop. But the longer you wait, the more highly intoxicating and sedative your flower will become. This is especially true for indica strains, but even sativa strains can become sedating.

How can drying efficiency be improved? ›

10 Tips to Improve Dryer Operating Efficiency and Reduce Energy Consumption
  1. Tip 1: Manage Dryer Moisture Control. ...
  2. Tip 2: Maintain Even Airflow. ...
  3. Tip 3: Consider Preheating Makeup Air. ...
  4. Tip 4: Clean the Dryer. ...
  5. Tip 5: Ensure Proper Exhaust Volume. ...
  6. Tip 6: Maximize Dryer Airflow. ...
  7. Tip 7: Check for Proper Fan Operation.
Sep 1, 2009

What determines the freeze-drying temperature? ›

Controlling the freeze-drying process is dependent on two factors: the presence of a deep vacuum and a temperature differential of 15 to 20 degrees between the sample's eutectic temperature (freezing point) and the temperature of the collector.

Can you freeze dry yogurt? ›

Freeze drying yogurt is not only easy – the result is delicious. We talked a bit about it in an earlier post, but thought we'd expand on the topic here. Yogurt is such a healthy food, especially if it's low-fat and low (or no) sugar.

Can you freeze dry a virus? ›

Abstract. Background: Freeze-drying is a technology widely used during the production of plasma-derived medicinal products. Several studies have shown that freeze-drying can also result in virus inactivation and particularly of hepatitis A virus (HAV).

Is freeze-dried raw beef safe for dogs? ›

Freeze-drying is a technique that preserves raw ingredients such as fresh meat to deliver a finished dog food product which is safe, shelf stable and lightweight. Freeze dried dog food is technically raw and full of nutrients.

Can you freeze dry bacon? ›

You can freeze dry any kind of meat, plus eggs and seafood. When you're ready to serve, just reconstitute them using water.

Can you freeze dry hamburger meat? ›

Freeze Dry Raw Patties

Form the hamburger into normal size patties, place on trays and freeze dry with your default settings. Add more dry time at the end, if necessary, to make sure all the water is removed and that the patties are completely dry all the way through. Bag them in a mylar bag with an oxygen absorber.

Can you freeze dry M&Ms? ›

It just doesn't change very much at all when freeze-dried. This is true because of the low moisture/high oil content rules. This may be why M&Ms have been so successful as astronaut foods – they're already perfectly formed for the journey.

Can you freeze dry bread? ›

You can freeze dry any kind of bread, from sliced sandwich to French loaves or even small cubes of bread for stuffing. Just lay the bread slices or pieces on your trays and run your freeze dryer with the default settings. Bread doesn't have a lot of water, so it will be one of the fastest things you freeze dry.

Does freeze-drying destroy nutrients? ›

Studies have shown that freeze-dried foods often retain over 90% of the original fresh food's nutrition, much more than other drying techniques (air-drying, heat-drying) which usually damage micronutrients and phytonutrients — as easily seen by the large changes in the food's colors.

What foods freeze dry best? ›

Food Types Suitable For Freeze Drying
  • Coffee.
  • Fruit and juice.
  • Vegetables.
  • Meat.
  • Fish and Seafood.
  • Eggs.
  • Dairy.

How long can freeze-dried bacteria last? ›

A properly freeze-dried bacterial strain can be stored for 30 years and even beyond that without any high cooling expenses during storage or transport. Moreover, freeze-dried bacterial cells can immediately be used after rehydration without any wash steps, in contrary to cryopreservation.

Is freeze-dried raw actually raw? ›

Freeze-dried food is nutritionally equal to raw food, except for the lack of moisture. The food rehydrates in minutes. It retains the taste, texture and smell of raw food.

Can chickens eat freeze-dried food? ›

A handful or two of dried goodies is really all your flock should have per day. The flock should find and gobble up the treats in about five minutes or so. As for fresh fruits and vegetables, I would recommend about 1/2 cup of fresh produce per chicken, per day.

What is the most common way to get botulism? ›

Foodborne botulism is often caused by eating home-canned foods that have not been canned properly. Commercially canned foods are much less likely to be a source of botulism because modern commercial canning processes kill C. botulinum spores.

What are 4 symptoms of botulism? ›

  • Difficulty swallowing.
  • Muscle weakness.
  • Double vision.
  • Drooping eyelids.
  • Blurry vision.
  • Slurred speech.
  • Difficulty breathing.
  • Difficulty moving the eyes.

What temperature kills botulism? ›

Normal thorough cooking (pasteurisation: 70°C 2min or equivalent) will kill Cl. botulinum bacteria but not its spores. To kill the spores of Cl. botulinum a sterilisation process equivalent to 121°C for 3 min is required.

What is collapse temperature in freeze-drying? ›

Freeze-Drying Microscopy (FDM)

A pressure of 0.1 mbar was applied and the samples were heated to −40 or −30°C with 5°C/min. The sample was held at these conditions to achieve a sufficient thickness of the sublimation front. Tc was detected as onset of collapse in the following drying step at 1°C/min to 0°C.

What is critical point in freeze-drying? ›

Critical point drying (CPD) is the final drying step for delicate samples prior to viewing/imaging with scanning electron microscopy. It preserves surface structures that might otherwise be damaged due to surface tension when changing from the liquid to gaseous state.

Does freeze-drying remove all moisture? ›

Freeze-drying removes 98-99% of moisture while retaining the shape and structure of the product. Other drying methods can also result in lost nutrients and added ingredients. Moisture in food products enables decomposition and mold growth, thus impacting shelf life and rates of spoilage.

How many steps are involved in a freeze-drying process? ›

Freeze-drying processes consist of the three steps: freezing, primary drying,and secondary drying. The freezing step is best done in a very-low-temperature freezer in a short time to keep the size of ice crystals as small as possible, thereby causing less physical damage to the structure of the product.

How do you freeze dry for beginners? ›

Step 1: Pack the food in freezer-safe bags. Step 2: Place the bags in a cooler. Step 3: Completely cover the bags with dry ice and leave it for about 24 hours. Step 4: Once they have completely freeze-dried, remove the bags and store them.

What is freeze-drying PDF? ›

Freeze-drying is a method of removing water by sublimation of ice crystals from frozen material. Suitable parameters of process application allow us to obtain best quality products compared to products dried with traditional methods.

Can you freeze dry mayonnaise? ›

Mayonnaise. If you freeze mayonnaise, it will look normal while still in frozen form. However, once it starts to defrost, you will notice that the texture of the creamy condiment changes significantly. Mayonnaise is an emulsion typically made of oil, egg yolks, vinegar or lemon, and seasonings.

Why is my Harvest Right pump smoking? ›

It is mechanical pump oil vapor. It is normal for the pump to emit vapor when pumping on a chamber from atmosphere. Since all the air that is removed from the chamber by the pump moves through the oil in the oil resevoir, some of that oil is vaporized when a lot of air is moving through it.

How often do you have to change the oil in a Harvest Right Freeze Dryer? ›

According to Harvest Right, you need to change the oil on their premium vacuum pump after every 20-25 uses of the freeze dryer.

What does vacuum freezing mean on Harvest Right Freeze Dryer? ›

If you have a leak, the “vacuum freezing” state is when you will get “inadequate vacuum” error, after the machine got the chamber cool enough (below -30F) but unable to pressure-wise. You can see the error I got initially, with the chamber at -33F, but unable to get pressure under 400mTorr after 12 hours.

Does pulling a vacuum too fast freeze moisture? ›

Neil's video proved that pulling a deep vacuum quickly can result in freezing with even a small amount of liquid water present.

Does the harvest right freeze dryer turn off automatically? ›

A: Yes you can freeze dry cooked or uncooked meat. Make sure you mark it well. It does not have a automatic shut off. It has a timer so you know when the final stage will end.

Can you use an extension cord with a Harvest Right Freeze Dryer? ›

Use of extension cords or power surge/strips is discouraged. Vacuum pump is required for the freeze-drying process, whether an oil pump or oil-less pump is purchased. A basic oil pump is included with each purchase.

Can Harvest Right Freeze Dryer trays go in the dishwasher? ›

All you got to do is place all your favorite foods, like roasts, eggs, and so much more. Even cleanup is rather simple, whether by hand or in the dishwasher, giving you more time to enjoy the day, without spending significant amounts of time washing and drying.

Does humidity affect freeze-drying? ›

Residual humidity in elastomeric stoppers can cause degradation of freeze dried products. Prior to packaging the product, stoppers are typically washed, steam sterilized and dried. The steam sterilization process drives humidity into the stopper.


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