What’s the Difference Between Freeze-drying and Dehydrating Homemade Pet Food and Treats?

The information age is a great time to be a dog. Every day, owners are becoming more aware of ingredients in commercial foods and treats that might be better left out of the recipes and are now able to do something about it by making their own. So, what’s the difference between freeze-drying and dehydrating homemade pet food and treats?

Freeze drying is a process where food is quickly frozen and most of its water is then removed by placing it in a vacuum. By contrast, dehydration dries foods through a slow, consistent heat. Compared to dehydration, Freeze dying gives a longer shelf life, retains more vitamins, and is more easily reconstituted.

While freeze drying sounds amazing, depending on your needs a dehydrator might work just fine, so to help to clear things up a little we’ll talk about both of these food-preservation options in greater depth. Let’s take a look at what you’ll need to know about both of these drying options to make the best choice for your specific needs.

Dog dental treats.

Which is better dehydrated or freeze dried?

Freeze drying is definitely better than dehydration – though ultimately you need to consider your specific needs. With freeze drying, more moisture is taken out of the food and you’ll get a longer shelf life. More vitamins are retained, as well, and rehydration is often just a matter of adding warm water.

You can also freeze dry more food items than you can with the dehydration method. That said, if you are simply looking to make doggy biscuits and don’t want to pay extra for a freeze dryer, dehydrated biscuits are perfectly fine for your dog. They have a good shelf life and the treats are nice and crunchy.

Simply put – if you just want to make dry dog treats, dehydration is fine, but for homemade dogs foods you’ll retain more nutrition and have an easier time rehydrating it for serving if you freeze dry the dog food.

Making salmon jerky for dogs
Dried Smoked Salmon Jerky with Salt and Pepper

Does freeze-dried food taste better than dehydrated food?

Taste in another area where freeze drying wins out over dehydrated food – in most cases. A good example to keep in mind in favor of dehydration is good, old-fashioned beef jerky. Dogs absolutely love this so don’t worry that a dehydrator will be useless.

The biggest differences between the two is in how they work, and knowing this will give you an idea why the freeze-dried food is likely to taste much better than the dehydrated. When you freeze dry food, the process involves flash-freezing the food and then introducing it to a vacuum, which removes 98% of the water in an instant.

Dehydration, which removes approximately 80% of the water in foods, is done by what amounts to a slow cook at a low and consistent heat range so that the food is slowly and carefully dried.

Since freeze drying happens so quickly, the food is more receptive to rehydration than the food that’s been dehydrating by sitting for long hours over a slow heat, and the faster process also minimizes the vitamin loss in the foods and the natural taste.

What is the texture of freeze-dried vs. dehydrated?

Freeze dried foods tend to be crisp and tasty, as much more of the original structure of the food has been maintained in the process of freeze-drying – it’s just had most of its water removed.

With dehydrated food, you still about 20% of the original water there, so you get a chewy texture if the dried food isn’t a doggy biscuit or similar bakery-type item. Depending on the food that you are preparing for your dog, they both actually have their perks.

You may want to try dehydrating some foods in your oven first to see if this process fits your needs and if so, then you can invest in a dehydrator. Try some freeze dried foods too, however, so you have a good idea of the taste of both kinds.

Can you really rehydrate freeze dried dog treats?

Yes, you can definitely rehydrate freeze dried homemade dog food or treats and with warm or hot water, it only takes minutes. You don’t even need the hot water if you aren’t in a hurry, as cold water will also rehydrate the food but it takes a little longer – 15 minutes to 1 hour, in most cases.

You can even make the meal a little tastier by rehydrating it in broth if your dog has been particular good today – it’s all up to you.

You can also rehydrate dehydrated food, though usually you will need to use more water – about twice as much as the food – and results aren’t as nice as with freeze dried food, as the long drying process is harder on the food than the freeze-drying method.

Is freeze dried dog food healthier?

Yes, freeze dried food is much healthier, as it’s going to retain more vitamins than you would get to keep from a slow drying method such as dehydration.

The easiest way to think about it is just to compare the methods – essentially fire and ice. Dehydration employs a slow and steady heat, while freeze drying is a flash-freeze and moisture removal that is quickly done. Slow heating is naturally going to lose more vitamins than a relatively instant freeze dry process.

In conclusion: Freeze drying is better… if that’s what you need!

Freeze drying offers the best overall benefits as a drying option. You retain more nutrition and taste, it’s easier to reconstitute, and the food is going to last longer. That said, consider what you will be making for your dog, as a dehydrator might be perfectly adequate for your needs.

Dehydrators make excellent beef and chicken jerky that your dog will absolutely love, though if you are making homemade dog food as well, however, then the freeze dryer might be worth the extra investment.

Now that you know some of the finer points in their differences, you should be able to pick the drying option that will be the best fit for you and your dog’s current needs. Whichever you choose, we hope that you enjoy the dried foods and your new drying options for many years to come!