Review: The Harvest Right Freeze Dryer

The Harvest Right Freeze Dryer: Review

Here is a review that is going to be fairly easy to do since the Harvest Right company has no competition.  No one else makes home freeze dryers so it is going to be really easy to make comparisons since there are none to be made between competitors.

What is Freeze drying and why would I need a freeze dryer?

Now if you are anything like me you might have seen the words “Freeze Dryer” and immediately thought “Oh ya I know about that ‘dehydrated’ like those tough little banana chips you can get at the health food store”.  Well no.  Freeze drying is a completely different thing.

Dehydration uses heat to slowly take the air out of various foods.  because of that when they are rehydrated the cell walls have been destroyed and they never really look like they did when they were fresh.  A freeze-dried piece of fruit can be reconstituted 25 to 30 years later and look and taste exactly the same as the day it was freeze dried.  This is not the case with dehydrated fruit.

Freeze drying is a process of freezing the food first and then removing the water.  When this is done the cell wall of a given food will be left intact so that when the food is rehydrated, it will look and taste exactly as it did when fresh… least that is the case for most foods like fruits and vegetables.  There are some foods that are more difficult to freeze dry which I will get to later.

The great thing about freeze drying beside the obvious freshness is that once the water is taken out, it is very light.  In fact, it is lighter than dehydrated foods.  And over the long haul, it could be very cost effective….whether that ‘haul’ is across space or across time.  Let’s say you have a chest freezer full of meat.  Well, that meat is taking up a lot of energy to keep frozen and it is taking up space in the freezer that could prevent you from storing up even more foods.  With the freeze dryer you can vacuum pack your foods and hide all of that meat in a closet if you wanted, and it will stay good for decades.  And of course, it will lighten a load of any backpack with the highest quality foods.  There is no doubt that ardent ultralight campers and thru-hikers will be the first to see the value and use of having a home freeze dryer.

The lightness of freeze drying

Of course, it’s the lightness for your bug out or hiking bags where freeze-dried food really is the king.  Right now there are some really good freeze-dried camping foods on the market so that you can try out freeze dried foods before ever making a decision to freeze dry anything yourself.  One problem with buying foods that are already freeze dried is that it is really expensive.  Here in Canada, one meal for one person runs somewhere around 10 bucks!  So for a day or two of camping with just two people you can see how that can add up.  Three meals a day is $30.00 times 2 is $60 a day and then times that by a weekend and it’s going to be $120.00  if you have to have three square meals.  And even though the Mountain House meals that I tried were quite good I always thought I could make a better chili or pasta sauce myself.  Enter the Harvest Right Freeze Dryer…

What is the Harvest right Freeze dryer?

In terms of modern history, freeze drying is fairly new.  But the equipment to do it with has been expensive and so has been the exclusive domain of larger manufacturers and scientific labs until recently when Harvest Right came out with a home freeze drying machine.  In terms of history, freeze drying is actually quite old.  I think it was in some of the higher elevation communities like in Peru or the Himalayas where people would use the sun on frozen rocks to freeze dry foods.

As far as cost goes, the Harvest Right Freeze dryer is still a very expensive appliance.  When you think that a stove or a dishwasher might set you back a few hundred dollars, the Harvest Right is going to cost around $2000 to $4000 depending on the size.  When all is said and done think more like $3000 to $5000.  They do have sales occasionally, but its still going to be quite an investment.

If you are thinking about just needing a years supply of food in the event of a disaster and are not really keen on running this appliance all the time like a hobby, then it would be good to think about if the price of a machine is worth it for you.

What other considerations are there to freeze drying your own food?

Just like any product, there are going to be more cons than with a more established and successful product.  Still, the Harvest right is a very popular machine and for what it does, people seem to be able to overlook any of the problems and difficulties they may be having with it.  It is going to be more work to run it than your average dishwasher so be forewarned.

Still, with food prices rising all the time and possible food shortages on the horizon, it might be worth the effort to freeze dry your own food.

Since I’ve gone over a few of the advantages of having a freeze dryer here are a few of the cons that have occurred to me.

The cons:

-It’s pretty loud.  People will put these in their garages and not in their living rooms.  This is mostly due to a vacuum pump the rest of the process is fairly quiet.  Imagine what a compressor for a small pressure washer sounds like and I think you’ll have a similar mechanism and sound going here.

-Initially, I had thought I might be able to freeze dry my favourite comfort foods in the event of a grid down situation.  The thought of being able to rehydrate my favourite take-out pizza or burger in a collapse or way out in the bush camping really appealed to me, but here is one thing that really messes up that whole idea and that is that FATS do not freeze-dry well.  So you cannot freeze dry raw bacon.  The fat has to be cooked off first.  Ice cream does not rehydrate.  You can eat it in its freeze-dried form, but I have yet to see anyone get ice cream back to its original creamy frozen state.

In addition, bread appears to be difficult if not impossible to rehydrate.  So that makes pizza and burgers or even a sandwich a much more difficult prospect than one might think.

Would it work with my favourite braised short rib and wild mushrooms with the gelatinous pearls of fatty ecstasy falling off the bone?  probably not.  Would it work to freeze dry my favourite take-out Ramen with the fatty pork stock that has been simmered for 24 hours?  Maybe, but probably not.  Will it freeze dry butter?  I doubt it will freeze dry Olive Oil or any of the other oil based products I would have liked to stock up on if civilization ever disappears….So this thing about preserving fat has been kind of a disappointing deal breaker for me personally.  Yet I suspect when things are cooked down, some fat is possible though just how much is something I would like to experiment with.  Maybe my ribs would work, but for now, I have to assume they wouldn’t.

Sure you can preserve meats, but they need to be the leaner cuts.  Maybe it isn’t such a bad thing health-wise that you cannot freeze dry fast food or fatty foods, but this really was a great hope of mine.  I know that in a crisis situation any food would be appreciated, but I was thinking that eating ‘just the way things used to be’ would give an added dimension of comfort and motivation for getting a home freeze dryer.

Harvest Right Freeze dryers come in 3 sizes

So if you aren’t too picky and you have a lot of game meat (game tends to be leaner) or if you have an abundant garden or fruit trees, you may find a larger model of freeze dryer would be perfect for you.

If you want to maybe stock up on a few things and have some to use in the short term for things like campouts then the medium would be for you.

I was thinking that very often we have had leftovers in the fridge that have gone bad.  A lot of times I see things like celery and lettuce go bad before anyone eats them.  I would think a small freeze dryer would be great for managing that kind of waste and to make some of your own camping foods but not storing large amounts of food.

If you just want a years supply of freeze dried food on hand then there are a number of companies that can sell that for the price of a freeze dryer and you would need to bother with the hassle and time.

If you are just looking to have a few meals for an emergency bug out bag to last a few days, then there are accordingly much cheaper options.

I like the idea and feel there are more benefits than not to having one if you can afford it.

2 thoughts on “Review: The Harvest Right Freeze Dryer”

  1. It sounded like such a brilliant concept at the start of the review Gordon.
    I was picturing the scene from BACK TO THE FUTURE 2 with Rehydrated Pizza.
    Not to be yet. Maybe one day though.

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