The process of freeze-drying preserves perishable food. It creates meals that people can easily carry and store. Freeze-dried meals come as either single-food items or entrees and suit a range of tastes and purposes. Commercial providers also use two primary types of packaging, depending upon the type of food and the expected shelf-life. Quantities vary widely, largely dictated by the intended use.
Freeze-drying, otherwise known as lypophilization, first came into popularity during the World War II era, when it was first used to preserve certain types of medication. Since that time, the process has been applied to hundreds of different foods. The act of freeze-drying uses a pressurized vacuum to remove all water and other liquid from frozen food. Without water, the microorganisms that cause spoilage cannot thrive, and the food remains unspoiled, retaining its flavor, aroma, and nutritional value.
Primarily, there are two types of freeze-dried meals, namely, single-food items and prepackaged entrees. Single-food items encompass a large variety of foods. From vegetables to meats to dairy products, many single-food items can be preserved through the freeze-drying process. For instance, buyers can find servings of green beans, steak, eggs, and even cheese in a freeze-dried package. Certain foods that have a high water content, such as melon or lettuce, generally do not freeze-dry well, but there is still an astounding variety of single-food items available.
For the sake of convenience, many freeze-dried meals are available as prepared entrees. These entrees include fully prepared breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and even desserts. Retailers of these meals generally pride themselves in providing a wide selection of high-quality meals in various serving sizes. A person might find bacon and eggs for breakfast, with beef stew, lasagna, or chicken-a-la-king on tap for dinner. Delicious desserts, such as cheesecake, apple pie, and even ice cream, are also available.
Generally, freeze-dried meals come in either pouches or cans. The pouches take up less room and are easier to carry and store than the bulkier cans. As a trade-off, though, the pouches have shorter shelf-lives. For the most part, the pouches are ideal for campers, hikers, and other travelers who are looking for an easy meal to carry on their trips. The cans are more suited for emergency food storage or military personnel, when an area has usually been set aside to stockpile the items.
Although once recognized only as "space food" because of its use by astronauts, freeze-dried food has, over time, become popular in the mainstream. Due to the fact that the meals are used for a variety of purposes, retailers package them in various serving sizes and portions. As an example, for a family that is stocking up on freeze-dried meals in the event of an emergency, larger canned entrees that serve four to six people are available. By the same token, for the single traveler who is going backpacking, single-serving sizes in lightweight pouches provide more suitable alternatives.
Regardless of type, when people choose freeze-dried meals, taste is always important. Many online retailers sell their own versions of various products, and they use different preparation methods, especially for the entrees. Tastes vary, and personal preference for one retailer over another is usually quite subjective. Consequently, the best way for a person to figure out which types of freeze-dried meals are his or her favorites is to try them.