Mountain House freeze-dried meals have been keeping climbers, soldiers, explorers, hunters, anglers, hikers, backpackers, preppers, and all sorts of other people happily nourished for decades. If you’re reading this, we reckon there’s a good chance you’ve already had the pleasure of tucking into one of our dishes—out in some alpine or canyonland campsite, say, or hunkered down in candlelight during a stormy power outage.
But what exactly is freeze-dried food, and how do you go about rehydrating it for consumption?
When it comes to how to prepare freeze dried food—well, it really couldn’t be easier. Here we’ll serve up (if you will) a short summary of the freeze-drying process for some background, the basic benefits it affords, and the how-to of our ridiculously convenient, super-delicious, and nutritionally rich just-add-hot-water meals!
The Nuts & Bolts of Mountain House’s Freeze-Drying Process
As we’ve explained before here at the Mountain House blog, the fundamental process of freeze-drying is actually pretty simple—though of course it takes some high-tech equipment to pull off at scale.
Here’s how it works, in a nutshell:
- First, we cook our meals—all of them delectable dishes, from Biscuits & Gravy to Italian Style Pepper Steak With Rice & Tomatoes. (This part of the procedure smells really good.)
- Then we transfer the contents of our big cookpots to specially made trays. These go into our massive freezer in order to (you guessed it) freeze the food solid.
- When the vittles are nice and frozen, we load up a cart with the trays and wheel it inside a vacuum chamber. To actually make the vacuum within the vessel, we reduce its air pressure to approximately what you’d experience a cool 46 miles above Earth’s surface.
- Next, we add a small amount of heat beneath the food trays. The one-two punch of the heat and the vacuum turns the ice directly into water vapor, without any liquid phase (aka melted water) in between. In other words, the ice sublimates. We capture the water vapor produced by the sublimation so that it doesn’t re-enter the food. This step typically takes between 12 and 24 hours, depending on what sort of food we’re freeze-drying.
- The last step is packaging: a proprietary technique that results in freeze-dried meals and ingredients with the longest shelf life in the industry—and our unbeatable 30-Year Taste Guarantee!
The Advantages of Freeze-Drying
The primary benefit of our freeze-drying method is that it preserves the nutrition, flavor, and texture of our foods. The sublimation of ice into vapor without an intervening liquid state preserves the food’s natural pore structure. With our just-add-hot-water meals, therefore, moisture can efficiently fill those pores and rehydrate the dish in its pre-frozen form: the inherent vitamins, minerals, and enzymes—plus the original mouthfeel and taste—left intact.
Rehydrating food, in other words, you get all its innate goodness. And meanwhile you’ve got lightweight, highly storable and packable food packages ideal for camping and backpacking adventures as well as disaster kits, bug-out bags, and other emergency stockpiles.
How to Prepare Freeze Dried Food
Rehydrating freeze dried food is as straightforward as it comes with Mountain House packages. We’re not oversimplifying things when we call them “just-add-hot-water meals.” Really—that’s all it takes!
To whip up a gourmet Mountain House meal, all you need to do is heat up water and add it directly to the pouch. How much water depends on the particular meal: Typical amounts are one, 1 ¾, or two cups. Just check the directions on the back of the package.
Before you pour in the water, remember to remove the little oxygen-absorbing packet inside the pouch. (And don’t worry: If you forget to do so before adding water, your food’s still fine—just pluck the packet out of there before you chow down.)
The pouch directions will give you the short-and-sweet timetable for how to make freeze dried food. Typically you’ll add the boiling water, stir the mixture, and seal the pouch to let it sit for eight or nine minutes, stirring midway through if you wish.
** Tip! If you can’t heat water, cold water will also work to rehydrate your Mountain House meal. Rehydration will take about twice as long, and we think our meals taste better hot, but in an emergency, a cold just-add-water meal will do the trick, too!
Rehydrating Food: The In-the-Field Benefits of Mountain House Just Add Hot Water Meals
It’s no secret why military personnel and outdoor recreationists of all stripes have turned to Mountain House just-add-hot-water meals for so many years. Besides all the good stuff we mentioned above—the preserved flavor, texture, and nutritional value of freeze-dried food; the easy-to-pack, easy-to-tote nature of our packages; the exceptionally long shelf life—Mountain House meals are ideal for the backcountry because of their speedy, minimalist preparation.
Rehydrating freeze dried food requires nothing more than a small amount of water and the fuel to heat it to a boil. From sparking the stove to your first (mouthwatering) bite, we’re talking a “cooking” process that takes mere minutes. In our kitchen, freezer, and vacuum chamber, we’ve done basically all of the work for you.
That leaves more time for setting up the tent, drying off gear, scouring the map for next day’s itinerary, soaking up the wilderness sunset, sneaking in a quick scramble up that alluring-looking summit above camp—in short, appreciating the setting, the experience, and the company (even if it’s just the jays and squirrels). And that’s another very important part of the magic of Mountain House.