Have you ever bitten into a piece of overly chewy rehydrated dehydrated chicken and thought, “There has to be a better way!”? Or have you been thinking about dehydrating chicken but weren’t sure how to do it? This post is for you!
A few years ago on a camping trip I ate a very disappointing chicken couscous meal with really tough rehydrated diced chicken. It was a meal that I had prepared. After that failure I gave up dehydrating chicken – until recently. I had read online that canned chicken dehydrated and rehydrated well, so when my daughter asked for chicken noodle soup for our fall mother-daughter canoe trip, I decided to try it. I added it to the noodle/veggie mix, and the texture was perfect. I thought I’d do an experiment to see which kind of chicken and size/shape resulted in the best texture. In other words, I set out to perfect the dehydration of chicken!
I experimented with baked chicken breast, canned chicken, and thinly sliced chicken sandwich meat from the deli counter. With the chicken breast, I put some in the food processor, some I shredded with my grater, some I diced into small pieces, some I cut into larger pieces, and some I cut into thin strips. With the canned chicken, I sliced some thinly and the rest I broke into tiny bits. With the sandwich meat, I sliced one piece into thin strips and left two slices as is.
I used my Excalibur 9-tray to dehydrate the chicken, using the meat setting of 155 degrees Fahrenheit. I took the various trays out at different times, as the chicken dried.
Here is a list of the weight of the chicken before (B) and after (A) dehydration, the percentage of weight lost and the length of time I had each kind in the dehydrator:
- chicken breast grated: 39g (B), 12g (A), 69%, 5 hours
- chicken breast food processor: ?g (B), 30g (A), unknown %, 5 hours
- chicken breast sliced thinly: 35g (B), 10g (A), 71%, 6 hours
- chicken breast diced: 66g (B), 20g (A), 70%, 8 hours (could probably have used longer, but I had to go out)
- chicken breast larger chunks: 64g (B), 24g (A), 62.5%, 8 hours (could probably have used longer, but I had to go out)
- canned chicken small bits: 36g (B), 9g (A), 75%, 5 hours
- canned chicken sliced thinly: 78g (B), 16g (A), 79.5%, 5 hours
- sandwich meat: 44g (B), 11g (A), 75%, 4 hours
- sandwich meat sliced thinly into strips: 19g (B), 5g (A), 74%, 4 hours
After everything was dried, I packaged it into ziploc bags and left it overnight.
The next day was taste test day! I boiled water, and poured enough over each dish to more than cover the chicken. In fact, there was probably twice as much water as necessary in each dish. I covered each dish with plastic wrap, and left them for 15 minutes.
Next it was time to taste each kind of chicken. Here are my thoughts on each one:
- chicken breast grated: good texture, not chewy
- chicken breast food processor: good texture, very slightly chewy
- chicken breast sliced thinly: bigger/thicker pieces chewy, smaller/thinner pieces good texture
- chicken breast diced: very chewy, edible
- chicken breast larger chunks: inedible
- canned chicken small bits: great texture
- canned chicken sliced thinly: great texture, softest
- sandwich meat: a little rubbery, but could actually make a sandwich – I think!
- sandwich meat sliced thinly into strips: a little rubbery
While I had removed a small amount from each dish, I left the chicken rehydrating for another 15 minutes, so that after a total of 30 minutes I could taste test it again. I didn’t notice a difference in the chicken compared to the first testing. I could have left the chicken even longer, but I don’t think the diced chicken or big chunks would have gotten any better – and eventually, leaving meat out long enough may result in nasty stuff growing on it.
So the winners are canned chicken (broken into little bits or sliced), or chicken breast grated or in the food processor. The texture of the canned chicken was definitely the best – it was soft, and not at all chewy. The grated chicken and chicken in the food processor were very similar. I likely could have crumbled the chicken from the food processor part way through drying and it would not have been chewy at all – just a guess.
In future I will not hesitate to dehydrate chicken! Have you dehydrated chicken successfully? Do you have a favourite backcountry meal with dehydrated chicken?
For more backcountry food preparation tips, look here.