Canned Vs. Freeze-Dried Food: Which Is Right For You?

We all know that having a well-stocked pantry is an important aspect of being prepared, but what food should you stock? What’s best when you have no refrigeration? What will last on your shelves?

Both canned and freeze-dried food are great options for a reliable food supply and will give you peace of mind when you put them in your pantry. But before you pack your pantry full, it’s wise to determine what type of food is the best fit for your household.

The Upside of Canned Food
Many of us are familiar with canned food and know how convenient it can be. Whether you buy it from the store or can your own food at home, it’s a comfort that you can just reach into your pantry and have food ready to go.

Here’s a quick look at the benefits.

1. No refrigeration
You can store your food right in the pantry and take it anywhere without having to keep it cold (until you open it).

2. No preparation required (in most cases)
Most canned foods are pre-cooked* so when you open the can, you can eat it immediately without heating it up first. This is a major plus when you’re in the middle of a power outage and might not have a place to cook due to the circumstances. (It’s also quite handy when you have to make dinner in a hurry!)

*Always check the label to see if your canned food is fully cooked.

lehman's canned beef
Lehman’s canned beef is fully cooked and ready to go. Find it in our store in Kidron, OH or at

Helpful Hint: If you are packing your pantry with canned goods from the store as part of your emergency food supply, make sure you put a can opener with it. There’s nothing more frustrating than being hungry and not able to eat your food!

The Perks of Freeze-Dried Food
Before freeze-dried foods arrived at Lehman’s earlier this year, I only vaguely heard of the term but I had no idea what freeze drying actually was. (Don’t get it confused with freezing or dehydrating, like I did. Freeze drying is quite different.)

Freeze drying is a process that removes moisture from food, much more than dehydrating. Fresh food is placed in a freeze dryer where it is frozen. Then the dryer creates a vacuum around the food; as the food is slightly warmed, the ice becomes vapor and evaporates. Still with me?

freeze dryer
You can freeze dry your own foods at home. Find our freeze dryers at

As a result, this unique food preservation process gives you (and your pantry) some major perks.

1. No refrigeration
Just like canned foods, they can go straight in the pantry, brought along on camping trips and be completely fine during a power outage without refrigeration until they’re opened.

2. More nutrition
This is where freeze-drying surpasses canning and other food preservation methods. Freeze-dried foods also retain nearly all their original nutrients, so you have more of the goodness in every bite. (This has to do with using freezing temperatures in the process rather than heat alone, like canning and dehydrating.)

freeze dried chicken breasts
We carry all kinds of freeze-dried foods, from cheese to chicken. Find them all at

3. Long, LONG shelf life!
Freeze-dried foods by far have the longest shelf life compared to other food preservation methods. While Lehman’s canned meats have a shelf-life of 5 years, our freeze-dried meats have a shelf-life of 25+ years. (Nope, that wasn’t a typo. We’re completely serious – twenty-five years or longer!) This makes them an ideal candidate if you’re storing food for the long haul.

A couple things to note…
While canned food can be eaten straight out the can, freeze-dried foods require more preparation. You have to rehydrate them in water first. The amount of time varies depending on the type of food. Our freeze-dried chicken takes 20 minutes to rehydrate, while our freeze-dried salmon can take 6-8 hours to rehydrate, so there is some planning ahead involved.

freeze-dried chicken before rehydrating
This is what our freeze-dried chicken looks like before re-hydrating. The longer you soak them in water, the more tender they get.

Freeze-dried food can require cooking, too. It depends on whether the food was cooked or uncooked before freeze-drying. (Most of Lehman’s freeze-dried meats require cooking.)

So Which One is Right for You?
It really depends on your household’s needs. If you’re looking for short-term storage, canned food is more than sufficient and will get you through power outages and off-grid camping trips. If you want something that will last longer with more nutritional benefits, freeze-dried food is the way to go. (Just make sure you read the labels first and determine if you need a heat source for cooking. It’s better to prepare now rather than later when you need it most!)


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9 months ago

Great article but they didn’t mention price

8 months ago

[…] why freeze dry instead of canning, freezing, pickling or dehydrating? As I said earlier, freeze-dried foods […]

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