Why use silicone mats for Freeze Drying? Some food glues itself to the freeze-dryer trays
Before we bought our own freeze dryer, we used my dad’s standard size, 4-tray unit. It’s was older one with the simple, non-touch display with two control knobs. We bought the small, 3-tray unit because it’s just the three of us. We’ve freeze dried leftovers, homemade baby food, random fruit boxes that we bought from our local farmer’s market, and half of our food from Costco.
We love white peaches. We had to run between 5-6 separate cycles to finally finish drying all the slices of white peaches we had. The one step of the process that took longer than anticipated was removing the peach slices from the trays. The peaches were quite ripe, and we blanched them to remove the skin, so they were a bit slimy. After the freeze drying cycle, they were glued to the trays.
This experience was earlier in our freeze-drying adventure, so we didn’t know what we were less “experienced” at everything. We ended up with a bunch of broken white peach bits. That wasn’t completely bad, because they still taste the same when broken :). Besides, we like to break them up into our cold cereal. But, we wanted to have nice-looking freeze-dried fruit that didn’t take forever to remove from the trays.
To solve the problem of food sticking (per the recommendation of others), we cut sheets of silicone to completely cover the bottom of the trays. The silicone easily peels up, releasing the food with very little effort.
Here’s the result…we didn’t have the silicone sheets for the white peaches, but here’s our video of me removing a batch of strawberry slices from a tray with one of the silicone mats:
“Making” the silicone mats for the trays
First, you’ll need to find the right mat that you can cut up. There are only a couple requirements:
- Must be real silicone
- Must withstand very low and high temperatures
- Obvious one – should fit your trays
The process is simple
- Measure your freeze dryer trays
- Buy the cheapest mat that will fit your trays
- Cut the mats to size
- Trim the corners for the tray radius
My dad used these mats:
The 24″ x 36″ mat was the best fit for his standard size freeze dryer and also for his larger, 5-tray freeze dryer.
After measuring our small trays
With 3 trays that are 7″ x 13 1/4″, we needed a mat that was at least 13 1/4″ x 21″.
We found these mats on Amazon:
My wife has wanted a silicone rolling mat like this for a while, so we bought two.
The mat unboxed and rolled out
Perfect fit for the 3 trays…with not too much waste
Sewing tools worked perfectly for cutting these
Now, to cut the corners
One tray completely finished
A close-up of the tray corners
Not too many scraps
There’s got to be somewhere I can use these scraps for anti-slip?