October 6, 2022

Thought 2 Go

Fast Food for Thought

How to Store Dry Beans For The Long Term

From https://www.primalsurvivor.net/how-to-store-beans/ 

Beans are considered one of the ultimate emergency foods because they are very nutritious and non-perishable.  However, beans will go bad if they aren’t stored correctly.

Here’s what you need to know about long-term storage methods for beans.

How Long Can You Store Dry Beans?

When stored in their original plastic packaging, dry beans will last about 1 year.  However, it is possible for dry beans to last 25+ years with certain storage methods, including DIY home storage methods.

Why Dry Beans Go Bad

Like with all dry foods, beans are sensitive to oxygen, light, humidity and heat.  Oxygen is particularly a big concern as it will cause the natural fats in the beans to degrade, causing them to go rancid.  In high-humidity areas, beans can also get moldy.

Even if the beans remain safe to eat, exposure to oxygen and light can cause the beans to lose their nutrients.  After just 2 years, significant vitamin degradation occurs and virtually no vitamins may be present after 5 years.  However, the protein and mineral components of beans will still be intact. (source)

How to Tell if Dry Beans Have Gone Bad

  • Rancid smell: Dry beans should not have any noticeable smell
  • Visible signs of mold: It might look like fuzz or a film over the beans
  • Change in color: Discolored beans are often still safe to eat but their vitamin content has probably depleted

Weevils and Other Bean Pests

beans infested by weevils

Another issue with storing beans long-term is that they can become infested with weevils or moths.  Often, the weevil eggs are already inside the beans when you purchase them.  Check the beans for holes; these are a sign of insect eggs.

It can take several weeks for the eggs to hatch and develop, so the eggs usually aren’t an issue if you use the beans soon after purchasing.   However, if you plan to store beans for more than a month or so, the weevils can hatch into adults, lay more eggs, and then you’ve got an infestation.

weevil hole in bean
Check the beans for damage before storage. Throw out any beans with holes in them, a sign that there are insect eggs inside the beans. 

To prevent weevils in your bean storage:

  • Rotate through your bean stockpile or
  • Use storage methods that kill eggs

Read more about preventing and getting rid of weevils.

Best Ways to Store Dry Beans

If you want to store beans for 3+ months, here are the best storage methods.

Option 1: Air-Tight Containers

Shelf Life: 3 years

Never store dry beans in the plastic bag that they came in; it’s too easy for moisture and insects to get into those bags.  Instead, transfer the beans to air-tight storage containers.

Keep the container in a cool, dark place.  They should last at least 3 years this way.  However, I don’t recommend storing more beans than you can rotate through in 3 months; the beans are too susceptible to damage, even in air-tight containers.

As mentioned before, one common problem is that there may already be weevil eggs in the beans when you get them.  The eggs then hatch and suddenly you have a huge infestation. Thus, you’ll need to take steps to kill insect eggs before putting the beans in storage, such as by freezing or microwaving them first.

Some good air-tight containers include:

Top Tips:

  • Always rotate through your bean storage. Otherwise, they will eventually go bad or lose nutrients.
  • Write the date on a piece of tape on the storage container. This will make it easier to rotate the beans.

Option 2: Freezer

Shelf Life: Indefinitely

Storing dry beans in the freezer will protect them from heat, light, and insects.  They should last years this way. To store dry beans in the freezer:

  1. Put the beans in a sealable freezer bag.
  2. Label the beans with the date so you can easily rotate them.
  3. If you need to remove them but don’t plan on using them (such as to make more space in your freezer), make sure you bring the beans to room temperature before putting them in any storage container as condensation can form.

Option 3: Vacuum Sealing

Shelf Life: 5+ years

Vacuum sealing is a process in which a machine sucks the air out of a special pouch and then seals it.  Because there is little air left in the pouch, vacuum-sealed beans can last much longer.

However, it’s important to note that vacuum sealer bags are not completely air-tight.  There are tiny holes in the bags that eventually allow oxygen and moisture to get inside.  They also don’t protect against insect infestation or damage from light.

If you want to use vacuum-sealing to store beans:

  • Take steps to kill any insect eggs in the beans first, such as by freezing the beans
  • Put a desiccant in with the beans to help control moisture
  • Label the pouches with the date and be sure to rotate through them
  • Store the sealed pouches in a cool, dark place

Option 4: Containers with Oxygen Absorbers

Shelf Life: 5+ years

One simple way to store large amounts of beans is to put them in food-grade buckets, jars, or recycled containers, such as plastic soda bottles.  The problem with this is that there will be a lot of air in the containers and the oxygen will eventually cause the beans to go bad.

A simple solution is to get oxygen absorbers and put them in the container with your beans.  Oxygen absorbers are tiny packets that contain iron and absorb oxygen.  The reduced oxygen also means that any insect eggs in the beans cannot survive.

In theory, beans could last indefinitely stored like this.  However, most containers aren’t actually air-tight.  Buckets will eventually lose their seal and oxygen will leak in (though buckets with gasket lids tend to do better).

Recycled plastic bottles also eventually leak.  Canning jars are more reliable and you can see they are working because the lid will look “sucked down,” but they can’t hold as much food and are susceptible to breaking.   Thus, using oxygen absorbers with Mylar bags is recommended.

Read more about oxygen absorbers for long-term food storage.


Option 5: Mylar Bags with Oxygen Absorbers

Shelf Life: 25+ years

The best way to store beans long-term is to put seal them in Mylar bags with oxygen absorbers.  Mylar is impervious to moisture and gases and blocks light.  Because the OAs remove oxygen from the bags, the beans are protected from virtually all spoilage.

When stored this way, beans can last 25+ years with minimal nutrient loss.

This post gives step-by-step instructions on how to store food in Mylar bags.

How do you store your dry bean stockpile? Let us know in the comments below.

Also see – can you over soak beans?

Mylar bags are the best long-term storage method for dry foods like rice, beans, and flour. When done correctly, some foods can even last over 25 years!

If you are new to this method, here is everything you need to know about long-term food storage in Mylar bags, including step-by-step instructions for packing food in Mylar bags, shelf life, oxygen absorbers, and FAQs.

Recommended Bags

Mylar Bags With OA’s

Strong bags with top-quality OA’s included. A good size for the average preppers’ needs.

Mylar Bags With OA's

Table Of Contents [show]

What is Mylar?

As one man aptly said in a survival forum, Mylar is

Every prepper’s favorite kind of plastic. I know I have been trying (unsuccessfully) to get my wife to dress in it for years.

I’m not sure how it would work for a dress, but Mylar certainly is a versatile material.  The trade name for Mylar is biaxially-oriented polyethylene terephthalate.  It was originally produced in the 1950s and used for insulation, solar filters, blueprints, and even kites.

Why It is Great for Long-Term Food Storage

As far as food storage goes, Mylar is fantastic because it is:

  • Non-porous
  • Impermeable to gas
  • Reflects light
  • Flexible
  • Durable and puncture-resistant
  • Cheap
  • Easy to use

You can undoubtedly use other packing materials for long-term food storage, but they tend to have a higher learning curve, are more expensive, or simply not as good as Mylar.

Mylar Bag Food Storage Instructions

Materials Checklist


  • Food that you will be storing
  • Mylar bags
  • Oxygen absorbers*
  • Bucket or container (that you will be putting the Mylar bags into)
  • Sealer (impulse sealer, iron, hair straightening iron)
  • Work gloves

 

  • Piece of wood with a towel wrapped around it (to serve as an ironing board if using an iron for sealing)
  • Scoop or funnel
  • Permanent marker for labeling
  • Mason jar (or another way to store unused oxygen absorbers)

 

Note: *For Mylar bags to work, most foods need to be stored with oxygen absorbers. However, some foods should not be stored with oxygen absorbers. I’ll discuss this in the FAQs section. Also, see this detailed post – Oxygen Absorbers for Food Storage.

Step 1: Preparation


You must get everything set up in an assembly line.  You can take your time filling up the Mylar bags.  But, once you open those oxygen absorbers, you need to seal them quickly!

  • Open Mylar bags and put each in a bucket/container
  • Line up the containers
  • Make sure your sealer has a cord long enough to reach the buckets

*If you put lots of smaller Mylar bags into one bucket, you obviously won’t be propping up one bag per storage container. It’s beneficial to have the bags propped up during the process.  Consider rigging a shelf system for holding the bags, or bust out all of your Tupperware to use as holding trays for the open Mylar bags.

Step 2: Loading the Food


  • Using a scoop or a funnel, fill up the Mylar bags with food. You’ll need to give the bags a good shake to ensure the food particles are settled (which means more food per bag and less air).
  • Fill the bags to about 4-5 inches from the top. Make sure you don’t overfill the bag, or it will be tough to seal.
  • Label the bags and container with the contents plus the date.

Tips

  • If you are using 7.5mil Mylar bags, wear gloves! The bags are sharp and can easily slice your fingers!
  • To protect the label from rubbing off, put a strip of clear packing tape over it.

Step 3: Partially Seal Bags


Let your sealer heat up.  Irons and hair-straightening irons need to be on the highest setting. Seal all but the last 2 inches of the Mylar bag. Make sure there aren’t any little pieces of food in the seal.

It is also smart to wear gloves during sealing.  The sealer can make the Mylar bag get very hot and burn your fingers!

If Using an Iron: The easiest way to seal with an iron is to put your 2×4 over the rim of the 5-gallon bucket.  This will make an ironing board so you can seal the bag without having to lift it out or turn it horizontal.  Once you’ve sealed one bag, then just move the board to another bucket. You’ll want help – one person moves the board, and the other does the sealing.
Tip: Make sure you seal as close to the top of the bag as possible.  That way, you’ll have room to reseal the bag again.

Step 4: Add Oxygen Absorbers


It takes about 2-4 hours for an oxygen absorber to do its job.  However, you should try to get your bags sealed as quickly as possible (within 10 minutes, 20 tops).  Otherwise, you risk the OA absorbing too much outside air and not being able to absorb all the oxygen in your Mylar bag.
Tip: Before you open your oxygen absorbers, mark each bag with how many OAs the bag needs.  This will speed up the process.

Step 5: Fully Seal the Bag


As soon as you’ve added oxygen absorbers, you need to seal the bag quickly.  Press the bags to get out as much air as you can.  Then seal the remaining 2 inches.

Step 6: Checking the Seal


Wait at least one day.  Then go and check on your Mylar bags.  Look at the seal and see if you can squeeze any air through them.

When oxygen absorbers have done their job, the bag may look “sucked up” or vacuum-sealed.  However, since so much of air is nitrogen, the bag can be properly sealed but not sucked down.

Step 7: Seal Buckets or Containers


Once you are sure that the seal is good, you can close your buckets/containers and put them for long-term storage.

Ideally, you will store them in a cool place accessible during an emergency (for example, you wouldn’t want all your emergency food in the basement during a flood!).

Procedure Graphic (click to enlarge)

Storing food in mylar bags infographic

FAQS

What Foods Can You Store?

Any dry, low-fat food can be stored in Mylar bags.  That means things like:

  • Dehydrated fruits and veggies
  • Flour
  • Grains
  • Pasta
  • Sugar

 

  • Dried beans
  • Powdered milk
  • Cereal
  • Spices

 

Remember the key words here are dry and low-fat.  Any food which has moisture in it may start to go bad in the Mylar bag. Some foods have a surprising amount of moisture in them. One example is popcorn kernels.

The same goes for foods with fat in them – the fat will cause the foods to go rancid in around 3-12 months.

Foods Not Suitable for Long-Term (5+ Years) Storage

These foods can still be stored in Mylar bags, but you’ll have to rotate through them every 2-5 years (depending on the food).

  • Whole-wheat flour
  • Pearl barley
  • Brown rice
  • Brown sugar
  • Chips and greasy junk food
  • Granola
  • Dried meat/jerky

 

  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Fresh or wet foods
  • Dried eggs
  • Milled grains (other than oats)
  • Any dehydrated fruit or veggie which is not so dry that it snaps when bent!

 

Related Reading

Botulism Risk

Botulism is usually only talked about in regards to home canning.  However, because the botulism bacteria grows in no/low oxygen environments, it could also grow in Mylar bags packaged with oxygen absorbers.

Botulism requires moisture of 35% to grow.  However, to play it safe, virtually all food preservation guides say that food must have 10% or less moisture to be packaged in airtight containers with oxygen absorbers. (source)

If the Mylar bag is bulging (a sign that bacteria is growing inside), don’t eat its contents!

This shouldn’t scare you away from self-storing foods with oxygen absorbers.  Just make sure you aren’t storing any moist foods in Mylar with oxygen absorbers for the long term.

Some moist foods – such as dehydrated fruits — can still be stored in Mylar bags. They will be fine for the semi-long term (such as up to five years).  Home dehydrated fruits and veggies just need to be so dry that they snap when bent.

The good news is that botulism toxin (which causes the disease) can be easily destroyed by boiling for 10 minutes. The CDC states, “Despite its extreme potency, botulinum toxin is easily destroyed. Heating to an internal temperature of 85°C for at least 5 minutes will decontaminate affected food or drink.” This page also has useful info on deactivating botulism. Many of the foods which get stored for the long-term need to be boiled anyway (dry beans, dry grains, etc.), so this, in theory, would kill any contaminants.

However, that doesn’t mean you should eat any foods which you suspect are contaminated with botulism.  If the Mylar bag is bulging (a sign that bacteria or toxins are growing inside), don’t eat its contents!

Which Bags to Use?

Aside from the brand, there are a few key considerations when choosing which Mylar bags to use: size, thickness, and whether you want zip tops.

Size

Mylar bags come in various sizes, typically ranging from 1 pint to 6 gallons. A 1-gallon Mylar bag will hold about 6-7lbs of rice. A 5-gallon Mylar bag will hold about 33lbs of rice.

I recommend using 1 gallon Mylar bags for foods like beans, flour, and grains. For spices and freeze-dried fruits and veggies, I use even smaller bags. Here’s why:

  • Using large bags of food is impractical: Imagine that a disaster has occurred. Would you really want to open up a bag containing 33lbs of rice? Or 6lbs of dehydrated onions? It would be easier if the foods were in smaller bags.
  • Mylar keeps food safe. Once you open the Mylar bags, the food inside could get destroyed before you have time to eat it (by floodwater, rodents, etc.).
  • Rotating food is easier. Some foods only last 2-5 years in Mylar bags. You’ll need to rotate through them. It’s easier to rotate through smaller bags than larger ones.

Of course, the downside is that it takes more work to store food in smaller Mylar bags. However, I’d still rather have lots of smaller bags of food than a few giant bags.

Thickness

Recommended Reading – How To Dehydrate Food Like An Expert

Mylar bags come in various thicknesses; 3.5mil, 5mil, and 7.5mil are the most popular.  The 7.5mil bags will hold up against damage better.  However, they aren’t as flexible.

Because the thick bags are stiffer, you probably won’t get as much food in them as a thinner bag.

Also, note that the 7.5mil bags are sharp! You should wear gloves when working with them, so you don’t slice your fingers.

We recommend the 3.5 or 5mil bags as the most useful for the average person.

Read our survival glove guide here.

Zip Tops

Some Mylar bags have zip tops.  The zip-top does NOT replace heat sealing.  However, it is great for convenience.

During the sealing process, you can first squeeze the air out and zip-lock it before heat sealing.  It prevents little pieces of product from getting into the seal.

Once the bag is open, the zip is also great for closing the bag while using the contents.

The Best Mylar Bags For Food Storage

1-Gallon Mylar Bags with 300cc Oxygen Absorbers

Mylar Bags With OA's
  • Twenty (20) 1-Gallon Mylar Bags
  • 5mil thick
  • Fifty (50) 300cc oxygen absorber packets

Oxygen Absorbers for Long Term Food Storage

 

Even non-perishables like beans and rice will eventually start to go bad if exposed to oxygen. If you want to store food long-term, you’ll have to protect it from oxygen. Luckily, there’s a cheap and easy solution: oxygen absorber packets.

What Are Oxygen Absorbers?

Oxygen absorbers are little packages containing iron. When you put the oxygen absorber (OA) into an airtight container, the oxygen molecules “stick” to the iron. OAs can reduce the amount of oxygen in a container to less than 0.01%. (1)

Remember that air is about 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen, and 1% other gases. Oxygen absorbers only remove the oxygen. However, nitrogen does not cause food to spoil.

Buy Absorbers

oxygen absorber

Oxygen Absorber Packets

Good quality products with great customer service.

Benefits of Using Oxygen Absorbers:

  • Keeps food from degrading due to oxidation
  • Prevent mold and bacteria from growing on the food (mold and most bacteria* require oxygen to grow)
  • Preserve flavor
  • Prevent vitamins from being destroyed by oxidation
  • Kill pests (tiny pest eggs that are invisible to the eye may be on your food; without oxygen, they cannot hatch)

*See the section on botulism in the FAQs

How to Store Food with Oxygen Absorbers

To store food with oxygen absorbers, you will need to put the food and oxygen absorbers in an airtight container. If the container leaks air, it is pointless to use oxygen absorbers. There are four main containers that can be used for long-term food storage with oxygen absorbers.

1. Mylar Bags

mylar bag food storage

Mylar is a metallic-looking material that doesn’t allow air or humidity through. Mylar bags are very cheap and durable, making them one of the best long-term storage packages for dry food.

To store food in it, you will fill up the Mylar bags with dry foods, add oxygen absorbers, and seal the bags. You can then put the Mylar bags in buckets with lids. This will keep food safe against virtually any disaster. Some people even do “Mylar bag parties” with friends so they can seal a lot of food in one go.

Pros

  • Protects against light
  • Virtually indestructible when bags are put into buckets
  • Cheapest long-term storage option
  • Bags come in many sizes

Cons

  • Slight learning curve
  • Cannot see food inside bag

For detailed instructions, see our post on mylar bags for food storage.

2. Canning Jars

oxygen absorbers in mason jars

For storing smaller amounts of food long-term, you can put the food in canning jars or Mason jars (jars with a two-part lid). Just add the right amount of oxygen absorber to the jar and then screw on the lid. You’ll know the oxygen absorbers are doing their job because the jar lid will get sucked down.

Other jars can also be used with oxygen absorbers. However, the lids on these jars are much more likely to leak. Play it safe and stick to canning jars.

Pros

  • Very easy
  • Rodent-proof
  • Easy to rotate food

Cons

  • Jars are breakable
  • Only hold small amounts of food
  • Don’t protect against light

3. Buckets

gamma lid

The simplest way to use oxygen absorbers with large amounts of food is to put them into food-grade buckets.   You fill the bucket with dry foods, add the right amount of oxygen absorbers, and then close the lid.

The downside is that most buckets will leak air inside. This includes the cheap HDPE 5-gallon food-grade buckets. They slowly leak air, so you could still use them with oxygen absorbers – just not for long-term storage. You are much better off with a gamma-seal lid bucket. These buckets cost more but do create a tight seal.

Also, note once you open the bucket, you will expose the food to air. If you want to reseal the bucket, you’ll have to add more oxygen absorbers.

So, this method isn’t suitable if you plan on rotating through your food stockpile. I’d only recommend using buckets as a short-term solution until you get enough food stockpiled to have a “Mylar bag party.”

Pros

  • Can easily store large amounts of food
  • Buckets are durable

Cons

  • Most buckets leak air through lid
  • Will expose food to oxygen each time you open the bucket
  • Gamma lids are a bit pricey

4. #10 Cans

Many emergency foods – like butter powder from Augason Farms or Mountain House’s scrambled eggs – are packaged in #10 cans (pronounced ten-pound cans). If you get a can sealer, it’s possible to store your food in these cans at home too.

Using #10 cans for food storage is pretty simple. You just put your dry food in the cans, add oxygen absorbers, and seal the can. The seal is completely airtight, and the cans are tough enough to withstand almost any disaster.

The downside is that the cans and the sealer are pretty expensive. If you are lucky enough to know someone who already has a can sealer you can borrow, you only have to worry about the cans’ costs.

Pros

  • Disaster-proof packaging
  • Protects against light and physical damage
  • Smaller quantities of food per can make use and rotating easier

Cons

  • Cans and sealer are expensive
  • Only can store small amounts of food per can

How Many Oxygen Absorbers Should I Use?

Oxygen is in the food container in two places:

  1. In the space between the food
  2. Inside the actual food

You’ll need to remove virtually ALL of this oxygen to keep the food safe for long-term storage. This means making sure you use enough OAs.

Below is a general guideline of how many oxygen absorbers you will need. However, the amount can vary depending on whether your batch of beans is uniform (lots of air space between the beans) or varying in size (less space between the beans).

You’ll need to do some math to know precisely how many OAs you need. I’ve included the math in the dropdown for those who are interested.

Top Tip
It is always best to play it safe – use more oxygen absorbers than you think you need! Using extra oxygen absorbers won’t impact the food. OAs are cheap; better to spend an extra 25 cents on an additional oxygen absorber than throw away 5 gallons of food when it’s needed most.

What Foods Can Be Stored with Oxygen Absorbers?

Just about any dry and low-fat food can be stored with oxygen absorbers. This includes foods like:

  • Flour
  • Whole grains
  • Pasta
  • Dried beans
  • Powdered milk
  • Cereal
  • Freeze-dried food
  • Spices

Note: Not all foods are oxygen sensitive. For example, whole grains, peas, and beans aren’t too oxygen-sensitive. If you plan on using the foods within 5 years, there won’t be too much difference in freshness regardless of whether you use an OA or not.

However, oxygen absorbers do protect against pests and have other benefits like preserving nutrition. Since OAs are cheap, I recommend using them with all dry foods you want to store for 12+ months.

Dehydrated Food with Oxygen Absorbers

Most home dehydrated fruits and veggies usually aren’t suitable for long-term storage. They simply contain too much moisture. If the moisture level is too high, you could even risk botulism poisoning (more on that below).

To safely store dehydrated food with OAs, it must be so dry that it snaps when bent. Or, for round foods like corn or peas, it should shatter when pressed with a spoon.

*Read Expert-Level Food Dehydrating

Nuts and Seeds with Oxygen Absorbers

Storing nuts and seeds with oxygen absorbers will extend their shelf life. However, they will eventually become rancid because they contain so much oil.

Most people put the shelf life of nuts/seeds with OAs at about 2 years. However, nuts and seeds can last longer than this, even when exposed to oxygen. The key is keeping the temperature and humidity low.

*Granola also has a lot of oil and won’t store long-term.

Foods that Should NOT Be Stored with Oxygen Absorbers

  • Salt: Will become rock hard if stored with an OA
  • Sugar: It also will become rock hard; brown sugar also contains too much moisture for storage with OAs. Read how to store sugar for the long term.
  • Wet foods: Foods with 35% or more moisture can grow botulism in airless environments. It is recommended that foods stored with OAs have 10% or less moisture to play it safe.
  • Baking soda, baking powder, pancake mixes, and yeast: There’s some debate about whether OA can be used with these foods. Some claim that a chemical reaction could occur and result in the leavening products then becoming useless.

Read:

Botulism Risk

Botulism is usually only talked about in regards to home canning. However, because the botulism bacteria grows in no/low oxygen environments, it could also develop in Mylar bags packaged with oxygen absorbers.

Botulism requires moisture of 35% to grow. However, to play it safe, virtually all food preservation guides say that food must have 10% or less moisture to be packaged in airtight containers with oxygen absorbers. (2)

This shouldn’t scare you away from self-storing foods with oxygen absorbers. Just make sure you aren’t storing any moist foods in sealed containers with oxygen absorbers.

The good news is that botulism toxin (which causes the disease) can be easily destroyed by boiling for 10 minutes. The CDC states, “Despite its extreme potency, botulinum toxin is easily destroyed. Heating to an internal temperature of 85°C for at least 5 minutes will decontaminate affected food or drink.” This page also has useful info on deactivating botulism. Many foods stored for the long-term need to be boiled anyway (dry beans, dry grains, etc.), so this, in theory, would kill any contaminants.

However, that doesn’t mean you should eat any foods which you suspect are contaminated with botulism.

Warning:  If the package is bulging (a sign that bacteria or toxins are growing inside), don’t eat its contents!

Shelf Life of Foods with Oxygen Absorbers

Remember that OAs only protect against oxygen. You’ll also want to protect your food against heat, light, and physical damage.

The following table gives a general guideline of what shelf life you can expect when packaging food with oxygen absorbers.

*Dehydrated fruits and vegetables must have less than 10% moisture to store with OAs safely. They will snap when bent or (with round food like corn) shatter when pressed with the back of a spoon.

How to Store Unused Oxygen Absorbers

The moment you take oxygen absorbers out of the package, they will start to absorb oxygen. After around 2-4 hours, they’ll have absorbed their maximum capacity of oxygen.

You must plan what to do with any unused oxygen absorbers before you begin working. Ideally, you will reseal oxygen absorbers in the packaging they came in. Then you vacuum seal them.

If this isn’t an option, you can also store unused oxygen absorbers in a mason jar. Fill up any extra space in the jar with marbles (or something similar). The less air in the jars, the less air the unused OAs will absorb.   Be sure to seal the jar tightly!

How to Tell If Your Oxygen Absorbers Are Still Good

If you buy OAs from a reputable company, they should be good. We like the supplier DiscountMylarBags, they are the cheapest around and provide good quality products. They also sell on Amazon if you prefer to shop there)

They will arrive in a vacuum-sealed package. Most oxygen absorbers have a “margin for error” added into their abilities (DiscountMylarBags use ShieldPro absorbers; they absorb 200 to 300% of their rating). So, they will absorb more than specified.

This is so you can have a good 10-20 minutes to work with the OAs and not have that air exposure count against you.

Here’s how you can check:

  • They arrive in a vacuum-sealed package.
  • The oxygen indicator is pink or red and not blue.
  • The packets feel soft and not crunchy.

Oxygen Absorbers vs. Desiccants

Oxygen absorbers will absorb oxygen. Desiccants will absorb moisture. OAs require a small amount of moisture for them to activate. Thus, it’s generally not recommended to use both OAs and desiccants together.

There are some exceptions to this rule, though. Some foods (like home-dehydrated fruits) may contain a lot of moisture. Since moisture is one thing that makes food spoil, adding a desiccant can help the food last longer.

In this case, it’s best to use silica gel desiccants because they don’t absorb so much moisture that it will interfere with the OA. Some more advanced types of desiccants can reduce the moisture to practically zero, which means they would stop the OAs from doing their job.

*When using both oxygen absorbers and desiccants, put the desiccant on the bottom of the package and the OA on the top.

Oxygen Absorbers vs. Vacuum Sealing

Oxygen absorbers and vacuum sealing both work by removing air from the packaging. However, vacuum sealing doesn’t remove all the oxygen as OAs do. Also, the vacuum seal bags are not airtight and will slowly leak air into the package over time. Thus, vacuum sealing is NOT suitable for long-term food storage.

There’s also no reason to use oxygen absorbers and vacuum sealing together: OAs do their job well enough without any need to first suck out air. Further, the vacuum sealer will remove nitrogen from the packaging (oxygen absorbers only remove oxygen). If you add an OA to a vacuum-sealed bag, the bag may get so “sucked in” that sharp edges on foods like rice could tear through the bag.

This doesn’t mean that vacuum-sealing isn’t suitable for food storage. Vacuum-sealing can increase the shelf life of foods by 3-5 times. It’s also great for storing foods unsuitable for OAs, such as moist foods. But, when you want long-term storage (5+ years), sealed containers with oxygen absorbers are the way to go.

Oxygen Absorbers vs. Gas Purging/Nitrogen Flushing

I’ve recently found many guides and videos about gas purging (aka nitrogen flushing) Mylar bags. The basic idea is to use a special machine to force nitrogen gas into the package. The nitrogen flushes out any oxygen. Then you seal the package so only nitrogen remains.

Some food manufacturers use nitrogen flushing to keep their greasy foods (such as chips) fresh for a long time. That’s why bags of chips are puffy when you get them.

However, nitrogen flushing is very difficult to do unless you have access to professional equipment! You must displace all oxygen and ensure none gets back into the bag before you seal it.

Packaging with oxygen absorbers is much easier and leaves just nitrogen in the packaging. Don’t mess with what works – use oxygen absorbers for your home food storage and leave nitrogen flushing to the experts.

 

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.