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When it comes to prepping, it’s super important to make sure your food is stored properly. That’s where silica packets and oxygen absorbers come in handy! These handy tools help keep your stored food fresh and tasty for longer. But hey, figuring out when to use which one can be a bit confusing, right?
Don’t worry, in this blog post, we’re gonna break it down for you. We’ll chat about the differences between silica packets vs oxygen absorbers and give you some tips on when to use each with your storage containers. So, let’s dive in and make sure your food stays in top-notch condition!
Why Use Silica Packets Vs Oxygen Absorbers for Food Storage?
Silica packets and oxygen absorbers play a crucial role in food storage by combatting some of the most common enemies of stored food: light, oxygen, moisture, critters, and heat. When these elements come into contact with your stored food, they can drastically reduce its shelf life, quality, and nutritional value. Ranging from causing mold due to excess moisture to nutritive losses triggered by light and heat, these factors can turn your well-preserved food into a wasted effort.
That’s where silica packets and oxygen absorbers come into the picture! Silica packets, also known as desiccants, work effectively in absorbing moisture, keeping your food-grade buckets dry and free from mold and bacteria. Meanwhile, oxygen absorbers do a stellar job in sucking out oxygen from your storage containers. By reducing the oxygen levels, these nifty little packets help prevent the growth of bugs and bacteria, and they also keep your food from getting stale. Remember, a cool, dry, dark place is the best spot for your food storage containers!
Silica Packets vs. Oxygen Absorbers: What is the Difference?
Silica packets and oxygen absorbers have different uses when it comes to food storage.
Silica packets are small bags filled with tiny, white crystals made of silicon dioxide. These crystals absorb moisture and prevent the growth of mold or bacteria, making them ideal for storing items that can be damaged by humidity. *Always use food-grade desiccants in food storage.
On the other hand, oxygen absorbers contain iron powder that absorbs oxygen from its surrounding environment. By eliminating oxygen, it prevents food spoilage caused by exposure to air, making it perfect for storing food items that are sensitive to oxygen.
When to Use Silica Packets
Silica packets are ideal for food that has a moisture level of 10% or higher. Foods like jerky, dried fruits, and nuts are perfect for storing with silica packets because they absorb excess moisture that can cause them to spoil.
You should use silica packets in containers that are sealed such as vacuum-sealed Mason jars or bags. It’s important to note that silica packets should not be used for long-term food storage as they have a limited lifespan and can become saturated over time.
When to Use Oxygen Absorbers
Oxygen absorbers are best used for foods with low moisture content, such as grains, beans, freeze-dried food, white rice, and pasta. These products do not spoil due to moisture, but rather from exposure to oxygen. By using oxygen absorbers, you can extend the shelf life of your food by preventing oxidation and growth of bacteria.
Oxygen absorbers are commonly used in combination with mylar bags or vacuum-sealed containers, as they need airtight packaging to be effective.
Do’s and Don’ts for Silica Packets
- Do use silica packets with foods that have a moisture level of 10% or higher. Such foods include jerky, dried fruits, and nuts. The silica packets will absorb excess moisture and prevent spoilage.
- Do use silica packets in sealed containers. Whether you’re using vacuum-sealed Mason jars or bags, silica packets work effectively in these environments.
- Do replace silica packets periodically. They have a limited lifespan and can become saturated over time. Regular replacement ensures they continue to do their job effectively.
- Don’t use silica packets for long-term food storage. While they can protect food in the short-term, silica packets aren’t designed for long-term food storage due to their limited lifespan.
- Don’t use silica packets with foods that are sensitive to oxygen. Oxygen absorbers are a better choice for these types of foods.
- Don’t reuse silica packets indefinitely. Once they become saturated, they lose their effectiveness. Always replace them at regular intervals.
Do’s & Don’ts for Oxygen Absorbers
- Do use oxygen absorbers for long-term food storage. They can significantly extend the shelf life of food and are ideal for use with low moisture food products.
- Do place oxygen absorbers in airtight containers. Oxygen absorbers work best in environments where air exposure is minimized. This includes sealed mylar bags, food-grade buckets, and vacuum-sealed containers.
- Do check the freshness of your oxygen absorbers. Fresh absorbers will feel powdery and soft to the touch. If they feel hard or have a sharp edge, they’re likely past their prime and should be replaced.
- Don’t reuse oxygen absorbers. Once an oxygen absorber has done its job, it is no longer effective and should be discarded.
- Don’t use oxygen absorbers with high moisture content foods. These foods can mold even in the absence of oxygen. For such foods, consider using silica packets instead.
- Don’t leave oxygen absorbers out in the open. Exposure to air will cause them to absorb oxygen, reducing their effectiveness when you actually want to use them. Always keep unused absorbers in a sealed container.
Foods You Shouldn’t Use Either With
There are some foods where you should not use either silica packets or oxygen absorbers with:
- Brown Sugar
- Baking Soda
- Baking Powder
When it comes to food storage, using silica packets or oxygen absorbers with certain food items like sugar, salt, brown sugar, baking soda, and baking powder can lead to undesirable outcomes. For instance, these food items may harden into a solid mass, almost like a brick, rendering them nearly unusable. Also, certain chemical properties of these foods can potentially be inactivated, thereby altering their intended function in cooking or baking processes. So, it’s important to exercise caution and avoid using these storage aids with such food products.
How to Use Silica Packets & Oxygen Absorbers in Your Emergency Food Storage
Sizes for Silica Packets
Here’s a simple guide on what sizes of silica packets to use for different containers:
- Pint Jars: Use 5-gram silica packets
- Quart Jars: Use 10-gram silica packets
- Quart Mylar Bags: Use 10-gram silica packets
- 1 Gallon Bags: Use 40-gram silica packets
- 5 Gallon Food-Grade Buckets: Use 200-gram silica packets
Sizes for Oxygen Absorbers
In terms of oxygen absorbers, below are the recommended sizes to use:
- Pint Jars: Use 100cc oxygen absorbers
- Quart Jars: Use 200cc oxygen absorbers
- Quart Mylar Bags: Use 200cc oxygen absorbers
- 1 Gallon Bags: Use 500cc oxygen absorbers
- 5 Gallon Food-Grade Buckets: Use 2000cc oxygen absorbers
Why You Shouldn’t Mix Silica Packets and Oxygen Absorbers
It’s important to only use one type of absorber in your food storage containers. Mixing silica packets and oxygen absorbers can actually cancel out the effectiveness of both products.
Silica packets absorb moisture, while oxygen absorbers remove oxygen. If you were to use both products together, the silica packets would absorb the moisture that the oxygen absorbers need to function properly. This can result in your food spoiling faster than if you had used just one type of absorber.
In addition, silica packets and oxygen absorbers have different absorption rates and capacities. Mixing them can also cause imbalances and uneven distribution of absorption, leading to potential mold growth.
When in doubt, it’s best to stick with one type of absorber for your food storage needs. Consider which enemy is most likely to cause issues with the food: oxygen or moisture.
Although we differ on opinion when it comes to mixing silica packets and oxygen absorbers you should really check out this great video by Rose Red Homestead on Youtube.
Storing Your Silica Packets & Oxygen Absorbers
To ensure that your silica packets and oxygen absorbers are effective, it’s important to store them properly. Both products should be kept in airtight packaging until use, as they can absorb moisture and oxygen from the air if left exposed. I like to use a canning jar to store my left-over oxygen absorbers with the indicator sticker inside. You can do the same with silica packets, but you should use a jar attachment with a vacuum sealer to seal the jar.
Assess Your Needs and Take Action
Ultimately, there is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to prepping and food storage. To ensure your stored food stays in optimal condition for the longest period of time, it’s important to understand the differences between silica packets and oxygen absorbers and know when to use each. So take some time today to assess your individual food storage needs and determine which type would work best for you. And don’t forget – stay safe, stay prepared, stay proactive…and get prepping!