Oven drying eggplant is a straightforward process that preserves the flavors and extends the shelf life of this versatile vegetable. In this article, we’ll show you how to dry eggplant in the oven.
Table of Contents
Things You’ll Need: How to Dry Eggplant in the Oven
- Fresh eggplants
- Sharp knife
- Cutting board
- Sea salt
- Paper towels or a clean cloth
- Baking sheets
- Parchment paper
- Airtight containers for storage
How to Dry Eggplant in the Oven Step by Step
Follow the steps below to dry eggplant in the oven…
Step 1: Preparing the Eggplant
When you’re ready to dry eggplants in your oven, the first step is crucial—preparation. Begin by choosing fresh eggplants that feel heavy for their size and have smooth, glossy skins without any discolored spots or bruises. Freshness is vital because it ensures the eggplant retains most of its flavors even after drying.
Once you’ve selected your eggplants, it’s time to wash them. Run them under cool water and gently scrub the skin with your hands or a soft vegetable brush to remove any dirt or residue. After washing, pat the eggplants dry with a clean cloth or paper towel.
Next, using a sharp kitchen knife, trim off the stem and the very bottom of the eggplant. This step removes the parts of the eggplant that are tough and not as flavorful. Now, you’re ready to slice the eggplant. Place the eggplant on a stable cutting board and carefully cut it into uniform slices, aiming for a thickness of approximately 1/4-inch.
Consistency in slice thickness is important because it ensures that all the slices will dry at the same rate, preventing some slices from being over-dried or still moist.
Step 2: Salting
Once your eggplant is sliced, it’s time to salt it. This step is essential because salt acts as a desiccant, drawing moisture out from the eggplant slices, which is a necessary part of the drying process. Spread out the slices in a single layer in a colander—this allows for air circulation around each slice.
Then, sprinkle a generous amount of sea salt evenly over the slices. The salt shouldn’t be sparse; you want to cover each slice enough to draw out the water content within the eggplant.
After salting, let the eggplant rest. The ideal time is about 30 minutes, which allows the salt to work its magic. During this time, you may notice droplets of water forming on the surface of the eggplant slices—this is good and means that the salt is doing its job.
After 30 minutes, rinse the eggplant slices gently under cold water to wash away the excess salt. This step is important to ensure that your dried eggplant isn’t overly salty and has just the right flavor.
Finally, after rinsing, take another clean cloth or paper towels and pat each slice of eggplant dry. The drier you can get the eggplant before it goes into the oven, the better your drying results will be. It’s a bit of effort, but the reward is your own homemade dried eggplant, perfect for a variety of recipes.
Preheat your oven to its lowest temperature setting, ideally around 130 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit (54 to 60 degrees Celsius). Line your baking sheets with parchment paper and arrange the eggplant slices in a single layer, ensuring they do not overlap.
Read more oven drying topics here – How to Oven Dry Stuff: Your Ultimate Guide to Drying Various Items in the Oven
Step 3: Preparing for the Oven
Now that your eggplant slices are salted and dried, it’s time to transition to the oven. Begin by setting your oven to the lowest possible temperature. Ideally, this should be around 130 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit (54 to 60 degrees Celsius).
This low temperature is crucial because higher heat might cook the eggplant rather than dry it, leading to a different texture and taste. If your oven doesn’t go as low, set it to the minimum temperature and leave the oven door slightly ajar.
While the oven is preheating, get your baking sheets ready. Line each sheet with parchment paper. The parchment paper serves as a non-stick surface, ensuring that your eggplant slices can be removed easily after drying, and it also makes cleanup a breeze. Once lined, arrange the eggplant slices on the baking sheets.
Lay them out in a single layer, taking care not to overlap them. Overlapping can lead to uneven drying because the air can’t circulate as well around the slices that are covered by others.
Step 4: Drying the Eggplant
With the oven preheated and your eggplant slices prepared, place the baking sheets on the middle rack of the oven. The reason for the middle rack is that it typically allows for the most consistent heat and air distribution.
Now, your slices will need to dry for about 2 to 4 hours. However, the exact timing can vary based on the thickness of the slices and the precise temperature of your oven, so it’s important to check on them periodically.
During the drying process, monitor the slices for signs that they are drying out evenly. What you’re looking for is a change in texture; the slices will become progressively more leathery. Unlike raw eggplant that’s soft and spongy, the dried slices should be pliable but not brittle. There should be no visible moisture on the surface or within the slices when you bend them slightly.
As the slices are drying, make sure to flip them occasionally — every 30 minutes to an hour is a good interval. Flipping is key to preventing the eggplant from sticking to the paper and also to promote even drying on both sides. Remember, every oven is different, and spots that are hotter or cooler can affect how quickly the eggplant dries.
Patience is a virtue during this step. The slow, gentle drying process ensures that the flavors are concentrated and the eggplant retains its nutrients. After 2 to 4 hours, when no moisture is visible and the slices have a leathery consistency, you can remove them from the oven. It might be tempting to speed up the process, but slow and steady wins the race here, yielding the best-dried eggplant possible.
Step 5: Cooling and Storing
After your eggplant slices have reached the ideal dehydrated state, the next immediate step is to let them cool down. It’s essential to remove the baking sheets from the oven and set them aside in a safe, heat-resistant area. Resist the temptation to taste or package the eggplant slices immediately; they need to be thoroughly cool to the touch before you proceed.
Cooling is not just about temperature—it’s also a period during which the eggplant continues to condition, allowing any residual moisture to evenly distribute throughout the slices. This makes for better texture and flavor when they’re rehydrated or used in recipes.
Once the eggplant has cooled completely, it’s time to think about storage. For long-term preservation, you’ll want to use airtight containers. These could be glass jars with tight-fitting lids, vacuum-sealed bags, or even plastic containers with airtight seals.
Airtight containers are crucial because they prevent moisture from re-entering the eggplant, which could lead to spoilage or mold. They also keep out unwanted odors or flavors from other foods in your pantry.
Before sealing the containers, divide the eggplant slices into usable portions, so you don’t have to open the container too often, which would expose the eggplant to air and moisture.
Once sealed, label the containers with the date of drying; properly dried eggplant can last for several months when stored in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. Keeping them in a pantry, cupboard, or even your refrigerator can help prolong their shelf life.
Conclusion: How to Dry Eggplant in the Oven
Drying eggplant in your own oven is a rewarding process that preserves the bounty of the season and provides you with a versatile ingredient for your cooking. By following these detailed steps, you’ve taken fresh eggplants from their plump, spongy state to a more durable, concentrated form, capturing the essence of the vegetable in a format that can be enjoyed year-round.