How To Dry Chili Peppers – Part One

The main reason to learn how to dry hot peppers is simply to enable you to keep them for a long time. Peppers can last for several days to a few weeks at room temperature or in the refrigerator before they start to rot. Freezing peppers, if done right, can make them last several months, but the thawing process can be a tricky one where often you’re left with overly soft and mushy chiles. Dried chiles can last from several months to a few years if store properly.

Removing moisture from peppers will magnify and intensify the heat, flavor, and natural sugars it contains. Dehydrated chiles pack more fiery punch and ferocity in both solid food and hot sauce recipes than fresh peppers. Plus, if you grind or crush dried peppers, you can use it as an all-purpose flavoring and seasoning for any occasion.

Drying in the Oven

You can dry peppers in any regular kitchen oven. It’s convenient that this method of drying can be done in just about any kitchen in the western world, but there is one big disadvantage; it may take several hours to a few days for the peppers to fully dry, depending on the size. It can also heat up your kitchen considerably if you’re drying on warm spring or hot summer day.

Simply position the peppers on a pan or cookie sheet in a single layer and place it in the oven. Set the oven to its lowest temperature setting, which is usually labeled as “WARM”, or just below 150 degrees Fahrenheit (120° to 140° is desirable). To allow moisture to escape, keep the oven door slightly open at least a couple of inches (now you know why it can make your kitchen hot). Every hour, rotate and/or flip the peppers over for even drying.

If you find peppers getting soft, brown/black, or extremely hot on the side where they touch the pan, then they’re getting cooked; you certainly don’t want this, as you’re just trying to dry these to use at a later date. To prevent this, try one of the following:

  • Turn down the temperature slightly. Not all ovens are calibrated the same – some may be off by 10° or more from the “real” temperature.
  • Flip the peppers over and move them around more often
  • Open the oven door wider

As soon as they’re fully dry, remove from the oven and place in an air-tight container. Larger, thicker-skinned peppers will take longer to dry than smaller or thin-skinned chiles.

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