This year I’m really into natural, rustic Christmas decor–think lots of boughs of evergreen and cedar, pinecones, berries, and dried oranges and grapefruit. The other elements are easy, but drying oranges in the oven takes a bit of finesse.
Sure, it might seem simple, but when you dry orange slices without a dehydrator, you have to get the timing just so, otherwise they burn.
For those of you who like your content in video form, here’s a short video so you can watch the process. If you prefer to read, read on!
1. Pick Tired Looking Oranges
The whole process is actually a lot easier if you use older oranges and grapefruit to begin with. The fruit is drier inside, which makes the time in the oven faster. The outside skin is firmer, which makes it easier to cut. Sure, there’s nothing wrong with drying fresh oranges. The time in the oven will be longer.
2. Slice the Oranges as Thinly as Possible
Slice your oranges or grapefruit as thinly as your knife skills allow–around 1/4 inch or 5 millimetres. Keep them as even as possible. Use a mandolin if you own one for a much easier time slicing and less waste.
3. Arrange the Oranges on a Silicone Sheet or Parchment Paper
Arrange the oranges as tightly as possible on a silicone mat (set on a baking sheet, of course). Don’t worry if one or two oranges has to overlap ever so slightly to make everything fit, as the oranges with shrink with dehydrating in the oven.
4. Put in the Oven to Dehydrate
Here’s where things get dicey and the Internet has many opinions. I put my oranges in the oven at 225 Fahrenheit for a total of 2-3 hours. Wow Kristen, that’s a ridiculous range of time and not very helpful. I hear you.
The thicker and larger the slices, the longer the oven time. So for grapefruits and larger varieties of oranges, it will be 2 hours and 45 minutes to 3 hours. For smaller mandarin oranges, it will be more like 1 hours and 45 minutes to 2 hours.
The process also goes slower if you try to do two batches on the 3rd and 4th racks. This might not be the case if you have a convection oven, but I have the cheapest and most basic oven you can buy, so I don’t know.
Finally, some ovens tend to run hot and others run cool, so you’ll have to adjust your expectations based on how your oven tends to bake. If your oven tends to finish baking something in the least amount of time suggested on a recipe, you’ll want to check your oranges & grapefruits earlier.
5. Flip the Oranges around an Hour in
6. Check the Oranges for Browning
The line between an underdone dried orange, a perfectly done dried orange, and a burnt crisp is surprisingly fine. I found that in my oven, in order to get a full tray of perfectly dried oranges that were crisp with no remaining juicy/leathery bits, I had to sacrifice at least 4 to getting too burnt.
Since I need to take pictures for this blog and burnt oranges are not appealing, I tended to take a tray out even if not every single orange was crisp. More on this later in the post.
After making a couple of batches, I learned the sweet spot was to watch for when the oranges started to get a very slight brown on them. At that point, most of them will be hard enough and completely dry, and you won’t lose any to burning. Even if some oranges are still tacky in spots–TAKE THEM OUT! Or watch them like a hawk. If you insist on keeping them in the oven, commit to checking on them every 10 minutes or risk having a lot of them burn.
Can I Use Dried Oranges that Aren’t Perfectly Dried?
I live in a pretty dry climate, so I’m willing to take the risk of not having perfectly done oranges, and am hoping that the tacky bits will air dry. However, if you live in a more humid climate, you might end up with mouldy oranges.
Don’t store any oranges that aren’t completely dry for next year. They will mould and should go into the compost instead. Any oranges that are completely dry should last for years.
What Do you Use Dried Oranges For?
I use dried oranges for Christmas ornaments, in garlands, and wreathes. They add a beautiful hit of colour to Christmas decor and look really striking paired with blue spruce.
If you’re looking for how to make all these decorations at a fraction of the cost of purchasing them at a boutique store, get your name on the list for the Natural Christmas Decor Masterclass. You can make simple and beautiful decor with foraged & natural items, that makes your friends drool with envy.