Oregano is one of a small group of herbs that is actually improved by drying. The fresh herb is extremely pungent and can easily dominate other flavors in a dish. Many cooks find the dried herb milder and more palatable. If you have access to the fresh herb and want to try drying it to preserve it and to soften its flavor profile, here are some of the best ways to dry oregano.
If you need to dry whole stems of oregano, air-drying will be one of the more convenient options. You can simply tie the stems together to make bundles and then hang those bundles in locations with good air circulation. Some people recommend using attics as these offer high temperatures and the driest air in many homes.
Alternatively, you can hang your oregano bundles in a covered area outdoors such as in a garage or on a porch. If you want to remove the leaves from the stems before drying them, you can place the leaves in a single layer on a cookie sheet in a warm room. Keep in mind that the surfaces of oregano leaves should be free from moisture when you hang the bundles up to air dry. Otherwise, they may develop mold or mildew growth.
To help protect the oregano bundles from airborne mold and mildew spores, you can tie a paper bag around them. Punch holes in the bag for airflow. The bag will also protect the leaves from light, which may prevent discoloration. Oregano will usually take between two and four weeks to dry out using the air-drying method.
In a food dehydrator
A food dehydrator will be the most reliable and efficient solution since it was designed to remove moisture from herbs and other food items. Place the oregano stems on the food dehydrator’s trays and follow the appliance’s instructions for drying herbs. With most devices, you will use the lowest setting to dry oregano. Avoid going any higher than 125 degrees. You will need to turn the leaves multiple times during the process to ensure that they dry evenly. You will know that the oregano is dry when the leaves are brittle and crumble easily.
Usually, oregano will take approximately four hours to dry thoroughly. If it is still not dry at the end of four hours, dry in short bursts and check it frequently.
In the oven
If you need a faster method for drying oregano than air-drying it and you don’t have access to a food dehydrator, you can try drying the herb in an oven.
Wash the oregano and pat dry with a paper towel before placing the sprigs on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Heat your oven to its lowest setting, which will be around 200 degrees Fahrenheit in most cases. Turn the sprigs over after 10 minutes. After another 10 minutes, turn the oven off and let the oregano sit until cooled. If the leaves are not completely dry, you can repeat the method checking the leaves for dryness every five minutes.
In the microwave
The fastest way to dry oregano is in the microwave. You can microwave whole sprigs of oregano or remove the leaves and microwave them only. Rinse and dry your oregano sprigs or leaves then lay them out in a single layer on a paper plate or paper towel. Microwave on high for about one minute then in 20-30 second bursts checking between each burst to see if they are completely dry.