There are over 50 kinds of thyme. Some people simply purchase thyme because it smells good and it looks nice. Other people use it in their everyday cooking. Thyme adds lots of flavor to dishes and is a favorite herb among cooks.
But, what’s the best way to use thyme for your cooking? Many people like to use fresh thyme. This is great if you grow your own plant, but it can become pricy if you always have to purchase it at the store.
Instead, drying is a great way to preserve fresh thyme and save it long term. Many people that grow their own thyme plants opt to dry the herb because it preserves it well. Drying it also ensures that you have fresh thyme at your fingertips for months to come.
So, which method is the best method for drying thyme? The oven method offers a lot of great advantages.
Below, I cover why you should consider drying thyme and the different methods you can use to do so. I then answer exactly how do you dry thyme in the oven, how long it takes and whether you need to wash thyme before drying. Finally, I talk about how and when to harvest thyme and how to store your dried thyme.
- 1 Why Dry Thyme?
- 2 How To Dry Fresh Thyme
- 3 How To Dry Thyme In Oven
- 4 How Long Does It Take To Dry Thyme In The Oven?
- 5 Do You Wash Thyme Before Drying?
- 6 How And When To Harvest Thyme
- 7 How To Store Your Dried Thyme
- 8 Final Words
Why Dry Thyme?
Drying thyme is a great way to have the herb on hand at all times. It’s a good way to preserve what you haven’t used so that it doesn’t go to waste.
Drying fresh thyme significantly increases how long the herb will last and be good for use.
Want to know the difference between using fresh and dried thyme? Read my full comparison and substitution amounts here.
How To Dry Fresh Thyme
If you’d like to dry your own thyme, you’re in luck. It’s quite easy to dry thyme, and there are five basic ways you can do it.
When drying your thyme by hanging, you’ll first want to tie the sprigs together with a piece of string. Just don’t create bundles that are too thick or they may not dry out well.
After that, you’ll hang the bundle up somewhere warm with low humidity. Do not place the bundle in direct sunlight. It will take about 1-2 weeks for the bundle to be completely dry.
The downside to this method is that it doesn’t work in all climates. If you live somewhere where there is a lot of moisture in the air, it’s probably not a good idea. Excess moisture will cause your sprigs to mold.
This is a similar method to the one above, but you’ll be using a tray instead of hanging your herb. You can choose any flat tray and line it with a bit of parchment paper. You’ll then spread the leaves evenly on the tray and place it in a warm room with little humidity.
The leaves will need to be flipped every 12 hours for even drying. You’ll notice your leaves have completely dried in a couple of days.
If you’re strapped for time, this is the quickest method to dry your thyme. Some people don’t like this method though because you may lose some of the flavor.
To start, you’re going to spread the leaves out on a piece of paper towel. You’ll then place another piece of paper towel over top of the leaves. You can then microwave the leaves on high for about 30 seconds.
If your leaves still aren’t dry after that, try microwaving for 15 seconds and then checking on the leaves. Keep drying at 15-second intervals until the leaves have completely dried.
Read my full guide to drying thyme in the microwave here.
Drying thyme in a dehydrator is a great way to dry your leaves. It gets your leaves dried faster than hanging them would, but it leaves in all the flavor unlike the microwave method.
To use the dehydrator, spread the leaves across the trays. You’ll want to set the dehydrator at about 95 degrees Fahrenheit. You’ll want to check your thyme regularly, but it shouldn’t take more than 2-4 hours.
Oven drying is my favorite method of drying thyme because it’s simple. It doesn’t require you to purchase any extra equipment like you would have to with a dehydrator. It’s also better than the air-drying method because you’re not limited by your climate. It’s also much faster than air-drying as well.
The only thing you need to be cautious about with the oven is the heat. Too much heat can overcook your thyme leaves and then they will lose their flavor. Ovens typically can’t be set as low as a dehydrator, so you need to check your leaves more often.
|Air-Dry: Hanging||Warm & Dry||No||1-2 Weeks|
|Air-Dry: Tray Method||Warm & Dry||No||2-3 Days|
|Microwave||High Power||Yes||<1 Minute|
|Dehydrator||95 Degrees Fahrenheit||No||2-4 Hours|
|Oven||<150 Degrees Fahrenheit||When Overcooked||1-2 Hours|
How To Dry Thyme In Oven
You’re probably wondering, then, how to dry fresh thyme in the oven. Here are the steps:
- The first step to drying your thyme in the oven is to preheat your oven. You’re going to set your oven to 150 degrees Fahrenheit, or however low your oven will allow
- Next, you’re going to lay your thyme on a baking sheet. You can either use whole stems, or remove the leaves from the stems
- Make sure you only have a single layer of thyme — more layers will interfere with drying
- Thyme doesn’t like humidity, so leave your oven door ajar to allow moisture to escape. If you need to, you can use a wooden utensil or a piece of cork to prop it open
- Dry your thyme for 1-2 hours
- As I said above, you’ll need to be cautious of your thyme becoming overcooked so check on your thyme every 15 minutes after the first hour
- You’ll know your thyme is ready when it’s brittle and crumbles at the touch
How Long Does It Take To Dry Thyme In The Oven?
How long it takes to dry your thyme in the oven is dependent on what temperature your oven is set, and how much moisture is in the leaves.
Setting your oven to a higher temperature will dry the leaves out more quickly, but you will also risk over cooking them.
Setting your oven to the lowest temperature possible is the best thing for your leaves, but it will take longer.
All in all, it shouldn’t take more than 2 hours for your leaves to dry in the oven.
Do You Wash Thyme Before Drying?
Whether you choose to wash the leaves or not depends on how dirty they are. If you grow the leaves inside, it’s not usually necessary. Also, outside grown leaves usually don’t need washing either unless they appear visibly dirty or if you’ve used pesticides.
In all honesty, you want to avoid washing your thyme leaves because doing so will strip some of the essential oils. The essential oils is what gives thyme its flavor, so you want to avoid eliminating those.
However, if you find that you need to wash them, you can. Lightly rinse the leaves with a gentle stream of water, or cleanse them with a damp cloth. Avoid washing the leaves too heavily.
After washing, be sure to remove any excess moisture. You can pat the leaves dry with a cloth or a paper towel.
Moisture left on the leaves can potentially produce mold during drying, especially if you choose the hanging method. If you choose the oven method, excess moisture will cause the leaves to soften rather than becoming crisp.
Leaves should ALWAYS be dry before the drying process begins.
How And When To Harvest Thyme
For the best results, you should harvest from late spring to early summer just before the plant has bloomed. Flowers usually bloom between June and August, so just be sure to harvest before this time. This is the best time for growing for your thyme, and it’s when the leaves will taste the best.
Also, if your thyme is grown outside, it’s best to harvest it in the morning after the dew has dried. This is when the leaves will have the most flavor.
Harvesting thyme isn’t difficult. All you need to do is prune off about 2/3 of the stem from the tip. This is usually about 5-6 inches. You’re only going to leave the woody ends behind. Try to avoid cutting into this woody section. Doing so many cause your plant difficulty in growing back.
How To Store Your Dried Thyme
When storing your thyme, there are two elements that are your enemy: light and moisture.
Never store your thyme if there is any moisture left in the leaves. If there is any remaining moisture, then you need to dry them out more. If you store leaves that still have retained moisture, your leaves will develop mold.
If you’re not sure if the leaves are completely dry or not, there is an easy way to find out.
Simply store your leaves and check on them once a day for at least 3 days. If there is still moisture in the leaves, you will begin to notice condensation building up on the sides of the container. This is your hint that you need to dry the leaves further.
Light is also very bad for your thyme because it’ll make the herb go bad more quickly. If you store your thyme where it can be hit by the light, you’ll find that it loses flavor very quickly.
The easiest way to store your thyme away from the light is to simply store it in a cupboard. You can also use dark glass containers or ceramic containers.
Type Of Container
Overall, when choosing a container, you’ll want to avoid plastics and stick to glass or ceramic. Many plastics are porous and will absorb the essential oils from your thyme. This will cause your thyme to lose flavor.
Also be sure to choose a container that is air-tight. You don’t want to risk any moisture or contaminants getting into your thyme.
Thyme is a very useful herb that adds flavor to so many dishes. If you’re able to, drying thyme is very helpful and convenient. By drying thyme, you’ll have fresh herbs to use in your cooking for months to come. No worrying about going to the store to buy more, or taking the time to harvest your plants.
Fortunately for you, how to dry thyme leaves in the oven is quite simple. By drying your thyme in the oven, you’ll have fresh prepared herbs in a matter of hours just ready to be cooked.
Suzi is a stay at home mom who is passionate about growing plants that look great and work great in the kitchen. She thinks nothing is better than eating something you have grown yourself.