Will I Poison Myself with this orange peel?

No apologies for the dramatic title… but food does go through chemical changes when you cook it.

I wanted to create orange peel powder for spice, and also to use in soap making, as an exfoliant and to give the soap a nice smell. I don’t have a dehydrator so I left a tray full of peels in a preheated oven and turned off the heat, but I left it in a bit long, so some of the orange slices turned dark brown.

I still pulverized them along with the just done ones in the spice blender and the product is a deep orange-brown, quite beautiful I think, with a smokey citrusy smell and flavor.

But did I create something poisonous? I know this sounds a bit paranoid, but you never know!

If you made an Orange cake with orange slices on the top and overcooked it so the peel on the slices turned dark brown would you be worried…?

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For soap or for consumption? I doubt it is poisonous because you over baked it 10 min longer. It is fine. The Chinese are well known for aging orange peel for herb medicinal use. I think you are perfectly fine.

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No problem with poisoning yourself. Although heating it that much may have negative results down the road. The oils may go off tasting, or lose strength from the excessive heat. But the smoky aroma/flavor may make up for that if you use it relatively soon. Grinding them into powder also shortens the shelf life as well.

Chenpi, aged, dried Chinese tangerine peels, are dried at outside or room temp, in sun or shade (different ways give different flavor profiles), and then aged for several years, 3-6 at the low end, and up to 20-30 years for the best, which sell for around $2k a pound.

I peel, dry, and age around 100-200 sets of Satsuma/Sumo tangerine peels each year. (Also a smaller amount of assorted paper thin sliced whole citrons, sweet lime peels, and sweet lemon peels.) They really do start to improve after 3-4 years, and the range outside zest starts to darken more each year. There is even a technique for properly slitting the peel so that you end up with the whole peel, still attached at the base, and with three “petals” to it. Recipes call for one piece, two pieces, etc. and a piece is basically the peel from 1/3 a tangerine.

You use it by soaking in cool water for 5-20 minutes, never more than 30, and then scraping off most of the inner white pith before using. Then using in sauces, in hot oil to prep for stir frying, etc.


What if I freeze it?

Oh those Chinese, who can beat their cooking techniques? Not me. I just chop stuff up in a cruddy little kitchenette.

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Why grind it ahead of time? If it’s all a done deed, then just use it before it oxidizes. Although, who knows, oxidation improves the whole dried peel after a period of time, so take notes on the powder and see what happens.

Unless you can vacuum pack and freeze, why bother? Poor freezing is usually worse than dry, dark, storage.

Did you dry using the sun or a dehydrator?
100-200 sets are a big quantity for a home cook. Besides Chinese cooking, do you have other ways to use those peels?

I either use a dehydrator (usually), or in a paper bag suspended above a radiator (the past two years this has been my main way to deal with huge amounts when the dehydrator is full.) I tend not to sun dry since the quality tangerines best used are only available in mid-winter.

I use a lot in making liqueurs and syrups. I also use a lot fresh for the same thing.

I use them in many stews, braises, sauces, etc. A small amount can add a huge depth of flavor, without a huge orange/tangerine hit.

I also use to make herbal tea’s, and add to commercial teas, and coffee. I’ll just crush a piece into a coffee maker and pour the coffee grinds on top. Then brew. (Not with my best coffee’s.)

I give quite a bit away, but most is aging. I wish I had put more away 20 years ago.

I don’t want to buy a dehydrator. The lowest my oven goes is 200F.


During summer citrus season, I air dry outside, bringing in the peels overnight to avoid dampness.


This time of year, maybe heat your oven, then turn it off and place the peels inside. If you have a gas oven, I think you could probably leave the peels on a rack and they will dry in a few days without the oven even being turned on.

Do you have a gas oven with a pilot? My parents dried the tangerine peels in the oven with just the pilot, for a few days.

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I suggest you talk to your oranges. The secret ingredient in all food is love, and love starts with conversation.

Seriously though, I thought you did a good job already, why are you starting over? Beside what other people have said…you can always heat up your oven using a thermometer as a guidance. Once the thermometer is around 120oF or 150oF, then you can turn it off and leave the orange peel in there.

Did you notice a difference between sun-dried peels and oven dried ones?

If using an oven as a dehydrator, should I turn on the fan setting or not? My lowest setting can go beyond 100ºF.

Keep the oven door ajar

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Fish market.
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