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Choosing a Good Food Dehydrator

August 13, 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAChoosing a food dehydrator that works for you can save you time, money and frustration. Depending on your location you may be able to use air drying for your produce. Other things need to dry quicker for food safety reasons and some things, such as jerky, really should be done in a dehydrator with a thermostat so you know that a minimum temperature was maintained during the processing.

However when you begin searching for a dehydrator it can get confusing fast! There’s so many. Old Joe talked about a table top homemade job while Bill swears by his Excalibur brand name model. What’s a new person to do? The first thing is answering that question – what do you want to do? Are you looking at dehydrating large amounts of food? Fruits, vegetables, snacks, meats and a host of other things including fruit rollups can be done in a dehydrator in the corner of the kitchen. You can even keep one (recommended) outside or in the garage for making liver treats for the dogs. You can dry herbs and make seasoning mixes as well as tea. The more you rely on dehydrating and the greater degree you use it for your family’s food supply the better quality and more reliable you’ll want to have.

My first dehydrator was a table top circular Magic Chef model from Wal-Mart, about the $30-35 range with the idea of making jerky. As a novice I didn’t know a thermostat was really needed for food safety and didn’t know that some had it and some didn’t! Many people do the same thing – thinking they’re all the same, get one of the least expensive models and meat to dry then find the issues start. Mind tends to have “hot spots” on some trays that are warmer than others due to the air flow. In discussion with more experienced dehydrating folks I found it was still useful for many things from tea and culinary to potpourri!

When finances allowed I purchased a used Excalibur and there’s a reason these get the price they do. They’re easy to use, trouble free and have parts available to help fix if something does go wrong. They’re built to stand up to use and in season some have them running all the time. These are machines that are made to last and that normally you can count on. It was more expensive but I feel worth the money. I can alter the thermostat to 155 F. which allows SAFE processing of a variety of jerky meats. Simply marinate and put it in the dryer. It also does onions, potatoes and a range of other foods.

I have a 5 tray which offers quite a bit of space for drying without taking a great deal of counter space. The health conscious or family that will need more there’s a 9 tray model with a 10 year warranty. The deluxe model with a timer and 9 trays will run you about $300 but you can often find them on sale or even used. These are hard working machines built to last! There are also starter units for one or two people that are much less expensive.

I like the ability to dry my own food. I can shred potatoes, blanch them briefly, spread them out to dry and I have “boxed” dried hash browns that are easy to rehydrate and use. As you find the numbers of things you can use your dehydrator for you’ll be like many others and be looking for used ones to add on room!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFruit rollups, meat snacks, banana or apple chips, “cup soup” to add boiling water to for ‘instant’ meals while camping or at home and so many other things. Have picky kids? Take leftover vegetables, dry and powder them, stirring in to pasta and cheese dishes for hidden nutrition. Many make bagel snacks, onion or pepper flakes or powder and other things that we use in the kitchen but perhaps haven’t thought of. Onion flakes (pictured on left) are easy to make, and add a little onion to a variety of dishes. It also easily dries flowers and herbs for craft projects and much more.

Look at your own processing for a host of reasons! There’s a great way to preserve food not only for road trips but emergencies. If the power goes out freezers may unthaw but dehydrated food is not affected. Proper handling and storage and thorough drying is needed. Look around – give it a try!



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