In these lean economic times, a food dehydrator can help you fatten up your wallet and eat healthy. Several everyday foods lend themselves to dehydration, including apples, peaches, bananas, apricots, spinach, and carrots. Foods such as asparagus, chili peppers, and pineapples can also be dehydrated into tasty chips, chunks, and fruit leathers. Dried Herbs can spice up hearty meals; dill, thyme, rosemary, and oregano work well for dehydration. Those long pieces of beef jerky that people buy in corner stores, then chew while walking or driving can be processed in your own home. While it is important to know how to dehydrate foods properly, the first step is picking out the right food dehydrator for your cooking needs.
NO CHEAPSKATES OR BIG SPENDERS. Think about the size you will use the majority of the time. A small dehydrator with too little wattage will not properly dry your food, while splurging on too large of a food dehydrator can backfire, leading to over-dehydration of foods.
SHAPE IT UP. A donut-shaped dehydrator may look cool, but a square or rectangular shape is better- faciliating the consumer with spreading out longer food items, especially strips. Cutting down food that does not fit into the donut space wastes time and energy.
PERFECT TIMING. Having a food dehydrator with a timer makes dehydration easier. Driving home on your lunch break to turn off your dehydrator or relying on a forgetful neighbor is not convenient or practical.
TEMPERATURE CHANGES. Having the capacity to adjust your food dehydrator’s temperature is a big bonus. Fruits and vegetables versus dense meats require different settings for optimal taste and nutritional benefit.
FANNING. Always use a fan. Lack of fans cause uneven heat distribution, much tray rotation, and possible overdrying. It is healthier to have a dehydrator with a top-mounted or side fan as opposed to a base fan, which encourages food and drippings to get caught inside it.
Keeping the above tips in mind, the consumer’s next step is choosing the best brand for their food tasks. Different models come in a couple unit types: Box-and-Shelf or Stackable Units. Models such as Nesco/American Harvest and L’Equipe Model 528 are stackable units with fans on its base. Although inexpensive and not taking too much space, both of these types have unequal distribution of heat, which requires tray rotation. These brands are a good fit for drying vegetables, fruits, and herbs. Making beef jerky and fruit leathers are also good for these two food dehydrators. The Nesco/American models are better for herbs and dried flowers.
The Living Foods Jumbo and the Excalibur’s Large Garden models are both Box-and-Shelf types that use removable shelves. The Excalibur model has a fan behind the shelves, which is more convenient, due to not having to rotate any shelves. Taking out a few shelves is conducive for dehydrating bigger items, bread leavening, and culturing yogurt. With an array of warranties from one to ten years, The Excalibur appears to be an excellent dehydrator choice, working well for the preservation of flavors and meats, while drying fruits and vegetables quickly.
The Living Foods Dehydrator uses convection heating, a type of heating that takes longer, but uses less electricity. However, this model is quite versatile, able to dehydrate many food items. Makers of this brand also promote its capacity to soften butter and honey, sprout seeds, and re-crisp popcorn or crackers.
After choosing your dehydrator, keep in mind some simple recommendations. Use fresh, quality food that is clean. Damaged or spoiled food does not work well. Cut your food items evenly and do not mix too many different foods simultaneously. Various foods dehydrate on different time tables, which can lead to over or under dehydrating and the potential development of bacteria. Smaller pieces dehydrate faster. Cooking foods before storing them is also recommended. Most importantly, have fun, knowing you are being healthy and cutting down your overall grocery bill.