Food Dehydrators And You – Choosing The Right One

Food Dehydrators And You - Choosing The Right One

Food Dehydrators are tools that are essential to your kitchen. Recently, food dehydrator sales increased due to their growing popularity and effectiveness. That's why it's important to learn about how these tools work to improve the quality of your meals.

Today, we'll guide and teach you about food dehydrators. We want to help you by giving detailed information on the mechanics of dehydrators. You'll have enough knowledge and insight to purchase your first dehydrator by the end of this article.

What Is A Food Dehydrator

A food dehydrator is an appliance used to dry various foods. Dehydration is a food preservation technique where food loses its moisture. Dehydrating your food increases its life span by minimizing spoilage and killing off bacteria.

Dehydrating your food

Once the food is dehydrated, you can eat it in its current state or rehydrate it for later. On average, the dehydration process takes at least 4 hours. Usually, dehydrated food looks smaller, and weighs less than its natural state. This means the dehydrated food has fewer calories and is great for users attempting to lose weight.

Food dehydrators use a mixture of air flow and heat to reduce moisture in the food. The water content is about 80%-90% for vegetables and fruits. Various meats have a moisture content percentage of 50%-70%. Using food dehydrators reduce the water count by up to 40%, protecting your food from bacteria contamination.

Food Dehydrator History

Food dehydration is one of the earliest methods of food preservation. Before refrigerators and canned goods, nomads needed to dry their food. Keeping their food dry increased their chances of survival and provided necessary nutrients to the body.

Why did people begin to dehydrate their foods? During the 16th century, fresh food wasn't always available. Living a nomadic lifestyle would be impossible without preserved food. Natural sources such as the sun were used to dehydrate food such as grains, herbs (check the guide to dehydrating herbs), meats, and fruits. With food dehydration, farmers could store their food for later seasons.

Dehydrated food.

However, drying food was a complicated process. Food left in open areas ran the risk of becoming expired or stolen. Insects tended to infest the food while animals would steal the food for themselves.

As time progressed, different cultures successfully dried their food. For instance, Romans and Greeks successfully dried grapes and peas. The Chinese and Japanese cured sea vegetables and fish through food dehydration. Food dehydration became popular, and its techniques improved year after year.

Protein rich food such as meats and fish was preserved throughout history. Our ancestors kept meat dry without the use of refrigerators. Meat and fish would be pretreated in a brine solution or a dry salt cure. The salt dried out the moisture in the food; keeping it safe from exterior threats such as bacteria.

Food Dehydrator Uses

There are many different uses of food dehydrator — here are more common:

Food Preparation

Chefs and homeowners use food dehydrators. Keeping your food dehydrated prevents it from becoming contaminated and losing its quality.

Food Preparation for food dehydrator.

For years, food dehydration has been used for food preservation. Before dehydrating your food, make sure the food is thoroughly washed via an antibacterial vegetable cleaner. Wear gloves to avoid contaminating the food with your skin.

Steam low acidic vegetables such as spinach for at least 10 minutes. Once steamed pat the vegetables dry before placing them in a food dehydrator. Mainly, food dehydrators help chefs food process by keeping the food preserved and clean.

Making Snacks

Snacks are one of our unknown and largest indulgences. However, most snacks on the market consist of preservatives and high sugar. Using a food dehydrator not only saves you money but gives you control over what food goes inside of it.

Food dehydration leads to a more nourishing snack. With food dehydrators, you can create healthy snacks such as kale chips, muesli bars, and dried fruit. Utilize dehydrators to ensure your snacks are better tasting and preservative free.

Making Beef Jerky

Some users like making jerky because it's resource efficient. Leftover meats (chicken, beef, steak, etc.) found in the freezer are great sources for jerky. Because of this fact, people use food dehydrators and save hundreds while doing so.

Dehydrator Beef Jerky.

When making beef jerky, don't over dry your meats. Keep your meat in the dehydrator until you notice signs of it becoming brittle. Remove the meat from the dehydrator after 30 minutes to make great tasting beef jerky strips. You'll have a great tasting snack that lasts longer than store bought jerky.

Drying Herbs

Food dehydrators offer an easier method to dry herbs. Before, farmers would take days to remove moisture from their herbs. Start by exposing the leaves to dry, warm air. Keep the herbs in a ventilated areas until it evaporates. Don't sun dry your herbs because the herbs lose their color and flavor.

Dehydrators have controllable air circulation and temperature settings. Preheat your dehydrator at a temperature range of 95°F to 110 °F. Humid areas requires temperatures up to 120°F. Place the herbs on the dehydrator trays to remove excess moisture with no hassle.

It takes at least 1 to 4 hours to dry herbs correctly. Use a dehydrator to have fresh tasting herbs for your next meal.

How Food Dehydrators Work

A dehydrator works by exposing food to low temperatures of heat for a long period of time in order to remove the moisture from the food.

Science Behind Food Dehydrator

There is a multitude of factors behind a good food dehydrator. Dehydrators work through using a fan, heating element, trays, and air vents. The vents, heating element, and fans work together to remove the moisture from the food.

How Food Dehydrators Work.

When you heat the food, the moisture releases into the dehydrator. The fan captures this moisture and pushes it out towards the air vents. The air vents release the moisture and help it exit the dehydrator.

Air circulates in vertical or horizontal directions. If the air moves vertically, you'll need a fan on top of the dehydrator. Horizontal air circulation requires a rear-mounted fan. We suggest buying the right fan to ensure your meats stay preserved.

Trays

Food dehydrator trays come in many sizes and model designs. Some dehydrators feature robust box shelves; others feature stackable trays. Electric dehydrators come with drying racks to hasten the drying process. High-end dehydrators have rotating trays to dry multiple foods in succession.

Some trays allow different ventilation levels. Trays consist of multiple tiers for different sizes and types of food to dry simultaneously. Keep your tray cleaned for a correct and quality food dehydration process.

Food Texture

When heating, the food starts to change in texture. Meats such as jerky appear leathery and have a chewy texture. Fruits and dried vegetables have a crunchy and sturdy appearance. After the dehydrator removes the internal moisture, the food texture looks cleaner than its natural state.

Gourmia GFD1750 Food Dehydrator With Touch Digital Temperature Control

Temperature

The average food dehydration temperature ranges from 95 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Raise the temperature when dehydrating meats. Meats are more likely to have bacteria, and higher temperatures prevent it from spreading.

Make sure your air circulation and temperature is consistent throughout the drying process. Dehydrating your food at extremely high temperatures result in moist interiors and dry exteriors. Take control over your dehydrator's temperature to ensure great tasting meals and snacks.

Here is a table containing the recommended dehydration temperatures for different food types:

Food Type

Recommended Temperature

Herbs

95°F/ 34°C

Raising Bread

110°F/43°C

Living Foods

105°F/41°C

Making Yogurt

115°F/46°C

Vegetables

125°F/52°C

Fruits

135°F/57°C

Jerky

155°F/68°C

Meats

155°F/68°C

When placing your food on the dehydrator, don't fulfill the urge to raise the temperature to extreme levels. Keep the temperature at a reasonable level to prevent the food from over drying. Lightly add a few drops of water from a spray bottle to rehydrate your food.

Dehydrator Types

Here's two type of food dehydrators:

Stacked Dehydrators

Stacked Dehydrators have trays placed on top of one another. The dehydrators come with a fan mounted on the base or a power unit on top of the trays. Each tray has a center hole to help with air circulation.

Hot air flows up along the exterior walls of the trays. Then the air reaches the center channel of the dehydrator and leaves the machine. Stacked dehydrators are designed to distribute air across each tray evenly and reduce the need to rotate them while drying.

Nesco FD-75A Snackmaster Pro Food Dehydrator

Stacked dehydrators have an efficient and flexible capacity. Since you can utilize the trays to accommodate large and small batches, the food you're dehydrating is equal to the volume inside your stacking dehydrator.

Also, larger stacking models have a larger tray capacity. You'll have to unstack and restack trays to check your progress. For some users, this method is tiresome and redundant. You can't just remove a tray to see its appearance; you must unstack it first. Use stacked dehydrators to remove moisture from multiple meals at once.

Shelf Dehydrator

Shelf dehydrators is another primary dehydrator type. As its name suggests, the trays are selves that slide in and out of a box. Shelf dehydrators have a different airflow system than stacked dehydrators.

The heating and fan elements are placed in the rear unit of the machine, and the air blows evenly through the trays.

Food Dehydrator With Touch Digital Temperature

The main advantage is its even air distribution. Stack dehydrators must be rotated to work properly. Shelf dehydrators create even drying, making it easy for users needing to dry multiple sets of food.

But, shelf dehydrators aren't as flexible as stacked dehydrators. The box shape of the dehydrator limits the amount of trays to use. Still, shelf dehydrators are useful devices for food preservation. Unlike the stacked dehydrator, there's no hole in the center of the tray.

This design change makes it easier to utilize the full tray and is good for making foods like raw crackers and fruit leathers.

How To Use Food Dehydrators

You'll need an adjustable thermostat, heat, and an automatic shut-off timer to dehydrate your food. Use the adjustable thermostat to find the right temperature settings for your food.

Keep a varied temperature setting to dehydrate your food. Heating elements help the food air stay evenly dry. Having an overnight timer makes it easier to dehydrate food overnight or while you're away from home. Here is some of the best food for dehydrators:

Potatoes

Dehydrated white or sweet potatoes can be too hard to snack on. Potatoes taste chewy once rehydrated for meals. Peel the potatoes and cut them into either halves for small potatoes or quarters for longer ones.

Dehydrated potatoes.

Boil or steam the potatoes for ten minutes. Allow the potatoes to cool off after drying them. Next, place the potatoes on a dehydrator tray in one layer. On average, you'll want to dry the potatoes at 125° for six to eight hours.

To enhance the flavor, soak the potatoes in salt and balsamic vinegar. Keep the potatoes inside the mixture for about ten minutes. Doing this technique ensures to give the potatoes an enhanced taste and makes for a better meal.

Apples

Quarter the apples from the top and bottom, remove the core and stem. Slice out the quarters crosswise into 1/8th-inch pieces. Apples start to turn brown within a few minutes of exposing it to the air. This process is called oxidation. If you place the apples in the dehydrator correctly, the color changes slightly and the taste will be preserved.

Dehydrate apples.

As time progresses, the oxidation reduces the vitamin content of the food. Use oxygen absorber or vacuum seal the apples to preserve it longer than a few months.

Place a tablespoon of crystalline ascorbic acid in a quart of cold water if you want to preheat your apples. Place the fruit in a solution for at least ten minutes and remove it with a spoon. Additionally, you can pre-treat the apples with pineapple juice, but it's less effective and gives a citrus flavor to the fruit. Dehydrate your apples at 135°F until desired (8-12 hrs).

Carrots

Get larger slices of carrots before dehydrating. Smaller carrots won't have the same taste and will shrivel up when heated. Steam or dry the carrots for eight minutes. This procedure keeps the carrot's nutrients while eliminating unwanted bacteria from it.

Dehydrate carrots.

Steamed carrots have a different appearance than raw carrots. For example, steamed carrots turn a dark orange and shrink faster than raw carrots. Dehydrate the carrots at 125° for about six to nine hours or until the carrots have a leathery texture.

Onions

Take off the outer layer and dice the onions into ½ inch pieces. Separate layers that are stuck together. Then, spread the onions out in a single layer on the dehydrator's tray. Dehydrate the onions for two hours at a temperature setting of 145°F. After that, dry the onions at 135° for up to eight hours. When drying, make sure to move the onions each hour to speed up the process.

Dehydrated red onion.

Onions tend to stick on dehydrator trays when drying. Use parchment paper or non-stick sheets to prevent this from occurring. Onions give off a strong odor when drying, so keep a window open to keep the air ventilated.

Tomatoes

Before drying tomatoes, wash them out to eliminate pesticides. Remove the steam where the tomato hangs from. You don't have to remove the seeds due to the seeds' gel-like substance. This substance has health and benefits and improves the tomato's taste.

Slice the tomatoes at least five times then dice them into pieces. Try to cut the tomatoes into ½ inch squares. Then, you'll want to spread the tomatoes in one layer on a dehydrator tray. Add juices to increase the nutritional value. If desired, add some salt onto the tomatoes to improve the taste.

Dehydrate tomatoes.

Keep the tomatoes dehydrated at 135°F for approximately eight to ten hours. Remember, tomatoes aren't brittle. This means they'll bend when exposed to high temperatures. Optionally, you can dry the tomatoes at 140°F for two hours for faster drying time.

Are Food Dehydrators Safe

Your food dehydrator's safety quality depends on the material of the device. Food dehydrators come in plastic and stainless steel models and have certain advantages and disadvantages.

Stainless Steel Dehydrators offer the highest level of safety. The machines are quiet, making it easier to operate during the evening. Also, dehydrators of this type are nonreactive. This means that stainless steel dehydrators are better at handling acidic food that's dangerous to your health.

But, stainless steel dehydrators cost more than plastic models. When used for extended periods, calcium tends to build up inside of the machine. Take proper care of stainless steel dehydrators to prevent it from becoming contaminated.

Stainless Steel Dehydrators

Plastic dehydrators are great for consumers with limited budgets and living spaces. Plus, plastic dehydrators are lightweight and easily moved throughout the kitchen. You should opt for a plastic dehydrator because they're compact and don't require as much cleaning time as stainless steel models.

However, plastic dehydrators contain harmful BPA (Bisphenol A) which attacks your hormone structure. If left unattended, the BPA can enter the body and cause long-term issues such as asthma, kidney pain, and heart issues.

Overall, food dehydrators are safe and easy to maintain. Keep your dehydrator clean to increase its life span and protect your food from harmful contaminants.

Manufacturers

If you are looking for a food dehydrator you’re going to find many options available, but keep in mind that these are the best manufacturers:

Nesco

Nesco is one of the leading manufacturers of kitchen products. The company creates dehydrators, jerky spices, and food grinders. Each product is made to create healthy and disease free food. Get a dehydrator from Nesco to ensure the food remains in good condition.

Snackmaster Pro Food Dehydrator

Nesco

Food Dehydrator With Touch Digital Temperature

Gourmia

Gourmia

Gourmia is a manufacturer founded in Brooklyn, NY. The company is passionate about creating products to promote a healthy lifestyle. Gourmia's food dehydrators help consumers eat better, healthier, and fresher without spending extra hours in the kitchen.

Magic Mill

Magic Mill USA is national manufacturer and service center of small kitchen appliances. Kitchen appliances such as hot pots, mixers, and slow cookers keep the food clean from bacteria contaminating your meals.

9 Stainless Steel Drying Racks

Magic Mill

Cuisinart DHR-20 Food Dehydrator

Cuisinart

Cuisinart

Founded in 1973. Cuisinart is known for their high-quality food dehydrators. Cuisinart's products are high quality and are guaranteed to help you efficiently operate in the kitchen. Buy from Cuisinart if you want a dehydrator that's reliable and easy to use.

Food Dehydrator Maintenance And Cleaning Tips

Pay attention to the optimal thickness of each item you place into the dehydrator. Most of the dehydrated items need to be cut before being stored. If the slices have different levels of thickness, the food's quality will be inconsistent. Some of the pieces might receive too much moisture – causing spoils once stored away.

After dehydrating your food, you need to store your food correctly. Buy an air tight container with a moisture absorber pack/oxygen absorber. These containers alleviate problems if your food receives too much moisture and helps the food last longer.

Spray the dehydrator trays with a small coat of vegetable oil. The vegetable oil prevents the food from sticking onto the device. This is where you can experiment with the outcomes. Some foods stick while others won't. If you know what food doesn't stick, there's no point in adding oil. But if the food sticks, then the light coating is a lifesaver.

After dehydrating your food, you need to store your food correctly.

If possible, invest in a fruit leather tray. The trays allow you to make vegetable purees and a wide range of fruits. Cheaper dehydrators tell users to line shelves with wax paper or plastic wraps. While this method works, it's better to have a tray designed for your unit. You'll achieve better results and have cleaner and better tasting food.

Don't think about overdrying food. You can dry the food for longer, but you shouldn't raise the temperature settings to dehydrate the food faster. Doing this seals the outside of the container, adds moisture, and leads to spoiling your food before eating it.

Like using an oven, it's best to pre-heat the dehydrator before adding food. Turn on your dehydrator and allow it to warm up for 20 minutes. Prepare food that requires the same temperature setting and dehydrates at the same time. Slice all the items in equal shapes and sizes to get the best results.

Make sure your food is 95% dehydrated to store your food properly. If your items feel spongy, soft, or sticky, place them in the dehydrator for an extra hour. Food with hard textures or breakable pieces are inedible. Ideally, set your dehydrator in a warm place away from ventilation and windows to improve the quality of your food.

Closing Thoughts

Now that you know everything about food dehydrators, there's one thing that's missing. We invite you to look at our buying guide to find the best food dehydrator projects available.

Leave a comment below if you have any questions or comments.

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