Thursday, June 18, 2009

Choosing a Dehydrator

Hi everyone! I'd like to thank RW for inviting me to do a post about one of my favorite things. Dehydrators! (Yes, he asked me to talk about them again!) For full disclosure, I’m not an expert on them, but I've done a bit of research on mine, and what they can be used for, so I'll pass on the things I've seen and read.

If you’re in the market for a dehydrator, do your research as to the model you’re interested in getting. If you stumble upon one at a yard sale, you’re stuck with what you've got, but check on the web for accessories.

First, you need to decide what you want to dehydrate. Veggies, home made beef jerky, fruit rollups, whatever. Depending upon what you want to make, it takes different temperature settings, so make sure you find one with an adjustable temp.Mine adjusts from 95 to 145.The book says veggies need 130, fruit 135, and meats at 145 degrees.

Next you need to decide how big of a batch you want to make. Mine can do 1 pound of frozen veggies per tray, and I have 2 trays, about 14 inches diameter. One thing to watch for is the size of the gaps in the rack, as the food shrinks to at least half size or less! The more water, the more shrinkage. If the gaps are too big, things like peas will drop thru. Mine came with a fine plastic mesh screen to solve that.

Then you need to find a place to put it while it works away! Mine makes about as much noise as a fan on low, and I keep it in the kitchen running overnight with no problem. I usually keep it on top of the microwave, so it's out of the way. In the winter, I put it in the bedroom to help knock off the chill, why waste the heat!? Just don't try this with onions; your eyes will water real quickly!

So what do you need for your specific need? EVERYTHING! I have 2 trays, 1 mesh screen, a jelly tray, which is just a plastic liner for liquids. Even if you don't plan on doing eggs or fruit rollups, the jelly tray makes cleanup easier. And once you use it, you’ll be trying everything!

So what do you look for otherwise? How easy is it to unload? If you’re not careful, you’ll have peas bouncing all over the kitchen. How easy is it to clean? Mine has a 2 inch hole for the hot air to flow through, and Murphy's Law always gets a few peas or corn in it. It’s jammed the fan on me once, and I had to disassemble it to clean it. I’ll fix that soon (Ask me how!).

If you have a chance, see if the model you want has extra trays for it. On my particular model, you can stack them as high as you like.

The only other thing to consider is storage. I keep mine in a coffee can in the fridge. Believe it or not, you can easily get 15 pounds of peas or corn in a large coffee can! For long term storage, you could vacuum pack them or use one of those vacuum attachments for canning jars. So, look for temperature adjustments, unloading ease, cleanup, and spare parts.

GO DRY SOMETHING!!!!

Dean in AZ

6 comments:

SciFiChick said...

Another great post Dean. My mom just sent me a Nesco (Bless her sweet heart) and I am in the infant stages of dehydrating. I'm looking forward to learning all I can about this method of food storage. There is a great post over at the American Prepper Forums for the uninitiated entitled Dehydrating 101. Great beginner videos.

Mr. Natural said...

Years ago I built a food dehydrator with multiple removable shelves of plastic window screen mesh and options for multiple light bulbs in the base. It was about 16 inches square by about 3 feet tall with a simple door on one side, allowing a screened vent hole in the bottom and one in the top which causes air to rush through as heated air rises. Nearly all made of scrap lumber and very effective.

No moving parts and butt-simple to make. Wish I could sketch it for you!

Anonymous said...

Scifi; Once you learn all the thing's you can do,you'll keep it running 24/7! I'll try and get a recipe or 2 for you if you'd like.
Mr.Natural: Sound's similar to the one I described a few post's ago,cept the one I'd seen used a small hair dryer.How long did your's take to get it all dry? Sound's like an industrial size to me! If you use light bulb's,you may want to make some type of cover for the bulb's,to keep any juice or water from dripping on them and shattering them,wasting all the good stuff inside.Just had a thought,using light's...if you could find a bathroom light fixture,with 3 or 4 bulb's,you could unscrew them to adjust the temp.Great way to save money and improvise Natural!A little time and labor beat's a handful of cash any time!
Dean in Az

RS said...

Thanks for the practical considerations and insider tips on dehydrator usage and storage. Here are some product features insights to use in comparing different dehydrators. Best

SciFiChick said...

Dean, I would love any and all recipies and suggestions. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

SciFi:
Found a recipe for a stew/soup,8 serving's is a whole 6 cup's of dried food! I'll give it a crash taste test,then post it if RW will allow!
Dean in az

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