Thursday, June 4, 2009

DIY Homemade Dehydrator - Cheap and Easy!

Hi Everyone! I mentioned in my last post a few of my great yard sale/park and swap deals. Trust me; I got really lucky on most of them! Most people don't know how to can, use a pressure cooker, make jerky in a dehydrator, whatever, or they have no patience. Water canning is super simple, provided you only do what is correct for it, boiling water and waiting, pretty much. Pressure canning/cooking needs a special setup. So, how to dehydrate? All you need is warm, dry air and a semi-sealed container. So let's make one!

First, you need a source of warm, dry air...hmmm; a cheap yard sale hairdryer fits the bill! Make sure it has a low setting though; you don't want veggies blowing around!

Second, you will need a cardboard box. If you want to do it long term, you may prefer to whip up a wooden box or something like a metal or plastic 5 gallon bucket with a lid.

Next, you need some racks to fit inside. You could make these out of 1x2's cut to the boxes inside size like a picture frame, then window screen stapled to it.

Cut a hole in the box or bucket on the side, near the bottom, to fit the hairdryer nozzle into. Then cut a hole in the opposite side near the top. The idea is to make the air circulate all throughout the box.

Place your food on the racks, stack them in the box, close the top of the box, flip on the dryer on low and wait! Depending on what you are drying, how much, and so on, it will take at least 12 hours. When I started, I could only do 1 pound per rack. A trick I've learned, wait a few hours for the first batch to start to dry, then add more. Now I can do 4 pound's of veggies in 16 hours. And that 4 pound's fits easily into a 1 quart freezer baggie!

My experience is that fresh or frozen stuff works best. I'm not sure if you can do canned stuff, as I assume its already cooked to some degree. Besides, frozen is cheaper, as your not paying for the water. Potatoes need to be blanched 5 minutes, or it turns gray. Probably ok, they’re just ugly looking. Eggs are super easy, but you'll need some type of shallow PLASTIC dish, as metal will probably react to it.(Aluminum is out, as I've already learned!).My dehydrator has a plastic dish for making fruit roll ups, holds 6 eggs, barely.

Like my grandfather always told me "If you put a lazy man on a hard job, he'll find an easy way to do it. And if it works, who cares?" I've tweaked it to be "If you put a cheapskate on an expensive task, he'll find a cheap way to do it!"

If anyone tries this, please send any ideas you can add to it! I'm having a blast helping out RW, he's been so kind and tolerant of my ranting and I love reading your input. Here I thought I knew a lot and you people keep showing me what I missed!

I'd like to thank RW for letting me ramble on yet again and let's all keep him and his family in our thoughts. And thanks to everyone for the responses to my last post, Lots of great links and tips! Keep this up folk's! The only way to prep is thru knowledge, because we're all like minded, let's share it all!

Let's all keep RW and his family in our thought's. Thank you for letting me rant again RW, and thanks all of you for reading it too!

Dean in Arizona


Anonymous said...

Great post Dean. I'm going to start checking yard sales for dehydrators.

Kentucky Preppers Network

TennZen said...

It's true that you need to blanch potatoes for 5 minutes before dehydrating. Last year, I dried a batch of potatoes without blanching. Sure enough, they turned black. And the effect wasn't just cosmetic - they weren't fit to eat, either. 25 pounds of potatoes ruined.

I learned a valuable lesson that time.

Anonymous said...

Matt; Thank's again!
Tennzen; I got lazy the first try on potato's,skipped the blanch..same thing! I'm sure frozen food is blanched before packing,never had a problem with them at all. I have tried apple and banana's,the apple's turned out ok,the banana's were chewy and gummy,and took forever. I soaked the apple slice's in some lemon juice to prevent discoloring,then sprinkled with sugar and cinnamin,great!
Dean in Az

Whit Spurzon said...

Great post. I much appreciate the real life insights. I will have to give this a try.

Wretha said...

You can also make a solar food dehydrator too, no electricity needed. :)


Theodore said...

Hot air actually cooks the food to some degree...

Alton Brown (of Food Network) suggests that cool air is actually what you need, and gives directions to make a simple DIY dehydrator in his beef Jerky recipe:

vlad said...

Lehman Hardware Kidron Ohio offers
dehydrators and canning supplies.

Anonymous said...

My dehydrator has a temp setting between 95 to 145 degree's. Being impatient,I keep it on 130 all the time.
Dean in az

Anonymous said...

You can't just use any window screen though. Some contain poison chemicals. Google it!

Anonymous said...

Anon 7;10
True,I'd use stainless if you can find it.Maybe some type of nylon?
Dean in az

Heckinahandbasket said...

Personally I would not want to leave a hair dryer running even on a low setting and or unattended for hours on end. If a forced air system is called for I'd opt for one of those small ceramic element space heaters.

The dehydrator I just picked up at a garage sale only has a heating element in the bottom. It uses adjustable vents and convection to control heat & airflow.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, I ain't no rocket surgeon or brain scientist, so your mileage may vary.

Grumpyunk said...

Backwoods home magazine had a nice set of plans to make an electric powered unit. It looked very nice. Search the archives at their site and you'll find it.

Here's some plans (mostly pictures but easy to make) for a solar dryer. This plan was covered in Countryside magazine back in the Y2K days and is supposed to be very functional.

This is the one I'm planning on making.

Good topic, Dean.

Anonymous said...

Never seen the convection type,sound's simple.Mine has a small fan in it,on chilly night's I put it in the bedroom to knock off the chill! Don't try this with onion's tho,your eye's will water all night!
Dean in az

Anonymous said...

Wretha, I'm with you. I utilize the power of the sun for my dehydrating. Being in sunny, dry Utah, it fits the bill.

Jimmy the Screwdriver said...

I built my own SOLAR dehydrator.

Take a look. It was easy to make and does the job WAY faster than my electric one.

Anonymous said...


Jelina Roy said...


Indeed a good post, And I believe having a Food Dehydrator at our home is very important as it helps dehydrating food,, so we need the best food dehydrators, that's why I have recently purchased one of the best food dehydrators available, because i want to make best food with food dehydrator.
By the way, Keep up the good work.

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