What to look for in a food dehydrator

Buying a Food Dehydrator

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Buying a Food Dehydrator

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Buying a Food Dehydrator

What is a good price for a dehydrator and what is a good brand? I'm toying with the idea of buying one. It just might help me from losing so many mushrooms.

Very Basic But Fits Needs

I was undecided as to what kind of dehydrator I needed and how much to spend on it. There are so many and they can be very pricey. I came across a Ronco™ 5 tier electric dehydrator at Target for about $40 and figured I'd try it. It's very basic (you have to do everything manually), but it fits my needs perfectly. I would highly recommend it, but you have to have the time to rotate and change the trays.

Love My Excalibur® Food Dehydrator!

I have been using a dehydrator for quite some time. We just purchased our second Excalibur® food dehydrator a few weeks ago. The only thing I use my canner for anymore is canning beef, chicken and vegetable stock.

Do not purchase a round dehydrator. They take too much babysitting. I highly recommend the Excalibur® with the optional timer. It is the best and worth every penny. We dehydrate so much. When produce is on sale at the store, I buy in quantity and dry it. When the garden is plentiful, the surplus gets dried. Drying saves so much space and you really do not need special jars and lids. We save peanut butter and spaghetti sauce jars. If you have Mason jars and lids you can use a vacuum sealer attachment and really prolong the life of the dried foods.

You can use a dehydrator to make yogurt, raise bread dough, dry herbs and spices, "bake" crackers and make granola. Once things are dry, there is no worry if the power goes out. As long as you have a water source, you can rehydrate foods.

Before You Buy a Food Dehydrator

I would try a free or cheap route first, especially if you're just testing the waters. Try Freecycle, thrift shops, yard sales, and ask your friends if they know anyone who has one they don't use. If you end up discovering that dehydrating just isn't for you after all, you won't be out much money, if any. And if you do like it, you can always sell, donate or give that first trial model away and upgrade later if you so choose.

Another consideration is access to free or cheap produce. It won't save you much money if you have to buy expensive, full-price produce. On the other hand, if you garden, have generous friends with green thumbs, or know of a cheap source for fruits and veggies, you're ahead of the game. If your family eats a lot of beef (or other) jerky, that's another plus. And if you know a hunter, that's even better. My father used to make his own beef jerky, and it was delicious. Plus, you can control the flavor, the meat quality, and the ingredients.

Also, research other drying methods like a low oven or non-electric hanging mesh dehydrators to see if they might meet your needs. A friend uses the hanging dehydrators with success.

Like any kitchen appliance, consider all the options and how much you'd really use it before shelling out a large amount of money for it. But if you find more "pros" than "cons" when you've thought it through, then look for the best deal and buy with confidence!

What Will You Dry?

I have an American Harvest® food dehydrator that I got many years ago. It's still going strong. Just be sure the one you pick has a fan and a thermostat. Some foods are better dried at a lower temperature and some a higher temperature (jerky).

If you are only planning on doing mushrooms and the occasional veggie or jerky, I think this brand would work for you. Be sure and buy a few extra trays and the roll-up liners. I use those liners when I do herbs or small bits that would sift through the tray openings.

Some say that a very light coating of cooking spray will help with the sticking. I just soak my trays in warm soapy water to clean them, using a medium brush on the tough spots.

I dry mushrooms, onions, peppers, tomatoes, greens, cooked veggies like corn or carrots, apples, pears, strawberries, and ground meat jerky. Shredded zucchini is great to dry. It dries down a lot and you can store two to three squash that are about the size of a baseball bat in a quart canning jar. Then reconstitute and make into bread or add to soups.

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