Buying a Food Dehydrator
Bulk Food Storage
What kind of food dehydrator would be the best to buy? I like making my own celery flakes, but I do that on top of our pellet stove. I would like to try other kinds of food. I have never had a dehydrator before, so I don't know much about them.
I've had several different types of dehydrators. My favorite is the Nesco® brand with the fan and motor on the top and selectable temperature switch. Make sure to keep the receipt when you buy one. I lost mine and had to pay $33 for a replacement motor unit.
I bought additional trays and fruit leather sheets and mesh sheets to complete the set. Amazon often offers a 4 for 3 price plus free shipping on orders over $25. I dry so much stuff because my apartment is very small. Dehydrating is so very easy, too.
I do recommend you get Mary Bell's Complete Dehydrator Cookbook and her Food Drying with an Attitude. They are fun reads with excellent ideas. Since she has been dehydrating for many years, she made all the mistakes for us and can provide great information on what to dry or not dry.
I've had so much fun drying treats that it should almost be illegal. I have an extra hint. If you eat fresh asparagus and snap off those tough ends, don't throw them away! Slice them, place them on the screen on the tray, dry, and then powder them. You'll have instant tasty base for an asparagus soup.
There are two types of dehydrators in many forms. The first is layered trays with a heater on the bottom. This works, but you have to rotate the trays for even drying. And you may get uneven drying if you are not diligent in moving the trays. Also, if the food is cut uneven, it will dry in different times as well.
The second type also has layered trays, but it has a heater and fan system. This eliminates the need to rotate the trays and is much easier and quicker to dry the food. Less drying time will be an energy saver as well.
If you like fruit leather for kids' snacks, look for a solid tray that goes on top of the tray for liquefied foods.
Judy in New York
Yes, I have a suggestion on a dehydrator choice. No, I don't work for the company. For a while, I was privileged to use a friend's good quality, tall, round unit. It worked well, but I found that having to remove layers of trays and find places to put them while I was rearranging others a frustrating exercise.
The money I spent for a fully refurbished unit with a ten-year warranty from excaliburdehydrator.com/ was well within the idea of frugal use of funds. I measured ahead of time so I knew that the large unit would fit well on my countertop under the upper cabinet. The trays are all square so there's no difficulty putting them back in place; they go in from any side. One or more can be removed for drying thicker items. The trays are lined with a removable small mesh screen, which minimizes problems with bits falling through to other trays so I don't need to line the trays. This unit also came with some of the sheets that are used to hold liquids for preparing such things as fruit leathers. When not in use, these sheets are stored in the bottom of the unit.
I joined a Yahoo group on preserving foods so I could learn how to maximize the use of my new toy. It doesn't run all the time, but I do continue to learn ways to use it and am delighted that I can now preserve more of the local and organic foods when in season for use here and as gifts.
Excalibur is really easy to use. I would recommend purchasing the larger one.
While living in Texas, I found the cheapest and fastest dehydrator was the sun. I sliced up a bunch of tomatoes my neighbor had given me and arranged them on a baking sheet. I then laid them out on my "broiling" back patio with a clean piece of sheer curtain over them to keep flies off. Dried tomato slices were had in as little as 30 minutes with no electricity usage! Commercial dehydrators can take as long as 48 hours to dry some foods. Some people use ovens at low temperatures for this purpose, but I say why heat up the kitchen at all? Take it outside!
Most household dehydrators are very similar, and they haven't changed much in the past 20 or so years. Your best bet is to keep an eye out at local garage sales this summer and get one for $5-$10. Or check thrift stores in your area. Then you can try it out without a big investment.
The biggest difference I've seen in dehydrators is just the accessories they come with. Some come with fine mesh screens, which are useful for drying herbs (a piece of muslin cut to fit your rack with some pinking shears would work just as well). There are also plastic trays for making fruit leather (line the rack with plastic wrap), and gadgets for piping out ground meat for jerky or meat sticks (a cookie press does the same job).
One of my favorite things to dehydrate is watermelon. You actually cut it 1/2" thick and put it on the dehydrator for two days, flipping it over after the first day. You'll love this tasty treat. We also really like homemade beef jerky, which is a snap to make as well.
Share your thoughts about this article with the editor: Click Here
Sign up for our free weekly eNewsletter Surviving Tough Times.
Looking for an answer to a frugal living question? Click here to ask a
Dollar Stretcher Stretchpert!