What is a Food Dehydrator?
A food dehydrator is a machine used to remove moisture from food to assist in its preservation. The dehydrator utilizes heat and generates air flow to lower moisture content of food before preservation. Many foods especially vegetables and fruits have between 80% and 95% water content. By lowering the moisture content using a food dehydrator, you are sure of restraining different types of bacteria, fungi, and molds from spoiling the food and lengthening its shelf-life.
The dehydrator consists of four main parts that help in drying food; heating elements, air vents, fans, and food trays. The heating element warms your food stacked in trays making it release moisture while the fan blows the moist air out through the vents. The process goes on for hours until the moisture content is lowered to about 20%. At this point, many foods can stay for many months without getting spoilt. For nuts and cereals, the enzymes remain inactive but alive.
Dehydrators dry food at 54 °C(129 F) even though making jerky requires heating meat at higher temperatures of 68 °C(154 F). The success of any dehydration process is in the application of steady temperatures and good air circulation. If the temperatures are too high, the results will be hardening of food on the outer parts but moist. This makes it vulnerable to getting damaged on the inner part.
Types of Food Dehydrator
Here are two main types of food dehydrators; the vertical flow food dehydrator and the horizontal flow model. Though both are used with good results, each comes with a number of pros and cons that a buyer should understand before making a decision on which to buy.
The Vertical Air Flow Dehydrator
This machine is designed with an up-and-down orientation to facilitate vertical movement of hot air. The heated base and fans are located either at the lower or upper part of the machine so that hot air is pushed up and escapes through the vents. The model with a dehydrator at the bottom provides better air flow because hot air easily moves up. Unlike the model with top positioned fan, the type of a fan at the top has to work harder to force hot air move downwards and force it to escape via vents fitted on the lower section.
When the fan and heater are located at the bottom, drying juicy items like tomatoes may result to the sap dripping down and damaging the machine. Because of poor air circulation associated with vertical airflow dehydrators, you can only get perfect results when you rotate the trays manually during the drying process. If you fail to rotate the trays, food closer to the heating element will dry faster compared to others in the dehydrator. This makes it unsuitable for people with busy schedules because one is required to keep checking for some time until the process is complete.
Pros of vertical flow dehydrators:
- The machines are more affordable compared to the horizontal types
- Vertical airflow produces better results when the type of food being dried is fish, raisins, herbs, or strawberries.
- This dehydrator is ideal for small household units that do not require drying a lot of food.
- Provided that the owner does not forget to rotate the trays in the drying chamber (they are therefore perfect when working at home or cooking in the kitchen because one is available).
Cons of using vertical flow dehydrators:
- Heat distribution in this dehydrator is uneven (heated air tends to follow a specific pattern that can leave some foods only partially dry).
- Because of poor heat distribution, it is difficult to dry some food types such as bananas, meat, and chicken.
- The dehydrator requires full-time attendance to rotate the trays. This makes it not ideal for people with busy schedules or requiring multitasking.
- When heating element and fan are located at the bottom, they can easily be damaged by sap that drops from some foods like meat.
Horizontal Air Flow Dehydrator
This type of dehydrator is available on stackable designs and horizontal types. The dehydrators are more expensive compared to the vertical types. Heating occurs across every tray that makes it even and, therefore, perfect for heating the even meat and tough fruits. The heating element and fan are located on the side to help drive hot air evenly.
Unlike the vertical model, tie type of machine is better or busier households since food can be placed on trays and allowed to dry without turning the trays. Many people leave the machine on at night when they are asleep or concentrating on other duties. Simply set the moisture content level you prefer and leave the machine to do the job.
Pros of horizontal flow dehydrator:
- The machine achieves even heat distribution and drying on food stored in every tray.
- Because there is even heat distribution, this type of machine is ideal for drying tough fruits and even jerky.
- The dehydrator is also good for heavy duty drying such as when one is having an event, preparing winter food, and even commercial stores because of even heat distribution.
- Since trays do not require being rotated manually, the horizontal machine is ideal for people who have very busy schedules or simply want concentration on specific tasks as food dries.
- Food dries faster and the machine is therefore ideal for people who enjoy trying varying recipes.
Cons of horizontal flow dehydrator:
- Horizontal low dehydrator is more expensive compared to the vertical design and therefore not ideal for small households.
How To Choose The Right Food Dehydrator For You
Depending on individual or business needs, it is important to know how to pick the ideal food dehydrator to get the highest value for money.
- Select the right size of the dehydrator: This consideration is dependent on the amount of food that one will need to put in the machine and dry at any one time. The best type of dehydrator is the one that allows the user to put additional trays to expand its drying capacity.
- The shape of the machine: Dehydrators in the market come in circular, round and rectangular shapes. Figure out how the dehydrator is going to fit in the kitchen, the available space, and décor preferences>
- The number of trays the food dehydrator can hold: Factor the number of trays and food that you will need drying. Some food dehydrators have stackable trays that allow the user to stack from five to twenty while others come with just a few shelves.
- Type of thermostat in the machine: Food dehydrators are available in two types, those with adjustable and others with non-adjustable thermostats. It is advisable to go for the adjustable model because it allows you to adjust the temperatures depending on the level of drying required and type of food.
- Visibility of the drying process: Consider going for the dehydrator that has a clear glass door to make it easy to see the drying process without opening the chamber or stopping the process.
- Strength and durability: Though a common plastic model will work well for those who want to dry occasionally vegetables and fruits, it is not durable. If you want a machine to make jerky and dry herbs among other hard tasks, make sure to look for a strong and durable machine.
Best Food Dehydrators
Excalibur 3926TCDB 9-Tray Electric Food Dehydrator Review
The Excalibur 3926TCDB Food Dehydrator is a 600 watts, 110 volts dehydrator measuring 18 x 17 x 10 inches and weighing 18 pounds. It is an American made model that fits well in most kitchen tops, for regular and intensive use in drying tough vegetables, and even jerky. Whether you have a large family or preparing large quantities of food to take you through winter, this model will never disappoint.
It features easy to use controls located at the top of the machine that makes it easy to control temperatures and check what is happening in the drying chamber. You can set the machine to heat your food on a wide range of temperatures from 105°F – 165°F depending on the type of food you are drying as you continue with other tasks.
This fabulous nine-tray dehydration model provides a total of 15 sq feet to dry a number of foods at a go. The dryer also comes with an inbuilt switch plus a thermostat with adjustable 26 hours time. Once the trays are loaded and fitted into the dehydrator, simply set the thermostat and leave the process to self-run throughout the night or up to a full day.
The heating element, thermostat, and fan are all positioned at the backside to make it easy to draw air easily, heat it, and distribute to all trays evenly. Its design uses the highly effective parallel horizontal air movement model that facilitates food to dry faster and retain nutrients without losing nutrients.
Because some foods such as fruits can be very sticky, the dehydrator trays are made from poly-screen materials. This makes it ideal to raise dough and make yogurts without leaving permanent marks or food stains on the surface. Simply set different foods close to each other but not touching and fit the trays in the heating chamber for the right amount of time. The machine frames, joints, and trays are made from extra-hardened materials to help them withstand high temperatures in the heating chamber. You can, therefore, expect it to last longer at optimal performance.
Nesco FD-75A Snackmaster Pro Food Dehydrator Review
The Nesco Snackmaster Pro Food Dehydrator FD-75A is one of the best dehydrators for preserving every type of food in your home or kitchen. The machine is a 600 watts powered model and has an adjustable temperature range from 95 °F to 160 °F. It is, therefore, ideal for a wide rage of food items ranging from vegetable that require mild temperatures to Jerky that needs higher temperatures.
Whether drying nuts, chicken, or fish, the machine is set to ensure that flavors will not get mixed up. The hot air is pushed horizontally for even heat dnistribution, faster drying, and great results. Once you set the thermostat and put the machine on, you will not need to keep turning the trays over for even heating. Simply go ahead with other tasks and the machine will stop once the preferred moisture content is attained.
The round shape, easy to change mesh sheet, and jerky packets makes the appliance ideal for using your kitchen. The 13x13x10 inches machine will easily sit on the kitchen worktable, countertop, or at one corner of the room to dry food while you proceed with other tasks. Besides, it comes with an easy to carry handle for greater portability. Simply make sure to have the right source of power when you take the dehydrator to a different location.
Nesco FD-37A American Harvest Food Dehydrator Review
With its round and appealing outlook, this machine is a fantastic dehydrator. It comes with a nice round model housing seven changeable trays. These allow you to include different types of foods on every tray as opposed to one at a time. Its size is 14 inches x 9.2 inches x 14.2 inches to avoid taking a lot of your working space in the kitchen. It is also light, 4.7 pounds, to make it easy to move around from the kitchen, living room, or even outdoor depending on where you want the drying process to take place.
To be sure that the dehydrator is working on well or experience the magical drying process, the machine features a transparent top. Simply put the food in the seven different trays and let the machine turn the otherwise highly perishable fruits and meat into a longer lasting form a you watch. This is important for foods that require constant monitoring during the drying process.
The top positioned fan and heating element released power of 400 watts in form of heat and air current to dry even the toughest nuts. The heat and air circulation passes through the entire trays to complete the drying process without having to rotate the trays. Simply set the thermostats at preferred temperatures and it ca run up to 18 hours to complete the drying process.
For ease of maintenance, all components except the power-head can be machine washed without getting damaged. The frames are firmly welded together and carefully aligned for optimal stability. This makes the machine stronger, longer lasting, and able to maintain its value for many years. It is this design that has made the manufacturer attaches long warranty to every client who selects it.
Presto 06301 Dehydro Digital Electric Food Dehydrator Review
The Presto 06301 Dehydro Digital Electric Food Dehydrator is a 6 tray drying system that is aimed at giving the owner high value for money. Its dimensions are 14.5 inches x 15 inches x 7.2 inches and weighs only 8.5 pound. This gives you a large drying area for different types of foods at a go.
The fan and heating elements are located at the bottom to guarantee constant air flow for faster drying. Once the trays are fitted with different foods to be dried, they do not require being rotated because the fan forces the dry air through every section for even drying. It is, however, important to make sure ample time is provided for complete dehydration.
The dehydrator has a digital thermostat, modern timer, and easy to use controls. The chamber allows the machine to dry your food items on a wide range of temperatures from 90°F – 165 °F. You can, therefore, set the machine to continue heating for many hours as you sleep or concentrate on other activities.
The design of this machine targets giving the user long term utility. From the fan, thermostats, trays, to controls, everything is tested to give you high durability. Simply wash every part carefully and avoid the controls or electrical from getting wet to keep it sparkling clean after every use.
While the machine is a great food dehydrator, it is a perfect equipment to add in your kitchen. The bright color matches perfectly well with other installations when installed on the kitchen countertop.
Hamilton Beach 32100A Food Dehydrator Review
The Hamilton Beach 32100A Food Dehydrator is a rectangular model that features a large drying section and bottom fitted element and fan. Its size is 11.2” x 5.9” x 12.8” and operates on 500 watts of power. The continuous hot airflow in the heating chamber helps to make the drying process even and eliminate the need to keep rotating the trays.
Controls for the unit are really great. The dials are easy to use controls that do not break easily. The machine is particularly effective when it comes to precision of the meter. It will stop immediately the targeted moisture content is achieved to prevent your food from over-hardening, destroying its taste, and killing important enzymes.
The dryer features five stackable trays and one small-mesh used for drying small food items such as herbs. It also includes one solid leaf to help the homeowner make fruit rolls. You are therefore sure of using the machine to make a wide range of food items from jerky, fruits, and even herbs. Besides, the trays give the user a large drying area to help you dry enough to use the entire winter within a short while.
The transparent lid of this dehydrator gives you a complete view of the drying process taking place in the heating chamber. Even though the timer is digital, being able to check on the process is important because you can note an issue or tell when one specific type of food is ready as others proceed drying.
The design of this machine targeted delivering total quality to the buyer. Different parts such as trays and drying trays can be cleaned in a dishwasher. However, avoid using sanitemp and make sure to air dry everything before using in the machine. The manufacturer indicates that the rectangular shape was adopted to help in strengthening the frames, joints, and prevent damage when heating at very high temperatures.
Why You Need Food Dehydrator?
When you list all the appliances that you need installed in the kitchen, why should a good dehydrator be one of them? There are many reasons for owning one. First, it helps to lower the weight of your food to make it take up lesser space. Because most of the foods such as tomatoes, vegetables, and fruits are over 85% water, the machine helps to lower their weight for storage or even transport. Therefore, whether you want to pack enough food for the upcoming winter or control food associated costs by buying when supply is favorable and storing your supplies, a dehydrator is a must have equipment.
Drying is one of the best preservation methods that help food take longer without spoiling. By reducing the moisture content to about 20%, the environment becomes unfavorable for fungi, bacteria and molds to form on your food. Therefore, tomatoes that could not be stored for more than five days will be able to take even more than 90 days without getting damaged. Even for foods that are only available seasonally especially fruits, a dehydrator will make it possible for you to enjoy them the entire year. You can also easily prepare adequate food and store in jars for the entire winter session to avoid shortage.
A dehydrator at home is a sure way of cutting down on junk. Most vegetables bought at home go into waste because they spoil before they can be used. When you get a dehydrator, you will only use what is enough and preserve the rest. This is very important in helping to reduce the quantity of waste generated from your home. It also helps to cut costs associated with buying food daily and driving several kilometers every day to get supplies from the mall.
If you like using home grown herbs and spices, well, one of the things you need is a dehydrator. Herbs such as sage, thyme, basil, or oregano are easy to grow but also rot very easily. Simply dry them in a dehydrator and store in airtight jars to have assurance of using nutrient rich and chemical free spices. Remember that the machine also makes it possible to farm continuously because of ease of storage.
You will need a dehydrator to dry soaked seeds and nuts to keep them alive. When seeds are soaked, enzyme inhibitors are deactivated to commence the germination process. By drying the nuts and seeds after a short soaking period, you will be able to retain all the enzymes alive so that the lovely taste is not lost. Simply make sure that the drying process is done using mild temperatures to avoid killing the enzymes. You can therefore buy nuts in bulk, dry them in the dehydrator, and store them for making pecan pie on weekends or Christmas, use sunflower seeds on your lovely salad, or serve with cookies.
A dehydrator is a perfect machine to help in raising pizza dough faster. Once the pizza or bread dough has been prepared, it usually takes some time to rise. However, by placing the dough on the dehydrator, it will rise faster or you to prepare great pizzas. Therefore, if you only have some limited time, all you need is a dehydrator to make the dough rise promptly for the visitors or family to enjoy unforgettable delicacies.
Having a dehydrator in the house touches every part of your lifestyle. From helping to reduce waste and junk to cutting cost of food, it is one appliance that should never be omitted when buying home appliances. Remember to check out the different types and go for the model that is easy to maintain and delivers great results fast.
Dehydrators are special drying machines that give people greater control of the food they east, preservation timeframe and associated costs. Understanding how the machines operate is important selecting the right models, utilizing them appropriately, and maintaining them in top condition. The reviews outlined above helps to bring sharper focus into the features and their effectiveness in drying various types of foods. Think of the types of foods you would like to dry regularly, preserve for winter, or simply for fun and then narrow down on any of the best machines outlined above. With a dehydrator, your food will always be ready, tasty, nutritious and safe from germs.