What food dehydrator to buy?
Yoer advisor
Mushroom season is coming very soon. The ending of the summer is also a time of picking fruit and vegetables.
They can be frozen, pickled, preserved in jars. But to do when you don't have much time or a large pantry?
Drying mushrooms, fruit and vegetables in a food dehydrator is sure to help. Drying doesn't take much time, and storing dried goods doesn't take up much space. Sounds great, doesn't it?
Although the food dehydrator is traditionally used to dry mushrooms, it may also be used to dry a variety of other products.
If you're thinking about buying a food dehydrator but don't know what to look for when choosing a model, there are useful tips below. At the same time, you will find out how to dry mushrooms, fruit, vegetables, herbs, even meat.
A bit of history…
When thinking of traditional drying methods, long pieces of string with slices of mushrooms come to mind, or extensive bunches of herbs hanging from the ceiling in your grandma's attic.
Did you know drying food is one of the oldest ways to preserve food, used way before the time of our grandmas. Putting meat onto rocks and sun-drying it is an ancient practice. With time, the rock and the sun was replaced by more modern methods.
Hooking food onto sharp sticks and placing them in a bread oven is one of them. It allowed for drying without having to constantly monitor the process. Other methods existed, such as putting mushrooms on hay, old newspapers or net spread around a wooden frame.
The common denominator for all those methods was heat, dry air and an airy surface, which were later combined to create the food dehydrator as we know it today.
Types of food dehydrators
It's a good idea to familiarize yourself with the basic types of food dehydrators in order to not get overwhelmed by the variety. Depending on the price and the target application, food dehydrators may be classified by:
  • Shape:
    • Rectangular: easy to store.
    • Round: more popular, though difficult to store. Rotational round dehydrators can be found, whose racks spin around their axis to ensure even drying and to speed up the process.
  • Drying methods:
    • Ventilation with warm, dry air: warm air, generated by a heating element, is spread around the whole device by a fan to reach all the levels of racks. Food is dried from the outside in.
    • Infrared radiation: a modern drying method, which accurately emulates the natural sun-drying process. The drying is even, and works from the inside out, keeping as many of the nutritional values as possible.
  • Rack type:
    • Metal: racks are made of stainless steel and are dishwasher-safe. The advantage of the stainless steel is in its high resilience to damage. The metal racks heat up quickly, which speeds up the drying process.
    • Plastic: made of polymer. Relatively easy to clean, but not always dishwasher-safe.
  • Lid position:
    • Front-lidded: not unlike a microwave or an oven. Unfortunately, such construction makes it impossible to add extra racks.
    • Top-lidded: the heating element is located at the bottom of the unit, while the lid resides on top. Many models allow for adding extra racks.
Front-lidded, infrared devices with metal racks are professional-grade equipment, usually bought by enthusiasts or chefs.
All that comes at a high price, though. As such, let's focus on more affordable food dehydrators that allow you to prepare homemade, healthy dried food.
How a food dehydrator works
The working principle of a standard, reasonably-priced food dehydrator is relatively simple. The device is composed of a number of racks, arranged in layers. Usually, a heating element is located at the bottom of the unit, which generates heat. A fan spreads the warm air around the device, causing the gradual drying of the food inside it.
As you can see, the construction of the food dehydrator isn't complicated, although there are many different models out there that differ by their shape, power, capacity, as well as other significant functionalities and amenities. We know it's easy to get lost in such a huge assortment of devices. So what should you pay attention to when picking the right food dehydrator?
What does the efficiency of the process depend on?
As we mentioned, rectangular and round dehydrators can be found on the market. Aside from the visual aspect and ease of storage, they don't differ much. The number of racks, capacity and power of the device plays a much more significant role.
When deciding on a purchase of a food dehydrator, it's great to ask yourself: how much food do I want to dry at a time?
Here's a list of the most important characteristics, which will come in handy when choosing a device:
  • Rack count – by default, food dehydrators equip 3-6 racks, while some models allow for installing extra racks or removing unused racks.
  • Rack size – In theory, the bigger, the better, however, let's not forget that the device needs to be stored somewhere. Ideally, if a food dehydrator has the ability to collapse the racks, it means that their construction allows for inserting one rack into another, thus reducing the height of the device. Also, as far as storage is concerned, choosing a rectangular dehydrator, rather than a round one will be a much more convenient option.
  • Rack height - short racks will make it impossible to dry thicker things, such as mushroom caps. Some models include the option to adjust rack height.
  • Capacity - some manufacturers give the capacity in liters. If you're interested in large capacity, while retaining a relatively compact size of the device, the optimal capacity would be 11-12 liters.
  • Power - has a direct impact on the effectiveness of the drying process. What power is appropriate? It all depends on your needs.
    High-power devices come with a significant risk - if you can't control the temperature, thinner slices of food may be dried away into unappetizing shavings. It is important to remember, then, that high power is not the main indicator of a dehydrator's quality. A device with 400-450 W of power is an optimal choice.
  • Power adjustment - some devices have 2-3 power steps. A thermal regulator, in the form of a control knob, is a considerably better solution. Optimally, the device should have an adjustable range of 35-70° Celsius – It's a temperature range at which most types of food are dried.
    Optimal drying temperature depends on several factors: type of food, water content, slice thickness. If you're going to dry various products in the dehydrator, smooth temperature control is worth having.
  • Even drying - it is imperative that heat be spread evenly around the whole device - otherwise, switching rack positions during the process will be a necessity.
    The heating - ventilation mechanism is responsible for keeping temperature and its proper distribution.
  • Power usage - High-power devices dry food quicker. On the other hand, powerful dehydrators come with the caveat of higher energy consumption.
    If we use the food dehydrator sporadically, it won't have much of an impact on the house budget, however, if we use it regularly, a more power-saving solution may be worth considering.
What else to look out for when picking a food dehydrator?
Before choosing a model, check the parameters listed below, as well as additional useful functionalities, such as:
  • Max operational time – Food drying is a relatively time-consuming process. Some products only require a few hours, while some need more than a day. The longer your dehydrator can work without having to stop, the better.
  • Noise – quiet devices are an important quality of life improvement – they can be left turned on for the night, without having to worry about them waking up your child, for instance.
  • Quality of the finish – although one shouldn't discuss tastes, the materials used to make the device are important to note. Check the polymer type used to make the racks. If at all possible, choose BPA-free ones, as the compound is toxic, especially to children. Moreover, stainless steel and modern design are also very nice touches.
    Take note of whether or not the racks and the device body are see-through. That makes it easier to monitor the drying process without having to lift up the lid. Doing that often releases the warm air and decreases the effectiveness of drying.
  • Automatic power-off – the timer will let you set the appropriate drying time for your products. The clock measures the time remaining while you don't have to tend to the device. This functionality allows you to leave the device turned on even for the night.
  • Rack removability – makes it a lot easier to clean the device. Some models equip dishwasher-safe racks, which makes them easy to clean properly, which is important, especially after drying fruit.
  • Overheating protection – a sensor automatically shuts off the food dehydrator should there be a risk of malfunctioning.
  • LED display – enables monitoring the currently chosen settings.
When we know what to look out for when picking a food dehydrator, purchasing it becomes quite straightforward.
The pros of the electric food dehydrator
Should you buy an electric food dehydrator? We think so. Taking nutritional and taste values of homemade dried food into consideration, as well as the time it takes to prepare, it would be difficult to omit the advantage of the electric food dehydrator over traditional drying methods.
Those, who remember drying mushrooms on a string, or having them spread around newspapers on radiators, or those who still use those methods, know what this kind of process entails. Mushrooms falling off the string, dusty pieces of fruit, radiators, counters and pretty much all the room in the flat is taken up, not to mention the improperly dried pieces, which, after a while, develop mold.
Supporters of the oven drying method know how tedious it is to wait for the food to dry while their dinner or a cake awaits cooking in that same oven.
The electric food dehydrator eliminates all of the problems mentioned above. The compact device doesn't use much electricity, can be placed anywhere near a wall socket and, most importantly, food prepared using it will be clean, because it doesn't gather dust while drying.
How to dry food in an electric food dehydrator?
Each type of food requires different temperatures and drying time. Improperly selected settings will cause it to not only lose its nutritional values and its taste, but it will also shut its outside pores too quickly, which makes it impossible to dry properly on the inside.
Below, you will find information about what can be dried in a food dehydrator, how to prepare it, and how to dry mushrooms, fruit and other foods.
Drying is a process which requires the proper preparation of the products, depending on their type.
It is imperative that each piece be put on the rack with even spacing, and never on top of each other. They should also never touch each other, because that creates the risk that they won't dry properly in those spots. After putting products on the racks we choose the proper parameters: time and temperature.
Drying mushrooms in the food dehydrator requires that they be cleaned beforehand, preferably without using water, and then cut into slices. Fruits and vegetables, on the other hand, should be washed, cleaned of any pits, seed nests and shanks, and, if they have thick skin, they need to also be peeled. They can be dried whole or in slices, depending on the size.
It is also possible to dry herbs in the food dehydrator. All it takes is to rinse them with water and dry off. They may be tied in bunches or cut into pieces to make the process easier.
Interestingly, the electric food dehydrator allows for drying marinated or brined meats as well. This way, you can make the nutritious American beef snack: beef jerky. You may also prepare healthy meat snacks for your pet.
That's not all – if you're wondering what else can be dried in the electric food dehydrator, we can tell you that it may also be used to prepare croutons for soup, as well as rusks, citrus decorations for your Christmas tree, flowers for a fragrant potpourri or mole baggies.
Pros of drying food
Dried food has fantastic nutritional and taste values. It retains most of its minerals, vitamins and anti-oxidants. Additionally, dried fruit contain lots of fiber, which facilitates proper digestion.
The process of drying allows you to enjoy the taste of your favorite fruit, vegetables and mushrooms all year round. You can even use them to enrich other dishes.
It's a way to prepare healthy snacks for the whole family: fruit and vegetable chips, porridge and cake additives. Mushrooms, in turn, will become the perfect base or addition to plenty of delicious, traditional dishes: sauces, soups, croquets, dumplings, meats, stews and many others.
Drying food at home is not only a way of prolonging its shelf life, but also ensuring that it doesn't contain any preservatives, taste enhancers and drying accelerators, unlike store-bought products.
How much does a food dehydrator cost?
When you already know that the food dehydrator is a useful device and that it makes it significantly easier to stock your pantry for the winter, you are surely wondering about the price.
A myriad of various devices with contrasting prices can be found on the market. Among them, there are simple, universal units, as well as ones equipped with additional functionalities.
Prices of food dehydrators start at several dozen PLN. Those are basic models, however, and may turn out to be insufficient with time. If you care about appropriate power, large capacity and the ability to control the temperature, a somewhat higher-grade device may be in order, because its better specs and power will have an impact on the quality of the dried goods. Prices of such devices vary from about 200 - 500 PLN, in case of household units, or even exceed 1000 PLN for larger, professional-grade equipment.
If you're interested in a YOER food dehydrator, click here

Share on social media