What Is A Food Dehydrator?
A food dehydrator is an appliance that extracts water from food to aid in the preservation of that food item. Food dehydration, or food drying, is a great method for preserving a variety of fruits, vegetables and meats. Foods are mostly comprised of water, with most fruits and vegetables containing up to 95% water and most meats being comprised of up to 75% water. The water is what causes food to spoil. Removing a substantial amount of the food’s water content will extend the life of the food by restricting the bacteria from growing.
A food dehydrator works using a heating element, fan and air ventilation. These three elements works simultaneously to remove moisture from the food items placed inside. The heating element warms the food. The warmth causes the moisture to be brought to the food’s surface, where the unit’s fan blows the moist air through the dehydrator’s vents. This process goes on for several hours until the food is dried to a level sufficient for its intended use.
Benefits of Dehydrated Food
There are several wonderful benefits that come from food dehydration. Dehydrated food is economical, healthy and great tasting. The following are some of the most readily apparent benefits that come from using a food dehydrator in your home:
If you habitually purchase dried foods from the grocery store you will immediately realize its costs a heck of a lot less to dry the foods yourself at home. Additionally, you can save money by buying food items in bulk, and then preserving the food for later use. You will also save money by reducing the amount of food lost to spoliation. Finally, you will realize a cost savings by enjoying healthier, cheaper snack foods to replace the expensive snack options found in stores.
Avoid Harmful Preservatives
The only thing contained in your dehydrated food is the food itself. There are no harmful preservatives or chemical additives necessary to extend the foods life, and therefore you eliminate the health risk that comes along with these harmful substances.
Great Tasting Food
Dehydrated food tastes awesome. The flavor of the food item becomes concentrated when you remove the moisture, so if you love the flavor of say, bananas, then your dehydrated banana will provide a concentrated banana flavor explosion.
Dehydrated foods weight much less, and take up less space, than the same food in its pre-dehydrated state. Additionally, items that previously required precious refrigerator space can now be stored away in a pantry, contained neatly in a ziplock sandwhich bag.
Dried food are fantastic for bringing along on camping trips, extended hikes, long marathon training runs, and long-distance car rides. Since the dried food is lightweight and compact, it is the perfect fuel source to have when food storage would otherwise be inconvenient or impractical.
Enjoy Seasonal Food Year Round
Preserving food through dehydration will allow you to enjoy your favorite seasonal foods at all times of the year. Simply buy excess during the food’s peak season, and dehydrate what is not used to save for the times of the year you otherwise cannot enjoy your favorite seasonal foods.
Maximize Nutritional Value of Food
Dried food provides a higher nutrient per calorie by volume ratio than non-dried food. For example, 5 raisins will have the same calories as 5 grapes however 1 cup of raisins will contain approximately 400 calories while 1 cup of grapes will have about 60 calories.
Common Uses for a Food Dehydrator
The many uses for a food dehydrator are only limited to your imagination and access to food. The following are just a few of the most popular uses for a home-use food dehydrator, and this certainly is nowhere near an exhaustive list:
- Making beef, deer, turkey jerky
- Homemade air fresheners or potpourri
- Creating fruit leathers (Remember…”fruit roll-ups”)
- Drying herbs to make your own tea
- Soup mixes
- Backpacking meals
- Dried pepper flakes
- Seasoning powders
- Banana chips
- Trail mix
- Making raisins
- Drying nuts
Types of Food Dehydrators
There are two main categories of food dehydrators designed for home-use. First are those dehydrators that contain stackable trays for placing the food to be dried. Second, are those dehydrators designed as a box containing removable shelves for placing the food to be dried.
Additionally, there are three different drying methods common with these home-use dehydrators. First, some dehydrators have base-mounted fans that expel the hot air vertically through the unit. Second, other dehydrators have a rear-mounted fan that will expel the air horizontally out of the unit. Finally, a few models have no fan whatsoever, and rely on convection drying to remove the moist air.
How to Select the Perfect Food Dehydrator
Before you select a food dehydrator for your home, you first must consider what your primary use will be for the machine. If you intend to dry specialty items, or use the food dehydrator mostly for one particular use, research which models are most appropriate for your intended use.
For example, some food dehydrators come with jerky kits and are built ideally for creating jerky from meat. Other units come with stick-proof sheets for creating fruit leathers. Size will be a consideration in determining the perfect food dehydrator.
These dehydrators differ dramatically in size, however most current food dehydrators are less than 12 inches in diameter and easily store away unobtrusively on a kitchen countertop. Finally, price is really not much of a concern for food dehydrators, as most commercial models can be purchased for between $30 and $500.
Recommended Drying Temperatures
- Fruits, Fruit Rolls 130º to 140º F
- Vegetables 130º to 140º F
- Meats & Fish 145º to 155º F (Set at Max. Temp.)
- Nuts & Seeds 90º to 100º F
- Herbs & Spices 90º to 100º F
- Dried Flowers/Potpourri 90º to 100º F