Food dehydrators are an excellent way to make your food last indefinitely. When foods go bad, it is mostly because of the water content in them.
When you take the water away by drying the food, you can have a great snack for yourself that can be consumed wherever you are. To learn more about this subject, you can check out this video on the basics of drying food.
In this article, we talk about how food dehydrators work, why they are so popular, what you should look for when you're buying one, and other things you need to keep in mind before buying one.
What Exactly Is a Food Dehydrator?
If you've heard of and consume dry foods, there is a good chance that it was made in a food dehydrator. The age-old technique of drying something in the sun (tomatoes, for example) is not as efficient as having a proper machine that does the job for you.
A food dehydrator is a machine that lets you take the water content out of plants, fruits, herbs, vegetables, or meat. It is designed to make your food taste better, last longer, and retain its nutrients.
How Does a Food Dehydrator Work?
A dehydrator is like an oven, except instead of cooking or baking your food, it just dries it out. Dry air at low temperatures is circulated continuously through the plastic trays in the construction of the machine.
This makes the food lose the water content present in it, giving it a more concentrated flavor and increasing its shelf life by a large amount.
What Can You Use a Dehydrator for?
A dehydrator can be used for a large number of food items. Some of its applications are mentioned below.
Vegetables: Vegetables usually have a very high water content. This means that they can spoil easily. Using a dehydrator, you can turn these vegetables into chips.
Fruits: Dehydrated fruit chewies are very popular, and can be a nice source of snacks in your kitchen or on a road trip. You can put apple slices in a dehydrator for a relatively shorter time to get chewy apple treats.
Meat: Slices of beef can be used in a dehydrator to make beef jerky. For this, you will first need to cook the meat, and then use the dehydrator to remove the water. This will also ensure that any resident bacteria on the beef will not show up in your dehydrated beef jerky.
Nuts and seeds: Dehydrating nuts and seeds will give you crispy end products that will taste great as snacks or accompaniments to your food.
Flowers: Even flowers can be dehydrated using a dehydrator. While these are not strictly for the purpose of eating, they can be turned into potpourri or used with organic oils for aromatherapy.
Herbs: Herbs are an excellent way to give your food a new and exciting taste, and dehydrating them can not only help concentrate that taste, it will also make them last for a lot longer in storage.
Baby food: If you're a single mom or dad or you have an extremely busy schedule, you can make baby food long term with the help of your dehydrator, which will ensure that the baby gets all the nutrients it needs.
Yogurt: If you love yogurt and you consume it regularly, it can get expensive to keep buying the ready made products you get in the supermarket. You can easily make your own yogurt using a dehydrator.
Chips: Any edible food item can be made into chips by using a dehydrator. You can experiment with these and come up with tasty options of your own!
Dessert: Believe it or not, dehydrated brownies are a thing! This and other excellent dessert options are available to you with the help of a dehydrator.
What are the Advantages of Using a Dehydrator?
Using a dehydrator comes with a large number of health and taste benefits when it comes to your food. Depending on the design and performance of your dehydrator and the types of foods you dehydrate in it, you can get quite a lot of benefits from it.
Taste: When a food product goes through the dehydration process, the water in it is removed, but the flavor is retained. This means that the drying process actually improves the taste of your food and makes it more concentrated.
Quality: You probably find a lot of dehydrated foods in your supermarket or local grocery store. However, you can never be sure about the kind of quality checks, food safety guidelines, and processing that has gone into these foods. When you dehydrate your foods yourself, you can be assured of the superior quality of each food item.
Shelf life: As mentioned above, food dehydrating machines drastically improve the shelf life of food items. Your dehydrated foods can last for up to 2 years when they are dried. For example, if you have a vegetable or herb garden, food dehydration can help you reduce waste if you have an extra batch of food.
Natural ingredients: The type of food that goes into a dehydrator does not matter. The only ingredient in it is the food itself, which means that you're assured that no preservatives or chemicals have been added to it. If you make apple chips or fruit leather at home, you can be assured that whatever you choose to dry is the only ingredient present in the snacks.
Cost: Have you ever thought about how much money you spend on store bought snacks like beef jerky, beef strips, or fruit chewies? Besides this, storing the food in a refrigerator also means ongoing electrical costs that come with cold storage. If you buy a compact model dehydrator among your other kitchen appliances, this one investment can end up saving you a lot of money in the long term.
Storage: We already spoke about shelf life, but compact storage is another important aspect worth considering that comes with your dehydrator model. Dried foods take up a fraction of the volume of the original food, which means you can use the same container to store about 5 to 6 times worth of food in your designated storage space.
Transport: Dehydrated foods can be taken anywhere with you without having the need to be cooled or stored with special requirements. This means that you can have homemade versions of healthy snacks like kale chips or apple chewies by just using a simple, airtight container.
Controlled environment: When you dry out your food, you are doing it with precise temperature controls, where you can choose the exact temperature settings at which you want to dry your food. The biggest difference between an oven and a dehydrator is the ambient temperature at which it functions. The temperature range of an oven is just too high to give you consistent drying.
Versatility: We already discussed in the previous sections that the use of your dehydrators is only limited by your imagination. Whether it’s apple fruit leather, kale chips, or just fresh herbs, you can use your dehydrator for a limitless number of options.
Ease of use: How many buttons and settings does your microwave oven have? You do not have to deal with the problems of poor performance or complicated settings when it comes to a dehydrator. You just need your food product and within a few simple clicks, you are good to go!
Safety: With conventional food items that are in storage, there is always a chance that they will get spoiled, and you can never be too careful. You do not have to worry about these issues with a food dehydrator, as there is a very low risk of bacteria buildup with dehydrated food. This is the reason why dehydrated foods is used by campers, soldiers, and even astronauts!
What are the Disadvantages of Using a Dehydrator?
While dehydrated food does come with a lot of perks, there are some things you need to keep in mind while using a dehydrator that might not work in your favor.
Dental health: If you're eating fruit leather or a similar sweet dehydrated food, the sticky nature of it is not the best friend of your teeth. Make sure you brush your teeth before bed if you are a regular consumer of these kinds of products.
Sugar: Remember how we spoke about dehydration concentrating the taste of your food? This works for sugar as well. You might end up consuming a lot of sugar without realizing it while consuming some food types.
Salt: Similar to sugar, consuming dehydrated foods means that you are consuming a higher amount of salt that you normally would. A lot of dehydrated foods also contain artificially added salt, which can increase the amount of sodium in your body. Make sure that you consume all kinds of dehydrated chips and other snacks in a health conscious manner.
Preparation: When it comes to items like meat, you cannot just stick it in the dehydrator and be done with it. There is a long process that includes cooking the meat properly at a particular temperature, cutting it up properly (for example, beef strips), and then dehydrating it properly to give you a healthy snack alternative.
Besides this, a lot of preparation also has to be put in while making other food items. The slices have to be cut in the right sizes and have to be put on the metal racks or trays to get the right results.
Texture: You cannot achieve the right texture of food on your first try. There will be a lot of trial and error involved before you can find something that works in your favor and according to your tastes. This will mean filling up additional trays of food and messing around with the settings until you find the right fit.
Taste: While dehydration does improve the taste of food by concentrating it, it might not be the best fit for everyone. Some people simply prefer the taste of fresh food to dehydrated food.
Water: When you dehydrate your food, you are taking all the water out of it. This means that you will have to drink that water separately, which otherwise you would have achieved from natural food sources.
Time: While a microwave oven will heat up your food within a few minutes and even bake your cake for you in less than an hour in some instances, dehydration is a slow and lengthy process that is bound to take some more time. Be prepared to leave your food in your dehydrator for hours before you reach the desired result.
Dehydrator Test: What Should I Look for?
If you're convinced that buying a dehydrator for your foods will indeed influence your life in a positive way, here are some factors that you need to look for in a good piece of equipment.
Dehydrators are an excellent way to ensure that your food tastes great, stays fresh, and can easily be stored for periods of time without much of a hassle. The process is easy and can be carried out in the comfort of your own home, along with unlimited chances of experimentation.
In this article, we learned about what a food dehydrator is and how it works, what you can use it for, and the advantages and disadvantages of one. We also learned what to look for when you're buying a dehydrator for yourself. If you're interested in similar topics, please feel free to check out our other articles as well!