10 Things To Look For In A Food Dehydrator

Whether you want to make your own beef jerky, healthy fruit leather snacks for your children or increase the variety of food options in your kitchen you’ll need a dehydrator. Food dehydrator use has become extremely common in recent years.

With the increase in its popularity especially among fitness and health enthusiasts the industry has grown a lot. You can find various brands and models with different features and price ranges. The results vary and depend on not just your drying process, but also the machine itself. If you’re new to the world of food dehydrators, picking one can seem like a difficult task. 

So, before you can pick a brand or choose a model you need to know what to look for. This will help you pick a dehydrator which can offer the results you’re looking for. The only way to avoid making a bad purchase or buyer’s regret is to do research beforehand. 

Figuring out your drying needs is a good place to start. So, a few questions to ask yourself may include:

  • Do you have a specific budget?
  • What kind of foods do you want to dehydrate? 
  • Are you plant-based or looking to make your own jerky? 
  • Is your goal drying hom-grown or store bought produce? 
  • What quantities do you need to dry at one time? 
  • Do you use a dishwasher to clean your trays? 
  • If you have recipes in mind what temperature ranges do they require? 

Once you figure out what your needs are you can start looking for a dehydrator that caters to those requirements. Whether you’re purchasing your first food dehydrator or swapping yours out for a newer model here are 10 things you need to consider. 

Ample Space

As a baseline you need to know what your space requirements are so you can get a suitable dehydrator. Not just in how much food you’ll need to dry at a single time, but also in terms of storage space in your kitchen. Understandable, bigger models are more expensive so you’ll need to work within your budget.

If you feel like you’ll need to dehydrate large quantities or that your batch size may increase over time you should get a model with expandable trays. This is particularly helpful for people who host lunches or parties. Food dehydrator use is extremely diverse so you can even make multiple batches of fruit leathers for children’s parties or bake sales. That gives you a fun yet healthy option that children will enjoy because they taste similar to taffy.

With designs that have expandable trays you can get a smaller model that fits your day to day needs and add more trays when you’re catering to larger groups. You can even purchase more trays later. When there are a fixed amount of trays you’re setting a cap on the batch size you can get. 

It’s important for buyers to know that this is an option. Otherwise, they may end up spending extra on a model that’s too big just because they have to cater a few events a year. Or alternatively, miss out on an expandable model that would better cater to their needs.

Shelving Strategy

As a thumb rule you never want to show up at an outlet with no idea what the product options are. That gives the sales person a bad impression and also generally sets you back because if you don’t know what you want chances are you won’t like whatever you do end up getting.

When it comes to food dehydrators you get two main types with the variation being in the shelving strategy. 

Type 1 – Stacking

The idea is in the name. With stacking you get one tray on top of another tray with the fan generally in the bottom of the dehydrator. But it can also be placed in the power unit. So, the air circulates through the passage between trays. This automatic filtration process means you don’t have to put in the extra effort to rotate trays. 

You can add or remove trays and increase or decrease the batch size depending on your needs. With stacking you get greater capacity which is what makes it so popular among buyers. On the negative side, it’s harder to check on the food in each tray while it’s drying. If you’re new to food dehydrator use then this may present a problem. With this type of dehydrator you also have to make sure you’re stacking around the hole in the center and avoiding the channel

Type 2 – Shelving

The second option is for dehydrators that have built in shelves. These shelves slide in and out which some users find easier. The fan is in the back as opposed to the bottom so it’s blowing air horizontally. That gives you a more even and consistent drying effect. Similar to the previous type there is no need to rotate trays.

Dehydrator sheets with apple slices and cinnamon

The advantage of the shelves system is that it’s easy to check whether your items are done because you can simply pull the trays out. You also don’t have to worry about where you’re placing trays. Since there is no channel you can utilize all the available space to set your trays. 

However, now you have the opposite problem. Because the shelves are built in the space is restricted and you can’t increase the shelving capacity. Since you’re not stacking you can only fit as many trays as each shelf will hold. 

Overall, both types offer different pros and have different cons. It all depends on your preferences and needs. 

Temperature Controls

Different recipes require different temperature settings. This is important to note, especially if you’re completely new to food dehydrator use because many models come with a fixed temperature setting. The number one factor you need to look for when you’re buying a dehydrator is an adjustable thermostat.  

Having one setting is extremely limiting and will ruin your drying experience. You want to be able to try a variety of fun recipes and change the settings accordingly. When it comes to adjustable thermostats the general range is from 95 F to 155 F. The specifics may vary from one model to another, but if the values are near this range you’re good to go. 

Don’t be concerned if a recipe asks for a higher temperature than this. You don’t need to go looking for a 200 F thermostat for one product. Increasing the drying time will give you the same result.

Fan Position

The position of the fan matters because they control the quality of airflow and circulation. You’ll find three common fan positions. So, they’ll be placed on the bottom of the dehydrator, the top or at the back. If the fan is on the top or bottom you’re getting vertical airflow and if it’s in the back you’ll get a horizontal airflow. 

A horizontal circulation pattern gives you a more even and consistent drying effect. You also won’t need to rotate trays. If the dehydrator has a vertical circulation pattern the trays on the top and bottom will receive different amounts of heat exposure so you won’t get the same effect. This is a less efficient distribution system and is harder to clean.

The fans themselves will range from four to seven inches in diameter and consume between 300 to 1000 W of power. Specific details vary depending on the brand and the price. On occasion you may find a dual fan option. This is not necessarily an upgrade because it makes the system noisy. However, if you’re willing to overlook that for better airflow it is an option.

Accessories

Often the differences between models come down to the accessories they have. For example, a clear door is a plus because it lets you check on the food without opening the door. With a dark or opaque door you have to open it to keep an eye on the progress and you lose heat each time. 

When you’re dehydrating food you want to maintain a consistent temperature over a given time so a clear door is definitely a point to put on your checklist. Another accessory that can help is a timer. While you can obviously clock the time with your phone or a separate device, having a timer on the machine is an added convenience. 

Some models come with an added feature where the dehydrator turns off as soon as the timer rings. If this is a specification available to you, consider the value it may add to your purchase. 

BPA Free Products

BPA or bisphenol A is a chemical used in polycarbonate plastics which are materials used to make food containers. Other forms of plastic that are not BPA free have harmful chemicals and should not be used for cooking or storing food. They can cause health concerns like heart problems or asthma. 

So making sure your dehydrator is safe for use and made using a BPA free material especially because they use heat to cook. You don’t want your machine releasing toxins at a high temperature. Generally, brands will list this on their site clearly so it’s easy to tell if a food dehydrator is BPA free.

Dishwasher suited

With dehydrators like with all cooking devices cleanliness and hygiene is key. If you’re drying meats they’re going to give off juices. If you’re dehydrating fruits and vegetables they will also leave sticky residue behind. Washing your trays after each use is essential and not a step you can even skip. 

That’s why you should find out whether your chosen mode comes with dishwasher safe trays. Remember this is not a factor you should take for granted. In fact, many dehydrator trays are too big for machine handling and require hand washing. Getting a tray you can wash with the rest of your load will make your life a lot easier.

Price

With dehydrators like with all products there is a huge price range. You can find a quality product for $100 or $500. However, your goal should always be to find the features you need in a food dehydrator that fits within your budget. There are a lot of overly priced models so if you don’t find a suitable one on your first try don’t overspend, just keep looking.

Warranty

Cooking devices are complex machines that get a lot of use. You want a product that comes with a considerable warranty so you can get it repaired if it breaks down. Find out if the company offers replacement parts and whether the service charges are covered. Certain brands even offer up to 10 year warranties.

Storage needs

Getting a dehydrator isn’t just about how much use you can get out of it. A bigger model may have more tray space but it also needs more storage. When you’re surveying the market and looking at kitchen appliances it’s easy to get distracted by all the options and features. However, if there’s one thing you need to remind yourself over and over again it’s this, “how much space does your kitchen have?”

Make sure you’ve allocated shelf space before you start looking at your option. Also, consider that a square design is easy to place next to a wall, but that fancy ground model you like will cause problems in your kitchen. If you have ample space and have already allocated an area then by all means get the round model, just as long as you’re considering all the long-term needs.

Conclusion

Overall, food dehydrator use depends on a few key factors. The basic idea is to remove water from the raw ingredients without reducing their nutritional value. Dehydrators are designed to maintain the alkalinity of your produce and preserve the food without using preservatives. As such you want a machine that controls and manages both temperature and airflow efficiently.

When it comes to specific models you should consider questions like:

  • How much shelf space do you need?
  • Will an expandable tray option add value for you?
  • Do you want the stacking option that lets you add more trays or the shelving model which lets you check on the progress of your food?
  • Does the model cover essential factors like an adjustable thermostat, clear door, BPA free material and warranty?
  • Will the size and shape of the device make it easy to store in your home?

If a food dehydrator fulfills your needs and fits your budget do not hesitate to purchase it right away because this product will change your life. 

10 Reasons To Buy A Food Dehydrator

If you’re considering purchasing a food dehydrator you may be wondering if it’s really worth it. After all, this isn’t a regular appliance like a food processor or blender. Dehydrators are not a staple in every household. And they can cost a decent amount of money, with a starting price of $50 going all the way up to $500 for more advanced machinery.

So, why are so many people investing in dehydrators? What are the benefits and is there merit behind this trend? Can owning a food dehydrator actually improve your health and wellbeing?

Pushes you to eat healthy

Yes, food dehydrators are a significant expense. And while this can put a lot of potential buyers off you also have to look at the flip side. When you’re investing in a product like a food dehydrator you are committing to a healthier lifestyle. After all, you’re not going to buy it just to place it on a shelf. 

Because of how our lives are structured and how busy most people are, fitness can often take a backseat. When you’re spending money on a new product you are essentially incentivizing yourself to do better, whether that’s a fit-bit, a new elliptical machine or a food dehydrator. 

Some of the common fruits and vegetables people dry include peaches, strawberries, cherries, apples, tomatoes, and kale. These are all incredibly powerful ingredients that are chock full of essential vitamins and minerals. Pineapples and mangoes are also popular choices. 

Dehydrating these items lets you add a lot of diversity and flavour to your diet. It also makes nutrition fun. Every day becomes a new adventure as you decide what new and exciting meal to plan. It recenters the conversation around healthy food. At the end of the day, any item that pushes you to make positive lifestyle changes is not a wasted expense.

Gives you options

Part of the excitement of getting a food dehydrator is all the variety it adds to your kitchen. Dried fruits and vegetables lets you experiment with your meals. Whether you’re making smoothie bowls or trying out new salad options you get to try something new everyday. 

Not because you’re buying extravagant ingredients like oysters or lobsters but simply because of the range of textures and flavours you now have access to. With a food dehydrator you can recalibrate raw food items in a variety of ways. Generally, a dehydrator comes with an adjustable thermostat and multiple temperature settings. Also, remember that you don’t have to stick to the recipe instructions by the letter. 

For example, if you’re trying a new recipe and it tells you to set the temperature at around 140 F but your machine only goes up to 115 F that’s perfectly fine. You can increase the drying time to get the same result. A food dehydrator also isn’t just for storing ingredients. You can use it to heat up your soups and sauces, make bread or bake cookies. 

Often casual users make the mistake of overlooking all the facilities a dehydrator offers in terms of cooking technique. The breadth and range of its use depends entirely on your cooking needs and other appliances. In short, you can use it for whatever you want. 

Lets you save money

The number one reason most people don’t eat healthy is because nutritious food options cost more. If you want to buy quality fruits and vegetables year-round you’ll have to spend a lot of money. With a food dehydrator you can cut down on a significant portion of that expense.

As a general rule, all fruits and vegetables have a short window where they are at their cheapest, otherwise known as prime season. Since production in these weeks is so high quality items will flood the market at low rates. Wait a few months and the same items will cost twice or thrice as much. This is the off-season.

Purchasing larger quantities of fruits and vegetables when they are on sale and drying them lets you eat healthy year-round without stretching your budget. Whole-sales retailers often put fruits like mangoes, strawberries, peaches and bananas on sale when they are ripe. That’s because they’re trying to sell their stock before it goes bad.

Go to the right farmers market and you can even negotiate rates depending on how much you’re buying. Then you can add nutritious dried fruits to your cereals, smoothie bowls, salads, and lunch dishes for months after and load up on essential vitamins and minerals. Shopping for nutritious meals on a budget is a skill and a food dehydrator is a necessary tool in your arsenal.

Camping snacks

If you’re someone who is fitness oriented chances are that this consciousness translates to all aspects of your life. Whether you’re a camper, hiker or backpacker dehydrated ingredients make for tasty snacks that take up very little space. On one hand removing water from fruits and vegetables reduces their weight. 

So, you may not be able to carry a heavy watermelon on your trip but you can take dried chips with you. These also won’t go bad over a few days which is an added plus. Additionally, you can convert complex foods such as spaghetti into a dried form fit for transport. That way, you just need to add sauce on the road and you’ll have hot and delicious spaghetti. With a stove you can even use dehydrated tomato sauce to add texture and flavour.

Overall, a food dehydrator is a necessity for travelers and hikers who want interesting food choices for their trips.

Healthy snacks for children

Anyone who has tried to shift their children to a healthier plant-focused diet knows that the process is more important than the end result. Kids like cutting, slicing, drying and arranging their snacks. So the dehydrating process is immensely appealing for them. When it comes to taste, dried fruits often have the same texture as taffy which is a definite plus.

Fruit leathers are a great way to get a child interested in a healthy diet and fulfil their vitamin and mineral needs. These include bananas, mangoes, watermelon, pineapples, strawberries, or any other fruits they like. A nutritious dried fruit spread lets you cater children’s parties without adding junk food options.

Grow your own food

If you are an individual who wants to shift your household to a healthy, organic product based diet you’ve probably run into your fair share of hurdles. Organic produce isn’t readily available in every neighbourhood and it’s always more expensive than lower quality products. Growing your own food is one way of shifting your whole diet to an organic base without breaking the bank.

The concern then becomes, how do you grow enough food? Unless you have acres of land to farm for yourself there is a distinct limit to the amount of fruits and vegetables that you can both produce and store. While gardening is a therapeutic pastime for many people stocking and managing their produce is a common concern. 

If you want to grow a wide variety of fruits and vegetables in your garden but don’t have a way to store them you should consider investing in a food dehydrator. By drying produce you can save it for later and eat healthy no matter the time of year or the state of your garden. Even if you lose a certain crop because of pests or rain you’ll have dried reserves to fall back on.

Some popular vegetables to dehydrate include tomatoes, pepper, kale,parsley, peas, carrots, radishes and garlic. You can easily rehydrate and add them to soups and stews or use the flakes and powders directly as seasonings in your salads and sauces.

Make your own flavourings

Artificial flavourings are not a healthy food option. With a food dehydrator you can dry herbs to form flakes or powders that you can use with your meals. The idea here is that you don’t need new or unusual ingredients to elevate your meals. Instead you can use everyday items like basil, mint, thyme, rosemary and ginger. 

Drying them sharpens the taste and changes the texture. Experimenting with different heating options will allow you to explore the range of results you can get. Generally, heating these herbs at an even temperature of around 100 F for two to three hours is enough to achieve this effect.

Healthy snack options

If you’re always on the go it’s a good idea to have a few snacks in your bag to keep you charged throughout the day. For most people this means tasteless granola bars from the grocery story. But healthy snacks don’t always have to be a chore to eat. 

With a food dehydrator you can mix and match different fruit leathers and create your own healthy and taste snacks. Whether you’re in the office, at the gym, or on the go these fun food options add some much needed variety to your travel food. 

You can use fruits like apricots, bananas, apples, berries, grapes, pineapples and pears to get a sweet base. Other items like granola, nuts and seeds can add some much needed texture. Dehydrated food snacks give you a lot of variety to work with so you can make snacks based on your personal preferences.

Make your own jerky

One of the most popular reasons why people buy food dehydrators is to make beef jerky. When it comes to popular American snacks jerky is definitely at the top of the list. You can add it to your breakfast or lunch, chew on it while hiking, take it to the library, or nibble on a piece between classes. 

Store bought versions are expensive and the quality may vary depending on where you buy it. With a food dehydrator you can dry beef, fish, and turkey to make your own tastier jerky. This also lets you add spices to task although pre-mixed spice sets are readily available.

Preserve food

Finally, food dehydrators let you preserve food. Similar to canned options, dried food items last months in your pantry and up to a year in the fridge. However, nutritionally dehydrated fruits and vegetables are better than canned foods because they don’t use preservatives. The lack of chemicals means that the original health benefits of these items are maintained over time.

So, if you’re looking for a way to preserve and store food then a food dehydrator is a must buy.           

Conclusion

Overall, a food dehydrator has a lot to offer in terms of value for money. You get to experiment with dried fruits and vegetables which is an appealing prospect for customers who like to cook. With this equipment you can elevate the same food items you use on a regular basis to create new and creative dishes.

This means you’re more likely to stick to a healthy diet because you have a wider range of nutritious items to choose from. Making plants based diets fun is the only way to sustain a healthy lifestyle. Additionally, a food dehydrator lets you preserve key ingredients even after they go out of season. 

Having a bowl of dried organic strawberries to add to your summer salads can give your lunch options a much needed kick. All fruits and vegetables have a prime season when they’re at their cheapest and trying to buy the same items at any other time can cost a lot of money. With a food dehydrator you can enjoy your favourite meals year-round.

When it comes to purchasing a quallity dehydrator you have a lot of options to choose from. The prices for these items vary based on the temperature range offered, size of the machine, tray capacity and drying options. You should also look into the specific usage for each dehydrator based on your needs.

For example, if your primary goal is to make beef jerky look for a dehydrator that has been designed with that in mind. At the end of the day, there are endless options to choose from, no matter your budget or requirements. So good luck choosing!

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