The complete guide on Food Dehydrator
Having the right to live, never gives us the right to exploit.
Did you know that we waste $8-billion-dollar worth of food every year, only in Australia? Of which 33% is fresh food, put together this is enough to fill over 450,000 garbage trucks!
The reasons for wasting our most precious commodity needed for survival maybe many, but what is more important is to reduce the waste to a minimum.
Unfortunately, always buying canned food is not a remedy, which has its own undesired effects on our body.
The only solution lies in dehydrating our excessive food for future consumption, which not only saves the wastage but is highly economical as well. Despite of being present since ages, food dehydration is yet one of most underutilized concept. We can remove the moisture content from the food we consume to store it for that lazy day round the corner or for that long trek which you keep putting off. And no one is better at the job, than a food dehydrator.
How does it work?
Food dehydrator is an appliance which takes out the moisture content from the food items to make it dry (in short dehydrate food). This reduces the chances of bacteria or fungi developing on the food item. It works on the simple principle of blowing hot air over the food items to make it dry, the opposite of your refrigerator.
Are there any types?
Yes, food dehydrator usually comes in two types:
- Stacked food dehydrators: Usually cylindrical in shape, these food dehydrators are known to consume less space. Mostly used for dehydrating small volumes of food, these dehydros use a fan or electric heating element which makes the dehydration possible from bottom up. Since the air circulates vertically, there are high chances that the food at the bottom of the stacked trays, get dried up more quickly than the ones at the top, so a constant shake up of the trays are required. But that being said, these food dehydrators are the best to choose if you are dehydrating food on a commercial scale, and this can be a household appliance for a small kitchen.
- Box/Shelf food dehydrators: As the name itself suggests, these dehydrators come in the shape of a box with rectangular trays stacked upon each other. These kind of dehydrators have a fan behind it which blows hot air onto the trays. Since each tray receives the same amount of heat, this is a perfect device to dehydrate your food evenly. But this comes at a cost of space in your kitchen. Usually bulky, these devices require more space than your conventional food dehydrators. Irrespective of the drawbacks, these food dehydrators can be used commercially and have good economic benefits too.
Features to look for while buying food dehydrators
You should have your set pre-requisites before purchasing any gadget for your household requirement. Though the advertisements of the product might be colorful, you always have to keep in mind your requirements and the specifications of the product to arrive at the best food dehydrator purchase. Following are some of the main features you have to look for while buying a dehydrator:
- Volume: While choosing a food dehydrator, size matters. Though it sounds common sense, this is one thing in which most people make mistake while buying food dehydrator online. Go through the complete specification page and the images as well to get a clear picture of what you are buying. It’s better to check twice whether the specification is matching the images shown. For a smaller kitchen it is better to go for a stacked food dehydrator and if you have the luxury of space, then box type dehydrator is the better choice. Suppose your use is only limited to making kale chips or general dehydrated food or food dehydrator recipes for small families, compact food dehydrators will work best for you.
- Heat transfer: For perfect output from the dehydrator, all the content in the dehydrator should be evenly heated. Because of the design of stacked dehydrator, the position of the fan underneath might sometimes poses a challenge. You will have to constantly change the position of the trays to evenly dry the food in this type of dehydrator. The box type dehydrator overcomes this disability due to its design. Since the fan is located behind the dehydrator, it evenly transfers air and heat over all the trays. This type of dehydrator is very much suited for commercial needs.
- Compactness: Usually when it comes to dehydrators, you should be able to modify the space provided to suit the volume of your food items. The Box / Shelf food dehydrator is the ideal one, which provides this option. Since stacking of trays happens in predetermined position, you can always remove the ones in between to create more space. Typically, stacked food dehydrator does not provide this option, since all the trays are loaded from top.
- Quality: One of the very basic requirement of any product we purchase should be quality. In the case of food dehydrators, it is one of the most important factors that needs to be considered. Since dehydrators work in very high temperatures, the quality of construction of these are crucial priority while making the purchase. Dehydrator should either be made of metal or very high grade plastic to withstand this temperature. The plastic should be free of BPA or Bisphenol A, a synthetic compound found in plastics, since it might seep in the food at high temperature. The food dehydrator should also be approved by authorities such as SAA, FDA, CE and RoHS. Even if you find food dehydrator in cheap prices, your first task should be to check its quality. Also, read the manufacturers instruction manual before using it for dehydrating food.
Additional features to look about:
- Portability: If you travel frequently by train or car, small stackable dehydrators can turn out to be your ideal companions. These dehydrators are also lightweight and do not cause unwanted alerts at metal detection gateways. On the other hand, metal dehydrators are heavy, bulkier and cannot be carried to the states where carrying large metal objects in passenger crafts is prohibited.
- Affordability: You can buy food dehydrator within a budget that your pocket allows. While looking for an affordable model, just make sure that you don’t have to compromise with the brand and quality. Don’t forget, it is one of the most affordable methods of food preservation in long run.
How to make intelligent use of dehydrators?
Now that we are familiar with the purchasing part, the next step is to use it. Most people think that merely placing the food item in the dehydrator is enough to make it work. Though this is true, it is not enough. Without proper cutting and placement of the food items, it takes longer time to dehydrate. Consider just putting a wet cloth outside for drying rather than squeezing and taking out the water and spreading it. Which one would work better?? The same holds well here too, not the squeezing part though!
Any food item that has to be dehydrated should be cut into thin slices. Thinner slices of food are dehydrated in better manner. Since a thin slice has less volume than a thicker one, this makes the moisture evaporate faster. Not only is it fast, but more economical as well (as it saves your electricity bill too). One more thing that has to be kept in mind is that the food slices should not touch or put on top of each other, the basic reason being that it adds up to the thickness and moisture finds it difficult to evaporate.
As a consumer you should have the basic know-hows associated with the product you buy. In this case, the process of food dehydration is important. Particular points are listed below which are of considerable importance (they can be vital tips and tricks for using food dehydrator):
- A food item’s moisture is not the same as of the other. Some contain more moisture level while some are less moist. So it’s always a good practice to segregate your food items before putting them into a food dehydrator, so that everything dries at around the same time.
- Be careful while dehydrating food, always pre-set the time before putting food for dehydration, unless your food dehydrator has automatic shutdown. You can also take advantage of a solar food dehydrator.
- Make sure you don’t mix your food items which gives out bad odor while dehydrating, this in turn will seep into other food items making them smell bad.
- Most of the food items can always be rehydrated again. All you need to do is dip them in water and let them soak it up.
- The most important myth is about the nutritional value. Unlike what most people believe in, dehydrated food recipes loose very little nutritional value. Dehydration takes away only water, and some vitamins or minerals which are heat sensitive, like Vitamin C. But overall, most of the food items are as nutritious as they were before.
- One more important consideration is the storage. While storing dehydrated food, it is important that you should consider proper precautions to avoid moisture seeping inside the dehydrated foods.
- You can also conveniently store your harvest by dehydrating it. It keeps your organic garden’s yield fresh for long times and prevents you from running to departmental stores in search of canned food.
- Confused about “How long does dehydrated food last?” The answer is simple and straight forward. It may last from 1 year to 10 years depending on your care and usage.
Limitations/ additional things you should know
After reading about the power of dehydrator, you must be wondering how such a wonderful apparatus can have any drawbacks. We cannot exactly term them as drawbacks, but yes, they are the limitations of food dehydrator.
- Overly dried vegetables, fruits and meats can be extremely hard, often up to the point where they cannot be softened. Their texture also changes remarkably
- If the dried food is exposed to moisture or if by any chance moisture is left or allowed in the dehydrated food, the chances of mold on the food increase dramatically
- Dehydrated food have all the water removed. So, while consuming dried fruits in large quantities, one must increase the fluid intake considerably. This works great if you are trying to store dehydrated camping food.
Considering the care instructions:
Now comes the last part of this guide, how to maintain the food dehydrator?
Though the food dehydrators are designed to withstand the regular wear and tear, its life can be extended by following these simple steps:
- When you want to dehydrate the food, especially juicy slices of fruits or very small slices of food items, it’s always better to use food dehydrator drying sheets. These sheets not only stop seeping of liquid to the trays below, they also help in keeping your trays clean
- Since the dehydrator works on the principle of heat transfer, make sure your food dehydrator is placed in a well-ventilated place.
- While dehydrating, rotate the trays which will improve the drying process.
- Do not put your dehydrator trays into dishwasher. It’s always better to wash the trays by hand.
- After usage, it’s recommended to store your dehydrator in a dry place away from light. The same holds good for your dehydrated food too.
Don’t forget the following too:
- Don’t stuff food one over the other - Looking at the ultimate benefits, it seems tempting to squish a lot of food onto a tray. But make sure that they don’t overlap each other or they won’t dry evenly
- Don’t mix different tastes - Since the air circulates inside the dehydrator, flavors can transfer from one food to another. You can certainly dry similar items at the same time, for example, peaches and strawberries
- Ensure the quality of food - Use only the best quality food, don’t forget your purpose is to preserve it. Also, remove any soft spots or bruises before drying
- Don’t dry any fruit with visible mould - Drying process kills the mold spores - this is one big MYTH! It will not kill any mould and dehydrate the food as it is. Moreover, the food will also not remain as healthy as it was
- Give your dehydrator some room to breathe - Ensure that the food dehydrator has enough ventilation - just like every other machine it requires good air circulation to work
- Cut cherries and grapes in half to fasten up the dehydrating process - Though cutting these little fat fruits into half looks like an extra step, but it’s worth doing!
- Rotate the trays - If you have stacked the dehydrator to fullest capacity, rotating the trays occasionally will help in even drying
Ready to give dehydrating a try? Start with some easy fruits like peaches.
Does dehydrated food lose its nutritional value?
Dehydrated food do not lose its nutritional value. But, you need to store it well to keep the nutritional value intact, avoid any deterioration to the quality and keep the food safe to eat.
- Some vitamins such as A and C might decrease by coming in contact with heat or air, while others such as Vitamin B can leach out into the cooking water
- Store vitamin A rich dehydrated food in dark place, this crucial nutrient will be lost if it gets exposed to light or sun
- You can use sulfite treatment, for example sodium metabisulphite which minimizes the loss of Vitamin A and C. But, this method might increase the loss of thiamine and riboflavin.
- Blanching inactivates the enzymes that lead to the loss of Vitamin A and C, therefore minimizing the loss of Vitamin A and C and thiamine due to dehydration. It also cooks the food to some extend to enhance its flavor after drying.
- Steam blanching is more effective than blanching in water.
- An easy trick to preserve and maintain higher levels of Vitamin C throughout the dehydration process is to dip the fruits and vegetables into orange, pineapple or lemon juice before dehydrating. It also prevents them from turning brown (though isn’t as effective as using sulfite treatment).
If there is a question whether to own a dehydrator or not, we would suggest that you should. If every kitchen has a food dehydrator, the amount of garbage trucks with our precious commodity is lesser. This along with the consideration of health and lifestyle, combined with economics gives us enough input to make better decisions. Moreover, it also provides you the opportunity to experiment by creating a variety of homemade and nutritious snacks and food dehydrator recipes. We hope our brief guide gives enough information in making your online purchase an improved one.
If you require any other help regarding the purchase of food dehydrator or want to enquire about the model which is best for your needs, feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can share your queries and one of our team members will get in touch with you within the earliest possible time. We are leading suppliers of best food dehydrators across Australia including Perth, Brisbane, and other prime geographies.
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