Food dehydrators

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Stöckli food dehydrator
Silicone dehydrating mats

Have you ever thought about buying a food dehydrator? According to Wikipedia “A food dehydrator refers to a device that removes moisture from food to aid in its preservation. A food dehydrator uses a heat source and air flow to reduce the water content of foods. The water content of food is usually very high, typically 80% to 95% for various fruits and vegetables and 50% to 75% for various meats. Removing moisture from food restrains various bacteria from growing and spoiling food. Further, removing moisture from food dramatically reduces the weight of the food. Thus, food dehydrators are used to preserve and extend the shelf life of various foods. The first commercial food dehydrator was sold in 1920.”

Current global food shortages and soaring prices are good reasons for buying one to help avoid waste and keep costs to a minimum. If you are a gardener, you may have an annual glut of fruit and vegetables or you could be lucky enough to have a local greengrocer or farm shop who will sell you their produce in bulk at a reasonable price, it can be assumed that you would want to preserve it in some way. The obvious methods are freezing, canning and bottling, but dehydrating is a fourth option which is becoming more popular in domestic households. The beauty of dehydrated ingredients is that they take up far less space than those preserved using the other methods.

Types of dehydrator

There are two main types of dehydrator as follows:

Horizontal Air-flow

These dehydrators have shelves which slide out like those in an oven and the air-flow comes from the sides. This type has the advantage of more even drying, however the number of shelves is fixed and you cannot add extra ones. Manufacturers include Excalibur (available from various UK outlets) and Tribest.

Vertical Air-flow

These have stacking trays which can be added to as desired and the air-flow comes from the bottom. For this reason, drying may be uneven unless you swap the trays around occasionally. They also take up less space than the horizontal dehydrators. Manufacturers include Stöckli and L'Equip (both available from various UK outlets)

Further comments

Some manufacturers offer you a choice of whether you want one with a timer or not. Personally, I didn't feel the need to pay and extra £20 (in the case of the Stöckli) for a timer, when I have a perfectly good kitchen timer already, which can be set for up to 99 hours. However, if your own timer is mechanical one, you may find it useful to buy a dehydrator with a built in timer as mechanical ones may not allow you to set it for several hours.

Apart from the above-mentioned manufacturers, you will encounter others who produce dehydrators. Before considering any of those (and they are less expensive), do make sure that they have a temperature control setting, because many of them don't. This is important as different ingredients require dehydrating at different temperatures. For example, meat and fish need a high temperature, whereas mushrooms and herbs need a low one. Dehydrating mats are available for making fruit leathers or when dehydrating wet ingredients.

See here for dehydrating times and temperatures.


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