A food dehydrator, which dries foods at a low temperature over a long period of time, can be used to make apple chips, dried mango, and beef jerky.
The lack of moisture enhances the flavor of the food, making fruit sweeter and herbs more pungent; it also allows it to be stored for longer periods of time.
Homemade dehydrated snacks, in addition to being more flavorful and shelf-stable, are typically healthier than store-bought dehydrated snacks because they typically contain just one whole ingredient that has been dried without any additives, preservatives, or calorie-dense ingredients like oil or sugar. They can also be customized to your specifications (you can add extra salt or none at all, for example).
Dehydrating food also retains more nutrients than other cooking methods. When kale, which is high in water-soluble and heat-sensitive vitamin C, is cooked, some of its immune-boosting properties are lost. Its nutrients and vitamins are better preserved by dehydrating it at a low temperature.
How Does It Work?
Dehydrators work by circulating air at a very low temperature to dry out foods. To dry completely and evenly, the foods must be arranged in a single layer without touching. Depending on the amount of water in the food, different temperatures are recommended:
- Water-dense ingredients, like fruit, usually benefit from a higher temperature, like 135°F, so they can dry quickly without becoming too crisp.
- Vegetables can be dehydrated at a lower temperature, like 125°F.
- Delicate foods, like herbs, should be dehydrated at even lower temperature, like 95°F, to prevent over-drying and discoloration.
- For meat, the USDA recommends cooking it first to an internal temperature of 165°F and then dehydrating between 130°F to 140°F. This method is suggested to kill any potentially harmful bacteria and encourage the cooked meat to dehydrate quickly and safely.
Here’s what else you can do:
- Dry homemade pasta
- Ferment yogurt
- Make fruit leather, granola bars, dog treats, and more
- Make potpourri
- Recrisp stale foods like cookies or crackers.
- DIY art projects, like dehydrated flour and water molds that can be painted
What Kind of Dehydrator is Best?
Dehydrators are divided into two types: those with stackable shelves and those with pull-out shelves. The placement of the fan is the main difference between these two styles, but we saw little difference between them in our dehydrator tests when drying apple slices, parsley, and beef for jerky. We also discovered that both styles offer models with a wide temperature and timer range, which is an important feature to look for if you want to be able to precisely control your results.
- Dehydrators with stacked shelves Place a small fan on the bottom of the table to circulate air upwards. Stacking dehydrators are often less expensive and take up less space. Some are round, while others are rectangular; we prefer the rectangular ones because they have more surface area and can accommodate a wider range of ingredients. Stacking dehydrators are ideal for inexperienced or infrequent dehydrator users.
- Dehydrators with pull-out shelves have a large fan in the back that circulates the air more effectively and evenly, resulting in more consistent results To better control the temperature, dehydrators with pull-out shelves are typically made of more solid materials. For those who prefer not to cook on plastic, some have metal shelves instead of plastic you can choose ronco dehydrators.
Is Buying a Dehydrator Worth It?
Dehydrators are a useful tool for health-conscious eaters. They promote the consumption of real, whole foods and aid in the reduction of food waste. They’re especially useful for parents who want to feed their children healthy snacks, as well as those who have allergies or have trouble finding additive-free snacks in stores.
In the long run, dehydrators are also very cost-effective. They allow you to buy produce in bulk and store it for later use, especially when it is in season or on sale. They’re also useful for gardeners who frequently have an abundance of ingredients.
The disadvantage of dehydrators is that they take a long time to dry food and that their output is often easy to consume in one sitting. However, if you purchase a large one with a timer, the process is relatively hands-off and rewarding.
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