Best Food Dehydrator – Guide & Reviews
Preserving food has been an age-old tradition in every part of the world. With the passage of time, the traditional methods have been slowly substituted by many. Although, it doesn’t mean people have completely discarded the old-school food preservation techniques.
In the gulf countries and the southern part of Asia, drying fruits and vegetables is still popular, due to the availability of sufficient sunlight throughout the year. But you, who don’t get to reap the benefit of a favourable weather, need an alternative.
Preserving raw foods using a small instrument called food dehydrator is not only a much healthier option than buying commercially-dried foods but less expensive too. Since this gadget is relatively new in the market, it’s not unlikely that many will find it difficult to choose a reliable product from the lot.
So, What is Exactly a Food Dehydrator?
Food dehydrators are nothing strikingly different from any other appliance in your kitchen. As you use a pressure cooker for cooking, an oven for baking, food dehydrators are here to make your boring vegetables a fruits a little more interesting.
Preserving food by channelizing hot air through it increases their shelf life, therefore, you can by a huge stack of seasonal fruits and store them for a whole year if you like.
Technically speaking, a food dehydrator typically reduces the 50-90% amount of water present in any vegetable or fruit to around 0.75%. The excess moisture is eliminated in an effort to guard the edibles against fungi and bacteria.
You can enjoy the summer-time favourite mangoes, strawberries, peaches, jerkies, fishes, milk and various kinds of meat even when they’re out of season. According to a research, corn, wheat, vegetables, grains, herbs, spices can be stored for nearly two decades with the help of dehydration method. Food dehydrators can be divided into two basic types:
Box and Shelf Dehydrators
The box in this model functions as the outer shell whereas the shelf is composed of a number of trays. A horizontal fan blows hot air through the foods placed in each tray uniformly. These dehydrators are akin to electric oven in terms of appearance and functionality. Equal distribution of heat is the biggest advantage of these models.
The bulky size can be counted as a major drawback for people having a limited kitchen space. Plus, the steep price tag makes it way out of the league of budget-consumers.
In these relatively smaller plastic models, each stack features a rack for storing the food items. Trays can be inserted or removed as per the requirement. The vertical fan is located at the bottom and circulates hot air in the upward direction.
These dehydrators are pretty easy to use and maintain, the only issue is that you have to rotate the racks occasionally. Stacked-type appliances are the best food dehydrators for folks living in small houses, rental homes and travel frequently.
Qualities of the Best Food Dehydrator
Size of the Machine
Do you have a spacious kitchen countertop or a limited space for cooking? People living in small apartments, condominium should go for a stackable food dehydrator model. When you’re done with the gadget, fold it and simply tuck it away t any safe corner of the kitchen.
The enclosed design will lend a very minimal footprint in your kitchen. These dehydrators contain 15-20 expandable racks placed vertically. In case you have enough space to invest for a shelf or box dehydrator, you have enough options to pick from.
Food dehydrators have either a vertical or a horizontal fan fitted inside it, each model utilizes a unique method to dehydrate the food. Horizontal fans commonly used it high end models can supply the heat evenly to every rack, the only drawback is the time it takes to complete the process. On the contrary, most stackable gadgets make use of vertical fans.
While it can quickly dehydrate the foods on the lower trays, it tends to slow down rapidly when the trays are increased vertically. Vertical fans are fine if you’re always in a rush.
In case you travel a lot, a lightweight, non-metal, stackable food dehydrator can be easily carried to anywhere you go. Not only these are low on weight but it also doesn’t make the metal detector ring an alarm when under detection, unlike the heavier metal models which might irk the detector. Carrying bulky metal objects are strictly prohibited in aircrafts.
There are times when you need to preserve foods in large amounts, under such circumstances, a stackable model won’t simply do you good enough. On the other hand, if you have a box and shelf model, you can effortlessly remove the stacks and relax. The heat will be distributed to every edible item uniformly.
If you’re opting for a lightweight, stackable plastic dehydrator, please make sure the manufacturer has used an FDA certified plastic with no BFA in the product. Poor grade plastics emit fumes at a high temperature.
It is the last thing you want your food to come in touch with. As far as metal is concerned, the FDA approval is necessary here as well. It ensures that the metal is acceptable for dehydrating edible items.
Food dehydrators are gradually becoming mode upgraded with time. There’s always a particular section of customers who want something beyond the ordinary. To satiate their thirst for something more, some renowned food dehydrator-makers have included additional utilities like timer and thermostats in their product.
While a timer reduces the risk of over or under drying when you’re in hurry, a thermostat allows you tweak the temperature for desirable amount of crispiness in the jerkies, fruits and veggies.
Food dehydrators for home purposes are available in a wide range of prices. Since a majority of people are still unfamiliar with this gadget, the brands are switching down the cost to attract budget-customers in order to boost their sales.
Box and shelf type machines should be considered only when you’re not running on a limited budget. If you’re new to food dehydrators, I would highly recommend you to start off with a stackable one as its way easier to use and comes at a moderate price.
Tips on How to Use a Food Dehydrator
There’s nothing thunderously difficult in operating a food dehydrator for home kitchens. Nonetheless, if you’re a first-time user, there a few tips I would like to share with you. You’re likely going to find these points written in the user’s guide as well. The first thing you got be very careful with is the temperature setting. Next, prepare the cooking materials on the trays properly.
Set it to 104o F only if you want the fruits to dry completely. For medium crunch, regulate the heat down. Shuffling the trays within a particular time gap is necessary to prevent the food from over-drying. Before rotating the trays, check out whether the item has properly dehydrated or not by slicing it. Finally, when the process is complete, store the dehydrated food in a good air tight container.
Reviews of the Best Food Dehydrators in the Present Market
Nesco Snackmaster Pro FD-75A
Designed for easy handling and rapid dehydrating, Nesco Snackmaster measures approximately 13 inch by 13 inch. It is essentially a lightweight stackable dehydrator offering 12 racks, which is more than enough for a ton of veggies, fruits and meat.
Vertical fans running such models are often criticized for their uneven heating. But Nesco is a not a brand to indulge in mistakes.
They have opted for a 700W fan which circulates the air in vertical direction equally from top to bottom, resulting in nice and crispy snacks. It allows you to set a temperature between 95-130o F so that you can dry a variety of items like vegetables, fruits, herbs and spices, fishes and meat.
The product package includes mesh sheets, solid sheets, and spice jackets along with a cool recipe book as well. The best part about this product is the trays are carefully separated to prevent the flavours of different foods from mixing.
Presto 06300 Dehydro Electric
A highly trusted brand Presto brings you an affordable stacked type food dehydrator with 4 trays (which are expandable up to 8).
This description is enough to make it clear that this product is not meant for bulk dehydration. However, good scalability, low weight, great portability and the overall ease of operating make Presto 06300 a clear winner among the mass.
The power cord of this 7.5 pounds heavy equipment is located at the base for better dimensional dynamics, moreover the trays can be inserted on top of each other as well which makes the product an easy fit on your kitchen countertop.
The lid of the equipment is made of a see-through polycarbonate to help you monitor the progress of the process. The product is capable of dehydrating at various temperatures and the vertical fan at the bottom channelizes the heat evenly on every rack. Last but not the least, the 600W power setup comes is an excellent feature when you’re trying to dry highly moist products.
Now it’s time to introduce something for the professional purposes. If you need to purchase a commercial-grade food dehydrator, Excalibur has a lot in store for you.
The appliances can tackle large batches of moist veggies, fishes, meats, jerkies and fruits and turn them mouthwateringly crispy in a real quick time.
It comes with an adjustable thermostat (allowing a temperature ranging from 90 to 155o F) to let you have full control over the intensity of the dehydration process.
Furthermore, there’s a 26-hour timer which means once you turn it on, you won’t have to worry about the cooking time anymore. The huge dimension of the machine could be a trouble if you lack space but then, you are also getting 9 solid trays along with 15 square feet of drying space which is perfect for mass gatherings and parties.
Nesco FD-1040 Gardenmaster
A perfect product for budget customers. The brand Nesco stands of reliability. What is spectacular about this appliance is that despite of being a low-cost product, it offers a massive capacity of 20 trays.
The brands patented Converga Air Flow technology is a class of its own and ensures even distribution of the hot blow across all trays.
Plus, it also comes with a temperature control so that you can ensure the food items are sufficiently dried. There’s another surprise for you.FD-1040 is also equipped with a programmable digital dimmer to aid to dehydrate to perfection.
It works at the power input of 1000W which is fine enough for domestic usage. The material used in making the product is FDA approved premium quality plastic. The package include a mesh tray, a fruit roll insert tray, jerky seasoning and a recipe book. You can use it for dehydrating milk, corn, pasta wheat, meats and spices.
Excalibur Dehydrator Stainless Steel
Here’s another marvel from Excalibur for customers willing to spend generously.
This top-end professional grade dehydrator offers an exceptional capacity of 15 square feet of drying space coupled with 9 trays. It’s obvious that this kind of high capacity models can be exploited fully only at a commercial level.
It comes equipped with a Hyperwave Thermostat to turn up the heat whenever a large batch of edibles is put in there. Up to 18 kgs. Of food items can be processed within a few hours and back-breaking labour. The trays, made from top quality stainless steel, are proven to retain the natural amount of essential nutrients in the veggies and fruits post the dehydration process.
As you can conjecture from even a cursory reading of this article, choosing the best food dehydrator is one a cakewalk unless your knowledge bank about this gadget is enriched enough. There is no thumb of picking up the best for your pocket.
You indeed got to show some patience, browse through a couple of options, compare the features and prices before jumping to any conclusion. Commercially preserved edibles are filled with chemical preservatives whereas a dehydrator uses none of it.
Whether you’re a health freak or not, purchasing a gadget that contributes so much to ensure the optimal health of your loved ones is definitely worth a try.