Dehydrator

A dehydrator is used to remove the moisture content of various foods and plant material. For those not satisfied with the quality of packaged dried foods, or who simply enjoy making it themselves, the dehydrator is an essential appliance to have in the kitchen. It can also be used to make potpourri for use around the home. There are three types of dehydrator, each one having different benefits and problems.

A dehydrator can be used to make dried fruits like apples, bananas, pears and nuts. It is also good for making dried meats, also known as jerky. Dried foods not only have different flavors to undried foods but they last much longer too. The growth of bacteria that spoils food is limited by the lack of water in the dried food. Another popular use for dehydrators is making potpourri from fragrant flowers, leaves and wood shavings. By removing the water from the plant material, it lasts a very long time.

There is a surprising amount of water in undried food and plant material. Removing this water requires the material be heated to a moderate temperature over many hours. Some fruits with high water content need to left in the dehydrator for more than a day. A fan is essential to achieving even heating over all the trays. Some low cost dehydrators do not have a fan and their trays need to be moved around frequently. The direction of the air flow is also important so that flavors from different foods do not mix.

The horizontal dehydrator is a stack of rectangular trays with a heater element and fan in the back. Hot air is blown horizontally across the trays from the back to the front, preventing the mixing of flavors between trays. This type of dehydrator takes up slightly more space than the vertical type though but it is easier to fit large items by simply removing a few trays. Since the heated air cools as it moves away from the element, there can be a significant temperature difference between the back and front of the dehydrator.

The vertical dehydrator is a stack of round trays that has the heater element and fan at the top or bottom of the stack. The trays have many holes in them to allow the passage of hot air through the stack. It is more compact than the horizontal type but large items require a spacer shelf to be added to the stack. Most models have a vertical airflow, while some force the heated air through a central column. This allows the air to move horizontally across the trays and helps reduce the mixing of flavors between trays.

The solar dehydrator uses the energy of sunlight to create heated air, unlike the other types which are powered by electricity. It is similar to a solar water heater but contain drying trays instead of water tubes. The case is painted with a black matt finish to absorb the sunlight better, and there is a glass top to trap the heated air inside the case. The solar dehydrator takes longer than the other types because it has poor heat retention and cools down during overcast periods and at night.

Drying sheets made from fine plastic mesh are used to stop food from sticking to the drying trays. They also prevent herbs and seeds from falling through the holes in the trays. Fruit rollups can be made by pouring fruit puree onto the sheets and leaving it to dry. Once the rollups are ready, they are simply peeled off the drying sheets. The sheets are expensive but are long lasting and machine washable. They do restrict the airflow in some vertical dehydrators but are not a problem for those with horizontal airflow.

Other features to consider are whether the shelves and drip trays are dishwasher safe, as the plastic coating on some can be deformed by high water temperature. A thermostat that allows variable temperature is helpful, as there is a large difference between the best drying temperatures for different foods. A power switch and timer is also helpful but not essential.

This Dehydrator Review is Written/Updated on Jun 11th, 2009 and filed under Kitchen Appliances. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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