Do you enjoy dried fruit and vegetable snacks but hate having to pay out the nose for them? Or do you have a surplus of fruit, vegetables or meat that you need to use right away? There are only so many soups and jams you can make before you run out of pantry or freezer space. There’s a third option that you might not have considered but is taking the world by storm – the dehydrator.
A dehydrator is an excellent solution to food waste, food preservation, and saving money on your grocery shopping. How does it do that? Let’s take a look.
What is a dehydrator?
A dehydrator is an oven-like appliance that removes moisture from food at a very low temperature over a long period. Drying food is excellent because it preserves the food’s nutrition while also extending its shelf life without using preservatives. Dehydrators can cook at a lower temperature range than an oven, offers a lot more shelf space, and costs much less to run.
Aside from making great snacks like dried fruit, a dehydrator can make a variety of other foods that require very low-temperature cooking including:
- Chips (from most vegetables)
- Pet treats
- Sprouted crackers
- Dry herbs and spices
- Fruit leather
…and much, much more.
Do I need a food dehydrator?
Whether you need a food dehydrator in your life depends on a few factors.
Do you have the space? A food dehydrator is not a small appliance and can take up a hefty amount of bench space in your kitchen. This isn’t a problem if you’re using it all the time, but if your dehydrator is more of a ‘sometimes’ appliance you might need to reconfigure your existing storage.
Do you have enough produce for it? If you have a garden, a dehydrator is perfect for preserving all your fruit and vegetables before it goes out of season. If you don’t have a garden, you can take advantage of cheap seasonal produce at the local farmers’ market or greengrocers. But if you’re balking at the latest prices of vegetables, then dehydrating might be more of a hassle for you than it’s worth.
Do you have the time? Like any preservation method, there is a learning curve that comes with dehydration. Do you want your snacks to be crispy or chewy? Each product that goes in has its own ideal temperature and cooking times that aren’t only important for producing tasty treats, but also for food safety, as any moisture left in the food can attract mould.
At the end of the day, a dehydrator can help you save money by eliminating food waste and cutting back on your power usage.
Does a dehydrator ruin my food’s nutritional value?
When dehydrating foods, some nutrients may be reduced or destroyed, namely vitamins A and C. It may also reduce B vitamins and some minerals. Dehydrating food also changes its calorie content – you’re only removing water, so the dehydrated product will have a higher sodium and sugar density than before. That’s not to say that dehydrated food is bad for you, especially when compared to other snacks like potato chips. Like all foods, dried snacks are best consumed in moderation.
Types of dehydrators
There are two kinds of dehydrators that you can find on the market: stackable and box, also known as vertical airflow and horizontal airflow.
These dehydrators, also known as stackable dehydrators, contain the heating element at either the top or base of the machine. Trays are stacked on top of each other, which is excellent for saving space and, if needed, adding extra trays at the drop of a hat. But, compared with horizontal airflow dehydrators, they don’t heat each layer uniformly.
Horizontal airflow dehydrators function more like a traditional oven with a heat source at the back. They provide uniform heating and are much better for tough foods like meat. With that in mind, they’re a lot easier to use. They’re also more expensive and larger than vertical airflow machines.
Size and capacity
You’ll want to choose a dehydrator with enough space for your cooking needs. If you’re planning on dehydrating a large amount of food or tough food consistently, choose a dehydrator with several trays that you can move around easily for extra space. If you’re only occasionally making snacks in smaller quantities, a smaller model with stackable trays will be easier, more portable, and more efficient for you.
Other features to look for
Having a timer is invaluable for the busy chef, especially when the appliance in question will be used for hours on end. Set it and forget it by choosing a dehydrator with an adjustable timer so you can achieve perfect cooking times, every time.
A lot of the dehydration process requires precision temperatures to make sure your food comes out perfectly and devoid of all moisture – an under-dried product may not be safe to consume. Alongside your timer, having an easily adjustable thermostat is a must-have for total control of your food.
Dehydrators take a lot of time to do their job, sometimes overnight. The last thing you want is to be listening to a humming machine all night. Choose a dehydrator with low decibel levels. If you can’t find the decibel levels, check reviews of your favourite machines to find out if there were noise complaints.
You may want the option to automatically turn off your dehydrator after a certain amount of time to prevent overheating, wasting power, or overcooking. On the other hand, you might prefer to check on your food before turning off the temperature.
One of our most popular products, Devanti dehydrators are perfect for the budding dehydration whiz. We stock a variety of models with various capacities and tray types for every kind of cooking. Don’t hesitate - get a food dehydrator today.