The Top 10 Best Food Dehydrators of 2016

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Food Dehydrators: Questions & Answers

Do I need a food dehydrator?

Dehydrators are not necessarily kitchen staples; many people have never heard of a dehydrator, let alone own one. But a dehydrator is actually one of the most versatile, healthy, and fun kitchen devices you can have. If you are a raw vegan who eats nothing cooked above a certain temperature, a food dehydrator is absolutely essential and you should definitely invest in one. If you are someone who does a lot of camping and hiking, a dehydrator allows you to make your own trail mix and lightweight meals. If you love jerky, they allows you to make your own jerky out of any sort of meat, and you can experiment with different flavors. Gardeners can use one to preserve the year’s fruits and vegetables, bread-makers can rise their dough in a dehydrator, and crafters can use a dehydrator to dry flowers. In short, a food dehydrator is a great tool for any kitchen, no matter what your needs are.

Are dehydrators expensive?

In general, yes, they are expensive. They can be purchased for as low as $40, but these budget-friendly models are typically much less powerful and sophisticated than higher-priced models that offer more space, quicker drying time, and better temperature control. When thinking about buying a dehydrator, though, you should consider it as an investment. You will save money over time by making your own jerky, fruit jerky, spices, herbs, and other food than constantly buying them at the store. They also reduce food waste, as you can buy fruits, vegetable, and meat in bulk and dehydrate whatever you cannot use. Dehydrating has its own benefits, so health-minded people should understand that the initial cost can pay itself back in healthy, nutritious food.

What are the health benefits of dehydrating food?

If you are thinking of buying a food dehydrator but not sure it’s worth the cost, consider the health benefits of dehydrating food in your home rather than buying commercial food. Since you control what goes into the food, you know that there are no nitrates, preservatives, added sugars, or chemicals. Dehydrating is also one of the best ways to preserve your food’s natural nutritional content. While baking food can destroy many essential vitamins and minerals, as well as healthy bacteria like probiotics, dehydrating your food preserves those vital nutrients, making dehydrated snacks almost as healthy as fresh snacks.

What sorts of food can I dehydrate?

You can dehydrate meats, fruits, vegetables, spices, herbs, coconut, and soups. You can also raise dough, culture yogurt, make tempeh and granola, sprout grains, and dry flowers for potpourri or design. The opportunities are almost endless. If you decide to buy a dehydrator, try to find one that comes with a dehydrating guide or recipe book, or buy one yourself to give you ideas.

How do food dehydrators work?

Dehydrators work using either a fan or a heater. A dehydrator with a heater simply radiates heat throughout the unit. A dehydrator with a fan will pull air from the outside, heat it in a heating element, and then actively circulate the air through the device. It is highly recommended that you buy a dehydrator that has a fan, not just a heater; a heater takes much longer to dehydrate than a fan, and usually just doesn’t work up to par.

What kinds of dehydrators are there?

There are a few general types of dehydrators. Some are round and sit like a tower; these generally have top- or bottom-mounted fans and heating elements. Some are box-shaped and can either have top-, bottom-, or side-mounted fans and heating elements. Dehydrators also come with their stackable, removable trays or slide-out trays that lock in place. A dehydrator may have a front door that opens and closes, or in the case of slide-out trays, may be sealed by the interlocking trays. Some dehydrators have variable temperature settings, others do not.

Which kind of dehydrator is best?

The best kind of food dehydrators are those that have a side- or back-mounted fan and heating element. Dehydrators with top- or bottom-mounted fans do not provide an even dehydrating experience for all trays; since air flow moves vertically up and down the unit, the trays at the top or bottom get the bulk of the air and heat, so they dehydrate faster than the trays in the middle. You will need to rotate the trays during the dehydration process in order to achieve an even dehydration on all levels. Side- or back-mounted units distribute the air horizontally, so all the trays will be dehydrated at the same rate and you won’t need to rotate the trays during use. Side- and back-mounted fans also require less cleaning, because moisture and food drippings won’t fall on them from the trays above.

Should I get a dehydrator that has stackable trays or slide-out trays?

Whether you need a stackable or a slide-out dehydrator depends entirely on what you plan on using your dehydrator for. Most dehydrators offer half an inch to an inch of space in between each tray, which is fine for most dehydrating needs. In general, slide-out trays give you more overall space for dehydrating, so you can dehydrate more food at one time, and also allow you to remove trays as needed to accommodate bulkier items, like bread dough or paper mache projects. On the other hand, dehydrators with stackable trays are usually less expensive, and if you don’t plan on dehydrating large items or large quantities of food, will work perfectly well for your needs.

What temperatures do I need on a dehydrator?

Some dehydrators, mostly smaller, inexpensive, starter units, only have one temperature setting. This is fine if you are an extremely casual user who just wants to occasionally make jerky or fruit leather, but more dedicated users will definitely want to invest in a dehydrator that allows you to set your own temperature. In general, you’ll want to dehydrate meat at 155F, fruit at 125-135F, vegetables at 115-130F, and herbs at 95-105F. Look for dehydrators that have temperature settings that meet your particular needs. You can’t go wrong with a dehydrator that can be set for anywhere from 70-160F.

What features should I look for in a dehydrator?

Some good features include a timer that automatically shuts the device off after a certain period of time, multiple types of trays, and expandable trays. A timer that automatically shuts the device is handy because dehydrating can take a long time, so instead of constantly having to think about how long the food has been in, you can rest assured that the food won’t get over-dehydrated. You’ll want to look for a dehydrator that offers multiple types of trays, such as mesh and nonstick trays; nonstick trays are essential for drying soups and fruit leather or any other semi-liquid item. Mesh trays are good for small items like herbs, and are easy to clean. It might be a good idea to get a dehydrator that has the capacity to expand to more trays; you might find that you start dehydrating more and more over time, and want the option to add more trays to your dehydrator instead of buying a whole new one.

Do I need to buy a dehydrator that has a timer?

Although a timer is a great feature, it’s not necessary for you to get the most out of your dehydrator. You can either just keep the time in your mind, monitoring your food as it dries, or you can buy an external timer from a hardware store and attach it to the dehydrator. External timers are hooked into the power cord and automatically block the power supply to the unit after a specific amount of time.

Do food dehydrators take up a lot of room?

It depends, large, industrial-size dehydrators will usually require quite a bit of room; however, many models, like most Nesco models, are round and compact and can fit quite easily into any sized kitchen. The size of the dehydrator you choose will really depend on how much you plan on dehydrating at one time: a basic, four- or five-tray unit can be quite small and will have enough space for a small family or a casual user, while large families or people wanting to dehydrate in bulk will want to look for larger, eight- or nine-tray dehydrators. You can use your dehydrator in your basement or garage if you need a large unit and don’t have space for it.

Are dehydrators loud?

All dehydrators will make noise when in use. Many have compared the noise that they make to the sound of an air purifier, or the fan in your shower. Different dehydrators have different noise levels; in general, the bigger your dehydrator is, the more noise it will produce. Also, higher-quality ones generally produce less noise than lower-priced, low-quality dehydrators.

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