Dehydration is a convenient, cost-effective, and quick way to prepare fresh food for immediate storage or snacking. Before you start using your food dehydrator it is important to learn the bare essentials to ensure the best results. Equipped with this knowledge and some practice and experimentation, you’ll be able to dehydrate food in no time like a pro.
What is a Food Dehydrator?
A food dehydrator is a small kitchen gadget used to dry your food or to dehydrate it. This small gadget utilizes a gentle flow of hot air to minimize the average amount of water contained in fruits, vegetables, meats, and other foods by using a built-in fan and low heat. If the water is removed, the food does not spoil as quickly as it would naturally, and is also impervious to several forms of bacteria which would otherwise grow.
In fact, well-dehydrated food will tend to hold the vast majority of its original nutritional value. You start losing the overall nutrient value once you cook your food, which is why many people say a raw diet as one of the healthiest for you. A food dehydrator helps you to store all the nutrients and vitamins in your food, which makes it easier for you to transport and take with you.
Simple Food Dehydrating Tips
Here are the best basic food dehydrating tips that you should keep in mind.
1. Make sure you have the right temperature:
The temperature and time needed to dehydrate properly will vary depending on the type of dehydrator you purchase, as well as the food you choose to dehydrate. General instructions on time and temperature should be printed on the dehydrator label or included in the instruction manual along with the suggested times needed.
2. Make sure foods are 95% dehydrated:
Foods need to be dehydrated at least 95 percent to be properly processed. If you feel sluggish, spongy or sticky about your products, put them back in the dehydrator for extra time. The bits are hard and crunchy or breakable. High indoor humidity, air conditioning, or breezes will alter the amount of time needed to dehydrate food. Ideally, find a safe, warm spot to set up your dehydrator, away from air vents and windows.
3. Don’t try to dry foods quicker:
Do not be afraid to over-dry your food. If required, you can dry them longer but it is not advisable to switch up the temperature settings in an effort to dry the food faster. This will seal the outside, leaving moisture inside, which will eventually ruin the food before you have an opportunity to consume it.
4. Preparation is key:
Before adding something dehydrate, make sure you wash all foods thoroughly with an antibacterial vegetable cleaner. Wear gloves to prevent having skin oils on the food when cooking food. Steam all vegetables with low acidity for 10 minutes before dehydration. Pat them dry after they’ve been steamed before bringing them into the food dehydrator. Spritz bananas and apples with lemon juice to prevent them from browning.
5. Become more efficient
Just when you are using an oven, before using it, it is wise to turn the dehydrate on to allow it to warm up to the appropriate temperature before adding food. Prepare items that require the same temperature, while simultaneously dehydrate. Slice all products into equal thickness and scale for better performance.
Choosing the Best Food Dehydrator for You
A food dehydrator’s most significant trait is the fan. When shopping for a food dehydrator, it is recommended that you get one from the top or the bottom of the machine, instead of one with a fan in the back.
A back-mounted fan allows for even drying of your food in the entire dehydrator. At the closet level, top and bottom fans appear to dry first, and the fan blows scents from foods on one floor to blend with foods onto another.
Also, critical features to provide are an adjustable thermostat, heating element, automatic shut-off timer, and the correct capacity to successfully dehydrate foods. The adjustable thermostat helps you to set the appropriate temperature, depending on the food you dehydrate.
Depending on the individual food you wish to dehydrate, varied temperatures are needed. A heating element holds the food air to optimally dehydrate at the correct temperature, and the automatic shut-off timer allows you to operate the dehydrator away from home overnight or during the day.
The size of the dehydrator ranges from about 4 to 10 + square feet of space, either in stackable or slide-out trays. A nine-tray removable-tray dehydrator requires up to 15 square feet of space. Calculate your size requirement by how much food you expect to dehydrate.
One-half pound of sliced strawberries, three sliced apples, three sliced bananas, or two sliced tomatoes fill around a 1.5 square foot tray.
Choosing the correct size all depends on how much you expect to use it, and how much food you want to dehydrate. If you buy or grow an abundance of fruits and veggies, then maybe the larger 9-tray food dehydrators will suit you better. If you’re not trying to dehydrate a lot of food then the smaller dehydrators may be a better match for you.
Be sure to protect your dehydrated food from sun, light, and moisture while it is being processed. Any such in excess will shorten the food’s shelf life. When dehydrated, allow the food to cool down to room temperature to prevent condensation inside the packaging.
You should allow the use of a vacuum sealer to package dehydrated foods for storage for better performance. If there is no vacuum sealer available, you can use a Ziploc bag, just make sure you push as much air as you can and screw it tightly.
Once you have bagged your dehydrated food, growing the products in a dark, cool, and dry location. Do not grow ice crystals in the freezer or you will find that they start forming inside. To ensure overall quality, take a few weeks to review your inventory regularly. Foods will last longer than 20 years if properly dehydrated and preserved in a vacuum seal.
Depending on your intended use, prepare to rehydrate foods by putting 1 cup of food in 1 cup of hot or cold water. When this is finished, allow for rehydration for up to four hours.
Using your recycle as you would normally. If you are cooking your food with a slow cooker, simply add your vegetables to the cooker, add the amount of water your recipe calls for and your veggies will rehydrate themselves.
Why You Should Try It
Not only does dehydration save you money but it’s really easy and extremely safe.
Dehydrated foods not only maintain their vitamin and mineral content but also have decades-long shelf-life. Following these basic guidelines, beginners who are interested in the process are assured success.