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How To Use a Food Dehydrator
You might be freezing and canning to preserve your food, but are you dehydrating? A food dehydrator can be an exciting purchase for your kitchen. Make your own dry fruit, fruit leather, jerky, and chewy treats to save money. Read up on the benefits of a dehydrator and try a recipe or two from below, whether you have one or not.
What Does A Dehydrator Do?
A dehydrator does exactly what the name implies: it dehydrates food by using low heat and fans to evenly remove moisture over a period of time. Depending on what you are dehydrating, temperatures and times can vary from 110 to 160 degrees Fahrenheit and from a few hours to 12 or more.
In ancient days dehydrating was used as a means of preservation, since lower moisture means less bacterial activity. Today, we know that this low-heat process is also ideal for preserving nutrients and enzymes that would otherwise be destroyed by higher heat. For all raw food enthusiasts, this means that some dehydrated foods are ideal for a Raw Food Diet too!
Is A Dehydrator Right For You?
Sometimes I get overly excited about making my own versions of popular foods (like TV dinners and condiments). After coming across a few recipes for fruit leather, dried fruit and fruit chips I HAD to have a dehydrator. Within minutes I managed to order a cheap one with excellent reviews. It came, I unpacked it, I took a picture to share with the world…and then it sat in the closet for a week before I returned it. Lesson learned: as with any purchase, consider all points before buying.
- Price: The price range for a good dehydrator varies from less than $50 to several hundred, depending on how many trays it has and if it has advanced features like timers. The simple Presto version I ordered was under $40! Consider how often you would use yours when deciding your price range.
- Size: Big or small, make sure you have a place to put your dehydrator, both when using and storing. Keep in mind that it will be out for multiple hours when in use, and in your way if you have limited kitchen space.
- Time: Consider if you will have time to use the dehydrator. Although fruit and vegetable preparation for the dehydrating process is not time consuming, making raw chewy treats can be. Also consider features like timers here, for automatic turn-off.
- Benefits: Think about the benefits you would get from a dehydrator before making the purchase.
Are you looking to avoid additives? As with any DIY food, you know exactly what you are putting in it and can avoid any preservatives and added sugars commonly added to dry fruit.
Will you save money? Making your own snack bars and dry fruit can be cheaper than buying, but not always. If you have excess food from a garden or buy in season when food is cheaper, chances are you’ll save. Take into account energy costs as well!
How Do I Use My Dehydrator?
The dehydrator’s user manual is the best source for specific user details, like temperatures, times and pre-dehydrating preparation processes.
No dehydrator (like me)? No problem. Although not as temperature specific and energy-efficient as a dehydrator, using an oven on the lowest setting works just as well for making snacks like the apple crisps pictured above. The recipes marked with a star contain instructions for dehydrators and ovens. Try:
- Homemade Soaked Granola from Cheeseslave.com *
- Beef Jerky from Budget101.com *
- Fruit Leather from Yankee Kitchen Ninja *
- Homemade Baked Apple Chips from The Real Food Guide *
- Vegetable Powder (using dehydrated veggie) from Little Farm in the Big City
- How To Use A Food Dehydrator to Dry Herbs from About.com
- Raw Flax Seed Crackers from About.com
- Easy Raw Lemon Cashew Cookies from About.com
- Easy Raw Cookie Recipe With Dates from About.com
Do you own a dehydrator? What are your favorite dehydrated snacks and recipes?