A food dehydrator is a kitchen equipment that removes or reduces the moisture of food, particularly fruits, vegetables, and meat. Food dehydration is done to preserve food without having to use chemicals. There are a lot of benefits to doing food dehydration, so a lot of people are getting one for their home. Before deciding to purchase, it is important to know what feature should you look for in a food dehydrator.
Every home is different. Some families are big, while some are small. Most homes have a small kitchen, while others have huge. Every person’s and family’s budget for home appliance also differs. Each and every home also has different food preferences and eating habits. These are some of the things to consider when deciding what kind of food dehydrator to buy.
Basically, there are two types of commercially-sold food dehydrators. The first one is the stackable type, and the other one is the shelf type. However, not all food dehydrators are the same even when both, for instance, are stackable. Each type, brand, and model differs in one or more of the following─type, temperature, heat distribution, ease of use, size, noise, and additional features.
One of the first things to take into account when you buy a food dehydrator is to consider the different kinds that are available.
It used to be that food dehydration is done by using sunlight. However, since weather and temperature change often, industrial food dehydrators were invented. Eventually, the same concept was applied to smaller versions of food dehydrators made especially for the home.
As aforementioned, there are two basic types of food dehydrators. The stackable type is usually round and smaller than shelf type food dehydrators. Its heating element is usually at the top or the bottom of the stack. It is also expandable as some models allow trays to be added depending on the need of the user.
On the other hand, shelf type food dehydrators are more costly than stackables. They are also bigger but are not expandable as they have fixed number of trays and rails. The heating element of this type is at the back.
Horizontal/Vertical Flow Food Dehydrators
Aside from the aforementioned types, you would also need to make differences between horizontal and vertical flow food dehydrators.
With vertical food dehydrators, the trays usually stack on top of each other. With these types, you will have the heat source and fan either at the base or on the lid. These are quite affordable and work well for fruit and vegetables, but they don’t do well with more heavy duty jobs like jerky.
They are smaller and more compact but can also be extended with additional trays. These are well-suited to someone starting out with dehydrating or if you live in a small apartment.
Horizontal types have a more uniform distribution of heat and airflow and therefore tend to be a little more expensive. They can handle more types of food and are more versatile. You can easily make beef jerky or work with tougher vegetables. They are larger than the vertical models but do perform better for a wider variety of foods. You will need a little more counter space for these, and they can be loud.
In terms of temperature, shelf type food dehydrators can provide higher temperatures. Food is usually dehydrated between 95 and 145 degrees Fahrenheit. However, drying meat requires a higher temperature to ensure that they are properly dehydrated. If meat is not dehydrated well, for instance, the interior is still moist though the exterior has dried, the moist part can still rot and be a breeding ground for bacteria.
Depending on the food the family plans to dehydrate, they should choose a food dehydrator that is able to provide the amount of heat required.
Airflow and Heat Distribution
Dehydration of food is quite a simple and easy concept scientifically. You just have to keep your food at a high enough and consistent temperature for a suitably long time so that a part of the moisture can be extracted from those food items. For all practical purpose, the most robust challenge is to make sure that the heat is uniformly distributed for the food items being dried. There will be some food items that have to be necessarily kept further from the appliances heat source as compared to the others. Hence, it has to be made sure that the dehydrator has been set up in a manner to facilitate an adequate airflow so that it can be accomplished.
Before purchasing a food dehydrator, you should do your homework on what the said manufacturer claims about the airflow and the heat distribution for their every model. Have they taken any steps to make sure that the foods placed in the dehydrator will be dried out uniformly? For instance, food dehydrators with horizontal flow usually have the ideal design to achieve this. However, several vertical flow food dehydrator models include features such as fans as well as other elements to particularly enhance airflow.
Ease of Use
Speaking of rotating the tray, depending on the type, brand, and model of food dehydrators, there are some that need low maintenance, while some need regular attention. Since shelf type food dehydrators do not need rotating the trays, it can be said that it is easier to use if dehydrating the same kind of food at one time.
However, it is not expandable. For some people, being able to add more trays to the stack is very important. Others would also prefer shuffling the trays as they are interested in watching the progress of the dehydration.
Ease of use should also include ease of cleaning and maintenance. There are people who are fine with models that require washing by hand, while others would prefer dishwasher safe trays and screens.
Similar to many other small kitchen appliances, you must contemplate the quantity of food you want to put in the dehydrator in a single batch as well as the amount of space available for you while adding another new gadget in the kitchen. When you purchase a smaller model, especially a vertical flow one, it occupies less space on a counter and is relatively easy to store even while not being used.
On the other hand, in case you have an abundance of food items from your garden, which you want to dehydrate within a brief time span or wish to make a bulk purchase with a target of dehydration, you should go for a more significant model. If the requirement is restricted to making only some snacks occasionally and rescues the real estate of the kitchen, then purchasing a smaller model could be a more sensible decision for you.
Ideally, food dehydrators have a fan installed within them. So, most models are expected to produce some noise. Having said so, the decibel level will be different from model to model. To own a product, which provides the minimum noise, try to find a model that is known in the market not to make much of a sound.
The bad news is decibel ratings of a food dehydrator may not be listed as a part of the specification. But, the good news is you can find review websites as well as check out the customer reviews to find out what the consumers are mentioning about the appliance’s noise levels.
Cost of a Dehydrator
Different food dehydrators may cost differently based on the features, quality, popularity, brands, models and so on. The high-end models typically have significant capacity, and thus it is possible for you to dehydrate big batches of food items in a single go. They also offer features such as an essential even heat distribution to ensure even cooking and other exciting perks such as timers and thermometers, which make the entire dehydration process as simple as possible. The low-end and economical products comprise of necessary dehydrators, which can dry out some food items but will need higher maintenance. They have more restrictions on the kinds of food items one can dehydrate and may not last as long as a high-end product.
A majority of people who have not bought a food dehydrator before but are interested now would like to choose one that is somewhere between the high-end and the low-end products. They will also try to see that the product has the features they value the most.
Thus, make sure that you do thorough homework before purchasing your first food dehydrator after carefully considering the kind of food items you would be drying most frequently.
Not all food dehydrators have a thermostat. For someone who wants to dry different sorts of food, it is important that this feature is considered.
It would also be great if the food dehydrator has a timer. This makes the process easier since the user would not need to manually take note of when to check the food and when to turn off the dehydrator when the food is ready. This feature is very useful for people who spend most of the time out of the house or those who forget easily.
In addition to the timer, it is also nice to have a food dehydrator with the auto shut-off feature.
The part that should factor into the decision is power. A device with 10 trays will need to have at least 500 watts drawn from the outlet, and it is very important to have some sort of temperature regulator. Some types of food require different levels of temperature throughout the drying process. For this reason, a good food dehydrator needs to have a timer and thermostat for the user to achieve the best results.
Another important thing to be taken into consideration when purchasing a food dehydrator is the actual material it’s made of. The more affordable devices are made out of plastic and, while they may be enough for the occasional use, serious shoppers might want to invest in a stainless steel product, which is more durable and reliable throughout time.
Sure, aesthetics aren’t that important, but keeping the kitchen all equipped with similarly-looking products can make for a safer, more familiar environment. Relaxation is a very important process in cooking, and one shouldn’t underestimate the Zen of a well-balanced kitchen look. Try to opt for something that blends in with current appliances, even if it will cost just a bit more.
That being said, users shouldn’t make a decision based on aesthetics alone, so low-quality products should be crossed off the list, no matter how good they’d look on the countertop.
What Feature Should You Look for in a Food Dehydrator: Summary
Depending on the needs and preferences of the user, the following should be considered when deciding which food dehydrator to buy for the home: type, temperature, heat distribution, ease of use, size, and noise.
The answer to the question “what feature should you look for in a food dehydrator?” also depends on the number of people at home, the family’s lifestyle, their eating habits, whether or not they have a fruit or vegetable garden and their allocated budget for a kitchen appliance.
Overall, no two users are the same, so it is very important to examine all factors before deciding on which type, brand, and model of food dehydrator to buy.