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Food Dehydrator

Find out all about food dehydrators and their use to preserve food

Food Dehydrator

preserving | fruits

Food dehydrator - for preservation of fruits, vegetables, and meat

A food dehydrator is a device which quickly reduces the water content of foods placed within it in order to help to preserve them. Bacteria live and grow in the moisture contained within foods, so by removing as much of that moisture as possible, bacteria are slow to spoil the food and it is preserved for an extended period of time. Also, dried fruit make a particularly delicious and energy-packed healthy snack.

How does a Food Dehydrator Work

A typical food dehydrator is very simple - just a heating element which is thermostatically controller, an electric fan, a series of stacked trays with air vents cut into them, and a lid with air vents. Food to be preserved is sliced and put onto the trays, and the dehydrator is closed up.

Food dehydrator filled with dried fruit

When turned on, the heating element warms up the food which causes the moisture it contains to be released into the air inside the dehydrator. The fan pushes this warm moist air up through the ventilated trays and out through the lid getting rid of it. After a few hours, the contents of the dehydrator can have a water content as low as 10-20% compared to a natural water content of well over 80-90% in the case of fruits and vegetables, and 50% even in meats and fish.

A food dehydrator does not cook the food. If it gets too hot, the food just gets hard and not nice to eat. Therefore, the temperature of the air inside a good dehydrator never exceeds around 55 degrees Celcius for fruit and vegetable preserving, and just under 70 degrees Celcius for meat preserving (a higher temperature necessitated because of the dangerous pathogens contained in much raw meat).

Using a Food Dehydrator

Using a food dehydrator is very simple, however, there are a few things worth remembering:

When drying fruits which discolour - for example, apples and pears - after washing and slicing the fruit, dip the slices quickly into a bowl of lemon juice so that they do not turn brown when drying.

If you are going to dry vegetables, then blanch them for a few minutes before slicing so that they will retain their colour.

Do not use old or over-ripe fruit or vegetables. Always try to get the freshest most recently harvested produce for the best end results.

Do not dry different produce at the same time which do not go naturally together. For example, it is fine to dry tomatoes and basil at the same time since basil flavoured tomatoes and tomato flavoured basil are delicious, but drying oregano and pears at the same time is unlikely to be such a success.

The dried food which you intend to use soon can just be placed into air tight freezer bags and stored in the fridge or in another cool, dark place. If you want to store the dried food for a very long time, then you’ll want to make sure that it is thoroughly and evenly dried. To do this, put it into a large jar and seal it up. Every day or so for one week, give the contents of the jar a good shake up. If condensation starts to build up on the inside of the jar then put the food back into the dehydrator as the food is still not dry enough to preserve for a long time. When you know everything is nice and dry, store it in freezer bags or air-tight jars somewhere dark and cool.

Buy a Food Dehydrator

Drying fruits with a food dehydrator

Electric food dehydrators range in price from around £40 to over £100 for the best units fitted with more than 10 wide trays, timers, and temperature adjustment, etc. Click here to view the latest food dehydrator special offers.

Scraps of fruit dried in a solar powered dehydrator

A fun alternative is to build your own solar powered, food preserver. Click here for free plans, photographs, and instructions for building your own solar powered food dehydrator.

Article Published: 19:38, 25th Nov 2010

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