There are only a few types of food dehydrators for the home cook on the market. The basic theory behind a food dehydrator is to put the food in an environment that applies fresh air circulation and very low temperatures so you are not cooking food. You want to evaporate the water content while leaving all the good stuff in the food item for your family to enjoy. The low temperatures are essential so you do not wind up cooking food and just dehydrating food. Higher temperatures will cook food if you give it enough time.
Natural Food Dehydrators
If you are in a dryer, hot climate you can simply spread your items on a screen and sun dry them. The one variable that determines whether you can or cannot sun dry food items is the humidity in the air. If you live in a humid climate you will see mold form on the food items long before they make it to the drying stage. That is the big advantage of having a food dehydrator.
Design of Food Dehydrators
Food dehydrators are designed in one of two configurations. The first is the stackable circular tray based models that force hot air upwards with the help of a fan. The second is a box with sliding, removable trays with the hot air being forced horizontally across the trays with the food items. The stackable models are good for beginners and take up less counter real estate. The one downfall of the stackable food dehydrators is the uneven distribution of heat making the trays closest to the fan and heat source dry quicker than the upper trays. You can easily fix this by rotating the trays but if you are drying bulk items this is very time consuming. The box type food dehydrators tend to be bulky taking up a good bit of counter space but the fan and heating element in the back removes the need to rotate the trays. There is a newer third design that uses convection type heating to dry. These convection food dehydrators have a heat source that simply lets the heat rise through the unit. A convection unit takes longer than the other types but works well with an even heat flow.
Uses of Food Dehydrators
A food dehydrator can be used for the preparation of many food items. Food dehydrators can be used to make jerky, yogurt, proofing breads and drying other items like flowers and herbs. The stack-able models will only be able to make jerky while the box types will have multi-functions.
Dehydrated food item can be stored while still keeping most of their nutritional value. If you have a home garden you know everything comes in at once. You have too many tomatoes why not make some dried tomatoes and keep them in oil for the colder months? Pricing ranges from about fifty dollars for the stackable to a hundred or a little more for the box models. You can also find good buys on used ones either online or locally. Drying food and making jerky or other products is a lot of fun and provides excellent products for your family. Do your research and get the model you want for the products you desire. Avoid the extremely cheap models as they do not work well for food dehydration. Some of the better makers of dehydrators are Excalibur, Lequip and Nesco.