Apple chips, dried mango and beef jerky are all foods you can make in a food dehydrator, which dries foods at a low temperature over a long period of time. The lack of moisture intensifies the food’s flavor, which makes fruit taste sweeter and herbs more pungent; it also allows it to store well for a long time.
In addition to being more flavorful and shelf-stable, homemade dehydrated snacks tend to be healthier than the ones you buy in a store; they typically feature one whole ingredient that has simply been dried with no additives, preservatives, or calorie-laden ingredients, like oil or sugar. They can also be customized exactly how you like (you can add extra salt or none at all, for example).
Dehydrating also retains the nutrients in food better than some cooking methods. When an ingredient like kale, which is full of water-soluble and heat-sensitive vitamin C, is boiled, it loses some of its immune-boosting potency. Dehydrating it at a low temperature preserves its nutrients and vitamins better.
Dehydrators dry foods out by circulating air at a very low temperature. The foods must be arranged in a single layer without touching so they can dry fully and evenly. Different temperatures are recommended for different foods based on water content:
Here’s what else you can do with your dehydrator:
There are two main types of dehydrators: Dehydrators with shelves that stack and dehydrators with pull-out shelves. The main difference between these two styles is the placement of the fan, but in our dehydrator tests, we saw minimal difference between the two styles when we dried apple slices, parsley, and beef for jerky. We also found that both styles offer models with wide temperature and timer ranges, an important feature to look for so you can control your results with precision.
Like ovens, food dehydrators work by circulating air at very low temperatures for an extended period of time. But instead of cooking with heat, dehydrators draw moisture out of foods so they dry out and can be enjoyed for a long time.
Most ovens do not offer the same low temperatures that a dehydrator does. Some new models offer dehydrating as an option, but it is still not ideal due to the limited amount of racks and accessories most ovens come with. We do, however, like dehydrating in a toaster oven, especially large capacity ones like the June Smart Oven and Breville Smart Oven Air, which allow you to buy additional air frying/dehydrating racks to dehydrate more ingredients at once.
Dehydrators are a useful appliance for mindful eaters. They encourage eating real, whole ingredients and are a good aid in eliminating food waste. They’re particularly great for parents who try to feed their kids healthy snacks, those who suffer from allergies, and those have a hard time finding additive-free snacks in stores.
Dehydrators are also very cost-effective in the long-run. They allow you to buy produce in bulk, especially when it is in season or on sale, and store it to use later on. They’re also a great tool for gardeners who often have a surplus of ingredients on hand.
The downside of dehydrators is they take a long time to dry out food and their yield is often easy to devour in one setting. If you buy a large one with a timer, however, the process is quite hands off and rewarding.
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