Maybe you’ve looked into other ways to preserve food but don’t want to invest in canning and a pressure cooker. And if you’re like me, there’s not much space left in the freezer. It’s probably worth your time investing in a good dehydrator.
Ideas for Your Dehydrator
The possibilities for an Excalibur 4 tray dehydrator are endless and can fit into just about every lifestyle.
1. Do you have a dog? Dehydrate sweet potatoes for an all natural treat for them. They also make a great gift for friends who have dogs.
2. Buy vegetables in bulk in season when it is at it’s best. You can usually buy larger quantities from a CSA or farmer’s market. Another way is to set up a backyard garden and grow your own. Then you can dehydrate the veggies for snacks and for future cooking.
3. Dehydrate your own fruit leather with extra fruit. If you have a fruit tree, you know that everything seems to ripen at the same time and you can’t give it away. You can puree the fruit and dehydrate it for an all natural snack to send to school with your kids. And you can customize the flavor to your preferences.
4. Make yogurt by incubating in a glass jar in the dehydrator until it reaches your preferred consistency. And if that weren’t enough, you can then add pureed fruit and dehydrate the yogurt to a taffy-like consistency. If you slice it into strips, it’s a handy snack to bring to work. You could even make cheese.
5. Make your own raisins, dried cranberries, banana chips and dried apricots. And then make granola with them in your dehydrator.
6. Create gourmet jerky. Do you like turkey jerky? Or spicy beef jerky? It can even be a great present.
7. Do you follow a raw food diet? You can heat up the foot to less than 118ºF/48ºC and feel confident that it won’t go above that temperature.
8. Love cooking? Grow and dehydrate your own herbs and spices. Then you can craft your own blends.
9. Love baking? Proof your bread in your dehydrator. Did you know that you can also make your own crackers? This can be great if you’re on a gluten-free diet and want to use special flour blends like almond flour.
10. Love making pasta? Dry it out for easy storage in your dehydrator.
11. A dehydrator is also useful for life’s little accidents. Drop your phone in the toilet? Knock a glass of water on photographs or papers? You can carefully dry them out at a lower temperature and remove all the moisture without damaging anything.
12. And a dehydrator is great for drying flowers rather than trying to press them and find out they got moldy.
So how would you use it?
Dehydration is a long process where you use heat and air flow to remove moisture. You want a dehydrator that’s large enough to handle your needs and small enough to fit into your kitchen. I know some people keep their dehydrator in the garage and it’s running almost constantly.
So how long does it take to dry food? It really depends on a few things. For moisture rich foods like grapes, pineapples, and apricots, it can take over a full day. Dehydration times are also dependent upon the ambient humidity and the size of what you’re dehydrating.
Dehydrating extra fruit and vegetables is a great way of preserving food. The next step is to assemble meals. It’s a great way to save money and space by having food in reserve that doesn’t take up much space. If you’ve ever run out of money before you run out of month, you can feel comfortable knowing you’ll always have something to eat that’s healthy and satisfying.
If you enjoy camping and backpacking, you can dehydrate components to make your meals at a fraction of what you’d pay to buy them from a store.
If you live in an area where it’s recommended to keep emergency supplies, you will want to rotate in newly made meals with the oldest ones. I’d recommend writing the date on the package.
There are some great recipe books out there on how to use dehydrated foods to make meals. One I specifically recommend to people is Mary Bell’s Dehydrator Cookbook.
All food dehydrators have a heat source and a fan as well as a temperature control. Many people start out with the Nesco Snackmaster Pro because of the price and the fact that it can be expanded up. After a few uses, they find that the motor is not strong enough to circulate air and it often takes longer to dehydrate than their recommended times. Because the heating element is on the bottom, the unit doesn’t have a consistent temperature. There could be a difference of 50F from the top of the stack to the bottom.
Also, you would need to rotate the trays during the dehydration process. And that means you need to monitor it rather then let it run overnight.
The SnackMaster Pro round footprint is larger and takes up more counter space than a square dehydrator.
Another negative is that fan is quite loud. This is something that many people don’t talk about and you only find out after you’ve made a purchase.
If you spend a little bit more, you can get better results with the Excalibur 2400 dehydrator.
Paraflexx sheets for liquids and also useful on the bottom rack to act as a drip sheet. Some people also put parchment paper on the trays instead.
There are also third party non-stick sheets available.
The Excalibur 4 tray dehydrator has a temperature range of 95-165F. It’s important to use the correct temperature for your project. If the food is kept too hot, it could create a crust on the outside but the inside would still be raw. If set too low, it can take much longer to dry and will use more electricity.
People sometimes think they can use an oven on the Warm setting. The temperature is different on every oven. It could range from 140-200F. Ovens are also not consistent with temperature. There’s usually a threshold where the heating element turns on and warms up the air in the oven over the set temperature before shutting off.
A dehydrator like the Excalibur 2400 manages the temperature of the food rather than the air to ensure a consistent drying process.
Size ~ 13 x 16.25 x 6.5 in
Capacity ~ 4 Square Feet
Expandable ~ No
Temp range ~ 95-165F
Warranty ~ 5 Year Limited
So if you’re wanting to test the waters of dehydrating, the Excalibur 4 tray dehydrator is the perfect size for starting out. It has a consistent heating source so you don’t have to rotate the trays. The temperature gauge monitors the temperature of the food and not the air. The small footprint fits on most counters. And the fan is quiet so you don’t have to dehydrate in another room. The Excalibur 2400 model is a great way to start dehydrating while saving money, time, food and space. What would you want to dehydrate first? Available here on Amazon.