Guide to Choosing a Food Dehydrator in the UK

Foods & DrinksFood

  • Author John Jackson
  • Published April 3, 2010
  • Word count 928

What is dehydrating?

Food dehydrating is an age old method of preserving fruits, vegetables, meats, nuts and herbs for use at a later date. Essentially, it is the removal of the water in the food by passing warm air through it for an extended period of time. By removing the water from the food, moulds and yeasts are not able to grow on the food and spoil it.

Apart from preserving food for later use, dehydrating using a food dehydrator can also preserve the nutritional value of the produce due to the low temperature they can operate at. Cooking food at temperatures above 118ºF (48ºC) destroys the enzymes and essential nutrients contained in the food.

Although food dehydrating can be done in a fan assisted convection oven, a solar dehydrator or even outside in the sun - an electric food dehydrator allows for a more controlled method of food drying that can be used indoors whatever the weather. It will also produce far superior results with less input needed by the user.

Dehydrated FruitA food dehydrator is essentially an oven but has been designed specifically for use at lower temperatures and to assist with the circulation of the air and removal of the moisture. It is a simple invention and consists of a fan, heating element and trays for putting the food on. The air inside the dehydrator is heated to a preset temperature and the fan circulates the warmed air around the food.

Some of the better food dehydrators are equipped with a variable temperature control so that food can be dehydrated at different temperatures. Unfortunately, the cheaper dehydrators that are appearing more and more these days (under £80) have a fixed temperature at around 180ºF (80ºC). Compare this to the best food dehydrator - the Excalibur, which has a maximum temperature of 155ºF (68ºC) and the lower temperature of 85ºF (29ºC).

Unfortunately, many people are using the none-variable cheaper dehydrators thinking that they’re preserving the nutritional value of the food, whereas in reality, they may as well just save their money and use an oven. Although, not everyone who uses a food dehydrator is going to be concerned about the nutritional value of the food - they are under the misconception that they are dehydrating food when really they’re cooking it. Subjecting the foods to high temperatures results in food which appears hard on the outside but still moist in the middle - this will still allow moulds to form and spoil the food. Just make sure you select the right machine for your particular needs.

A food dehydrator is an essential piece of equipment for the modern day raw food enthusiast who follows the theory of any food heated above 118ºF (48ºC) is cooked and therefore the nutritional value drastically reduced. If this is the reason you are looking for a food dehydrator then ensure the machine you select has a variable temperature control. These machines on our website are the Stockli dehydrators and the Excalibur dehydrators.

Living Foods are uncooked, free from artificial products, organic, easy to digest, rich in enzymes and highly nutritious. Dehydration removes the water without cooking, concentrating the natural flavour, sweetness and aroma of the fruit and vegetable. Fruits explode with a mouth-watering natural sugar flavour which is far healthier than high-fat snacks and refined sugary sweets.

How long does all this take?

The rate at which food dehydrates is governed by several factors:

Temperature - the higher the temperature the quicker the food dehydrates. Beware, too high a temperature and the food will cook.

Humidity - the less humidity in the air, the faster the dehydration process.

Air circulation - by constantly circulating the air, a food dehydrator allows for quicker dehydrating by removing the moist air and replacing it with dry air.

Water content - the more water contained in the food will result in a longer drying time.

Size of food - the larger the piece of food being dehydrated, the longer it will take to dry. Slicing food allows for quicker drying.

Any other uses for a food dehydrator?

Well, here at Juiceland - we’ve dealt with many requests over the years. From the sheepish husband who called us to buy another dehydrator after his wife caught him using her machine to dry maggots for fishing bait - to the audiophile who turned up at our warehouse with his probes and gadgets to measure our machines for magnetic fields, this is so he could use them to bake old audio tape to transfer to a more modern format. For you tape baking people out there - he successfully tested the Stockli and Excalibur dehydrators and recommends them for use in tape baking, also have a look below for the link on how to do it.

Other uses include, drying flowers, crafts etc. For a list of uses, please click here

Dehydrator Types

Horizontal dehydrators: The best dehydrators have thermostatically controlled heat settings and have fans situated at the rear of the machine that blow warm air horizontally over the foods. The Excalibur Food Dehydrator is one of this type.

Vertical dehydrators: They have a heat source at the bottom, so air is circulated vertically upwards. The trays are removable and perforated (for air circulation) and are stacked above the heat source. Food on lower trays near the heat source will often dry more rapidly than food on higher trays, therefore trays should be rotated throughout drying with this type of dehydrator. Models include the Stockli Dehydrator with variable temperature and the Hottop Dehydrator without.

John Jackson is a Director of Juiceland Ltd. a retailer of food dehydrators. He has been dehydrating for a number of years. This article may be reprinted if the resource box - including the link - is left intact.

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