I have wondered what a dehydrator is worth recently. You see, last year I finally used the dehydrator for the last time, the one my mother gave me that she bought at a yard sale when I was a little-bitty kid. It saw it’s last days drying figs, day after day after day. It took 2-3 days to dry a load of figs, and there was not nearly enough room for even one days picking, and the results varied depending on the position in the dehydrator. No matter what I did, some would be burned and some would end up rotten because they didn’t dry quickly enough. I liked the idea behind dehydrating, but in actuality I began to wonder if it was worth it.
This year, with my husband and children not needing the sugar in preserves and jams, I wanted to go back to dehydrating, but I was skeptical of how it would go. My Mom had bought an Excalibur dehydrator last year and has loved it, but they cost a fortune and I would need the largest. Also, they have bottom heat elements except for a select few and I could just see them not working any better than the old one. A friend gave me another dehydrator to use (turns out to be the same model as the one I fried last year) and it had only been used like 4 times, however it is day 3 and the figs are not dry and it has the same drying issues as the other one. I think it will be great for herbs, but not so much for jerky or water-heavy fruits or veggies. Here is what it is, though the old model was amber-brown from top to bottom.
So commenced my looking around at what is available. I had some points on the credit card we use like a bank card from DH buying dive equipment over the last 2 months so I had to stay in that price range. There were things I didn’t like about the Excalibur. It was plastic first of all, and I wanted stainless-steel. Once you got into the stainless dehydrators prices went way up. I also wanted a rear fan, easy to clean unit, a timer and adjustable temperature control, and lots of racks/trays. This is what I found;
This is an off-brand dehydrator which brought the price down, and it seems to get good reviews for use. I found a number of people who are using it and have been for between 3-5 years (providing they are real people) and use it weekly to daily for fruits, veggies, and jerky. It had good reviews, and was right at the limit I could spend, and had a return/exchange policy that was acceptable. I decided to try it out and see how it compares. I found this same dehydrator under different names, so you have to price-shop. The picture is the Weston House Stainless Dehydrator and doesn’t have the removable back the one I got does. Prago, STA, and there are probably more, also have similar models. They are all the same, though, 10 trays, stainless steel housing, removable fan/heat compartment, drip pan, timer and temperature control, stuff like that. Mine arrived yesterday, just before the pears went bad since we don’t have a storage room cool enough to make them last.
So, I had to get the pears processed, and I didn’t want to can them as sauce or whole since I am about out of jars, so I cut them up with skins on, dipped them in lemon juice and water, and put them in the new dehydrator. I expected it to be noisy with the fan, but it’s not. The fan has a faint hum that is very pleasant, and the unit held a half bushel of pears sliced into rounds. I started the dehydrator around 9p.m. and went to bed. This morning the pears are nearly dry and they are drying uniformly across the trays and at the different levels. I was quite shocked! I new the fan would be good, but the result is even better than i had hoped for. At this rate I will be able to do 2 batches of drying in a 24-hour period instead of 1 every 3 days.
I like the fact that I can put so much in at once and how easily the trays slide into place, and how simple the dehydrator is to use. It does need space, at least 12-inces all around for air-flow, and it’s a big machine. The front has vents to allow the moist air to come out and they angle toward the bottom of the dehydrator which means the surface area directly in front of the machine gets warm-hot depending on the temperature you use, but it does not get so hot as to do damage or burn anything. I would NOT set it on plastic, however, or anything conductive. The rest of the unit stayed pretty cool, just the front where the heat was pushed by the fan got warm. I cautioned the kids to stay away from it. Now the test will be to see how it holds up to daily use. We will hopefully be doing pounds and pounds of jerky this fall, and I am going to keep fruits and veggies going in it because they make good snacks. I am considering turning some of the potatoes from spring into snacking chips for the kids, and I want to do the rest of the okra harvest into snacks as well. I am excited because I think I can actually keep up with the harvest with this, although ideally I would have one more. If this is still running as good as new in a year I will get another one next summer. Below are some more stock photos of the machine I got;