I loved presenting this information to my Kitchen School members on Tuesday night, dehydrators are a fantastic tool to have on hand in your kitchen. This blog covers a little of what was taught during the workshop, if you want to dig deeper you can grab the next dehydrator workshop tickets HERE. It uncovers what dehydrators are, what you can dehydrate and what to look for in a dehydrator.
What is a dehydrator?
A dehydrator is a drying machine that uses light heat to extract moisture from foods without compromising the structure of the food. Dehydrating foods is a practice that has been used for millennia, and many foods that we eat in the modern Western Diet have all been dehydrated at some point prior to us eating them. Great examples include, sundried tomatoes, coffee, chocolate and teas! I remember visiting a cacao farm in Ecuador and seeing massive sheds of cacao beans drying in the sun, such an amazing experience seeing the world's biggest dehydrators in action!
Why use a dehydrator?
Dehydration removes moisture from food, moisture is a key element that aids decay in foods, allowing rotting and creating an environment suitable for bacteria and moulds. Think of leaves that fall in a rainforest versus ones that fall on open ground in winter, rainforest leaves quickly commence becoming humus, whilst the other leaves hold their form until they dry and crumble.
Throughout the year, many fruits and vegetables come in gluts of supply that exceed our consumption levels (although some people would agree you could eat mango for breakfast, lunch and dinner!) - dehydrating allows us to “capture” a season by drying foods that would otherwise be thrown away. It is also a great way to create healthy snacks by combining foods into crackers, wraps or leathers for having on hand in the pantry.
What to dehydrate
If it is a food you can dehydrate it! The list of things to dehydrate is endless, I've a little summary of the types of foods you can dehydrate:
- Fresh Fruit - think banana, mango, berries;
- Fresh Herbs - a great way to make your own herb blends!
- Fresh Veges - think kale and zucchini chips;
- Easy Meals - if you are going camping, you can dehydrate your meal for easy soups and stews on the go;
- Crackers and Wraps - I have some great recipes that make beautiful gluten free tasty crackers and wraps, make sure you keep an eye on the newsletter for these :)
- Activated nuts and seeds - dehydrate them at less than 47 degrees Celsius and you'll have delicious easy digest nuts!
- Meat and Fish - great for jerkies if you are an omnivore :)
What to look for in a dehydrator
There are a few parameters that you should look at with regard to buying a dehydrator that suits your needs and lasts you a lifetime! There are many “cheap” products on the market, I would recommend avoiding these for reasons below:
Dehydrators generally come in a variety of sizes, some small and some with 10 large trays! The size that suits you comes down to how often and for what you will use the dehydrator for. If you will be making big batches of food, then large is best, if you are using it for small batch activated nuts or
Preparing foods through dehydration is a tricky thing, finding a dehydrator with a timer allows you to have the dehydrator turn off before it over dries your food. Many foods take more than 20 hours to dehydrate, so a timer is helpful when you set it to dry while you sleep or are at work. Many dehydrators only have an on/off button, so buyer beware!
Managing the temperature whilst drying allows you to control how long the drying process takes. To maintain enzymes in the foods, drying below 42oC is recommended, this will extend the drying time. For jerkies and foods that you are not concerned about the rawness, up to 55oC is possible with some dehydrators.
When drying foods it is important to have uniform drying, otherwise it can lead to there being residual moisture in the food, resulting in spoilage when in storage. Some models of dehydrators dry unevenly, particularly with large pieces of food (e.g. pineapple and apples). Some leading brands use a fan-forced method called Parallex drying, which uses a fan to distribute the drying air equally in the dehydrator from the back not the bottom – e.g. Froothie and Excalibur. These are the better quality dehydrators on the market and will provide the best results.
The Kitchen Coach Recommends
We recommend the Optimum Dehydrator, for multiple reasons - price, quality and drying ability. We have negotiated $100 off for the Optimum Dehydrator, head over to http://tinyurl.com/dehydratordeal to access the deal!