Is It Best To Use a Food Dehydrator?
Food dehydrators certainly do have some pros and perks. But then, so does using air and oven drying to dehydrate food. Let's take a look at some of the pros and cons of dehydrators and other methods of drying food:
1. Using Dehydrators
These neat machines look a bit like air purifiers or humidifiers. At least the round ones do! But there are also rectangular shaped dehydrators, so the looks do vary.
All dehydrators work by circulating hot, dry air around food at an average temperature of about 150 degrees F. However, most dehydrators these days have a temperature setting that allows you to vary the amount of heat being used to best match whatever food you are drying.
Pros of A Food Dehydrator
* Speed - There's no doubt that dehydrators speed up the process of food drying, sometimes significantly. Fast drying means bacteria have less time to grow, and it also means that foods tend to retain their color better.
* Space - A dehydrator takes up a lot less space than spreading foods all over screens or stringing them on thread and hanging them in garlands. Instead you stack trays in a smaller amount of space.
* Convenience - When you dry food in a dehydrator, you don't have to carry your food indoors at night and put it back out in the morning. You also don't have to worry about leaving an oven on all day if you have to step out.
Cons of Using a Food Dehydrator
* Expense - Dehydrators can be expensive. Expect to pay anywhere from $40 to $250 for various models. However, in all fairness, even the lower priced models can do a bang up job of getting your food dried.
* Energy use - Dehydrators don't necessarily use a lot of energy, but they certainly do use more household electricity than air and sun drying.
* Storage - You won't be using your dehydrator every day, so storing it when you're not using it (which is most of the time) can be a problem.
2. Oven Drying Food
Pros of Dehydrating Food With An Oven
* Saves space - Since you already have an oven in your kitchen, you don't have to make space for another appliance, or for homemade drying racks.
* Relatively fast - Oven drying is not as fast as a dehydrator due to the lack of circulating air; but it's generally faster than air drying.
Cons of Oven Drying Foods
* Energy use - Oven drying is probably the most energy-consumptive method. Even on a low temperature, it takes a fair amount of electricity to keep an oven warm constantly.
* Inconvenience - You can't cook or bake anything else in the oven until the food is dry.
3. Air and Sun Drying Foods
Pros of Air and Sun Drying
* Free energy - You don't have to concern yourself with using electricity - sun and air are free!
* Flavor - Some claim that air and sun drying produces the best flavor in produce, and infuses it with "natural energy" instead of electrical energy.
Cons of Drying Foods in the Air and Sun
* Pests - Bugs, rodents, and pets can spoil your efforts.
* Weather - If the weather turns wet and you can't get your food inside on time, your whole venture may be ruined.
As you look at this list, it seems like dehydrators do stand out as the overall most effective method of drying food. But if you can't afford one or if you don't have a place to store one, or if you are just working with a small amount of food to dry, the oven and the air and sun can still work. You can also check at yard sales this summer and see if anyone is selling a used dehydrator for cheap.
If you're interested in checking out the top selling food dehydrators, there is an up-to-date list on this page.