What food dehydrator do I purchase?
August 28, 2006 6:35 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for advice on purchasing a food dehydrator. Can anyone offer any tips on features I should look for?

I will mostly be using it to prepare foods for backpacking. I've seen them range in price from about $60 to over $100. From what I can tell, the difference in price has been largely due to the size (?). I'm only preparing food for 2 people, so small batches are ok. Any advice on brands, experience, etc. will be greatly appreciated!
posted by Alpenglow to Food & Drink (6 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
On 'Good Eats', Alton Brown made a food dehydrator out of a box fan and air filters. Here's a page about it.
posted by o0dano0o at 6:49 AM on August 28, 2006

Mine is made by Nesco, and it seems to work OK. It's round, with a fixed diameter and removable shelves that allow you to dry as much or as little as you'd like. It does take up a lot of space, however, which is frustrating in my tiny, tiny kitchen.

One feature I've been meaning to invest in: trays for making fruit leather. The default trays on my dehydrator are not solid -- plastic criss crosses back and forth with lots of holes to maximize air flow.

In general, I'm not sure the dehydrator was the wisest investment on my part. Dehydrating is extremely time consuming -- six-plus hours per batch. I don't like leaving the dehydrator on when I go out (fear of fire, I guess), which means that any time I try to dry stuff I pretty much have to give up an entire day of my life.

The foods that have dried have not turned out very tasty -- I feel like I'm better off eating produce fresh, when it actually tastes good.

Commercial dryers seem to do a much better job than my home dehydrator, and most of the time when I go hiking or backpacking I just sigh and spend exhorbitant amounts on commercially-prepared meals. So much tastier and easier to manage than anything I've made on my own.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 6:52 AM on August 28, 2006

I've never seen a dehydrator with any features other than an on/off switch. If they sell ones with timers, that might be useful, but otherwise they're pretty basic affairs.
posted by GuyZero at 7:04 AM on August 28, 2006

Though I've never looked too hard... here they have a few models. Apparently you can get thermostats and more trays is an advantage if you're dehydrating huge quantities of food. But they generally don't break down, so you'll have to store all those trays somewhere when not in use. But still, not a lot of fancy features.
posted by GuyZero at 7:07 AM on August 28, 2006

Excalibur makes the best dehydrators. But they're more than $100. Why are they they best?

- Some models have temperature gauges.
- Some models have timers.

The fan is in the back, which means:

- nothing drips on anything electric
- air circulates evenly
- very easy to clean (just pull out the shelves and wipe inside)

The cheaper brands, which are usually round and have the fan/heat source on the bottom:

- allow food to drip on the electrics
- do not circulate heat evenly as the bottom tray gets the most heat. For long jobs you therefore have to rotate trays.
- just have an on/off switch--no degree selection for heat.

I had a cheaper brand for about a week and then gave it back to the person who'd given it to me. Then, I bought an Excalibur and have been pleased as punch with it.

No matter which type of dehydrator you buy, if you want to do a lot of wet jobs, you'll also want to invest in Teflex sheets. RawGuru has the best price, but the rep (Alex) is a prick. He'll quote you a price on shipping, then bill you more, and then when you get the package, you'll see he vastly inflated the price. (He quoted me $12 for shipping to Canada, billed me $14, and then when the item arrived it had $2.85 worth of stamps on it, which he then told me was "Impossible", even though I had the box in my hand. Idiot. Please buy elsewhere.) The Teflex sheets come cut fit-to-size for the Excaliburs.
posted by dobbs at 9:30 AM on August 28, 2006 [1 favorite]

Oh, and remember to check eBay. I got my Excalibur there for $93 + shipping.
posted by dobbs at 9:32 AM on August 28, 2006

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