Whilst they’ve been a staple piece of equipment in professional kitchens for a number of years, food dehydrators are gaining popularity as an extremely useful aid for healthy cooking at home.
For aspiring foodies, this is an essential piece of kit in the home kitchen and a key tool in the battle to eat healthy with nutritious food.
But what exactly is a food dehydrator, and how does it work? We take a closer look at its uses, and assess whether you could benefit from one.
What is a food dehydrator?
As the name suggests, a dehydrator removes all the water from a wide variety of foods, including meats and produce. This is achieved by a gentle heating system, which dries out all the moisture without cooking the food.
Dehydrators are used to concentrate the natural flavours, sweetness and aromas of food, without damaging or removing any of the nutritional content. They also have the added benefit of preserving fresh foods beyond their natural shelf life in a safe and effective way.
How can using one benefit my cooking?
Drying out food can be useful for all different kinds of recipes, and a dehydrator is useful simply for making standalone snacks and treats too, all of which are very healthy.
The techniques used in dehydration mean you’ll benefit from:
- No added chemicals or preservatives in your food
- Cheaper, homemade snacks
- Extended shelf life of fresh food that might otherwise go to waste
- Delicious concentration of flavours
- A preserved nutritional content, without compromising taste
What can I use a dehydrator for?
There’s almost no limit to the types of foods which can be dehydrated; the best advice we can give is to experiment and see what kinds of tasty snacks and healthy treats you can create:
- Almost all fruit can be dried out, and because it contains natural sugars, it makes a sweet snack that’s high in nutritional value. Try starting out with apples, peaches, grapes, and apricots
- Most vegetables can be dehydrated too, though they tend to take a bit longer than fruit. Vegetable crisps make a tasty and healthy table snack. We recommend trying our Kale Crisps recipe
- If you’re cooking to impress, using a dehydrator to make garnishes that decorate plates is simple and effective. Check out this recipe for inspiration, as dried cauliflower perfectly complements this veal sweetbread
- Drying out meats like chicken and beef can make incredible homemade jerky which will last for months, and after adding your own spices and marinades, you might never buy dried meat snacks again
- And if you’re cooking pork, why not make some delicious pork crackling?
- Finally, if you’ve bought fresh herbs which may not last long, dry them out and keep them in a jar to use as required
What type of features should I look for?
Food dehydrators are available in a variety of types and sizes, and each will have slightly different features; some will be more suitable for professional kitchens, whilst others will be better for beginners at home.
However there are two key features which we think all the best food dehydrators should have: variable temperature control and a timer.
Variable temperature control
It’s important to have a temperature control so that you can retain the nutritional value in all types of food. Some foods need to be dried at a higher temperature than others, and you need to ensure you don’t cook the food whilst drying.
Similarly, those dehydrators with just a single temperature can often appear to be cooking food on the outside, whilst the inside is still moist. In these instances, the food will spoil well before the usual shelf life.
Having a timer is what makes dehydrators so easy to use. Removing water from some foods can take a number of hours, and a timer gives you the flexibility to leave the dehydrator running whilst you carry out other tasks.
The benefits of Excalibur
At Sous Vide Tools we recommend the Excalibur food dehydrators for both professional chefs and amateur foodies, as they come with a range of flexible options but each have all the core features needed.
The square shape provides lots of space for dehydrating a large amount of food, and the design offers superior drying as air flow isn’t obstructed. They also all feature a fan to evenly direct air flow onto the food, ensuring that the drying process is equal across the whole product.
Unlike other dehydrator models, the Excalibur range has a side motor. It might not sound like much, but having the electrics on the side prevents any kind of short circuiting from the drips off juicy food.
Finally, but perhaps most importantly, the drying trays are easily removable so you can clean them as and when required. They’re all suitable for washing, and offer great longevity to your dehydrator.
Are dehydrators worth it?
For anyone who is a fan of dried fruits, sweet snacks and tasty treats that have good nutritional value, a dehydrator is a great little investment.
Compared with drying in an oven, dehydrators save on both time and energy efficiency, and they can be left alone to work for hours on end. The result is always a delicious piece of dehydrated food that can be stored for a long period of time.
They might seem small and compact, but they can actually hold a lot of food.
Check out our full range of dehydrators here.