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A food dehydrator is a type of device that is used to eliminate moisture from foods and to encourage their preservation. This process is known as food drying, and it is a method of preserving fruits, vegetables, and animal proteins. This method has been used since ancient times, and the goal is to prevent the spread of bacteria that would typically spoil the food thereby lengthening its shelf life in your pantry.
Should You Invest in a Food Dehydrator?
Historically, investing in this kitchen appliance has never been a bad idea. But in our current times, where having a back-up food supply is more and more important, this tool is in much more demand.
Food dehydrators help you do ALL of the following:
- Preserve food for storage.
- Build your own supply of dried herbs to cook with daily.
- Save money on expensive dried snacks.
- Save money by preserving fruits & vegetables when they are in season and available in bulk at inexpensive prices (maybe from your own garden or fruit trees!).
- Control the quality and ingredients of the end product.
- Make soup mixes for reconstitution in the future.
- Make potpourri.
- There are numerous other hacks that people use dehydrators for - like drying off photographs! 🙂
We will be discussing how food dehydrators work and how the process of food dehydration takes place. We are also excited to share our research on one of the best stainless steel food dehydrators brands on the market as well as a comparison between food dehydrators by Excalibur and other brands so that you can decide on the most viable option for you.
How are Food Dehydrators Designed?
This device lowers the amount of water in foods with the help of a heat source and air flow. Foods usually have a high amount of water, i.e. 80 to 95 percent in fruits and veggies and 50 to 70 percent in different meats.
They work using energy sources such as solar power, electric power or biofuel. There are appliances created for domestic use, but there are also larger dehydration projects. The former ones are comprised of a heating element, a fan, air vents, and food trays, and all of these elements work together to reduce the amount of water and prolong the shelf life of food.
How Does the Process of Dehydration Happen?
In most cases, foods are dehydrated at a temperature of 54 degrees Celsius, though jerky meats need a higher temperature of 68 degrees Celsius in order to protect from any potential pathogens in the meat. Proper air flow and constant temperature is vital for the process of dehydration. It is important to note that overly high temperature can lead to hard and dry foods on the outside and watery on the inside, which makes temperature regulation a must.
Excalibur Food Dehydrators
Since 1973, the company is constantly introducing improvements associated with dehydration and this is how a legacy was born. The company is located in Sacramento, CA and the dehydrators are manufactured in the U.S. They still rely on their passion and value for performance that has defined the brand since it was first established. We chose three of their food dehydrators for their practicality, quality, and affordability.
The 5-Tray Stainless Steel Dehydrator is among their most affordable models. The exterior part is made of metal and the interior of BPA-free plastic and the device comes with a clear door that enables you to see the drying process. It has 5 trays with 8 square foot capacity and a 26 hour timer. A benefit of this model is that it has an adjustable thermostat for 95◦F to 155◦F, so it's safe to dry meat for jerky. Numerous other brands of food dehydrators just have low, medium and high settings which are fine for some people, but if you want precise control over your process, this dehydrator is wonderful. Excalibur also makes larger models like the 9-Tray Food Dehydrators for gardeners and hunters, and a 10-Tray Food Dehydrators for commercial uses (maybe you can share or sell the overabundance of fruits and vegetables from your garden!).
However, some users are not satisfied with the noise these heavy duty models makes while dehydrating, which is definitely a disadvantage as a lot of foods require dehydration for several hours and most people want to do the dehydration overnight. Considering that there are less pricey models that may not have the same bells and whistles, BUT do not emit any noise, this could be a decisive factor in whether you will opt for this model or not.
The 9-Tray Stainless Steel Dehydrator comes with 9 trays with 15 squares of drying place. Same as the dehydrator with 5 trays, this one also has a built-in 26-hour timer and an adjustable thermostat. The one-of-a-kind combination of industry leading air-flow mechanics and materials makes this food dehydrator ideal for families, crafts people, hunters, volume pet treats, as well as for people with in-home dehydrating businesses. While it's more expensive than the previous model, it comes with four additional trays and nearly double the square feet of drying space. Nearly double the dried food with one run. It, of course, also includes the adjustable thermostat versus the low/med/high settings on lesser models so that you can have ultimate precision in how and what you choose to dry. This model also includes a complete guide to food dehydration which will help you become an expert in food dehydration.
Similar to the 5-tray model, this heavy duty unit makes a deep noise while it's working.
The 10-Tray Stainless Steel Dehydrator is completely made of stainless steel, that is, both the exterior and interior elements. Though it comes with only one more tray than the previous option, it does have a transparent glass door enabling you to control and supervise the drying process. This superior model comes with a 99-hour timer and 10 trays with 15.63 square feet of space for drying. It will not just dry your food perfectly, but it will make a great addition to any type of kitchen. It is crucial to note that this dehydrator is rated for commercial use, and you get a 100 percent stainless steel dehydrator, large drying space, and the digital controller of 99 hours that will speed up the process of drying.
What some customers disliked is the poor craftsmanship of this product, that is, the misaligned glass doors and the loose rear plug was excessively loose which prevents the unit from being instantly plugged in. Also, one customer was particularly dissatisfied with the loud rattle-like noise released by the device,
Comparison between Excalibur and other Food Dehydrator Brands
The Food Dehydrator with 7 Stainless Steel Trays by Magic Mill is a more affordable small project food dehydrator than all 3 models by Excalibur, and they've designed this line to be stylish enough to fit in with the home kitchen and typical appliances.
What customers especially appreciate about this product are the stainless steel racks for an affordable price. This dehydrator is specifically designed to be used in for small drying projects in your home kitchen, so by design it's much quieter than the heavy duty Excalibur models. It is even quieter than microwaves. But, this product comes with a lesser warranty than the above-mentioned Excalibur food dehydrators, i.e. only one year.
The Food Dehydrator with 6 Trays by BioChef is among the most reasonable prices for this type of kitchen appliance. The racks are stainless steel like in the previous model, which eases the cleaning process, and what customers particularly appreciate is the superior horizontal airflow that allows an equal and consistent drying. What’s more, the product contains no adverse chemicals or contaminants and it is BPA free. With a 3-year warranty for the motor and parts and a 19.5-hour timer, you will certainly not be in the wrong if you opt for this model.
Final Thoughts on Choosing the Right Food Dehydrator
As we could see from the comparison of more expensive food dehydrator brands like those by Excalibur and some other brands that offer low-budget food dehydrators, spending more on a food dehydrator does not necessarily have to be a decisive factor in the quality of the product, but, a high-budget food dehydrator does not necessarily have to be a waste of money.
Although there are some models by Excalibur that offer premium quality like the 10-tray model, there are less expensive appliances of this type, like the one by BioChef that offers a similar high-quality performance and premium design for more than half the price.
With this in mind, when looking to buy a food dehydrator, you should not always be led solely by the price of the product, but by what customers have to say, as well as your personal experience and personal preferences and budget.
If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments below! We always answer. What is your favorite thing to dehydrate?
This post was originally published on December 18, 2017.