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Anna Kofi
What should I be looking for in a food dehydrator?
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Hi, am going to buy a food dryer as weather here makes solar drying too unreliable. (dried grapes but they went off this year.) Anyone know of a good make? I'd like to avoid plastic , though this might not be possible. Am wondering if I could use the electric blanket though, to warm up a system I'd set up myself. Anyone tried this?

I have had several American Harvest dehydrators. They are adequate but it takes a very long time to dry product, especially fruit. Last year I invested in an Excalibur Brand dehydrator. Because of a better fan and the ability to remove racks you get better airflow and faster drying. This was great for large grapes. Check out their videos on their website. The square design is more efficient and holds more. Drying sheets are available for fruit rolls. I have not used these yet.
Get the largest Excaliber food dehydrator that you can. They are pricey, but the others have a circular design which wastes space in the middle and prevents you from tinkering with the different trays without taking all layers apart during the drying process. If you go with one that has less trays, you will wish you had gotten the one that holds more, cause it performs JUST THAT GOOD. Fruit roll ups, jerky, banana chips, kale chips, dehydrated ingredients and soups for camping, dried berries... You'll always have the thing going, especially in the harvest months. It's unbeatable.
Thanks to both of you! Good to know!
I second this ... I got the five tray one and I love it ... and I do wish for more trays!
I know that Carol Deppe in her book The Resilient Gardener goes into detail about what to look for in a food dehydrator. You might want to check out the information that she provides.
Haha! Just came back to this question because I was interested in it, then realised I had asked it myself! Thanks for the suggestions. Very useful. Of course square trays will be better, but wouldn't have thought of that. So no-one went for the electric blanket approach then? Oh well. Thanks all!
I'm with YumFoodie, the biggest Excalibur dehydrator is what I recommend to people. It is very well made and worth the money. We have had the 5 tray model for several years, and are very pleased with it. We dry peppers, tomatoes, garlic, herbs, fruit, and make fruit leathers. I only wish we had more trays!
I would also recommend Excalibur - I grew up with one my mum bought in 1985 - which she still uses all summer every summer and it still works! I invested in one myself last year, and while I got a bit of a shock by how much electricity it uses, I'm very happy with the product. To save on electricity on sunny days I use the Excalibur trays and put them in the rafters of my 'garden hut', which dries zucchini chips in 2 days.
Tulsi - I like your idea for when I retire my American Harvest circular model in favor of a big Excalibur :)
I upgraded to an Excaliber after discovering the limitations of the round, stackable ones. It's a little noisy but quicker and more efficient, and not you're not limited by the height of the trays. From the National Center for Home Food Preservation: Dehydrator Features to Look For: • Double wall construction of metal or high grade plastic. Wood is not recommended, because it is a fire hazard and is difficult to clean. • Enclosed heating elements. • Counter top design. • An enclosed thermostat from 85ºF to 160ºF. • Fan or blower. • Four to 10 open mesh trays made of sturdy, lightweight plastic for easy washing. • UL seal of approval. • A one-year guarantee. • Convenient service. • A dial for regulating temperature. • A timer. Often the completed drying time may occur during the night and a timer could turn the dehydrator off and prevent scorching.
I just bought whatever they had at the Goodwill; $3 is pretty good and it has worked fine for my purposes. It's the round kind. I think it's a Nesco.

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