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Food Dehydrator

8:25 p.m. on May 2, 2012 (EDT)
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Anyone here has experience with food dehydrators? I was looking to buy one and get some information about different models but most info online is from years ago. I would like to know if there are any new models with great features such as a timer, good temperature control etc... that is also not mega expensive like those $250 ones.  I'm totally new to this so any input will be helpful =)

12:23 a.m. on May 3, 2012 (EDT)
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buy dehydrated

6:17 a.m. on May 3, 2012 (EDT)
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Expensive, limited selections, and portions, etc...

1:14 p.m. on May 3, 2012 (EDT)
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expand your shopping horizons

7:56 p.m. on May 3, 2012 (EDT)
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In Boy Scouts we used to dry our own using screens made from bug screening and covered with cloth to keep out the flies and hung outside and allowed to dry.



Outdoor-screen-drier-for-food.jpg
Also another way is if you have a gas oven at home, use the big sheet pans like restuarants use for big cakes and place the food to be dried spread out on them and place them ina turned off oven. The simple pilot light in the bottom of the oven is enough heat to slowly dry the food. Leave the oven door open a crack to let out the moisture.

I used to make my own raisens from drying Grapes with this oven method, also dried meats. There are many recipes for making flavored dry meats on the internet.

If electric use the lowest settting on the oven. Just check every day to see how the dried food is doing.

11:19 p.m. on May 3, 2012 (EDT)
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Just remembered Alton Brown had several episodes with dehydration.

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=5912487412723519389

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xjsOIcx4tFA

http://www.foodnetwork.com/videos/dried-fruit-video/50542.html

He also had one where he smoked salmon in a homemade smoker made with a hot plate, saw dust and a card board box. 

10:12 a.m. on May 4, 2012 (EDT)
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I have had a couple, over the years ... that were the examples of simplicity, itself.

Cheapo plastic trays (perforated) in a plastic enclosure ... with an incandescent light-bulb used as a heat source.

Works.   Cheap, too.

                                 ~ r2 ~

11:53 a.m. on May 4, 2012 (EDT)
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Build your own. You can find plans on the internet.

1:42 p.m. on May 4, 2012 (EDT)
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The cheap ones at walmart work great, good temp control and some have timers. Minibulldesign has several videos on putting meals together. Most are for freezer bag cooking. Sorry I cant provide a link im on my phone.

2:31 a.m. on May 5, 2012 (EDT)
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Open Country Sportman's Kitchen.  700 watt, $70 at Amazon and lots of other places too.  A buck a watt.  It is an exceptional value.

Real good machine, temperature controlled central air column (fresh dried air) blowing out across donut-shaped (hollow in the the middle) trays.  Jerky? Absolutely.  Pretty much whatever you eat for dinner back home you can eat when you're camping.  It's just that simple. 

I own this machine and say from experience that no other machine at this price point or even at a significant multiple of this price point performs as well.

Fun to use - easy to clean and no I certainly do not do ramen, ever, and neither should you.  You're better off eating the styrofoam cup the stuf comes in actually.

To become truly proficient with a dehydrator it will be necessary to read at least one good book on the subject.  I recommend Laurie March's A Fork in the Trail for easy reading while you're learning to use your Sportman's Kitchen.

 

Drake

10:35 a.m. on May 5, 2012 (EDT)
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Drake, can you send me a link to that dehydrator? I've been looking at the do it yourself dehydrators but they all seem to make your house smell like food and take a very long time to dehydrate food, do brand name ones have the same problems(specially the smell)? Another thing I gotta let you guys know, I live in Florida, air humidity right now is 69%, and that's because it's not raining!  I'm sure that will come into effect with homemade dehydrators.

10:57 a.m. on May 5, 2012 (EDT)
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If you have high humidity it will take longer. Put the dehydrator in a large cardboard box. Make some holes like you would if you had a pet inside. The heat from the dehydrator will warm the inside of the box helping dry the air in the box. I have done this for years, it might not be real safe but it works well. I was in north carolina with that same brutal humidity. In the box it kepos the time down close to normal time. Without the box your time can increase dramaticaly. Disclaimer: this could start a fire! Watch it closely!

11:14 a.m. on May 5, 2012 (EDT)
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Fun to use - easy to clean and no I certainly do not do ramen, ever, and neither should you.

But I like ramen.  I don't eat the kind in the cup. 

Open country is made by nesco. 

Here's a couple of links I found.

http://www.pronto.com/shop/nesco-american-harvest-dehydrator-watt

Here's the cheap one on amazon.

http://www.amazon.com/Nesco-FD-75PR-700-Watt-Food-Dehydrator/dp/B000FFVJ3C

Nesco's official page.  Bigger variety and good prices also.

http://www.nesco.com/products/Dehydrators/Dehydrators/session_3dfa0e711556/

Thanks for the recommendation Drake. 

12:12 p.m. on May 5, 2012 (EDT)
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My wife bought me a dehydrator 2 christmas's ago and I absolutely love it. I don't know what i would do without it now. It saves me literally hundreds of dollars by making all my own backpacking meals.

Mine is an Open Country from cabelas, think its around 100 or so. I have no issues with it at all, works great. I just bought a few extra tray liners to do  more liquids., otherwise its a champ.

9:06 p.m. on May 5, 2012 (EDT)
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I'm returning to using a dehydrator after a 7 year break and currently am running a batch of canned veggie chili dried on fruit roll sheets along with some Tasty Bite lentil soups and home cooked brown rice and frozen squash.  Further report pending.

5:28 p.m. on May 9, 2012 (EDT)
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maxx said:

Expensive, limited selections, and portions, etc...

 'Serves two' means 'buy two' to feed one hungry person after a full day of hiking.

5:57 p.m. on May 9, 2012 (EDT)
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IN A CURRENT DEHYDRATE FRENZY---I look around my puny little world and anything not bolted down and anything edible is sliced up and trayed out in the dehydrator.  Cauliflower, bananas of course, grapes into raisins, canned refried beans, Tasty Bite soups, home cooked brown rice, canned green beans, canned pears, canned vegetarian chili, apples, etc.  The canned stuff dries to nothing and reconstitutes with ample water to make a normal meal.  My usual 85 lb pack is getting lighter though it takes alot of drying time.  Stay tuned for further hysteria. 

9:50 p.m. on May 9, 2012 (EDT)
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Hey Maxx,

Dehydraters and smokers are really simple.  I don't know if they make them with temp controls and or timers.  The more bells and whistles you get on one the more there is to break.  I've used both smokers and dehydraters in past years but got rid of them when I moved as there cheap,and werent worth moving cross counrty.  I jsut got these three in the last couple of months.

 

Here is a Jack food Dehyrater Model 85 that I picked up at the Goodwill for $9.99 about a month ago.

This is a small 4 shelf jobby.  The 12 oz. beer bottle is to show size. You can see plastic screen that came with the unit.  I will be switching the plastic screen out for some stainless screen.
DSC05529.jpg

The top shelf
DSC05530.jpg

 

The bottom two shelves removed exposing the 165 watt element.
DSC05531.jpg

 

 

Here is a small smoker that can also be used as a dehydrater.  I was forced to rescue this one out of a dumpster.  It is truly amazing what people throw away. This is a Luhr Jensen Little Chef Model 83.  I know they used to sell these at Walmart.  Not so sure now as I haven't been there in a while.
DSC05532.jpg

One of the nice things about a smoker coupled with a dehydrater is that you can smoke you items, usually meat, and then dehydrate it.  The handle sticking out of the bottom of the unit is the pan in which one places the wood chips to give the items flavor when smoking. 

Here we have the door removed exposing the 200 watt element.
DSC05535.jpg

 

Here is a larger smoker (Char-Broil) that I picked up at Goodwill for $9.99.  It's nice top have a large smoker to smoke those big pieces of meat.  Once their done they can be evenly sliced and dehydrated into jerky.
DSC05536.jpg

 

The heating element in this unit is 1800 watts wich is a bit to strong for dehydrating.

DSC05537.jpg

Anyway just wanted to show that you don't have to spend a lot of money to have a lot of options in regards to dehydrating/smoking/jerking food.

 

Here is one I found that was $139 new for $15 locally that you may be able to have shipped.  Just a thought.  I checked Orlando Cragislist and found nothing but you might just check surrounding areas for some.

http://seattle.craigslist.org/see/grd/3001229985.html

7:10 a.m. on May 10, 2012 (EDT)
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You can also use your oven as a make shift dehydrator. Put the oven on the lowest setting possible and crack open the door an inch or so. Works good. I did this before I bought an actual dehydrator.

9:48 p.m. on May 10, 2012 (EDT)
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Maxx what is your choice ?

8:55 p.m. on May 18, 2012 (EDT)
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Callahan, I just got back from vacation, I was out and didn't have access to a computer, I'm still looking into this stuff, it's something new to me and there are many choices. I'm thinking I should get something with a timer, sometimes I don't get home as planned or I think I might forget the dehydrator on, but anything well made with a timer seems expensive. Making my own would be great, but I have too many projects I'm working on at the moment, plus I'm going on a trip to Yellowstone in a few weeks, I might just keep researching till I get back, if anybody has more recommendations, send them my way, I'm taking everything into consideration here =)

9:47 p.m. on May 18, 2012 (EDT)
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maxx said:

Callahan, I just got back from vacation, I was out and didn't have access to a computer, I'm still looking into this stuff, it's something new to me and there are many choices. I'm thinking I should get something with a timer, sometimes I don't get home as planned or I think I might forget the dehydrator on, but anything well made with a timer seems expensive. Making my own would be great, but I have too many projects I'm working on at the moment, plus I'm going on a trip to Yellowstone in a few weeks, I might just keep researching till I get back, if anybody has more recommendations, send them my way, I'm taking everything into consideration here =)

Buy the dehydrator that you want for the price you want and then buy a cheap (reasonalbly priced) plug in the wall digital timer. Best of both worlds. Just make sure that the digital timer can handle the power consumption of the dehydrator.

10:21 p.m. on May 18, 2012 (EDT)
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A timer is nice for jerky. But with most everything you dry there is no way to dry it too much, anything you are gonna rehydrate before you eat it that is. My favorites that no one has mentioned are almost all melons. They almost turn into candy, they are so sweet. Like a fruit roll up but better, way better than fruit leather. A large cardboard box laid on its side with an air conditioning filter on each end will work. Take butchers twine or a string of your choice and string strips of meat from it. Do this in a row across the new top of the box, with another row below if there is room. You are making vertical rows in the box if it is in its normal position. Once the meat is hanging seal the ends with the filters and duct tape. Then position the box inside or out depending on temp, never in the sun. Place a box fan blowing through the box from filter to filter. Drying time varies depending on meat thickness and temp. You can burn a small smoky fire and pull the smoke in by placing the fan on the opposite end and sucking it through. Ten bucks or less for this even if you buy hickory chips.

10:43 p.m. on May 18, 2012 (EDT)
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Hotdagman said:

"But with most everything you dry there is no way to dry it too much, anything you are gonna rehydrate before you eat it that is."

I agree 100%.............but maxx seems to really want a timer so I was trying to help.

8:37 a.m. on May 19, 2012 (EDT)
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Since those devices seem to come with a bulb or heat generator, I would think they cook the items a little bit don't they?

11:26 a.m. on May 19, 2012 (EDT)
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Thats why they have a thermostat. Different food items begin to cook at diff temps. If you follow the instructions they will tell you what temp to use not to cook the food at all. Mwat is the hottest then herbs are the lowest temp. Yea a timer is nice saves money on the power bill by shuttin it down when its done.

4:06 p.m. on May 19, 2012 (EDT)
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I wouldn't really want a timer on a dehydrator, and heres why. You have the timer set for 10 hours. So after 10 hours of running your dehydrator shuts off. You are maybe asleep, out of the house, or otherwise not really thinking about the dehydrator for a little bit. The residual heat and moisture in the dehydrator will begin to condense on your food, thus making it partially rehydrated, or at least not fully dry. I have run into this on several ocassions when my wife just shuts off my dehydrator and doesnt take the food that is in it out to cool.

I run mine typically so that i start it when i go to bed and turn it off and let the food cool when i get up in the morning. I like to keep it running until I am ready and have the time to properly prepare/store the dried food.

It is possible, albeit very hard, to burn food in a dehydrator by keeping it in too long. Most anything will be completely dry by the 10 hour mark, some things can take up to 12, but you wouldnt run a chance of burning anything unless you went over 15 hours, maybe even much long than that.

 

4:16 p.m. on May 19, 2012 (EDT)
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I dont think you can burn anything. My wife cut some jerky meat way too thick one time. We dried for 30 hrs I think. Was a little brittle on the edges when the middle was dry enough. It had somewhat evened out by the next day in a zip lock and was as tasty as usual, but very tough. I kept cutting pieces until the middle was done.

6:31 a.m. on May 20, 2012 (EDT)
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I guess i should have clarified a little. If said item dries in the appropiate amount of time say 10 hours, it can burn several hours after its 'done', but you really have to go over like i said like 5-10 hours+.

In the case you mentioned the item wasn't completely dry yet so there was still moisture being drawn out.

Burning something in a dehydrator is quite a feat, and if you manage to do it you earn the gold star award...along with my wife lol. She managed to burn banana chips while I was away on a trip one weekend.

9:35 a.m. on May 21, 2012 (EDT)
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I've used an oven. Works pretty well.

I don't dehydrate Indian food packets, (Tasty Bites, etc.,) though. I take them as is. The way I look at it, I have to carry in water anyway. By bringing some prepared foods, I have more water to use for other things (to drink, clean up, personal hygiene.) I don't propose carrying in a week's worth of prepared food, but for a three day stay, I'll carry in a few packet foods like, tuna, chicken, and Indian stuff - even SPAM singles (great for breakfast.) I often pair up Indian food with cous-cous. So I use the water to heat the packets in to prepare the cous-cous.

5:25 p.m. on July 11, 2012 (EDT)
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I know I'm late on the reply... but for those who are thinking of a dehydrator...

I dehydrate a TON of foods (writing two books helps). I have both a 700 watt Nesco and the 9-tray Excalibur with the timer. If cost isn't a big concern, I'd suggest the Excalibur but that little Nesco of mine (they make Open Country as well) has been used and abused and used some more. 


Some considerations.... 

  • side or top fan (bottom fans are horrible to clean)
  • with Nesco get at least 500 watts 
  • temperature control (meats need to be dried at 155ºF to prevent the risk of bacterias such as eColi157)
  • solid tray liners (you can use parchment paper but if you are going to use a dehydrator a lot you'll thank me for this suggestion)

Hope that helps. I have to get on drying some foods soon. We have a trip coming up in August and I'm not nearly as organized this year. I find the toddler keeps me REALLY busy. 

April 24, 2014
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