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Food Dehydrators: The Topic


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Hello. I'm starting to get very interested in doing some experiments at home and among my many appliances I want is a food dehydrator. I searched over amazon and found mainly 2 brands. One called Nesco which had a lot of models and Ronco. The Ronco one had bad reviews plus it looked pretty cheap. The Nesco ones had great reviews and they had a wide range of prices, from units as low as $40 to over $150.

Does anyone know if those Nesco ones are good, or is there any other brand/models you would recommend for home use under $50???? Thanks.

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Most of the 'low cost' dehydrators I've run across are pretty plastic-y and insubstantial, but that's OK - they're not very highly stressed in use :smile:

Ours is some off-brand thing we've had for ages, but it continues to work just fine. The American Harvest [Nesco] ones I've handled didn't seem much better put together.

If you can, I'd suggest trying to get one with a fan, as moving air does a much better job of drying things. Cleaning the trays by hand is a pain, so if you have a dishwasher then getting dishwasher-safe trays would be a really good thing.

They're not hard to make, either. Some mesh and a lightbulb in a box works for small tests. We have a 12 cubic foot monster made from plywood, a space heater and an old computer fan for those 'big-batch' dehydration tasks.

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I have had Excalibur dehydrators for more than 10 years and no problems with them.

Excalibur company

I first bought a 5-tray unit and when it proved to be exactly what I needed for drying fruits, vegetables and herbs, I bought a 9-tray and a couple of years later another 9-tray.

(I have an heirloom apricot tree that bears heavily and most of the fruit ripens in a 3-week period in July).

I bought the last two from this vendor, I have purchased several appliances from them and have found them to be extremely helpful.

click here and scroll down.

This vendor also carries commercial models but the Excalibur is very efficient.

The smaller inexpensive units work by heat convection and one has to keep rotating the trays from top to bottom.

The Excalibur has a fan to circulate the heat so that fruits, jerky, etc, dry more rapidly and more evenly.

There are other dehydrators with this feature but they are more expensive and I have been pleased with the ones I have.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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In most cases the energy costs for operating an oven, even at the lowest temp, are so high that it negates any savings of drying the fruits.

If you have a gas oven, the local gas company can give you details about the operating costs at a particular temp per hour.

Same with the electric company.

The energy required to operate the dehydrators is at maximum, 1/30th the cost of operating the oven and often it is even less.

I have used both methods, with both gas and electric ovens.

If one has an older gas oven with a standing pilot light, it can be used with just the pilot light, but this is not the optimum temp to get a good result.

I have dried fruits in just about every way possible, including split fruit placed between two screened frames (old wood framed screen doors, carefully cleaned) that were placed on top of one of my greenhouses and a shed with an aluminum roof. In 100 degree plus temps, here in the desert, with less than 20% humidity, sometimes single digit, it works very well, and rapidly. But it will not work in humid areas.

(And one has to use "tricks" to keep the ants away from the fruit, not always easy)

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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  • 5 months later...

(moderator's note: merged topics -- CA)

Any recommendations? I don't remember when I bought the Mr. Coffee but it has served me well drying peppers and beef jerky. I did look around the net when I thought I couldn't get it to work one more time and both the Deni and Back to Basics dehydrators look like a copy of mine. Too bad I could not find one locally, especially since I had 3 pounds of beef jerky ready to be dryed. I did finally get Mr. Coffee to work one more time but I consider it a fire hazard. I beleive the fan bearing has rusted but I would have to buy a special screwdriver (that would probably cost more than the dehydrator) to remove two screws.

Thanks, Jim

Edited by chrisamirault (log)
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What capacity do you want. I have had three Excalibur dehydrators, one is 20 years old and the others I bought in 1990. I have never had a problem with them. The oldest one is a 5-tray, the other two are the larger 9-tray.

They are quite versatile and can be used for more than just dehydrating foods. I have used them for proofing dough, particularly shaped loaves and rolls.

I bought mine from Pleasant Hill Grain (prior to the internet) but you can probably fine one on ebay for a fairly reasonable cost.

I tried several other brands before getting the Excal., after seeing it demonstrated at the L.A. County fair. Prorating the cost over the years I have used them, they are really quite cheap.

Scroll down to see the Excalibur and they ship it free!

Edited by andiesenji (log)

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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I have been pretty pleased with my American Harvester. I have the Snack size - I would upgrade to the Garden size for a bit more area. The Excaliburs are nice too but pricier.

Edited by DMS (log)
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Andie, thanks for the recommedation. The Excaliber looks like the best value considering it's longevity and being able to proof bread is a plus! Have you dried tomatoes in the Excaliber? The Mr. Coffee could dry peppers but tom's were out of it's league.

DMS, Thanks I'm not familiar with American Harvester but I'll give it a look.

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The AH (made by Nesco) were in the same link given above. Cabelas (surprisingly in a way) also carries the complete Nesco line. I am a backpacker and use my dehydrator extensively for making meals for hiking. Any modern dehydrator will do tomatoes with ease. The Excalibur is a box design (ie fixed size) with trays that slide in. The AH is a tray design, meaning you can continue to stack the trays (up to 30 of them) and a fan gently circulates the air. The AH style dehydrators really could not be used to proof bread but the box style could. I think the Excalibur is the "gold standard" in dehydrators, but most people opt for less expensive (at least in the hiking community).

Dennis

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They are quite versatile and can be used for more than just dehydrating foods.  I have used them for proofing dough, particularly shaped loaves and rolls. 

andiesenji, I'm intrigued by your alternative use of a food dehydrator for proofing dough. Don't you have a problem with the moving air drying out the surface of whatever you are proofing in there, thereby inhibiting its rise?

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DMS, I saw them as I scrooled down the page, I think I saw one at the new Bass Pro Shop and I know that I can get the Excaliber where I get my sausage supplies. I think I'll drop by BPS to take a closer look.

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They are quite versatile and can be used for more than just dehydrating foods.  I have used them for proofing dough, particularly shaped loaves and rolls. 

andiesenji, I'm intrigued by your alternative use of a food dehydrator for proofing dough. Don't you have a problem with the moving air drying out the surface of whatever you are proofing in there, thereby inhibiting its rise?

No, I drape a thin muslin towel over the loaves and rolls anyway and spritz it lightly with water as it is always very dry here. (I live in the desert.)

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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  • 11 months later...
I have had Excalibur dehydrators for more than 10 years and no problems with them.

Excalibur company

...

I bought the last two from this vendor, I have purchased several appliances from them and have found them to be extremely helpful.

click here and scroll down.

Andie, I noticed that the Excalibur claims that "temperature is adjustable between 85° and 145° F." Have you ever checked that claim with a thermometer? And can you set the 2900 to 85F without the fan on and maintaining humidity with, say, a hotel tray of water? (It would be a perfect environment to ferment sausages if so.)

I'm also wondering what features you'd miss (save for the obvious fewer trays) if you had the 2400 instead of the 2900.

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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The first one I bought was the 2400 and while it worked just fine, I needed more capacity so bought the bigger one, then bought a second.

I have used them on the lower setting for proofing breads but have never bothered to check the entire temperature range.

As far as the dough proofing goes, I have found that the damp cloth works okay and have not had to use other means to maintain the humidity.

I start jerkys at the highest setting to insure against bacterial growth and have had no problems.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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On the units I have, when the switch is on, the fan is on.

Mine are 12, 11 and 10 years old. They may have changed the controls on the newer "3000" line but I don't know because I haven't got one.

Frankly, I don't see any point of running one without the fan.

However, you can contact the company and ask if there is a simple way to disconnect the fan or add an independent switch to it.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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It would be to use the unit as a low-heat, high-humidity oven for 24-48 hours to ferment dry-cured sausages. I'll contact the company and see what they say.

ETA: I'm assuming that the fan is an exhaust fan to promote dehydration, and not merely a convection-type fan to distribute the air.

Edited by chrisamirault (log)

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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It would be to use the unit as a low-heat, high-humidity oven for 24-48 hours to ferment dry-cured sausages. I'll contact the company and see what they say.

ETA: I'm assuming that the fan is an exhaust fan to promote dehydration, and not merely a convection-type fan to distribute the air.

The fan blows INTO the dehydrator. The heated air moving over and under the materials being dried is what does the job.

Excalibur info

Excalibur FAQs

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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I had a ronco food dehydrator... i bought it for like 20 bucks on an infomercial that was on at about 4am in the morning... depending on how much your going to use it, its pretty much disposable ... and if it breaks who cares...

On top of that it does everything you need it to.... I loved it... but its just like a pool table.. you use it a few times, then you just end up putting stuff on top of it...

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I may be in the gutter, but I am still staring at the stars.

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I sent an email that asked,

Is the switch for the fan independent on the 2400 and/or 2900, or is

the fan on all the time? If it's on all the time, is there a simple

way to add an off switch to the fan?

What features does the 2400 lack that the 2900 possesses?

Meli replied:

Hello there,

To answer you first question, on both models, the fan runs only when the

thermostat (switch) is turned on, which means the fan is dependent of the

thermostat.

Now, the 9-Tray without a timer, model 2900\3900 is a little different from

the 4-Tray dehydrator. The 2900\3900 model has a thermostat\switch which

serves two purposes: to regulate temperature and to turn the machine on and

off. This works simultaneously; as soon as you turn on the temperature knob,

the fan will start running and the heat will come on at the same time.

The 2400 model is a little different; the thermostat on the 2400 acts as a

temperature regulator only. This means that there is no built in on and off

switch. As soon as you plug in the 4-Tray the fan will come on, and thus you

will adjust temperature accordingly.

I hope this elaborates more clearly on how the two unit work. Please email

me back if you have any further questions. Thank you much for your business.

Regards,

Meli

Customer Service and

Technical  Support

    6083 Power Inn Road

  Sacramento, CA 95824

      (916) 381-4254

    Fax (916) 381-4256

meli@excaliburdehydrator.com

      www.drying123.com

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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  • 1 month later...

I received a food dehydrator as a Christmas gift this year, but there's a catch: it doesn't have any temperature control, and there's no obvious indication on the packaging of the temperature it operates at. I'm hoping for a fairly wide range of applications: dried fruit and herbs, jerky and, of course, various preparations from the Alinea cookbook. On the other hand, I'm only a home user, not a restaurant. So how vital is temperature control? Can I get away with just drying things at one temperature but perhaps for different periods of time than indicated? Or do I need to return this dehydrator and upgrade?

Edited to add: If I do need to upgrade, I'd also appreciate any tips on Canadian sellers, either online or bricks-and-mortar.

Edited by mkayahara (log)

Matthew Kayahara

Kayahara.ca

@mtkayahara

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  • 7 months later...

I have been drying food for some time now and have a question.

When I dry fruit or vegetable slices they always tend to wrinkle and not stay perfectly flat. First I used an oven for drying (thought the oven was the cause of the wrinkling) and now an Excalibur dehydrator, but I still can't get them entirely flat.

Any suggestions?

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