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Choosing a Food Dehydrator
Choosing a Food Dehydrator
Written By Emily Church | July 21, 2017
There are a few things to consider when one finds oneself in the market for a food dehydrator. This guide will attempt to familiarize the reader with the different types of dehydrators on the market, as well as illustrate the pros and cons between the units we sell at Everything Kitchens.
All food dehydrators will do the job they are built for: that is, to dehydrate foods, which in turn makes the foods more preservable and often concentrates their flavors. However, some units are better suited for certain applications than others. The two main classes of dehydrators are those with vertical air flow, and those with horizontal. Each is discussed below.
Vertical-flow dehydrators, like the American Harvest SnackMaster and Jerky Maker Dehydrator, have the fan, the principal drying element, either on top of the unit or at the bottom. Of these types, dehydrators with fans on the bottom provide the best heat distribution and are more efficient, as hot air rises. The drawback to this design is that drippings from fruits, vegetables, and meats can drip into the fan and make for difficult cleanup. The fan-on-top design eliminates this issue, but these tend to dry foods toward the top more quickly than those toward the bottom. This is not always a bad scenario: foods do not have equal drying times, so as one learns which foods take what duration of time, longer-drying items, like beef jerky, can be placed toward the top, and items like apple chips, toward the bottom.
Horizontal-flow dehydrators, like the Excalibur 5 Tray Deluxe Dehydrator, have the fan or principal drying element in the back of the unit. Horizontal flow dehydrators are generally considered better for two reasons: for one, they minimizing the imparting of flavors between foods, since air does not pass directly from one tray to the next; the second reason is that this method, by and large, provides the most even and consistent heat distribution. However, these models are generally larger and more expensive.
Size is also important consideration: how much food do you intend to dry at one time? Some dehydrators have outside walls with trays that slip in and out. These types are ideal if you intend to dry around the same amount of food per use. If not, consider that some dehydrators have stackable/expandable trays. The nice thing about this design that is you can purchase additional trays as you need more space, and expand and reduce the size as is needed for each application.
Comparisons Between Brands
Excalibur Dehydrators are well built and quite popular among our customers. These are horizontal-airflow types which provide up to 15 square feet of drying space, depending on the model purchased. The Excalibur 9 Tray Clear Door Dehydrator, the largest Excalibur we carry at Everything Kitchens. Although this unit comes with tons of space "out of the box", unfortunately, it cannot be expanded by way of aftermarket trays. Be advised that all Exaliburs will require a good deal of counter space, but for the person who has an open spot in their kitchen or garage and requires the best from a horizontal-flow, low-maintenance food dehydrator, this might be the brand for you.
LEM Dehydrators also make a few large-capacity horizontal food dehydrators. These are affordable alternatives to the pricier Excaliburs, and are well suited for jerky. Their LEM Big Bite 10 Dehydrator is all staineless steel and has chrome-plated trays which is going to outlive plastic trays for sure. They also have a very even heating LEM 5 Dehydrator that is a great machine for small to medium batches and feature perfect square trays.
American Harvest/Nesco Food Dehydrators produces a variety of fan-on-bottom/fan-on-top dehydrators in a wide range of prices. The American Harvest FD1018P is the most expandable of any of our models: it comes standard with 8 trays/8 ft2 of drying space, and can be expanded to 30 trays/30 ft2 (expandable trays sold separately). American Harvest-Nesco also makes smaller units for beginners and users who simply don't require as much space.
The L'Equip Food Dehydrator comes with the best warranty of any of the units we carry: 12 years through the manufacturer. Like the above AH-Nescos, the L'Equip dehydrator uses vertical airflow, and comes standard with 6 trays (expandable to 12). We like the unique, rectangular tray shape of the L'Equip, which is ideal for laying out several strips of jerky at once.
We hope this helps you choose a food dehydrator. As always, if you need further assistance, our customer service reps are happy to guide you in your decision. Call us toll-free at 1-866-852-4268.