10 Best Dehydrators | March 2017
- fine-mesh sheet for small foods
- 48 hour timer with auto shutoff
- flat tray for making fruit rolls
- includes special trays for fruit
- comes with a yogurt accessory
- air flow is not completely even
- can be set for 30 minute increments
- dries from 95-158 degrees
- adjustable drying shelves
- doesn't require shelf rotation
- opaque exterior blocks harmful light
- does not have a timer
- flexible poly-screen tray inserts
- comes in black or white
- quality made in the usa
- trays nest for compact storage
- provides consistent air flow
- includes nonstick mesh screens
- has five large drying racks
- removable back panel
- powerful 800 watt heating element
If you've spent any time looking into ways to easily improve your health and wellness through your diet, you've probably heard of raw nutrition. The raw foods movement has gained some pretty major traction over the past couple of decades, bolstered by a huge uptick in smoothie and juice sales, and by an association between these drinks and certain significantly attractive celebrities.
Whatever your reasons for investigating food dehydrators, it's important to know how they work, as well as what raw foods actually offer you. Otherwise, you might just dehydrate and eat an absurd amount of blueberries and end up diabetic.
With raw foods, it's all about the enzymes. Live enzymes in food aid in digestion, fight the oxidation of your cells (the thing that causes aging), have been shown to improve stamina and virility, and generally make you feel good. As soon as any natural food undergoes processes like extreme pressurization or, more commonly, cooking above 104˚F, those enzymes begin to die off.
Exposure to oxygen will also cause a loss of enzyme activity, which you can actually see happening if you cut open an apple and watch as it turns brown before your eyes.
While a food dehydrator doesn't cook your foods, per se, it does employ a low level of convection heating, usually around 98˚F, to slowly cause the foods inside to dry up. Put a handful of sliced tomatoes in your dehydrator overnight, and you'll have sundried tomatoes (the raw kind) in the morning. Throw a few slices of salted mango in there while you're at work, and when you get home, you'll have your very own vegan jerky.
The recipes are nearly endless, as anything that has moisture can undergo a transformation in your dehydrator. Some foods are better left alone, I've found, but the vast majority of them become something altogether compelling after half a day under the gentle heat. Take note of these cooking times, however, as the process is a process, and it takes time to dehydrate your foods completely.
Undercooked To Perfection
Not everybody is going to keep to a raw foods diet. Even raw foodists most often practice what they call "80/20 raw," which means that roughly 80% of their diet consists of raw foods, and the rest can be cooked. This is a much more sustainable method, especially on those cold winter evenings when a hot bowl of soup is the only thing standing between you and succumbing to one of those awful winter flu bugs.
What's great about these dehydrators is that they aren't all exclusively designed for the raw foods crowd, as some of them get hot enough to perform dehydrating functions in much less time without the danger of burning you get from using a conventional convection oven.
If you're interested in picking up a dehydrator more for the long term savings you'll see compared to buying pre-dried fruits and vegetables, or simply for the fun of it, you might want to look at our list for a model that can comfortably break that 104˚F raw foods threshold. This is especially useful if you want to dehydrate anything like fish or meat into jerky that really ought to meet temperatures at or above 140˚F to ensure the elimination of potentially harmful bacteria.
For the purists among you, whether your dehydrator goes above that threshold is immaterial. Your considerations are those of anyone else in the market, however. You'll want to ask yourself how much dehydrating you actually plan to do, and what capacity dehydrator you'll need to do it.
Whatever capacity you find attractive for your dehydrating purposes, it's important to note that all of these dehydrators take up a good bit of space in the kitchen. Since the process takes so long, and since it's so easy to plow through all the delicious treats you can make, it'll behoove you to keep this thing somewhere on your kitchen counter. With that in mind, you ought to look for a dehydrator that's sized to fit in your kitchen, as well as one that goes nicely with whatever decor you've set up for yourself.
Produce Gains Popularity
Dehydration as a method of food preservation has been with us for many millennia. The oldest evidence of the process dates back to roughly 12,000 BCE in the regions of the Middle East and eastern Asia. In those days, people removed the moisture from their food primarily as a means of keeping it from molding or spoiling, and they employed the powers of smoke, fire, air, and sun to achieve their dehydration.
In the 1990s, companies like Jamba Juice and Smoothie King kickstarted a revolution in the international health foods market, as consumers finally began to suspect that foods rumored to be good for them might also be made to taste good. In the ensuing decades, the popularity of smoothies and certain of their healthier ingredients (kale, chia seeds, etc.) saw a significant explosion.
Along with this increased awareness about health, the raw foods movement began pushing the benefits of dehydration, and before long every yoga pant clad suburbanite had a kitchen stocked with the finest greens, the most powerful blenders, and a good food dehydrator.