Lots of people ask us about how food dehydrators work. Food dehydrators use a combination of heat and continuous air flow to remove the natural moisture that’s found in food. This reduces the growth of bacteria, postponing decay and extending the shelf life of the food.
A modern food dehydrator is an electrical appliance that includes a heating element, a fan, a regulator, air vents and trays in which the food is placed.
The process of dehydration may take several hours, and dehydrated food is likely to weigh less, change color and look dry and leathery. Dehydrated food can retain most of its nutritional value and taste for a long time.
It’s much more convenient to carry dehydrated food with you while you are traveling because it’s lighter and less likely to spoil than fresh food. Depending on your preferences and taste, you can eat dehydrated food as it is or rehydrate it before use.
Why use a food dehydrator?
You can use a food dehydrator to dry vegetables, fruits, and meat. If your garden produces more fruits and vegetable than you can consume, you can use a food dehydrator to preserve them for use in the future. You can also buy and dehydrate fruits and vegetables when they are in season and prices are low.
Dehydrated vegetables, fruits, and meat make yummy snacks, and you can also use them in soups, sauces and as salad toppings.
Dehydrated food retains most of its taste and nutritional value, and it is also free of preservatives and chemicals, so it’s good for your health.
The origin of food preservation
The origin of food preservation can be traced to traditional techniques that involved preserving food by drying it in the sun. Although this process was effective, there were concerns about health and hygiene.
Innovations in the field of food preservation led to the use of more efficient food drying techniques, which are much faster and safer. Modern food dehydrators dry food quickly, evenly and safely by means of heat and air flow.
Modern food dehydrators
A modern food dehydrator is an appliance that looks like a small crock pot and uses electricity to dry food. It has stackable and removable trays with open sections that permit movement of hot air. This ensures that the food is protected and can be handled in a hygienic way.
The temperature and air flow are regulated to ensure that the food is dehydrated properly, usually at a temperature ranging from 95?F to 145?F. The process of drying food can take several hours.
A modern food dehydrator ensures that the food is dried evenly and consistently, which is very hard to achieve while drying food in the sun.
Which foods can you dehydrate?
You can dehydrate different types of food and preserve it for long periods of time. This includes:
• Vegetables like tomatoes, kale, herbs and chilies
• Fruits like bananas, cherries, and apples
• Meats can be dehydrated at home to make jerky
A food dehydrator can help you to avoid throwing away meats, fruits, and vegetables that cannot be consumed immediately. This reduces wastage and helps you to save money.
Components of a food dehydrator
The components of a food dehydrator ensure that you can dehydrate food to the required degree. The main components of a food dehydrator are:
• Heating element
The heating element dries food by exposing it to the right amount of heat. The temperature is regulated to ensure that the food is dried without being cooked or burnt.
The fan circulates the hot air inside the food dehydrator and directs it properly to ensure consistent and even drying of food. The hot air is removed through the vents.
• Food trays
The trays can be stacked in different ways depending on the type of food. Some dehydrators have circular trays that rotate during the dehydration process.
The regulator controls the temperature of the heating element and the speed of the fan to ensure that the food is dehydrated to the required degree.
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How to dehydrate fruits and vegetables
• Use fresh vegetables and fruits of the highest quality, which are not bruised or overripe.
• Clean, hull and slice them to a consistent size and thickness.
• Potatoes, peas, corn, carrots, celery, cauliflower, broccoli, etc. can be blanched for about 3 – 5 minutes in boiling water to maintain color and reduce drying time.
• Fruits that are prone to oxidation, like pears and apples, can be treated with ascorbic acid or citrus juice to retain color.
• You can add sugar, salt or spices to taste.
• Spread the vegetable and fruits evenly in the trays without overlapping.
• Turn your food dehydrator on and follow the instructions in the user manual. The process may take about 8 – 12 hours.
• As the drying period comes to an end, check the food often to see if it is dry.
• Remove a few slices, allow them to cool, and see if they have a dry, leathery look. Cut a few slices in half to assess the moisture content.
• If you detect moisture, return the food to the dehydrator and continue the dehydration process.
• Allow the dehydrated food to cool and then pack it loosely in jars.
• Shake the food every day for about a week. If any condensation appears, additional dehydration may be needed.
Store your dehydrated fruits and vegetables in freezer bags or air-tight containers in a dark, cool and dry place.
To rehydrate food before consuming it, put one cup of food in one cup of cool or hot water depending on how you want to use it. Allow it to stand for around 4 hours.
Once you understand how food dehydrators work, you will be able to dry and store food for long periods of time with ease. Food that’s adequately dehydrated and stored in a vacuum seal can last for years.