Food preservation, throughout history has been the foundation and pillar of human survival. Freezing canning, salting and dehydrating are all techniques that have been used to make the harvest during the summer last longer to the end of winter.
While food preservation is no longer a fundamental requirement for the survival of the human race, it has recently seen a rise in popularity. Many are looking to go back to the ways when they were self-sufficient and as such are turning to varying techniques of food preservation including dehydrating and canning. If you are one of such people and are looking for the best food dehydrator, you are in the right place.
Foods such as vegetables, fruits and meats contain lots of water – approximately 90%. Getting rid of the water, through a dehydration process will have the foods last way longer than just several days without the need of refrigeration. Originally, people used to slice up their foods and put them out under the heat of the sun to dry. Now, while this was a difficult process, it used to get the job done. In the modern times however, you no longer need to sun dry your foods as there are food dehydrators designed to simplify and speed up the process.
The list of benefits gotten by using a food dehydrator is endless. At the very top of that list however is the fact that there are no chemical additives or preservatives used. Our forefathers used to pack meat in salt, which used to suck up all the water. This worked just fine for them. But now that we know how harmful salt can be in large amounts, this is no longer a preferred mode of preservation any longer. Luckily, the food dehydrator gets salt out of the equation completely.
As the food dehydrates, the flavor increases in concentration. You therefore do not have to put up with processed taste from the preserved food or the excessive salty taste form the canned foods.
As you dehydrate the food, it shrinks a great deal (approximately of the original size. After dehydration, you can pack the food in freezer bags and put them in your freezer or store them in your pantry in containers.
Unlike many of the other food preservation methods such as freezing, canning and salting which drain some valuable nutrients from your food, food dehydration preserves all the minerals and vitamins present. Your food will be as nutritious a year down the line as it would be if it were fresh.
Saves you cash
Needless to say, dehydration as a method of food preservation will allow you to buy foods in large quantities and at a cheaper price. Many who have tried many of the food preservation methods state that they have had more success using dehydration in comparison to freezing.
Now that you have some background information on food dehydrating, you are ready to dive in, head first to make a purchase. But before that, you should know that there are currently hundreds of makes and models in the market from which you will have to choose from. Some are very specific to the foods that they can dehydrate while others seem to suck up every drop of water from just about anything. Needless to say, the choice can be a tough one. The following is a simple guide to get you started.
Now, if you are new to the whole food drying idea, it is advisable that you ask yourself the following questions.
What type of food will I be dehydrating most?
How much food do I plan on dehydrating on at a time?
How often will I be dehydrating foods?
These questions are meant to get your mind working in overdrive to choose the best. If you are only going to be dehydrating once or even twice every month, then a simple counter top unit will suit your needs. But if you will be dehydrating twice a month and on every occasion dehydrate large amounts of food, then a bigger unit would work for you best.
The food that you will be dehydrating most of is also important as many food dehydrators have features inbuilt to suit working with a particular food.
Features to consider
After answering the questions above, move on to the special features of the individual food dehydrators.
Timers and alarms
While dehydrating food is much faster today than it was eons ago, it still takes some few hours to completely dry. Basic alarms and timers are therefore inbuilt in most models to alert you when the process is done.
The efficiency of the dehydrator is significantly affected by the position of the heating element. For best results, and to avoid juices from dripping onto the heating element and damaging it, the heat source should be at the top.
The fans in the machines serve to distribute the heat evenly to the food and also speed up the drying process (some high speed fans).
There are two types of thermostats available. Some basic manual thermostats and digital thermostats. With the basic one, you will be doing a lot of trial and error before you find the right setting while digital thermostats allow you to preset a particular setting and forget.