Food Dehydrators: Worth it?

Brooke Newberry
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Old-school preservation practices both fascinate and intimidate.  Preservation’s antiquity was daunting at first – then, boom: home cooks began to realize that it’s not that hard to pickle and ferment.  Evolving as home cooks, more folks are deconstructing store-bought foods, are starting over from scratch, and are proud of their process.  Let’s keep this culinary ball rolling and talk about a lesser-known method: dehydrating.

What Is It?

Dehydrators are found in square or round form and don’t take up too much room or counter space.  Most models are about 12 inches in diameter, similar to the size of a rice cooker or a small crockpot – a good size for both using and storing.  They range from about $40 to about $70, though there are more expensive, larger models on the market for professional use. 

These little powerhouses are driven by electricity and will gently dry out all types of goods.  Dehydrators contain several stacked trays that utilize heated air: a warm breeze evenly distributes through the tiers of layered food, gradually drying it out.  Sounds relaxing.  This process removes all moisture while maintaining the food’s nutritional and enzymatic souls.  Most items are preserved in 12 hours or less – put in cooked bacon and ripe bananas before you head out at night, wake up, have a yourself a pancake topping.  The end result: perfectly crunchy dried foods containing nothing unnatural.

Why Should You?

A dehydrator produces unbeatable textures and authentically concentrated flavors.

These little gadgets were born for on-the-go lifestyles: you can literally parch out anything and then stash in your car for snacks, meals, and long road trips. Yes, you could dehydrate the leftover paella you made last night and then eat it on the road next week.  It’s still the same food – just in crunchy snack form.

They will eventually pay for themselves.  All those leftovers and farmers market produce that went bad last week? Toss them in the dehydrator next time you know you won’t be able to finish your abundance.

What Can You Make With It?

  • Homemade jerky.  This may be the only reason needed to start parching. Think lamb, bison, heavily marinated brisket, and even tofu.
  • Fruit Leathers.  Grown-up fruit rollups without all the sugar and dyes.  Puree leftover or overripe fruit from the market, and then lay it in the dryer.  Pear-apple leather and strawberry-basil leather sound divine.
  • Add dried lemon or orange slices to cocktails or iced tea for a pretty punch.
  • Make trail mix.  With any fruit or veg.  Sweet potato, banana and skin-on orange slices tossed with macadamia nuts and sliced almonds.
  • Potato chips.  Kale chips.  Any chips.
  • Dry out homemade pasta to preserve.  Package your own.
  • Dry your own herbs.
  • So many DIY opps: bagel chips, croutons, make your own bouillon cubes or soup mixes, garlic powder. Think boss salts: celery salt, rosemary and lemon salt, chili salt for pizza, cilantro salt for tacos.  Curate a boss salt collection: containerize and party favor them.
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