Preserving food through dehydration has been done for centuries and maybe even for thousands of years. All that is required is to have a relatively constant temperature and a constant flow of air around the food items being dried. Most types of food dehydrator devices use a thermostat for controlling a specific temperature. A fan is needed to keep fresh air moving through the drying area. These are the two key things you need to watch for when selecting a food dehydrator.
Theoretically speaking, all dehydration devices that are able to maintain a constant temperature and keep air moving constantly should have the ability to dry food at about the same speed. So there is your first tip. It is unlikely that marketing claims for one dehydrator to dry food faster than others is anything more than just plain hot air.
There are some things you need to know when making a decision on which food dehydrator system to buy. Those factors are as follows.
- Ability to heat food evenly, keeping air flowing constantly over the drying area
- Accessibility for placement of food into drying areas
- Ability to be versatile in ways of drying food
- The type of materials used in construction and the quality of manufacture
In the marketplace you will find two basic types of dehydrators for sale. Keep this in mind when comparing the factors listed above. The two types are as follows:
- Stackable tray dehydration systems
- Shelf tray dehydration systems
Ability to Heat Evenly and Maintain a Constant Air Flow
Shelf tray dehydration systems have the ability to maintain an even temperature and flow of air. This is inherently because of the design. Like the trays in a conventional oven, the trays can slide in and out of the heating area. A fan is typically located in the back of the trays, which results in an even horizontal flow of heated air. This type of dehydration system comes in basically one general range of quality.
Economical stackable dehydration systems are conveniently set at a lower price and can be a good buy for those just starting out. However they can frequently have problems maintaining an even temperature and even flow of air so it is important to choose wisely and make sure they have good reviews. In this type of system the source for heat is located in the bottom. This results in trays on the lower levels getting a larger amount of the heat produced by the source. Further acerbating the problem is the fact that most economical models have not fan. To get the same quality even drying as the shelf tray models, owners of the stackable dehydration systems must periodically rotate the position of the trays.
This factor is more important than it looks at first glance. For efficient drying you need quick and easy access for placement and removal of food being dried. This is especially important when checking on food during the drying process. Easy access is very important when considering food storage using a dehydrator.
With a Shelf tray dehydration system the access to each tray is excellent. Set up preparation, inspection during drying and food removal is very easy. Each tray is accessed independently and no movement or interruption of the drying process for other trays is required. Because of the good access a shelf tray design is best when you use your hydration system as a raw food dehydrator.
With the stackable hydration systems the opposite is the case. To inspect or work on a section in the middle requires movement of all other trays located above. Frankly speaking, this design is cumbersome and prone to causing spillage and accidents during the drying process, especially when trying to use this type of system as a raw food dehydrator.
Versatility and Quality of Manufacture
For these other two important factors, again the shelf tray dehydration system is the best for those doing lots of dehydrating. Most shelf tray dehydration manufacturers understand the importance of quality and use only the best materials. The stackable systems are generally working towards a lower price point, which naturally forces the use of lower quality materials. True versatility comes out between the two designs when you want to do some food storage using a dehydrator.
So when it is time for your decision, you will need to make your own conclusion. If your goal is saving money by drying food, you should consider the value of your time. The better system should be obvious and save you time and money while providing the best possible dehydration of food.