I got to thinking about the mention of the dehydrator in my recent post on Healthy Homemade Dog Treats.
I thought I probably should expand on that a bit.
If you do not already own a dehydrator, the following are some been-there-done-that notes I have on the topic. So whether your interests are drying some of that backyard garden bounty, mid-day healthy snacks such as homemade beef jerky, or prepping for the zombie apocalypse, you are sure to find some helpful tips.
Dehydrator Tips For Healthy Snacks
Over the years, I have owned several “department store” no-name dehydrators. While they will dry foods and make jerky, there are better options out there. Those “department store” no-name dehydrators had drawbacks that were not immediately apparent when I made my first purchase. For example, they did not have an adjustable heat setting or a fan to help push warm air through the drying trays. The no-name dehydrator only supported four drying trays. Four trays does not dry all that much!
That first “department store” no-name dehydrator had the heating element burn out after year or so of frequent use, –making beef jerky for my own snacks. However, your mileage might vary! The next no-name dehydrator purchased was not at all compatible with the dryer trays of my broken first dehydrator. I was hoping to reuse the trays for more capacity. This second dehydrator also burned out the heating element after a year or so of use.
Along came the internet and its wealth of readily available information, including product research opportunities! For my camping and backpacking needs, I found the Nesco model FD-60 500 Watt Snackmaster. This model can accommodate up to twelve drying trays and it features an adjustable heat setting and a fan that blows warm air through the drying trays. Four drying tray were included. Over time, I have purchased extra trays and other accessories. I have owned this very same dehydrator for over 10 years now, and it is still going strong. Should this dehydrator ever quit working, I can reuse my accessory investment, as I will purchase another.
Nesco offers additional drying trays, fruit roll liners and mesh screens make the dehydrating job easier. The mesh screen really does make the cleanup job easier! Note the mesh screen, if you get them, has a top and a bottom side. The bottom is flat while the top has ridges, –where you place the food.
Parchment paper also makes a good tray liner, as a bonus it will work for several evolutions of my BFF treat making.
Drying times are variable. Dependencies include the type of dehydrator, outside air temperature, humidity, altitude, food moisture content and drying temperature, — what I refer to as the “environmental conditions.”
Thicker foods take longer to dehydrate than thinner.
Warm food, fresh from the dehydrator will feel more pliable, so let the treats cool a bit to determine how dry they are. A finished treat such as jerky will bend and break when folded in half. Over-dry is better than being under-dry. As you gain experience with the operation of your dehydrator, you will be able to tell when things are done.
I store the dehydrated BFF treats in zip style plastic bags, placing them in the refrigerator and leave a few treats on the counter for easy access.
Occasionally I will get lucky finding something on sale and will buy a bunch for treat making. To store all of those dried treats I use my vacuum food sealer. My vacuum food sealer has an attachment for specially made zip style plastic bags.
A dehydrator is just not for making dog treat! You can make and preserve any number of things for yourself as well. For example, can also dry those leftover herbs, fruits, and veggies so they do not go to waste. Homemade beef jerky is the bomb, I like to spice mine up quite a bit and try different flavors, but those recipes are future posts!
And yes, please read the owner’s manual for your dehydrator!