Dehydrator 101

This is not a recipe, because frankly dehydrating fruit doesn’t really require recipe instructions. Instead I thought I’d give you an idea of what it’s like to have a dehydrator in the house along with a little bit of information that you might want to consider before buying one.

Why Use A Dehydrator?

Basically to dry fruit, vegetables, and meat. I mainly use mine for fruit and vegetables only. It has buckets of space, with 5 trays that you can use all at once or individually. Different fruits take different times. At the moment I’m drying our own grapes to make raisins, which will end up in our Christmas cake. However, I dry apples a couple of times a week to make crisps for the boys for their lunchboxes. They prefer granny smith style apples which are more sour from the dehydrators, rather than the sweeter red varieties.

Drying fruit and vegetables in this way means I’m in control of the preservation method. For example, raisins and other dried fruits are often treated with chemicals to make them shine more (look glossy) and last longer on the shelf.

The items I preserve using this method have a concentrated flavour. Imagine the most zingy piece of apple you’ve ever tasted, then multiply that by 5. There’s no need to add sugar, oil, or salt to most items I put into the dehydrator.

Apples & Pineapple in a Dehydrator
Apples & Pineapple in a Dehydrator

What Does It Do?

A dehydrator dries out your produce at a low temperature. A fan encourages the moisture which evaporates away from the machine. You’re then left with dried produce which you can often eat straight way, blitz to make a concentrated powder, or rehydrate as part of the cooking process.

What Dehydrator Do I Use?

I use a “VonShef” brand dehydrator that I got on a Black Friday special from Amazon last year. I paid STG£20 for it including delivery. Now you can still buy VonShef dehydrators from Amazon but the model that I have isn’t available anymore. This brand is generic, along with some other brands in the same price range including Andrew James. The machine I use is very similar to this one below (note this is an affiliate link) if you’re interested.

How Long Does It Take To Dehydrate Food?

It depends on what you want to do! Apple slices take about 6 hours at 55-60 degrees Celsius, raisins take a lot longer!

How Much Energy Does A Dehydrator Use?

A little more than a lightbulb. The heat generated is low, and the main energy output is from the fan. However bear in mind you could be running a dehydrator for over 3 days constantly to get to the point you want with the produce inside so obviously there is a cost associated with this.

Dehydrated Apple & Pineapple
Dehydrated Apple & Pineapple

What Do I Do With the Dehydrated Food?

I either cook with it immediately, store in an airtight container (not a regular lunchbox) for a couple of days, or I freeze what I’ve dehydrated. A freezer is like a pause button and because your dehydrated produce has had most of the water content removed; it’s now very stable in the freezer. I like to rehydrate some fruit by soaking it in alcohol for special occasions. Dried pineapple and rum is a particularly good combination.

What Are the Cons?

  • The machine takes up a lot of space in the kitchen which I don’t have to spare. I have to keep on taking it in and out so that I can use the counter surface for other things.
  • With the fan running constantly it can be a little noisy; it’s about the same volume level as a cooker hood extractor on low.
  • Using a dehydrator isn’t for everybody. You might prefer to buy your own dried produce instead and that’s perfectly okay! It takes a lot of time to prepare the produce to put it into the dehydrator.

Can You Dry Your Own Fruit If You Don’t Have A Dehydrator?

Absolutely, it works best in a dry heat oven. Fan assisted ovens are ideal for this, as are the likes of a warming drawer in an AGA because you’ve got a consistent low heat. The temperature and length of time required to make apple crisps is identical to that used for the machine above. That’s 55-60 degrees Celsius for 5-6 hours. Make sure your apple slices are around 0.5cm in thickness or less if possible.

Final Thoughts

For me, because we grow so much of our own produce, having a dehydrator is an essential tool in my preservation kit. It enables me to make what we’ve grown last longer throughout the year without losing much (if any) of the nutritional content.

4 thoughts on “Dehydrator 101

  1. Great to see you do a slot on dehydration. I was lucky enough to receive an Amazon gift voucher & so purchased a dehydrator. It has been fantastic for apples, herbs & even orange peels which I have shaped into stars for the Christmas tree! I sprinkle cinnamon onto the apple slices for a flavour change. BTW how long do the grapes take to dehydrate?

    1. Yes I do the same with the apples, it was a great hit last night for Hallowe’en! The grapes take at least 72 hours, you need to boil them for 2 mins first to thin out the oils in the skin – or it’s quicker if you slice them in half but you won’t get proper raisin shapes – if you get what I mean!

  2. I love this post. I was sent a dehydrator a little while ago and I’ve been a little intimidated by it. I dried some cherry tomatoes which were nice, I think I just worry about knowing when they are completely done. It seemed to be a thin line between over dried and not quite done!

    1. Hi Charlie, don’t worry about them being too dehydrated I think. You can always semi-rehydrate in a warm olive or rapeseed oil which gives a beautiful texture for cooking!

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