Working With Your Dehydrator
Dehydrating food is one way to preserve various items for future use. When you first start using a dehydrator, you’ll need to think ahead a bit about the final application for your dried goods. For example, if you’re drying onions are they for soup or spice? Soup onions should be sliced before drying whereas spice onions can be minced and dried on an herb screen. Other than adjusting the temperature of your dehydrator that’s really all there is to it. What could be simpler?
Dry herbs and edible flowers at a temperature no higher than 110 degrees F. Vegetables and fruits fare best at temperatures between 130 and 140 degrees. Fish and meat dry at about 145 degrees F. Note that ridding meat of any microorganisms requires cooking it until it reaches 145 degrees internally for 45 minutes minimum.
This really should not be a problem since meat takes longer than that to dry completely, particularly when making jerky.
One thing to bear in mind is that dehydrating food does take time. Like laundry, however, you can walk away and do other things once the food is prepared and layered into the drying bin. If you’re dehydrating more than one layer of food, we recommend shifting the stacking trays periodically throughout the drying process so that each layer gets an even amount of air flow and heat.
Nutritional Value of Dehydrated Food
A question that frequently comes up about dehydrating food is whether or not the process detracts from the food’s nutritional value. Dried food actually retains higher nutritional value than food that’s been canned or frozen. The key is storage. Foods high in vitamin A (peppers, carrots) require a dark, cool storage area due to light sensitivity, for example. Dried food does loose some Vitamin C, but retains all its carbohydrates, minerals and fiber.
Sample Jerky Recipe
One of our favorite uses for the dehydrator is making jerky. Beef jerky is very expensive at the market, but you can make it yourself far more economically at home. Wait until beef goes on sale and get two pounds of round. Note that you want very lean meat as fat does not dehydrate well.
Thinly slice the meat and then marinate using soy sauce, a hint of Worcestershire, brown sugar, salt, pepper, garlic and smoky paprika overnight in the refrigerator (longer marinating times makes more flavorful jerky). If the meat seems tough, also add some meat tenderizer. Drain.
Lay the beef slices on the dehydrator tray making sure to leave space in between for good air circulation. Dry the strips on high for at least four hours (usually longer) until the meat bends without breaking at room temperature.
An Excalibur food dehydrator might be a top choice if you want an ultimate dehydrator to help in the kitchen.
Practice Makes Perfect
It takes a little time to get a feel for drying times, even with manufacturer’s instructions. Each item that goes into your dehydrator has slightly different amounts of moisture, meaning it’s a good idea to check your machine toward the end of the planned cooking time to ensure proper levels of doneness.