How to get started with your food dehydrator

Some of the most intense and delicious flavours can be created by dehydrating food.

Think sundried tomatoes, dried apricots, soft apple rings and banana chips.

We bought a Kogan dehydrator this week and have started trying it out.

This particular brand was half price on the daily deal website “Catch of the Day”.  I don’t normally purchase kitchen appliances but buying a dehydrator has been on my Wishlist for awhile.

Reasons for buying a food dehydrator 

Apart from taste, there other reasons why we bought the dehydrator.  We hope it will help us to:

  1. Save money by using up old fruit and vegetables in the crisper or from the garden harvest instead of composting/binning then
  2. Provide snacks for lunches that are high energy like fruit roll-ups, dried fruit pieces, healthy potato chips and dried grain “crackers”
  3. Motivate my family and I to eat more variety in our diets and be healthier 

You don’t have to have to have a big harvest from the veggie patch to get started with your new dehydrator.  Just use up what you already have, experiment and have fun!

Apple slices dehydrated

What to dehydrate first

A good time to begin is just before your next grocery shop.  You can use the fruit and vegetables that are about to go bad and just slice then thinly.  

We use a mandoline to get the slices extra thin.  But you can just use a small paring knife.

It’s also good to look out for fruit and veg “seconds” when shopping, as well as really cheap bulk produce.

Carrot dehydrated on a tray

We started out drying:

  • thin apple slices 
  • thin carrot lengths

Always spray or brush vegetables with a little olive oil to help it crisp up.

Fruit can be sprinkled with some cinnamon or other flavouring if you like.  You obviously don’t brush fruit with oil as it wouldn’t taste nice and the fruits are meant to remain juicy and soft.

The apples we dried had a soft, chewy and delicate flavour.  Carrots became very strongly flavoured (very “carroty”), but tasty to eat,  I’m a sweet tooth so liked the apples best.

I think we will slice the apples more thickly next time so they are more chewy.

Other types of fruits and vegetables you might like to try are:

  • bananas
  • peaches
  • cherries
  • pear
  • purée fruit and spread out on the tray for fruit “leather” or “roll up”
  • potato (for chips)
  • tomatoes (sundried tomatoes)
  • herbs like basil, oregano, chives and parsley
  • grapes (raisins and sultanas)

A good book on preserving will give you more ideas for which foods you can dehydrate.  Some dry quicker and more evenly than others.

Points to consider when dehydrating

Here’s some tips for when you use your dehydrator for the first time:

  1. It could be louder than you imagine.  An office or laundry is a good place to leave it work overnight.
  2. Peel fruit and veg.  A bitter flavour will develop otherwise and drying will take too long.
  3. Slice everything thinly so it dries all the way through.
  4. Make sure all food is completely dried before storing in glass jars.  If not it will develop mould.  Some foods will dry soft, some will shrivel and others go crunchy.
  5. You need to be patient, as it can take up to 15 hours for some types of food to dry fully

Carefully follow the instructions provided with the machine when you switch it on for the first time.

Dehydrators aren’t complicated appliances, just a warm fan in a box really.  However, different models have fans in the bottom, top or back of the box.  Fan location affects how the machine operates.

I have been amazed at how easy it is to dry food with a dehydrator.  Home dried food also beats commercial packet dried food for flavour!

I’m looking forward to this summer when we can play around with different ways of drying and preserving our favourites from the veggie patch: basil, tomato, chilli, eggplant and capsicum.

But for now we are eating the best dried apple rings I’ve ever had.  I’m looking forward to exciting months ahead of experimenting with drying lots of different foods.

Do you have a dehydrator? What foods do you dry?

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