>>about dehydraters- is there a substantial difference in what you use a deyhdrater for versus what you would use a vaccuum sealer for? i am fairly certain that at some point you researched this, so i am trying to not reinvent the wheel. is there a reason you chose one over the other? <<
I looked into getting a vacuum sealer at one point and didn’t see a need for it. I might not understand well how the two work, but I’m under the impression that a dehydrator and vacuum sealer are two distinctly different appliances with different applications. The dehydrator dries your food as a preservation technique, and the vacuum sealer sucks the air out of the container that you store something in, thereby creating a tight seal that will keep your food fresh long term.
>>as far as a dehydrater, i have done a lot of reading in magazines (like mother earth news, natural living, etc) and they seem to say that an electric dehydrater should only be a first step until you can handle a solar one. …. so, do you have any ideas about what would be a good intro dehydrater? i don’t want to spend a bunch, in case i don;t use it so much, but i don’t want a super junky one either, since the one i buy will most likely be the one i have for as long as it lasts. what factors should i look at before i decide? i read your posts on this, but i feel like i need a bit more guidance…<<
I think their point is philosophical and ecological, and I agree that solar dehydrating is good to do when you can. If I could, I’d love to have non-electrical alternatives for all my appliances. But solar dehydrating has its limits – like the weather! And it takes a lot more time. I need the reliability of a dehydrator that will do what I need, when I need, at a predictable rate. I live where humidity can be high in the summer, which affects drying time. I’ve wondered if I put my dehydrator in the sun if it would work well – I’d probably have to play around with leaving the door off to adjust for air flow.
As far as what to start off with, there are two ways of thinking about this. The first is, buy something cheap and see if you use it enough to justify buying something more expensive. That’s not my position. I had a cheapie dehydrator and it was inefficient, the results were uneven and poor, and I’d never consider dehydrating valuable or worthwhile if I were still using something like that. So I think, decide if dehydrating is something you’ll do a good amount of based on your research about it, and then get a good deal on something good that you can use and enjoy using for a long time.
Basically, a dehydrator is just a box with a heat source and a fan to circulate the air. Be sure that whatever model you get has a fan since without it, you’ll have to constantly rotate the trays and your results still won’t be even. Get one that has a thermostat so you can control the temperature (different foods dry at different temps). A timer is a nice feature but not necessary.
I chose the 9 tray Excalibur, which has an excellent reputation. I got a very good buy on it because I got a factory reconditioned model with a ten year warranty for $150. But I know that this is still a lot of money and many people won’t consider that affordable.
American Harvest and Nesco are supposedly decent inexpensive alternatives (keep in mind the suggestions above about being sure to get a model with a thermostat). Absolutely avoid ronco, which is a piece of junk; I’ve heard very little positive feedback about it. There’s a pretty new dehydrator out on the market called Good 4U which looks interesting; good price and seems to be good quality. My concern with that one is that there’s no door because of the tray design so you’d have to have all the trays in all the time, and you couldn’t use it to let dough rise or make yogurt (which I haven’t yet done but many people do).
In the end I think getting something you can use long term is actually a more frugal strategy than getting something cheap and later getting something that really works the way you want it. Junk just isn’t a savings, not in time and not in money.