A dehydrator is a kitchen appliance that is used for dry preservation of food. It extends food’s shelf life by removing moisture that bacteria or fungi needs spoil it. People dry food for future consumption or eaten as is. The process may take several hours, depending on the amount of moisture the food has. Dehydrated food will have reduced volume, change in appearance but retains its nutrients.
Ancient means of food preservation
Past civilisations know that well dried foods keep well. Instead of a dehydrator, they employed the sun’s rays to keep slices of raw food to dry. Food are placed in trays and exposed to the sun or hung on strings. The principle is pretty basic: the food needs to be exposed to air and heat without being eaten by other animals or made dirty by the environment. According to Dehydratorium Editors, these methods may not always yield consistent results.
Solar dehydrators are off grid equipment that uses solar power to draw out moisture from food. However, since it lacks a thermostat, food that has been processed through this type of dehydrator ends up too dry or have the tendency to have a dry exterior but a slightly moist interior. Too desiccated and the food ends up barely edible and its enzymes gone. Otherwise, it won’t keep for more than a few weeks before mould sets in.
Components of modern dehydrators
Modern dehydrators are powered by electricity as it needs a source of energy to control its various parts. Regardless of its capacity, dehydrators have a heating element, fans, vents, and food trays. It should also have a thermostat and a timer. Fancier models have glass doors and an in-house light.
The heating element provides the heat which draws moisture out of food. It works with the fans, which should ideally be placed on the side, and vents to allow dry, hot air to circulate the trays and come in contact with the food being dried. The trays are stackable and sometimes rotated. It is made of mesh to keep air circulation at its optimum. Food placed on the trays must be sliced thinly to hasten its dehydration.
Installed thermostat keeps temperature optimal at 35 to 63 degrees centigrade and can be adjusted. Meats and animal products require higher temperatures compared to plant produce. Although dehydrators can run for a couple of hours to days, it is necessary to have a timer to remind you when to get the food out and keep it moisture free. Glass doors and light are optional features usually reserved for high end models, but it helps viewing the products being desiccated easier.
Working with a food sealer
The most popular one uses vacuum sealing. It can be used to limit the amount of air in contact with the food being stored. Having a vacuum sealer meant the food preserves its integrity during storage.
Food that has been processed by the dehydrator is already assured of being germ-free because of the lack of moisture. However, using a food sealer increases the ante by further improving its shelf life. Since dehydrated food have lower volume and densities, keeping them sealed means you save up on more storage space because you can stack them without occupying too much space on your pantry or storage area.
Since dehydrated food is often in bulk, you can re-seal them with the food sealer every time you use them up in your recipes. Despite these breaches on exposing unused food to moisture from the air, the shelf life would not be compromised because it can be resealed like new.
The downside to using food sealers is the availability of plastic containers that can pass through it. If you intend to process a lot, stock a lot on plastic containers that you’d need on the food sealer.