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Jan 28, 2011 03:58 AM

Food Dehydrator - Should I fork out the cash?

I was in California recently and went to a local farmers market. There was a booth where they were selling all different kinds of dried fruit. I fell in love with the peaches and nectarines. I bought some and have eaten them all and now I'm sad. :-(

I then thought "why don't I dehydrate my own fruit?" I have searched Chowhound for the best beginner models and searched Craigslist, Amazon and Ebay for affordable options for a starter hydrator and I'm thoroughly confused. It looks like the best brand is Excalibur but these things are pretty pricy, even for a 4 tray model (about $120+ with shipping). I found a couple of Rondo models locally on Craigslist but they look cheap.

I think, realistically, that I would mostly use it for fruit. I'm afraid the novelty might wear off. I would like to try jerky and maybe even yogurt but I'm not "gung-ho" into the food dehydrator craze... just yet.

Am I better off spending the extra $50 and buying an Excalibur model or should I start off with a cheaper brand, like Ronco? Also, I read some reviews of an Excalibur model that were negative. Specifically, they said that they had a problem with fuses blowing after only 8-10 uses. Anyone else experience this?

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  1. I fell in love with dried fruit also, a couple of years ago. I got a dehydrator for christmas from hubby and although I don't use it often, it is handy to have. Mine is not an expensive one. It may take a little longer than an expensive model, but the results are delicious. I would always go for the less expensive option, and then if you wear it out, spend the money on something more expensive that will hopefully last longer.

    You should try dried strawberries and pineapples, wow!! I made jerky a couple times, I don't eat it but my husband and daughter do, and I liked that I was controlling the size and ingredients. Plus my husband is a hunter so I used game meat to great success. Think I will see if there are nice nectarines at the store this weekend, that sounds yummy!

    1. You definitely don't need a dedicated dehydrator for jerky, any oven will work fine. As far as fruit goes, figure in the cost of fruit you'd likely buy and dehydrate, add $120 and decide whether it's better to just let someone else do the work for you. There's an awful lot of excellent dried fruit out there - not worth doing it yourself, in my opinion.

      1. we picked up a nesco FD-80 dehydrator and have had a good experience with it. the square shape allows for more usable space and it has temperature control so if you want to do "raw" food, you can keep the temp below 118 (if i remembered that right)
        we bought it for a 1 time use and found a dehydrator that was priced accordingly, it was 50 bucks on amazon, free shipping with a prime account to boot.
        dried fruit is fantastic in it. dried roma tomatoes and kale chips are another favorite.
        I use the dehydrator when we have produce that is going to go bad if we don't use it soon, so it keeps us from having to throw out food that would have otherwise gone bad.
        I personally think you should go for the dehydrator and if you want more yield or faster times step up to an excalibur. I'm still using the nesco one and the only complaint i have is that it doesn't have a timer, so i ended up using the timer for my christmas lights.

        1. There isn't much to a food dehydrater, a small controllable heat source, a fan to circulate the air, and some plastic trays. We picked one up at a discount department store (pick one, W-m, K-m, Target), it wasn't very expensive and it works just fine for fruit and jerkey. We dry all sorts of things to take on camping trips, even if we aren't backpacking, it's convenient to have dehydrated chilli for example, just add water and heat over the camp stove or camp fire. Purchasing dried fruit is fairly expensive, making your own is much less expensive. And you can dry what you want when you want it. You can dry almost anything.

          3 Replies
          1. re: mikie

            Does drying prevent spoilage or is it just more convenient/lighter to camp that way?

            1. re: iyc_nyc

              Yes to both. There are some backpacking recipe books that are all pretty much dehydrated recipes.

              1. re: iyc_nyc

                As sumrtym stated, it's yes to both. If you are backpacking you want the lighter weight, no need to carry a bunch of unnecessary water, and you don't have a cooler your packing around either. On the flip side of that, when doing what is commonly refered to as car camping, it's a convenience thing. For example, if you want to have pasta one night and you don't want to make the gravey at the campsite, you can make it in advance and then dehydrate it, then rehydrate it when you need it. Yes, I know you can buy a bottle of ragu. You can dehydrate fruit to have with your morning cerial and not have to worry about spoilage or refrigeration.

            2. I bought one last year thinking that it would be healthier to give dried fruits to my 2 year old daughter but I wish i hadn't bought it.
              First of all, it takes way too long to dry some ounces of fruits. I rather go to Trader's Joe or Costco and buy a pack of dried fruits. It took me more than 12 hours to dry some fruits.
              I don't think it's woth the hassle, time and electricity bill.
              I did make some nice beef jerky with it but you can make that with your oven.
              Also, don't forget the BPA from prolong heating of plastic.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Monica

                that's a good point about the BPA. I usually line the trays with parchment paper, not sure if that entirely eliminates BPA absorption since some might still be airborne but it should definitely reduce it by quite a bit...and makes clean up easier ;)

                1. re: cannibal

                  I assume you do realize not all plastics contain BPA. Bisphenol A is used to make Polycarbonate and epoxy. It is highly unlikely, and I know mine isn't, that the drying racks in a dehydrator are made of either of these two plastics.