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Sep 1, 2011 10:51 AM

Excalibur Food Dehydrator - 5 tray or 9 tray?

I've never owned a dehydrator before. After reading many reviews, I've settled on Excalibur. I'm leaning towards buying the 5 tray, but wondering if I should get the 9 tray instead.

Having never used one - how much could one dry in a 5 tray? I'm primarily using it for jerky (how many pounds do you think I could do in a 5 tray vs. 9 tray)? and will also use it for fruit leather and misc. fruit.

All thoughts are appreciated.

Thanks in advance.

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  1. I have the 9-tray, and it's wonderful. Footprint is the same in both machines (17"x19") -- and it's bulkier than it sounds, it's the size of an old-style microwave, so be aware that it needs a substantial part of your kitchen real estate (some folks place theirs in other rooms without problem). I can dry about 8# of halved grapes, or 8 thin-sliced Gala apples per load; can't recall poundage of jerky that it takes, sorry. Maybe 4# at 1/8" thickness? Quite likely more.

    The machine runs without incident and is super-reliable. The larger model makes it easy to make your own yogurt also, I'm sure it could be done in the 5-tray with flatter containers.

    I puzzled long and hard over what to buy, and have no regrets. I go through periods where I use it for 3-4 weeks straight, then ignore it for 6 weeks. Your family and friends will help you experiment and then will demand more, so if you think you need capacity, go large. You can always run it without a full load.

    3 Replies
      1. re: DuchessNukem

        Thank you! This is super helpful information. Most of all - the fact it can run without full loads. I think I will err on the side of the larger one... It doesn't seem to make sense to me to take up all that room, and then not have the added flexibility of larger loads. Thank you for helping clear up something that's been undecided in my mind for so long!

        Thank you also for the reminder about the large footprint. In my mind, 17 x 19 was much smaller, but when you compare it to the size of a large/old microwave - that is a great visual. DH wants to wait until we are in a bigger place to make the investment, but I'm trying to convince him we have enough room. :) This should be an interesting, continuing debate - especially since this is going to be my ONE b'day gift request!! Hopefully I can convince him!

        Is it as heavy as a microwave? I'm mostly wondering if it can be easily moved/stored, when not in use.

        Also - are the trays easy to clean? We don't have a dishwasher, so all washing would be done by hand. This has prevented me from using our meat grinder KA attachment, and I'm wondering what the tray clean up is like.

        1. re: The Oracle

          LOL, mine was a birthday gift from my dude also. My husband has never regretted it either: I make sure he has the raisins, apple rings, crackers he likes. I will make 2-4 variants on a new recipe and get his input on favorite. I'm still trying to find the best onion cracker recipe for his taste. :)

          The Excalibur is actually quite light: plastic body and trays. It's just bulky, but easily moved aside. Like all appliances, you'll use it more if it has a convenient place to live.

          I often run only 2-3 trays when I've got a new recipe or idea and don't want to invest in something we might not like. Operating costs are pretty minimal, it's only a smallish heating element and a fan.

          Trays don't fit well into a conventional kitchen sink -- I wash them upright, diagonally in the sink, and do bottom half first, then flip for upper. Generally it's just a few swabs with a soapy sponge and a rinse. The mesh trays and teflon "fruit leather trays" are done by soaking briefly in soapy water, then sponging out on counter by sink, then rolling for rinse. I dry everything in the dehydrator itself for 10" or so. You could also wash the trays in the bathtub. This all sounds more dramatic than it is -- once you get the rhythm, it goes quickly, and I haven't had issues with sticking even with juicy sugary fruits.

          I should mention there is a noise factor. It's a little fan, but powerful, and if it's near you in the kitchen, you may have a bit of trouble if you're used to having conversations with the dude in the next room. It's a white-noise sort of continuous blowing/humming, not offensive, just very present.

          Oh, and: Mary Bell's Complete Dehydrator Cookbook -- do get your hands on this. She also has a compact little jerky book with interesting variants (Just Jerky). Lady is a dehydrating genius.

      2. I had the nine tray - I cannot imagine a 5 tray.
        However, I picked up a "professional" model the size of a small freezer at Cabellas a few years ago on black friday for the same cost. Has much more available area and is impressive as heck, also has hangers for drying meat. It was listed at $750 and with the black friday sale and coupons for discounts, ended up being slightly over $200.

        One thing with the excalibur - there is a silicon dish shelf liner that is the same thing as the inserts if you need more at a much lower cost. They also wash well in the dish washer. I did NOT like the silicon fruit teflon inserts they sold. I actually got the presto inserts (round) and used those because of the lips and less dripping.

        You cannot go wrong with the excalibur, just check around for other options.

        1 Reply
        1. re: exvaxman

          Great advice. I'm certainly not in any rush, and will keep my eyes open. I don't know if I can go any larger than 17" x 19", though - I'm pushing it at that!

        2. I have a Nesco 5 tray and it's enough for my needs, but keep in mind that you'll get better results when you leave one tray empty. At least that's how it works with mine, you might want to check if it's the same with Excalibur. I don't eat nor make jerky, only use it to dry fruit and herbs but I'm guessing for meat it'll be a few hours.