Skip the expensive dried foods at the market, and make your own in a food dehydrator or oven. For those in humid climates where sun drying is impossible, these are the only options. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. Select the method to best fit your lifestyle.
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Drying food with an electric food dehydrator requires the purchase of a separate appliance, which must be stored when not in use. Keep in mind that electric food dehydrators will also need to be placed on a heat-proof counter top for the entire drying time. If you intend to dehydrate foods frequently, a dehydrator might be a wise investment. Examine the capacity of the appliance to find one to match the amount of food you typically dry at a time.
How a Dehydrator Works
Dehydrators hold foods on specially constructed trays in a heated chamber with a fan. The dehydrator maintains a temperature between 140 and 150 degrees Fahrenheit while the fan wicks away moisture from the food. Since these appliances maintain the internal temperature automatically, there is little need for constant attention, but the appliance should never be left on without someone nearby. Food dehydrators take much of the guess work out of drying foods when compared to an oven.
How an Oven Works
In order to dry foods, 140 degrees Fahrenheit is recommended, but some gas ovens cannot maintain this temperature. In such instances, dry the food in the oven with the pilot light on. Conventional ovens lack the air flow of food dehydrators. To remove the moisture from the food, leave the door of the oven slightly ajar with a fan blowing into the oven. During the drying time, rotate the racks the drying trays are on and stir the food every hour to ensure the food dries evenly.
The drying time will depend on the type of food and thickness. Generally, oven drying will take longer than a food dehydrator. Vegetables and herbs will be brittle when dried. Fruits will be leathery and meats will be darkened and form sharp points when broken. Overdrying foods is better than underdrying because underdried foods are more likely to spoil in storage.