Food drying (or dehydrating) is a method of preserving fruit, vegetables, and meat that has been practiced for centuries. Nowadays, there are Food Dehydrators to make it easy to dehydrate your foods with minimal effort from the comfort of your home. We tested some recipes in a dehydrator and in our very own Air Fryer Oven using its Dehydrate setting. Continue below to read all you need to know about dehydrating and what it has to offer.
What is a Food Dehydrator and What Does It Do?
A food dehydrator dries (also known as dehydrates) your food. It uses a built-in fan and low heat to dry out food. The light flow of hot air reduces the overall amount of water found in fruits, veggies and other foods. Once all the water is removed from the foods, the food won’t spoil as quickly.
When we are trying to eat healthier, we go straight for fruit or vegetables. We think the dried fruit we see at the store is considered healthy. When in fact, it is filled with sugars, fats and other ingredients that are the exact opposite of healthy. That is why dehydrating your own food is the answer!
It is extremely healthy, because most of the time you are only using ONE ingredient (the food you are drying). When you use a dehydrator, you are in control and know exactly what ingredients are in your food and what you’re putting into your body. Dehydrating turns the simplest foods, like bananas or sweet potatoes and turns them into a healthy and delicious snack! Dehydrated food is a great alternative for junk foods, because it gives you that crunchy taste you are looking for.
It doesn’t stop at fruits and vegetables. You can make some tender beef jerky or herbs for seasoning any dish you wish! Dehydrated food, when properly stored (we’ll get to more on that later) can last much longer than any food you have in your pantry or fridge. So not only are you enjoying a healthy, tasty snack, but you are saving money too!
5 Dehydrating Tips to Help You Along the Way
Correct time and temperature is critical! Make sure you have the right time and temperature to correctly dehydrate food. This will depend on what dehydrator you buy. There will be a general time and temperature guidelines or instruction manual to help you with this.
Rule of thumb is for foods to be 95% hydrated. If your items seem soft or sticky, they need to continue to dehydrate. If your food is hard and crunchy, then they are fully dehydrated! Humidity, air conditioning or breezes could affect the time it takes to dehydrate your food.
Hasty doesn’t always mean tasty. We all want our food to be done cooking with a snap of our fingers. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way and it could actually do more harm than good when it comes to dehydrating. If you try to increase the time and/or temperature, this will seal the outside and leave moisture inside, which will lead to your food spoiling before it’s even done dehydrating.
Prep, prep, prep! Before you dehydrate anything, make sure you wash all of your foods thoroughly. Pat them dry afterwards before placing them in the Dehydrator or Air Fryer Oven. Spraying lemon juice on apples or bananas beforehand will avoid browning.
Efficiency is key! Take advantage of preheating your Dehydrator or Air Fryer Oven first, so that it can warm up. Prepare items that require the same time and temperature. Slice all your items to a consistent thickness and size to ensure they will evenly cook.
Store Your Foods for Later.
Allow your food to cool to room temperature before you store it. During storage, keep in mind to protect it from heat, light and moisture. Store your foods in a Ziploc bag and seal tightly. You can also use a vacuum sealer to ensure your bags are sealed extra tight. Place the bags in a dark, cool and dry area.
The great thing about storing these foods is it doesn’t require the fridge or freezer to stay fresh. It will also help you save storage space for all of your other delicious snacks!
Dehydrated fruit is a delicious crunchy snack that will fulfill that crunchy desire. It also has that sweet taste that we are looking for in store bought dried fruit or sweets and desserts. Any fruit can be used for this recipe, we used what was readily available to us. You can also add whatever seasonings you want, but we just opted to keep it simple and use the main ingredient to show you how great of a snack it is by itself. If you do add any liquid seasoning to your fruit, make sure to pat it dry before placing it on the trays. Slicing the fruit thin will ensure even dehydrating. The amount of fruit we used filled up 2 trays but take advantage of the extra trays to make more fruit!
2 mangoes, thinly sliced
1 kiwi, thinly sliced
2 bananas, thinly sliced
6 strawberries, thinly sliced
1 apple, cored and thinly sliced
Peel (optional) and thinly slice the fruit of your choosing. Place fruit in dehydrator trays or air fryer racks.
If using the Dehydrator, dehydrate at 130°F for 8 hours. If using the Air Fryer Oven, use the dehydrate setting and dehydrate at 130°F for 4 hours.
Beef jerky is a great alternative snack to eat in place of chips or any other junk food. The ingredients we used are for a common beef jerky recipe, but feel free to use whatever ingredients you desire for your own seasoning. Making sure you slice the beef in consistent sizes is crucial, so that they will cook evenly. We opted for refrigerating it first, so that it could marinate a little longer, but it is optional. Patting the slices dry with a paper towel will ensure correct dehydration and avoid a sticky/dripping mess in your appliance. This size of recipe will fill up one tray, but feel free to fill up the extra trays with more jerky, so you’ll have snacks for the rest of the week!
1 lb. beef, sliced into thin strips
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup soy sauce
¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp liquid smoke
1 tbsp sriracha sauce
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp cayenne red pepper
½ tsp smoked paprika
½ tsp ground pepper
Slice your beef into thin slices, making sure all pieces are consistent in thickness and size. In a large bowl, mix all of the ingredients together to create the marinate.
Place the slices of meat inside the marinate bowl, making sure each piece is fully coated. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes, place the marinated beef slices onto a paper towel and pat dry.
If using the Dehydrator, place beef slices on dehydrator trays and dehydrate for 3 hours at 170°F. If using Air Fryer Oven, place the beef slices on air fryer racks. Use the dehydrate setting at 170°F for 90 minutes.
Granola bars are a great bite for any occasion, such as breakfast, middle of the day snack or an after-work out snack. These granola bars contain healthier ingredients verses some of the store-bought ones. We chose rolled oats because they cook faster than steel-cut oats and hold their shape during the cooking process. We used maple syrup, vanilla extract and honey to give it that sweet taste. Any fruit and nuts can be used for these bars, we chose what was on hand for us. It is important to have all your ingredients ready before you mix all of them, because the mixture will start to get thick and be harder to mix together. We doubled the recipe and were able to fill 2 trays, so we would have more granola bars for later.
2 ½ cups rolled oats
¾ cup unsweetened apple sauce
2 tbsp natural peanut butter
2 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp honey
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp cinnamon
1/3 cup dried figs, chopped
1/3 cup dates, chopped
1/3 cup dried mangoes, chopped
¼ cup coconut flakes
¼ cup slivered almonds
In a large mixing bowl, combine oats with all the wet ingredients and mix well.
Add in dried fruits, nuts, coconut flakes and cinnamon and stir consistently. Flatten the mixture into the dehydrator trays or baking pan, using a spatula.
Place the trays in the Dehydrator or Air Fryer Oven and dehydrate at 115°F for 4 hours, or until it reaches your desired consistency. Remove from tray, cut into bars and enjoy!
To conclude, dehydrating is a method that is here to stay. So many people are wanting to live a healthier lifestyle and dehydrating is the way to go. There aren’t many ingredients needed to create a sweet or savory snack! You slice your food, place it in the dehydrator and wait for it to be done. Dehydrators and our Air Fryer Ovens have enough space and racks to be able to make extra food for later. Dehydrated foods can last a long time and can easily be stored in a Ziploc bag! Even if you’re not sure if the dehydrator is really for you, there is always our Air Fryer Oven with the dehydrator setting!
A big thank you to the authors of the recipes we tested out. Check out the links below to take a look at the original recipes and more information on dehydrating.