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Running out of space in the freezer? Don’t fret! Dehydrate your food and it will last much longer, occupy less space, and retain its nutrients! Many are the appliances available which can get this job done, but a stainless steel dehydrator comes with its own advantages, which we will cover further down. Let’s review the best stainless steel dehydrator!
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Where to Start? The Best Stainless Steel Dehydrator
Nomads, soldiers, explorers, farmers: for them and many others, keeping food edible beyond its natural life has been a key concern way before refrigerators were in anybody’s mind. The practice of dehydrating food has been around for millennia, with several proven benefits: your food is less bulky, less heavy, and you can rely on it to nourish you for a long time, no matter the season. From the 1940s onward, food dehydrators have proven vastly superior to the use of sunlight, saltwater or smoke, for the following reasons:
- There’s little to no need to switch the edibles around.
- You can dehydrate food whenever you want, even on cloudy or rainy days; and you don’t have to go outside to do it.
- Your food takes just a few hours to be ready, not several days.
- You can do something else in the meantime: many dehydrators come with a timer, and are designed to turn themselves off automatically when time runs out.
Four are the key parts of a food dehydrator: heating element, which generates the heat; fan, for air circulation; vents, the exit route for the air and moisture; and trays, where the food rests as it is dehydrated.
They chiefly diverge on the orientation of the air flow —vertical or horizontal—, which pretty much determines the appliance’s entire design.
1. Stacked: They are so named because the trays are placed one on top of the other, like a tower. The fan is on the base, sending the air upwards and out through the center channel at the top; the trays have a hole at their center to help with air flow. These are good for saving space, and you can even expand their capacity by purchasing additional trays separately. However, they do tend to require swapping trays constantly since the air touches the bottom tray more directly, with the one at the top being at a disadvantage.
2. Shelf: The category where most, if not all, stainless steel dehydrators fall. This one does not stack its trays; rather, they slide in an out, much like an oven. The heating element and the fan are placed in the back; this way, the air flows horizontally across the entire surface, instead of having to rise through it, which makes the entire process much more thorough and efficient, so much so that there is no need to swap trays. They are also more versatile, to the point that you can use them to make fruit leathers, or remove some trays in order to create space for bulkier items.
Dehydrator vs Oven
It may be tempting to just use your oven to dehydrate your foodstuffs: after all, it’s right there and, at a glance, it’s exactly the same as a shelf dehydrator, right? Short answer: it’s not so simple! For starters, an oven’s primary function is cooking, not dehydrating. Even when set to ‘Keep Warm’, an oven’s temperature will be way higher than any level optimal for dehydrating (which also varies depending on the food); there’s also no fan, which means no air flow, and therefore no way for the food’s moisture to leave the chamber. Because it runs much hotter, an oven will also consume much more power; whereas a dehydrator, by design, will apply exactly the level of heat optimal for the food you’re processing, while only using as much power as necessary to get the job done.
The Convection Oven Loophole
It works with air flow, which technically means you can use it to dehydrate food, even if it’ll still draw way more power than a dehydrator would. Should you choose to go this route, it is important to remember that the heat must be carefully regulated; this is usually done by keeping the door ajar and constantly monitoring temperature levels.
Why Stainless Steel?
First, there’s the looks: an appliance made in this material will invariably lend a modern, stylish look to any area where it is located. It’s more than that, though: stainless steel is sturdy, very long-lasting and naturally resistant to corrosion; for dehydrators in particular, this makes them remarkably adept at handling acidic foods and, therefore, the best for your safety!
Other Factors To Keep In Mind
The more trays it has, the more food you can fit in, both in volume and variety.
Certain models are better at keeping sound to a minimum than others. It’s worth noting that stainless steel dehydrators tend to be among the quietest.
It may come with plenty of bells and whistles, but it will be of little help if you have to invest extra time learning how to utilize them. A user friendly panel is preferable to a long list of bonus features that are unnecessary or hard to understand. Temperature adjustment is important too: being able to set it by actual degrees is generally better than a simple Low-Hi system.
Picks For Your Perusal
The “quiet” is not just in the name: experiences reported with this unit point to it running with barely any noise, which is always a plus. It’s not wanting in terms of capacity, either: a total of 10 stainless steel trays can be occupied in one go. Timer goes between 30 minutes and 19 and a half hours, and temperature can be adjusted in any of 8 settings, 95°F being the minimum and 167 the maximum.
The included accessories are another potential perk: 10 mesh liners, as well as a drip tray, are part of the package.
- One of the quietest out there.
- Somewhat limited adjustment both for time and temperature.
This one’s big: weighing at a full 32 pounds, its measurements are 20″ depth, 16.5″ width and 14.5″ height. Capacity is 10 trays, all made in 304 grade stainless steel. A stainless steel drip tray and a cookbook with over 250 recipes are included.
Temperature goes between 97 and 165°F. The timer can be set in 5-minute increments, something uncommon for this type of appliance; however, it can only run for up to 15 hours, which may be constraining.
A word of caution: per the manufacturer, the dimensions of this unit are often overlooked. Aside from accounting for its volume, there should be enough counter space to set the appliance a minimum of 12 inches away from any wall, to ensure proper air flow and avoid overheating.
- Trays are particularly well suited for acidic food.
- Plenty of recipes included.
- Might not fit in some counters
- Can be difficult to move and carry around.
- Not well suited for commercial use in spite of its size.
Its 6-tray capacity may not be anything to write home about, but quite a few features help make up for it. The package includes 1 mesh screen and 1 fruit roll sheet, as well as a 50-recipe booklet, and the digital panel greatly simplifies operation. Although its temperature range is the average for appliances of its type, 95 to 165°F, its 1-degree increment is all but unseen in similar appliances. Another uncommon capability is that of the timer, which can go for as long as 48 hours before automatically shutting the unit off.
Operation is generally considered to be fairly quiet. All trays and liners are dishwasher safe.
- Offers plenty of value for its asking price.
- Somewhat low capacity by tray amount and size.
This one is fairly average, and more affordable than many others. Controls are not digital, and can in fact feel simplistic: one button, and one dial. It is a bit bare in terms of features, but it does come with overheating protection. Capacity is 6 trays, each measuring 11″ x 15″, and 2 non-stick sheets are also included.
Temperature can be set between 95 and 158°F; this maximum value could be considered barely in the safe zone for certain foods, such as jerky.
- Its price might make it a good entry-level option.
- Maximum temperature is lower than the average for its category.
- Several instances reported of the door not sitting well on the unit, leaving a gap.
Best Fit For Your Home: COSORI CP267-FD
There are many appliances out there that are bigger, but for your counter this one is hard to beat: for a pretty reasonable price, you get a good number of accessories, as well as a decent array of recipes to try. It’s a well-built unit, which also runs very quietly, operated by digital touch panel and with temperature adjustment that few if any appliances can outdo. Its timer is something else worth mentioning, as hardly any other unit of this type will have a top limit of a full 2 days. It’s sleek. Functional. Reliable. It is, quite likely, just what your kitchen needs.
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