A dehydrator is a piece of equipment that pulls the moisture out of foods to prevent the growth of bacteria, yeast, and mold. It dries food at a lower heat level to preserve the nutrients and enzymes in the food. A dehydrator allows you to naturally extend the shelf life of food without the need to add preservatives.
Dehydrators remove moisture from food without cooking it. This is accomplished by circulating air at very low temperatures using a fan that draws air in through the bottom or back of the unit and across the trays of food inside.
By simply removing the moisture, dehydrators help increase the shelf life of foods while maintaining a high nutritional value and intensifying their best flavors. This means that your recipes using dried foods can be healthier and more flavorful!
Using a dehydrator can help increase food transparency in your restaurant because you know how your food is processed. Read on to learn about the health benefits of adding dehydrated foods to your menu, the cost savings and sustainability associated with dehydrators, and their ease of operation.
Since they are specifically designed for drying foods, dehydrators can reach lower temperatures than ovens can. Standard food dehydrators work at a temperature range of 85 to 160 degrees Fahrenheit, but some specialty dehydrators can be set to temperatures as low as 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Most ovens have a low-temperature limit between 150 to 200 degrees Fahrenheit, which is too hot for drying many foods. Using too high a temperature setting can end up cooking the food rather than simply removing the moisture. This results in the loss of more of the flavor and nutrients than would be lost by using a dehydrator.
Food dehydrators tend to be much more energy efficient than ovens as well. When you consider the difference between running a 1000W dehydrator for 12 hours versus a 5000W to 38,000W convection oven for the same time, the dehydrator wins out on energy use alone.
Effective dehydrating needs precise temperatures over an extended period. While certain high-end combination ovens offer the temperature and humidity control required to dry foods, most convection ovens and standard ovens can't hold consistent temperatures for long periods. Additionally, hot and cold spots are unavoidable in most ovens, which is an issue that is less problematic in dehydrators.
There are several things to keep in mind when you are looking for a dehydrator for your business. While you may not need a unit with all the bells and whistles, it's a good idea to know what to look for in a food dehydrator so you can make the most informed decision.
Depending on the food dehydrator you choose, you can dry fruits, vegetables, grains, meats, herbs, and flowers. Dehydrators are great for making house specialties like granola, fruit leather, or dried fruit, but they can also be used for recipes that are otherwise difficult to make. For Indonesian tempeh, Japanese natto, fresh yogurt, and other foods that require constant low, warm temperatures for an extended time, a dehydrator is an easy-to-use, low-cost way to start expanding your menu into these areas.
When choosing between different dehydrators, be aware that round-style dehydrators are best for drying solid items like fruits, herbs, and meats. They're great for drying but don't do well with pans of yogurt or liquid products like fruit leathers.
Cut food no more than 1/4" thick and spread in a single layer on a tray for the most efficient drying. The chart below lays out some commonly-processed food in a dehydrator, along with some of the best ways to prepare them, the ideal temperatures for drying them, and a general idea of how long the process might take.
Keep in mind that the times listed are approximate and you may experience different results. Several factors can modify the drying times of various foods - ambient temperatures and humidity, the moisture level in the food, and how the food is prepared are some of the biggest.
Below are a few tips to consider when dehydrating food.
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