I am a food enthusiast and am always trying new recipes. I love to garden, get crafty, and read a good book!
How Does a Dehydrator Work?
A dehydrator works by circulating warm air around something (in this case, food) to dry it out. The dehydrator consists of a fan, heating element, and trays for you to place the food you are dehydrating. Heating via warm air slowly extracts the natural moisture that is in the food. The benefit of using a dehydrator is that you can make snacks or other foods that will have an extended shelf life.
What Can You Dehydrate?
Lots of Options
I like to dehydrate fruit because it makes a portable and healthy snack, but your options are pretty unlimited as to what you can dry for later consumption. I have experimented with dehydrated apples, bananas, grapes, oranges, and a few other fruits.
The cool thing about a dehydrator is that it’s not just for fruit. You can dehydrate fresh herbs to have on hand for cooking. This works particularly well if you have a lot of fresh herbs growing and want to save them for later use! Or you can dehydrate fish or meat to make jerky out of it. Dehydrating is a great way to store food to have a longer shelf life.
The Technical How-To’s
First, make sure whatever you are dehydrating is fresh and does not have any signs of mold or in any way looks like it’s going bad. Wash whatever food you have chosen and pat dry with a paper towel. Add lemon juice, spices, or seasonings if desired. Then, find something else to do for a while as your dehydrator gets to work. Make sure your dehydrator has enough room on whatever counter or surface you’ve placed it on. Since it uses fans to circulate air, make sure the airflow isn’t obstructed by placing it in a small area.
Hurry Up and Wait
How long to dehydrate food depends on how much water the food contains and how thick each slice is of whatever your’ve cut. My favorite food to dehydrate is bananas, but we’ve tried a handful of other fruits over the years. I was most surprised how long it took to dehydrate grapes. We thought it would be super fun to make our own raisins, but after the first 18 hours or so, I was done hearing the hum of the dehydrator in the kitchen, and the teeny tiny raisins we produced really weren’t worth the time. Most recipes will give you an estimate of how long it will take to dehydrate so you can plan accordingly.
Temperature Is Important!
Take a look at your dehydrator settings; it should be fairly obvious which temperature to use when dehydrating. As you can see in the picture below, mine has settings for herbs & spices, nuts & seeds, crafts, fruit & vegetables, meat, fish, and jerky. Your dehydrator may even come with a manual with some ideas of other things to dehydrate. You may think that by using a higher temperature setting it will take less time to dehydrate, but this is not recommended. Heating the food at too high of a temperature to will lead to the outside of the food you are dehydrating to dry out faster than the inside leaving it still sticky and undercooked. It will also not have a long shelf life since the inside of the food will still have too much moisture in it.
Better Than Store Bought?
I think dehydrated food that you’ve made at home is way better than store bought. The flavor is much more intense. It has a fresh and clean taste, and you can tell that it is absent of other additives and ingredients to increase the foods shelf life. Another bonus is that you know and can control exactly what is in your food. If you enjoy apple slices with cinnamon and nutmeg, you can dry your own and include exactly the amount and type of spices you desire.
How to Store Dehydrated Foods
Once you have dehydrated your fruit or whatever you’ve chosen to dehydrate, storage is pretty simple and only varies based on how long you plan to store it. If you’re like me and making snacks for only the next week or two, zip lock or reusable snack bags work great. If you plan to store your items for longer, you can vacuum seal them to ensure freshness or put them in pint-sized Ball jars. Just keep an eye on your stored foods. If they start to change color, grow mold, anything turns fuzzy, or their appearance looks questionable, do not consume any of it!
Homemade Banana Chips
|Prep time||Cook time||Ready in||Yields|
12 hours 15 min
Makes 15 servings, roughly 1 banana per serving
- 10-15 Bananas, Sliced
- 1/4-1/2 Cup Lemon Juice
- Peel 10-15 bananas and slice into 1/4 inch pieces. Try to slice the pieces as evenly as possible to ensure even dehydrating. Place all banana slices into a bowl and pour lemon juice over them. Stir gently with a spoon until all pieces are coated in lemon juice. Let sit for 5 minutes to allow the lemon juice to soak into the banana pieces. Lemon juice is not required but it will prevent browning of the fruit and will provide a slightly tart taste when completely dried.
- Spread the banana slices evenly onto the dehydrator trays making sure that the pieces do not overlap. Turn dehydrator to correct temperature setting and let the magic begin!
- Banana chips will usually take about 12 hours to dehydrate completely. After about 10 hours, use a butter knife to loosen the banana slices from the tray and flip them over. This allows the underside to dry more and also makes it easier to remove the slices from the trays when they are fully dehydrated.
- After 12 hours, take one or two banana chips out of the dehydrator and let them cool. Taste for desired doneness. By 10 hours, the chips may be more chewy and between 12-15 hours they will have more of a crisp crunch to them. Most foods are best when they are 95% dehydrated, when they are more dry than chewy. If they are sticky or chewy, they will spoil faster so you will want to consume them in the 5-7 days to avoid spoiling.
Questions & Answers
Question: What temp do u use?
Answer: My dehydrator has a fruits & nuts setting at 135 degrees.
Question: I want make this banana chip recipe using a dehydrator for my bunny without the lemon juice. Do I need it?
Answer: You could for sure do this without the lemon. I mainly use it to prevent browning and for the flavor it adds.
Question: Does it matter how ripe the banana is?
Answer: I have found that bananas that are riper (some spots and obvious ripening) will lend sweeter banana chips. You can still dry bananas that aren’t as ripe but they will be less sweet.
© 2018 Lisa Bean
Muhammad Abdullah on August 27, 2019:
Let's be honest. This is the first time, I have ever seen a dehydrator.